“Forever” Inconsistencies

NOT INCONSISTENCIES FOREVER

The concept of eternity is difficult to grasp. For instance, is it time without an end or the complete absence of time? Either way, it is an abstract idea that we have been wrestling with since Plato first introduced the concept. Yes, Plato the Greek philosopher, introduced the idea of “forever”.

The ancient Hebrews had no such notion of endlessness and, as such, the Old Testament, in the original language, is all but void of the concept as well. The ancient Jews believed in a resurrection of the dead but had no clear view of what that looked like (Daniel 12:2).

Rabbi Perlins of the Temple B’nai Shalom in Fairfax Station, VA says, “In fact, nowhere in the entire five books of Moses, and with few exceptions, our entire Torah, is there any indication of a realm beyond this world.”1  

“There is no concrete Jewish vision of the afterlife,” says Rabbi Shalom Carmy, Yeshiva University professor of Jewish Studies and Philosophy.2

So, if you were familiar with the Old Testament, you might ask about a passage like this one in Exodus:

And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest’s office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations. (Exodus 40:15 KJV)

This passage, recording the installation of Aaron and his sons, presents a dilemma in the face of history. The problem is that in the sixth century BC, the Babylonians destroyed Solomon’s temple and led Judah captive for 70 years during which there were no sacrifices offered on the altar of the Lord. Again, in AD 70, the Romans destroyed the second temple and laid Jerusalem to waste. The Temple of Jerusalem has not been reconstructed to this day, making it impossible to offer sacrifices to God for the past 1,900 years.

The difficulty is that God said Aaron’s lineage “shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.” They were not and they are not. God’s Word is infallible (incapable of making mistakes or being wrong), so there must be something we are missing.

That “something” is the understanding that there is a translation issue between the ancient Hebrew and today’s English. The Hebrew word, olam, properly rendered, “age-lasting” was translated “everlasting” thereby causing an infallibility error. (See Young’s Analytical Concordance of the Bible, p. 311).

The third of seven Biblical ages is the Age of Israel Under the Old Covenant (the Law). This age began with the Exodus and the giving of the Law on Mt Sinai and ended with the birth of Christ. The Levitical priesthood began and ended well within the boundaries of that age. So, properly rendering olam “age-lasting” spares us the difficulty of an historical inconsistency in the Bible. Aaron’s lineage was, in fact, and age-lasting priesthood.

Another case in point: Melchizedek was special for at least one reason; he was both king of Salem and a priest of the most-high God. In Israel, the priest descends from Levi and the king from Judah. They were never the same man. We are told emphatically throughout Hebrews that Christ is a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek, (Hebrews 5:6,10; 6:20; 7:1,10,11,15,17,21), and while Christ is certainly both king of kings and a priest that can be touched by the feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15), He is not a priest forever. Consider this passage from Paul to the church in Corinth:

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet…. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:24-25, 28 NIV)

The reign and priesthood of Christ comes to an end. Many English translations of the New Testament render the Greek aion as “forever” or “everlasting” rather than the more appropriate “to the age” or “age-lasting” as the etymology of the Greek word would indicate. Doing so, as can be seen, creates confusion at the very least and creates an inconsistency in the Bible narrative.

Properly rendering aion as “to the age” preserves a beautiful eschatological truth. There is coming a day, all things having been put under Him, in which Christ will be subject to God the Father so that He (God) may be all in all. This is the event that is the farthest in the future, beyond which we cannot see. We don’t know what it means for God to be “all in all”.

God, Christ, all of humanity and the entire universe of created things will be “all in all”, subject to God, who is victorious in reconciling all things to Himself (Colossians 1:15-20). It takes place at a time referred to as, eis tous aionas ton aionon, “unto the age of the ages”.

Christ must reign “until”… (His reign will end.)

Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father… (Where there is an end, there is no “everlasting”.)

This passage, in effect, nullifies the idea of scriptural “eternity”, “forever” and “everlasting” outside of God Himself.

What then are the implications regarding everlasting torment or eternal damnation? These things need to be re-examined.

Endnotes

1Rabbi Perlins, Religion 202: “Is there a Heaven or Hell in Judaism? (Temple B’nai Shalom), https://www.tbs-online.org/rabbi-perlins-study/307-2/, December 9, 2016, retrieved 5/17/2021.

2Rabbi Shalom Carmy, quoted in Edwin Black, Hell on Earth, Washington Post online, August 29, 1999, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1999/08/29/hell-on-earth/a2777d75-cfa6-4325-814a-0a26c83086c5/, retrieved 5/17/2021.