2001Jn17-1-3

Chapter 17

1 After Jesus said these things, he raised his eyes to the sky and said, ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your son, so your son can glorify You. 2 And You have put him over all flesh; so, now he can give life in the age, to all those who You have given to him. 3 This knowledge of You, the only true God, and of the one who You sent, Jesus the Anointed, means life in the age. Everlasting Life?

Does the Bible Promise
Everlasting Life?

The answer to this question is yes and no, for the words everlasting life aren’t really found in the original Hebrew and Greek texts. Take for example, the familiar words of John 3:16, ‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed, but have everlasting life’ (or at least, that’s similar to how most Bibles render those words). However, if you examine the Greek words that are translated everlasting life here, you’ll find that they are zoen aionion, or life ages.

Then if you look at the words that are found at John 17:3 (‘This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ’ – NW), you’ll find that the words Jesus spoke (in Greek) were aionios zoe, or, age (singular) life. So, although the words zoe aionion (life ages) could imply everlasting life, the singular use of aionos at John 17:3 cannot mean everlasting life, because Jesus wasn’t speaking of ages of life, but of life in the age. So, what was he talking about?

The Words in Greek

First, let’s discuss the meaning of the Greek words aionion or aionios. If you look up the words in an Interlinear Bible (I recommend that all serious Bible students use this type of Bible for their readings in the Greek Scriptures), you’ll find that the words are rendered as ζώήν άίωνίον (John 3:16) and άίώυιος ζώή (John 17:3). Take the time to learn how the Greek letters are pronounced (the pronunciations are usually found near the inside front cover), because this is important. Five-year-olds learn the alphabet, so it can’t be that hard.

Now turn to Matthew 24:3, and you’ll find that Jesus’ Apostles came to him and asked (in Greek), ‘κάί (and) τί (what) το (the) σημειον (sign) σης (your) πάρουσιάς (nearness) κάι (and) συντέλειάς (end) του (of the) άιώνος (age)?’

So, if aionos means forever or everlasting, how could some translate it as world or system of things? Obviously, the word means age or ages, and it’s where we get the English word eon from.

The Words in Hebrew

Now, if you’re familiar with scriptures like Ecclesiastes 1:4, which read, ‘A generation cometh and a generation goeth, but the earth abideth forever,’ you’ll find that many modern translators have changed the word forever to read to time indefinite, or to something similar. The reason for this is that the Hebrew word לעולם doesn’t mean forever, it means a period of time. And in the Greek Septuagint it is translated as aionion. So, to the Jews who translated the Greek Septuagint in the Third Century B.C.E., לעולם  meant the same as άιώνιον, and that is an unknown period of time.

When Aionion Probably Means Forever

However, there are probably instances when aionion does imply forever. Take for example, the scripture found at 1 Peter 4:11, which reads, ‘The glory and the might are his (God’s) forever and ever.’ There the Greek words are aionas ton aionon, or ages of/the ages. And we’ll assume that God’s glory lasts forever. So, there are instances where aionion (when doubled) can mean forever.

Is Everlasting Life on Earth Possible?

We know that anything is possible with God, so yes, it is possible… but not likely. For as science can prove that everything ends, the Bible says it too. Notice the prophecy at Hebrews 1:10-12. It says (NW), ‘And: you at the beginning, O Lord, laid the foundations of the earth itself, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They themselves will perish, but you yourself are to remain continually; and just like an outer garment they will all grow old, and you will wrap them up just as a cloak, as an outer garment; and they will be changed, but you are the same, and your years will never run out.’

Now, one of the logical arguments that scientists have used to prove that the universe had a beginning, is that temperatures would be the same throughout the universe if it had always been, and there could be no energy, since the energy sources would be expired. So, this same argument is true of the future… the earth and the universe can’t always be. It will, as the scripture says, ‘grow old,’ which will require God to ‘wrap it up’ and change or renew it.

