Through Successive Ages

(2) I pass on to shew that God's purpose, by the first-born from the dead to bless the later-born,—as it is written, "So in Christ shall all be made alive,"—is fulfilled in successive worlds or ages (αἰῶνες), or to use the language of St. Paul, "according to the purpose of the ages" (Eph. 3:11; κατὰ πρόθεσιν τῶν αἰώνων), so that the dead are raised, not all together, but "Every man in his own order—Christ the first-fruits—afterwards they that are Christ's at His coming" (1 Cor. 15:23); which latter resurrection, though after Christ's, is yet called "the resurrection from among the dead" (Phil. 3:11; τὴν ἐξανάστασιν, κ.τ.λ.), or "the first resurrection" (Rev. 20:5).

Now it is simply a matter of fact, that Christ, the first of the first-fruits, through whom all blessing reaches us, rose from the dead eighteen hundred years ago, while the Church of the first-born, who are also called first-fruits (James 1:18; Rev. 14:4), will not be gathered till the great Pentecost. Some are therefore freed from death before others; and even of the first-fruits, the Head of the body, as in every proper birth, is freed before the other members. So far it is clear that this purpose of God is wrought, not at once, but through successive ages. But this fact gives a hint of further mysteries, and some key to the "ages of ages" (αἰῶνες αἰώνων), which we read of in the New Testament, during which the lost are yet held by or under death and judgment, while the saints share Christ's glory, as heirs of God, in subduing all things unto Him. The fall here gives us some shadow of the restoration. For just as in Adam, all do not come out of him or die at once, but descend from or through each other, and die generation after generation, though all fell and died in him when he fell and died, as part of him, and therefore partakers of his sad inheritance; so in Christ, though all have been made alive in Him by His resurrection, all are not personally brought into His life and light at once, but one after another, and the first-born before the later-born, according to God's good pleasure and eternal purpose.

The key here as elsewhere is to be found in the details of that law, of which "no jot or tittle shall pass till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:18); the appointed "times and seasons" of which, one and all, are the types or figures of the "ages" of the New Testament; for there is nothing in the gospel, the figure of which is not in the law, nor anything in the law, the substance of which may not be found under the gospel; God's once oppressed and captive Israel being the vessel, in and by which He would shew out His purpose of grace and truth to other lost ones.

Observe, then, not only that the first-fruits are gathered, some at the feast of the Passover, and others not till Pentecost, while the "feast of tabernacles," or, as it is called, the "feast of ingathering," is not held until the seventh month, "in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field" (Exod. 23:16; Lev. 23:39; Deut. 16:13); but how no less distinctly both cleansing and redemption are ordained to take effect at different times and seasons. I refer to those mystic periods of "seven days" (Lev. 12:2; 13:5, 21, 26; 14:8, &c.), "seven weeks" (Lev. 23:15), "seven months" (Lev. 16:29; 23:24; Numb. 29:1), "seven years" (Lev. 25:4; Deut. 15:9, 12), and the "seven times seven years" (Lev. 25:8-9), which last complete the Jubilee, which are all different times for cleansing and blessing men,—the former of which are figures of "the ages," the last, of "the ages of ages," in the New Testament; under which last blessed appointment all those who had lost their inheritance, and could not go free, as some did, at the Sabbatic year of rest, might at length, after the "times of times," that is the "seven times seven years," regain what had been lost, and find full deliverance. For in the Sabbatic year the release was for Israel only, not for foreigners (Deut. 15:1-3); while in the Jubilee, liberty was to be proclaimed to all the inhabitants of the land (Lev. 25:10). What is there in the ordinary gospel of this day, which in the least explains or fulfils these various periods, in and through which were wrought successive cleansings and redemptions, not of persons only, but of their lost inheritance? And if in the gospel, as now preached, no truth is found corresponding with these figures of the law, is it not a proof that something is at least overlooked? God knows how much is overlooked from neglect of those Scriptures, which Saint Paul tells us are needed, "to make the man of God perfect" (2 Tim. 3:16-17), but which by some are openly despised, and by others are neglected, as the useless shadows of a by-gone dispensation. In them is the key, under a veil perhaps, of those "ages" and "ages of ages," during which so many are debtors and bondsmen under judgment, without their true inheritance. And though indeed it is true, that "it is not for us to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power" (Acts 1:7), it is yet given us to know that there are such times and seasons, and in knowing it to gain still wider views of the "manifold wisdom of God," and of the "unsearchable riches of Christ," our Lord and Saviour.

