Eternal, Everlasting, For Ever
By Charles H. Welch
Eternal is the translation of the Hebrew: olam and its New Testament equivalent: aion and aionios which has been examined under the heading AGES. The other words so translated are the Hebrew: qedem which means ‘what is before in time or place’, and the Greek: aidios ‘perpetual’ (Rom. 1:20). Everlasting is the translation of the Hebrew: ad ‘continuity or duration’ (Isa. 9:6; Hab. 3:6), olam, age, or time, the end of which is secret, qedem (Hab. 1:12), and the Greek: aidios (Jude 6), and aionios (John 3:16) everlasting. For ever, is either the translation of the Hebrew: le or ad olam ‘unto the age’ (Gen. 3:22), ad duration (Job 19:24), la netsach to pre-eminence (Psa. 77:8), tsemithuth, extinction (Lev. 25:23,30), le-orek yamim for length of days (Psa. 23:6), or the Greek words: eis aiona to the age (Heb. 5:6), eis hemeran aionos to the day of the age (2 Pet. 3:18), eis to dienekes continuously (Heb. 10:12,14) and aionios (Phile. 15).
The duplication ‘for ever and ever’ is but the duplication of some of the terms recorded above. le-netsach netsachim, to perpetuity (Isa. 34:10), le-olam-va-ed, to the age and beyond (Exod. 15:18), min ha olam ad ha olam, from the age to the age (Neh. 9:5), and eis aionas aionon, to ages of ages (Rev. 14:11), eis ton aiona tou aionos, to the age of the age (Heb. 1:8), eis tous aionas ton aionon, to the ages of the ages (2 Tim. 4:18).
In the list of words given above will be found every Hebrew and Greek word that is translated in terms of eternity, and an examination of the primary meanings of these words, together with their scriptural usage, will prove to be a helpful corrective. The human mind cannot truthfully conceive of that which had no beginning. All our experience forces us to believe that that which had no beginning in the past, cannot have an existence in the present, and this if pursued with remorseless logic would eliminate God Himself.
Happily the Bible does not burden the mind with the inexplicable. With blessed sanity the Sacred Record opens with the words, ‘In the beginning’. Those who come to God ‘must believe that He is’, and in the same way, they must accept the limitations imposed upon both revelation and their own nature. Eternity is not a Biblical theme. The great theme of the Bible is the Redemptive purpose of the ages. What took place before the ages began, and what will take place when the ages are past, is not the subject of Divine revelation. We shall be wise to accept with gratitude what the wisdom of God has provided, and avoid introducing into the limited purpose of the ages, the unlimited notions of Eternity. Time enough for us to attempt the vaster undertaking when we know even as we are known.