Then, what will happen to the faithful? The Bible simply doesn’t tell us, but we can be confident that God will never destroy those He loves.

Is Planet Earth ‘The Earth?’

Another interesting Greek word is ges, which is translated variously as earth, ground, and land. The choice of which of these English words is used to translate it is strictly up to the translator. For there are instances where the Bible is obviously talking about the globe, but in others it’s talking about a particular land, or about the ground itself (for ges is differentiated from thalassa, which means sea). So, whenever you find the words earth, ground, and land used in the Bible, recognize that they all come from the same Greek word, ges.

Why does this one word mean so many things? Well, it came from ancient non-scientific peoples, and it simply refers to what is below us. And the same thing is true of the Greek word ourano, it is translated as both sky and heaven, and it refers to everything above us. So, what Genesis 1:1 really said was, ‘In the beginning God made what is below us and what is above us.’ So, the earth in the Bible doesn’t really mean this planet, but the ground we live on, wherever that may be in some future time.

Does the Bible Ever Speak of Everlasting or Forever?

Yes it does, because the Greek word aidios (which means eternal or everlasting) is used at Jude 6, for example, where it speaks of the bondage of God’s Messengers who forsook their place in heaven as being eternal. So, Bible writers knew the word, but chose not to use it when speaking of the hope of humans.

But on the other hand, Paul did write at 1 Corinthians 15:53, 54, ‘Then that which is corruptible will put on incorruptibility, and that which is dying will put on immortality. But, when that which is dying puts on immortality, then the words that were written are fulfilled, Death is swallowed in victory.’

The Greek word that is translated as immortality there is athenasian, which means undying (not ‘incapable of death, as some have claimed), and Paul was simply saying that those who are deteriorating with age (corruptible) will put on an incorruptible condition, and the dying (mortal) will put on undying.

So, it appears as though some will no longer have to grow old and die. Who will this be? Well, most teach that Paul was speaking of those with the heavenly hope here. However, our research indicates that he was actually speaking of all the faithful, regardless of whether their destiny is earthly or heavenly. For more information, see the linked document ‘God’s Promise of an Inheritance’.

So, perhaps the Bible does speak of everlasting life, but not in those words.

But What Does the Singular Word ‘Age’ Mean?

Getting back to the word aionos (age, singular) that is used at John 17:3 and in dozens of other places in the Bible, what was Jesus talking about when he said the faithful will receive life in the age? Well, this is one instance where translating the singular form aionos as forever badly distorts the meaning of Jesus’ words. Notice, for example, his promise at John 11:26, where he said, ‘Everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all. Do you believe this?’

Also, notice what Jesus said as recorded at John 5:24, ‘I tell you the truth: The one who hears what I say and believes in the One that sent me, will have life in this age. He won’t have to be judged, for has crossed over from death to life.

Notice that Jesus wasn’t talking about some future time thousands of years in the future; he was talking about something that could happen to his listeners then and there. It wasn’t that they wouldn’t physically die, for he had just said, ‘Everyone that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life.’ However, what he was promising them was the gift of LIFE, as opposed to being counted among ‘the Dead.’

So, when Jesus spoke his prayer that’s found in John the Seventeenth Chapter, and he said, ‘This means age life (aionios zoe) their taking in knowledge of you…’ he was saying that his faithful followers would be counted among the ‘living’ during their age or lifetime, and they would thus be worthy of a resurrection to ‘life,’ not a resurrection of ‘judgment.’ So, aionos doesn’t tell us how long they will live, but when they receive the gift of life. The word life (gr. zoe) in the Bible implies undying, so no other word is required to tell us what this means for the faithful.

When ‘Life’ Comes to the Faithful

But, at what point does God impart (eternal or everlasting) life to the faithful? We get an insight into God's promise concerning this in Jesus’ words found at Matthew 25:31-46, where he was talking about the separating of the sheep and the goats.