It would far exceed my measure to attempt to shew how the law in all its "times" figured the gospel "ages." But I may give one more example to prove, that in cleansing, as in giving deliverance, God's method is to accomplish the end through appointed seasons, which vary according to a fixed rule,—I refer to the different periods prescribed for the purification of a woman on the birth of a male or of a female child (Lev. 12:1-5). (Note: A similar distinction of times is to be seen in the cleansing of the leper; Lev. 14:7, 8, 9, 10, 20; and of those who were unclean by the dead; Numb. 19:12.) If a son is born, she is unclean in the blood of her separation seven days, after which she is in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days, making in all forty days; but if she bear a maid child, she is unclean for twice seven days, and in the blood of her purifying six and sixty days, in all eighty days; that is double the time she is unclean for a man child. For the woman is our nature, which if it receive seed, that is the word of truth, may bring forth a son, that is "the new man;" in which case nature, or the mother, which brings it forth, is only unclean during the seven days of this first creation, and then in the blood of purifying till the end of the forty days, which always figure this dispensation; (Note: The number "forty," wherever found in Scripture, always points to the period of this dispensation, as the time of trial or temptation; e.g. Gen. 7:17; Exod. 24:18; Ezek. 4:6; Deut. 25:2-3; Mark 1:13; Exod. 16:35; Numb. 14:33; 2 Sam. 5:4; 1 Kings 11:42; Acts 1:3; 13:21, &c.) for wherever Christ is formed in us, there is the hope that even "our vile body" shall be cleansed, when we reach the end of this present dispensation. But if, instead of bearing this "new man," our nature only bear its like, a female child, that is fruits merely natural, then it is unclean for a double period, till twice seven days and twice forty pass over it. Here as elsewhere the veil will I fear hide from some what is yet revealed as to the varying times when cleansing may be looked for; but even the natural eye can see that two different times are here described; and those who receive this as the Word of God will perhaps believe that there is some teaching here, even if they cannot understand it. Those too, who believe that the Church was divinely guided in the order and appointment of the Christian Year, ought surely to consider what is involved in the fact that the purification of the woman after forty days is kept as one of the Church's holy days, under the title of "The Purification of St. Mary" (Forty days after Christmas, that is on Feb. 2). The Church of course reckons among her greatest days the conception and birth of that New and Anointed Man, who by almighty grace and power is brought forth out of our fallen human nature; but she does not forget to mark also the cleansing according to law, at the end of the mystic forty days, of that weak nature into which the Eternal Word has come, and out of which the New Man springs. There is like teaching in every time and season of the law, and its days and years figure the "ages" of the New Testament.

The prophets repeat the same teaching, still further opening out this part of God's purpose, in a later age to visit those who are rejected in an earlier one, and so to work through successive worlds or ages. Thus though at the time they wrote Moab and Ammon were under a special curse, and cut off from the congregation of Israel, according to the words, "Thou shalt not seek their peace or prosperity for ever," and again, "Even to the tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord for ever" (Deut. 23:3, 6. Heb. לעולם; LXX., εἰς τὸν αιῶνα); in obedience to which law both Ezra and Nehemiah put away, not only the wives which some Israelites had taken from these nations, but also the children born of them (Ezra 10:2, 3, 44; Neh. 13:1, 23-30); though the prophets further declare the judgment of these nations, that "Moab shall be destroyed" (Jer. 48:42), and "Ammon shall be fuel for fire, and be no more remembered" (Ezek. 21:28, 32); yet they declare also that "in the latter days the Lord shall bring again the captivity of Moab and of the children of Ammon" (Jer. 48:47; 49:6). Similar predictions are made respecting Egypt and Assyria (Isa. 19:21, 25), Elam (Jer. 49:39), Sodom and her daughters (Ezek. 16:53-55), (Note: Compare with this Jude 7, where we are told that Sodom is "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Gr. πυρὸς αἰωνίου.) And yet of this very "Sodom and her daughters" the prophet declares, that they shall "return to their former estate.") and other nations, who in the age of the prophets were "strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world," who yet are called to "rejoice with God's people" (Deut. 32:43; Rom. 15:10), and of whom even now an election, "though sometime far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:12-13). These nations in the flesh were enemies, and as such received the doom of old Adam; yet for them also must there be hope in the new creation, according to the promise, "Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5). For Christ, who, "being put to death in the flesh, but quickened in spirit, went in spirit and preached to the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah" (1 Pet. 3:18-20), is "Jesus Christ, (that is Anointed Saviour,) the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever" (Heb. 13:8). (Note: I may perhaps add here, that to me the scene recorded in Matt. 8:28-34, and in the parallel passages of the other Evangelists, is most significant. Our Lord calls His disciples to "pass over to the other side," and there heals "the man possessed with devils, who had his dwelling among the tombs, exceeding fierce, whom no man could bind, no, not with chains." Christ not only heals all forms of disease in Israel, but casts out devils also on the other side of the deep waters.)

