Hell in NOT Eternal According to the Original Languages of the Bible

Could a just and loving God punish someone forever for a finite amount of evil done in life?  In all Bible verses concerning hell, with one exception, the Bible uses the Greek word aion to denote the duration of punishment.  Aion means age, not endless duration.  The only time the Greek word for forever, aidios, is used is in regards to hell is in Jude 6: “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting [aidios] chains for judgment on the Great Day.”  The aidios chains in Jude 6 are limited by the Day of Judgment and thus do not imply an endless duration.  Fortunately, the Bible uses more permanent terms to describe the saints joyful existence in heaven.

Hell in NOT Eternal According to the Original Languages of the Bible

hell

The Bible in its original languages suggests that hell is not eternal.

Imagine being punished forever.  Would you ever wish such a fate on anyone?  And if not, could a loving God ever do such a thing?  I believe that a wise and just God could never sentence anyone, no matter how evil, to eternal punishment.  The purpose or goal of all forms of punishment is behavioral modification.  Eternal punishment does not modify behavior; therefore, eternal punishment serves no useful purpose since spirits in hell are never let out and given an opportunity to reform.  Furthermore, one might also ask, “If hell is eternal, why does Jesus preach to spirits in Hades in 1 Peter 3:18-20?”  “Also, why is Satan released from hell in Revelation 20:1-3?”  Does the Bible really suggest that hell is eternal?

The English translation of the Bible does suggest that hell is forever.  However, what do the original languages say?  The Christian Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek.  Interestingly, there is no word for eternity or forever in Hebrew.  Perhaps the closest word is olam, a word denoting a long duration of unknown length.  When the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek in the third century B.C., the Hebrew word olam was most often translated aion.  This Greek translation of the Bible is called the Septuagint.  During the writing of the Septuagint, there was a large amount of Greek literature available called the Classics today.  It is interesting to note that aion is never used in the Classics to denote eternity or endless duration.[i]  Aion in all its forms is used to describe the duration of punishment in thirteen verses in the New Testament.  As a noun, aion is found in Matthew 12:32, Mark 3:29, 2 Peter 2:17, Jude 13, Revelation 14:11, Revelation 19:3, and Revelation 20:10.  It is found as an adjective in Matthew 18:8, Matthew 25:41, Matthew 25:46, Mark 3:29, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Jude 7, and Hebrews 6:2.  Because aion does not mean forever or endless duration in Greek now or during the time of the writing of the New Testament, the fact that the above verses translate this word in such a way as to imply eternal punishment is highly dubious.

Concerning everlasting punishment, the other Greek word that is used in this context is aidios.   Aidios, not aion, is the Greek classic word for endless duration.  Aidios is found in Jude 6: “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the Great Day.”  The aidios chains in the verse above are limited by the Day of Judgment and do not imply endless duration.  The way in which aidios is used in Jude 6 is similar to the use of endless in the following sentence: “She is an endless talker.  She can talk on the phone for ten hours at a time.”

Fortunately the soul’s immortal and joyful existence is not left to as ambiguous a term as aion or aionios.  The following terms are applied to God and the soul’s happy existence only: “akataluton, imperishable; amarantos and amarantinos, unfading; aphtharto, immortal, incoruptable; and athanasian, immortality.”[ii]


[i] Christian Examiner, (Boston: Gray & Bowen), vols. 10, 11, 12, cited in www.tentmaker.org/books/Aion_lim.html (7/1/2006).

[ii] www.tentmaker.org/books/Aion_lim.html (7/1/2006).

Hell is Not Eternal Torment

4 Responses so far...

  1. limbert says:

    thank you so much! God bless you all.

  2. Deep Think says:

    In order for God to create dishonorable vessels and then punish such vessels He would have to violate His own stated character traits. How so? God claims to be good. Jesus said “Ye shall know them by their fruits” and a good tree brings forth good fruit. When considering weather or not to believe God did something one must ask,is this something good or bad. If it is bad and God is good than the answer is no He did not create dishonorable people and than punish them for acting the way He created them to act. anyone disagreeing with me must show how being created by God to be a dishonorable vessel and then punished for acting dishonorably is a good thing. How is it an act of love?

    Since it is claimed God is love anyone believing God has made dishonorable vessels must beable to show how doing so shows the love of God.

    Anyone believing God predestined some to salvation and giving them what they don’t deserve which is His grace while not giving His grace to the majority of His human creation no more deserving of eternal punishment must be able to show why God is being just in doing so.In fact isn’t the very definition of injustice giving people what they don’t deserve. Will mercy rob justice? Apparently so if the doctrine of predestination is correct. Predestination is based upon LUCK. The question for all of us in light of predestination is were we lucky enough to have been created by God to be the recipient of His grace? If predestination is a correct bible doctrine than Luck is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    In order for predestination to be a true biblical doctrine than God would have had to violate most of His character traits. The doctrine of predestination violates the love of God, the goodness of God and the justice of God. How can it be claimed that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest love story ever told when for the vast majority of the human race it will be the greatest horror story ever told?

    • Daren Wisman says:

      Deep Think, I recommend reading my post on predestination. Here I show that those who are predestined are those who have a previous existence in heaven before their birth on earth. These people volunteered to come to earth to perform a specific task and because they voluntarily left heaven for the service of God they are given a guarantee by God that they will return to the realm in which they departed. Therefore they are predestined for heaven. But if someone does not have a previous existence in heaven then they are saved by faith etc.

  3. Stan Henderson says:

    Does the theory that Hell is not eternal support the Catholic teaching regarding Purgatory? I would think so. Purgatory is viewed as a place of suffering, until the soul is purified in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
    Your article would suggest that all those that enter Hell do so for a certain time of suffering after which they can enter Heaven. This view appears to support Purgatory. It makes sense to me that an all loving God would not create people He knows will suffer in Hell for ever, but rather that after a period of suffering (Purgatory) He would allow all His children to enter into His Heavenly kingdom.

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