It is recorded at Matthew 25:31-33 that he said: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory with the messengers (Armageddon?), he will sit down on his glorious throne and all the nations will be led in front of him. Then he will separate people just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right, but the goats on his left.’

And thereafter, notice the outcome of those who are judged as either goats or sheep (Matthew 25:46): ‘Then they (the goats) will leave to be cut off in that age, but the righteous ones [will receive] life in the age (everlasting life or life eternal).’

So, from Jesus’ own words it appears as though people will be judged upon Jesus’ arrival, and they will either be granted life or death at that time… not sometime during the remaining thousand years of Jesus’ reign. For more information see the document ‘The Hereafter.’

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Forever or for the Ages?

The Greek word aionos is what the English word eon is derived from. It means an indefinite period. However, there is no exact English word to translate it. The best equivalents are age(s) or era(s). Please note that where the plural form of the word (ages) is used, it refers to a long time, at least multiple generations. However, where the singular form is used (age or era), this appears to mean a much shorter period, such as a lifetime, generation, or era. And where the term ages of ages is used (such as at Ephesians 3:21), which is usually said in reference to God, we would assume that this truly means forever.

It is noteworthy that aionos is the word that is used in the Greek Septuagint in place of the Hebrew word ohlam, which is also translated as forever and time indefinite in popular versions of the Hebrew Scriptures. So, this one word (aionos) is translated as forever, everlasting, eternal, system of things, time indefinite, [end of] the world, long ago, from of old, etc. Obviously, something is very wrong here, because the word can’t mean a period having a definite end in one place and infinity in another.

Take for example, the unique way that aionos is used in the question that Jesus’ Apostles asked him, which is found at Matthew 24:3, ‘What will be the signs when you are near and this age will come to its conclusion?’

You can see that the word aionos obviously doesn’t mean forever, everlasting, or eternal in this case, nor did it mean world or system of things. It simply meant the age or the time before the end would come. And for them, that meant the age when the Temple at Jerusalem would be destroyed, because that’s what Jesus had just told them.

The word aionos (which we have translated as age here) is also translated as world (KJ) and as system of things (NW) in other Bibles. However, if the Apostles had meant any of those words, they would have used the Greek word cosmos, not aionos for world or system of things.

The ancient Hebrews viewed everything (and rightly so) as having a beginning and an end. For that reason, you will only find three places in the Bible where words are used that imply no end and none that imply no beginning. An interesting possible insight on the reason for this can be found at Hebrews 1:10-12, which says:

‘Long ago, O Lord, You laid the foundation of the earth and Your hands made the heavens. They will destroy themselves, but You will remain. They will grow old just like clothes do. Then, as [You would do to] a robe, You will wrap them up and repair them like clothes. Yes, You are the One, and Your years will never run out.’

The problem with most Bible translations is that when they encounter the word aionos in all its different tenses, they interpret it according to accepted doctrine, not according to the way that Jesus and his disciples used it. So, the common renderings forever, eternal, and everlasting are used even when the word is in its singular form (aioni, aiona, aionos, aionion, aionian, aionios, aioniou), and this totally distorts the meaning of the text.

Take for example, the scripture at John 5:24, where Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth; the one who hears what I say and believes in the One that sent me will have life in this age. He won’t have to be judged, but has crossed over from death to life.’

Most Bibles translate Jesus as saying that those who believe in the One who sent him will have everlasting life (or the equivalent). However, the words that Jesus used there were, zoe aionion (life age – singular), not zoe aionion (life ages – plural).

Notice how Jesus explained the meaning of these words with his next statement, ‘He won’t have to be judged, but has crossed over from death to life.’

So, what Jesus was saying here, wasn’t that they would have everlasting life, but that they would (in their current life) be considered among the living, not among the dead (see Revelation 20:12). This doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t live forever; it’s just that Jesus wasn’t really saying that.