Such is the light which the law and prophets give us as to God's purpose of salvation through successive ages. But even creation and regeneration, both works of the same God, tell no less clearly, though more secretly, the same mystery. God in each shews how He works, not in one act, but by degrees, through successive days or seasons. In creation each day has its own work, to bring back some part of the creature, and one part before another, from emptiness and confusion, to light and form and order. All things do not appear at once. Much is unchanged, even after "light" and a "heaven" are formed upon the first and second days (Gen. 1:4-8). But these first works act on all the rest, for by God's will this "heaven" is a fellow-worker with God's Word in all the change which follows, till the whole is "very good." (Note: The firmament was called "heaven," שמים, or "the arrangers," because it is an agent in arranging things on earth. "This appellation was first given by God to the celestial fluid or air, when it began to act in disposing or arranging the earth and waters. And since that time the שמים have been the great agents in disposing all material things in their places and orders, and thereby producing all those wonderful effects which are attributed to them in Scripture, but which it has been of late years the fashion to ascribe to attraction, gravitation, &c."—Parkhurst, sub voce.) What is this but the very truth of the first-born serving the later-born? So in the process of our regeneration, there is a quickening, first of our spirits, then of our bodies, the quickening of our spirits being the pledge and earnest that the body also shall be delivered in its season (Eph. 1:13-14; Rom. 8:11). What a witness to God's most blessed purpose; for our spirit is to our body what the spiritual are to this world. And just as the quickening of our spirit must in due time bring about a quickening even of our dead and vile bodies; so surely shall the quickening and manifestation of the sons of God end in saving those earthly souls who are not here quickened. Thus does the microcosm foretell the fate of the macrocosm, even as the macrocosm is full of lessons for the microcosm.

But even had we not this key, the language of the New Testament, in its use of the word which our Translators have rendered "for ever" and "for ever and ever" (εἰς αἰῶνα and εἰς αἰῶνας αἰώνων), but which is literally "for the age," or "for the ages of ages," points not uncertainly to the same solution of the great riddle, though as yet the glad tidings of the "ages to come" have been but little opened out. The epistles of St. Paul will prove that the "ages" are periods, in which God is gradually working out a purpose of grace, which was ordained in Christ before the fall, and before those "age-times" (χρόνοι αἰώνιοι—2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 1:2), in and through which the fall is being remedied. So we read, that "God's wisdom was ordained before the ages to our glory" (1 Cor. 2:7; πρὸ τῶν αἰώνων), that is, that God had a purpose before the ages out of the very fall to bring greater glory both to Himself and to His fallen creature; then we are told distinctly of the "purpose of the ages" (Eph. 3:11; κατὰ πρόθεσιν τῶν αἰώνων; translated, in our Authorized Version, "the eternal purpose"), shewing that the work of renewal would only be accomplished through successive ages. Then we read, that "by the Son, God made the ages" (Heb. 1:2; 11:3), for it was by what the Eternal Word uttered and revealed of God's mind in each successive age that each such age became what it distinctly was; each age, like each day of creation, being different from another by the form and measure in which the Word of God was uttered or revealed in it, and therefore also by the work effected in it, the work in each successive age, as in the different days of creation, being wrought first in one measure, then in another, first in one part, then in another, of the lapsed creation. Then again we read of the "mystery which has been hidden from the ages" (Eph. 3:9), and again that "the mystery," (for he repeats the words,) "which hath been hid from ages and generations, is now made manifest to the saints, to whom God hath willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery; which is, Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:26). In another place the Apostle speaks of "glory to God in the church by Christ Jesus, unto all generations of the age of ages" (Eph. 3:21; εἰς πάσας τὰς γενεὰς τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων). He further says, that Christ is set "far above all principality, and power, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but in the coming one" (Eph. 1:21); and again, that "now once in the end of the ages He hath appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9:26; ἐπὶ συντελείᾳ τῶν αἰώνων); and that on us "the ends of the ages are met" (1 Cor. 10:11; τὰ τέλη τῶν αἰώνων κατήντησεν); words which plainly speak of some of the ages as past, and seem to imply that other ages are approaching their consummation. Lastly, he speaks of "the ages to come," in which God will "shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us through Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4-7). (Note: I may add here that in all the following passages αἰὼν is used for this present or some other limited age or dispensation:—Matt. 12:32; 13:39, 40; 24:3; Luke 16:8; 20:34, 35; Rom. 12:2; 1 Cor. 1:20; 2:6, 8; 3:18; 2 Cor. 4:4; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:21; 2:2; 6:12; 1 Tim. 6:17; 2 Tim. 4:10; Tit. 2:12.)

