Romans 6:23 There are two permanent destinies
Jefferson Vann has written about aionios here: Hell is Permanent: aionios meaning
Annihilationists are not guilty of redefining the term eternal. In Matthew 25:46 the term eternal is used twice. In both cases the term modifies an event in such a way as to draw attention to its finality, and so aionios should thus be translated permanent. In one case – eternal life — the noun life clearly depicts the event when believers will inherit immortality: permanent life.1 In the other case, the term punishment also describes an event: destruction in hell. Both the noun kolasis and its corresponding verb kolaz? refer to an anticipated event.2 The Bible elsewhere describes this event as “the day of the LORD”3 or “the day of judgment.”4 When the noun that aionios defines refers to an event in time, then the meaning implied by aionios is not perpetual. A more accurate definition in that case is permanent. The English word eternal can mean either.
Other biblical examples of this use of aionios include:
- the permanent sin which can never be forgiven (Mark 3:29).
- the permanent weight of glory compared with our slight momentary affliction (2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Peter 5:10).
- the permanent things that are unseen compared to the transient things that are seen (2 Corinthians 4:18).
- the permanent house (body) in the heavens compared to our temporary tent (body) on earth (2 Corinthians 5:1).
- the permanent destruction the lost will face at Christ’s return (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
- the permanent comfort and good hope we have through God’s grace (2 Thessalonians 2:16).
- the permanent glory that accompanies salvation in Christ (2 Timothy 2:10).
- Philemon’s permanent return to Colossae, after being parted from them for a while (Philemon 1:15).
- The permanent salvation made possible by Jesus, our great high priest (Hebrews 5:9).
- The permanent judgment that will take place after the resurrection of the dead (Hebrews 6:2).
- The permanent redemption secured by Christ’s sacrifice in the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 9:12).
- the permanent covenant made possible by the shedding of the blood of Christ (Hebrews 13:20).
- entrance into the permanent kingdom provided for all those who make their calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10-11).
Most other uses of aionios in the New Testament are when the term describes God,5 or something that comes from God: his gospel,6 or the fire he uses to destroy the wicked on judgment day.(( Matthew 18:8; 25:41; Jude 7.)) In neither of these cases is the emphasis on duration. The emphasis is on God as the source. That is why Jude tells us that Sodom and Gomorrah serve as examples of undergoing a punishment of aionios fire. Sodom and Gomorrah were completely destroyed. The destruction was not a perpetual process, but an event in which they were punished by God, the eternal one.
Greek adjectives can appear in plural form, and when that is done to aionios in the New Testament, it is so that the term can modify a plural noun,((2 Corinthians 4:18 “the things that are unseen are eternal.”)) or it refers to an event predicted or promised long ago, which has now been fulfilled or revealed. The three examples of this are:
- “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages”7
- “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”8
The final example actually uses aionios twice, once in the sense of permanent, and once in the sense of something promised long ago “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.”9
In summary, annihilationists are not redefining aionios. This article has surveyed every use of aionios in the New Testament and has not found a single reference where it has to describe a perpetual process. Once released from the shackles of the presuppositions of pagan philosophy, we are simply free to describe how the Bible consistently uses the term.
- Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:17, 30; Luke 10:25; 18:18, 30; John 3:15, 16, 36; 4:14, 36; 6:27, 40, 47, 54, 68; 10:28; 12:25, 50; 17:2, 3; Acts 13:46, 48; Romans 2:7; 5:21; 6:22, 23; Galatians 6:8; 1 Timothy 1:16; 6:2; Titus 1:2; 3:7; Hebrews 9:15; 1 John 2:25; 5:11; Jude 21.
- 2 Peter 2:9 NET: “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from their trials, and to reserve the unrighteous forpunishment at the day of judgment.”
- Isa. 13:6, 9; Jer. 46:10; Ezek. 13:5; 30:3; Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Amos 5:18, 20; Obad. 1:15; Zeph. 1:7, 14; Mal. 4:5; Acts 2:20; 1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:10.
- Matt. 10:15; 11:22, 24; 12:36; 2 Pet. 2:9; 3:7; 1 John 4:17.
- Romans 16:26; 1 Timothy 6:16; Hebrews 9:14;
- Revelation 14:6.
- Romans 16:25.
- 2 Timothy 1:9.
- Titus 1:2.