From consideration of the evidence found in the bulk of Jesus’ words about life, the conclusion might be logically reached that he never taught the hope of ‘life eternal,’ ‘everlasting life,’ or ‘immortality,’ in those specific words. However, the concept is still there. What he taught was that (unlike those whom God considers to be ‘dead’) living people will receive ‘life in the age,’ meaning, they will be considered worthy of life by God during their lifetimes.

Two words imply infinity in the Bible. One is the Greek word athanasia, which means undying or immortal and is only found in two places, 1 Corinthians 15:53, where it mentions resurrected ones as clothing themselves with immortality, and at 1 Timothy 6:16, where Paul speaks of Jesus as having received it. The other Greek word, aidios, which is found at Romans 1:20 and at Jude 6, is used to describe God’s Power and Might as eternal.

For more information, select the linked documents, The Hereafter and Does the Bible Promise Everlasting Life?

Who Are the Anointed?

Notice that in this Bible translation, 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22 (for example) says, ‘The One who guarantees that we all belong to the Anointed One, and He who anointed us, is God.’

So, why didn’t these translators just go ahead and render the word (Anointed) as Christ – as countless other translators have done? Because Christ has almost totally lost its meaning to most Bible readers today, and most have come to believe that ‘Christ’ was part of Jesus’ name. It wasn’t.

If you look at the above verse in Greek, you’ll see that it reads, ‘Ho de bebaion hemas syn hymin eis Christon kai chrisas hemas Theos.’

Notice that Christon (Christ) and chrisas are both derived from the same root word, which is Greek for olive oil. Why olive oil? Because, that substance was traditionally poured over the heads of those who God chose to be kings over Israel. For example, David and Solomon were both anointed (oil was poured over their heads) in proof of the fact that they had been chosen by God to be kings over Israel. So, the word means anointed.

Therefore, the above verse could be literally translated, ‘The of stabilizing us with you into Anointed and anointing us God.’

Notice that in both cases where the words Anointed and anointing appear, we have translated it just as it was written in the Bible.

Such a physical anointing with oil appeared to picture receiving God’s Holy Breath, which happened to Jesus at his baptism, to 120 of Jesus’ disciples at Pentecost of 33-C.E., and to other First-century Christians. So, Jesus didn’t really become the Christon (Christ, Anointed, or Chosen One) until he was anointed with Holy Breath at his baptism (when the ‘dove’ came down on him).

If you understand this nuance, you get the true meaning of the word Christ (Anointed) as it applies to Jesus; it means that he was the one who God chose to be king over His people. Also, Paul was telling the Christians in Corinth that they would become ‘christs.’ For when they were ‘anointed’ and sealed in their hearts by God’s Holy Breath, they were selected to be ‘kings over the earth’ (Revelation 5:10).

Notice also what can be learned from a proper understanding of the Greek words by looking at Matthew 24:5, because the true meanings of Jesus’ words in that verse (and at Matthew 24:24) is unclear. In Greek it reads, ‘polloi yar eleusontai epi to onomatimou legontesegi eimi ho christos kai pollous elanesousin’ or, ‘many come (or go) on the name/my saying I/am the anointed and many stray.

As you can see, Jesus wasn’t necessarily telling us that many would come saying they were ‘Jesus the Christ,’ he was saying that many would come ‘in his name’ saying they are ‘the anointed,’ or those who were chosen for heavenly life. So, although it is true that some have claimed to be the Christ, many more have falsely claimed to be God’s anointed and they have misled multitudes.

Also, he said something similar at Matthew 24:24, ‘Because false Anointed ones and false prophets will arise and they will perform great signs and omens to mislead (if possible) even the elected.’

But notice that Jesus used a different word that could also be translated as ‘chosen ones’ at Matthew 24:24, which we have translated as ‘elected.’ This comes from a different Greek word, eclectoi (the root for the English word elected), which likely means that among the called (or the nominated) they are the ones who have been elected by God.

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