Now what is this "purpose of the ages," which St. Paul speaks of, but of which the Church in these days seems to know, or at least says, next to nothing? I have already anticipated the answer. The "ages" are the fulfilment or substance of the "times and seasons" of the Sabbatic year and Jubilee under the old law. They are those "times of refreshment from the presence of the Lord, when He shall send Jesus Christ, who before was preached" (Acts 3:19); and when, in due order, liberty and cleansing will be obtained by those who are now in bondage and unclean, and rest be gained by those who now are without their rightful inheritance. In the "ages," and in no other mystery of the gospel, do we find those "good things to come," of which the legal times and seasons were the "shadow" (Heb. 10:1). Of course, as some of these "ages" are "to come," being indeed the "times and seasons which the Father hath put in His own power" (Acts 1:7), we can as yet know little of their distinctive character, except that, as being the ages in which God is fulfilling His purpose in Christ, we may be assured their issue must be glorious. Yet they are constantly referred to in the New Testament, and the book of the Revelation more than any other speaks of them (Rev. 1:6, 18; 4:9-10; 5:13-14; 7:12; 10:6; 11:15; 14:11; 15:7; 19:3; 20:10; 22:5), for this book opens out the processes and stages of the great redemption, which make up the Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gives Him; and this Revelation is not accomplished in one act, but through the "ages" and "ages of ages," foreshadowed by the "times" and "times of times" of the old law, the "age-times," again to use the language of St. Paul, in which the Lord is revealed as meeting the ruin of the creature. And the reason why we sometimes read of "ages," and sometimes of "the age," when both seem to refer to and speak of the same one great consummation, is, that the various "ages" are but the component parts of a still greater "age," as the seven Sabbatic years only made up one Jubilee. But because the mind of the Spirit is above them, men speak as if the varied and very unusual language of Scripture, as to the "ages" or the "age of ages," contained no special mystery. They will see one day that the subject is dark, not because Scripture is silent, but only because men's eyes are holden. (Note: Every scholar knows that the expressions, εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, εἰς αἰῶνα αἰῶνος, εἰς αἰῶνα αἰώνων, εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, are unlike anything which occurs in the heathen Greek writers. The reason is, that the inspired writers, and they alone, understood the mystery and purpose of the "ages." They, or at least the Spirit which spake by them, saw that there would be a succession of "ages," a certain number of which constituted another greater "age." It seems to me that when they simply intended a duration of many "ages," they wrote εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας, or "to the ages." When they had in view a greater and more comprehensive "age," including in it many other subordinate "ages," they wrote εἰς αἰῶνα αἰώνων, that is "to the age of ages." When they intended the longer "age" alone, without regard to its constituent parts, they wrote εἰς αἰῶνα αἰῶνος, that is "to an aeonial age"; this form of expression being a Hebraism, exactly equivalent to εἰς αἰῶνα αἰώνιον: like "liberty of glory," for "glorious liberty," (Rom. 8:21,) and "body of our vileness," for "our vile body." (Phil. 3:21.) When they intended the several comprehensive "ages" collectively, they wrote εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, that is "to the ages of ages." Each varying form is used with a distinct purpose and meaning.)

At any rate, and whatever the future "ages" may be, those past (and St. Paul speaks of "the ends" of some,) are clearly not endless; and the language of Scripture as to those to come seems to teach that they are limited, since Christ's mediatorial kingdom, which is "for the ages of ages," must yet be "delivered up to the Father, that God may be all in all" (Compare Rev. 11:15, and 1 Cor. 15:24). And the fact that in John's vision, which describes the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gives Him, our Lord is called "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending" (Rev. 21:6), seems to imply an end to the peculiar manifestation of Him as King and Priest, under which special offices the Revelation shews Him, offices which, as they involve lost ones to be saved and rebels ruled over, may not be needed when the lost are saved and reconciled. Would it not have been better therefore, and more respectful to the Word of God, had our Translators been content in every place to give the exact meaning of the words, which they render "for ever," or "for ever and ever," but which are simply "for the age," or "for the ages of ages;" and ought they not in other passages, where the form of expression in reference to these "ages" is marked and peculiar, to have adhered to the precise words of Holy Scripture? I have already referred to the passage of St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, which in our Version is rendered "throughout all ages, world without end," but which is literally, "to all generations of the age of ages" (Eph. 3:21). But even more remarkable are the words, in St. Peter's Second Epistle, which our Version translates "for ever," but which are literally "for the day of the age" (2 Pet. 3:18); (Note: εἰς ἡμέραν αἰῶνος, which, I may add here, is an exact literal translation of the words in Micah 5:2, מימי עולם, and which in our Authorized Version are translated "from everlasting.") the key to which may perhaps be found in a preceding verse of the same chapter, where the Apostle says, that "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day" (2 Pet. 3:8). These and other similar forms of expression cannot have been used without a purpose. It is, therefore, a matter of regret that our Translators should not have rendered them exactly and literally; for surely the words which Divine Wisdom has chosen must have a reason, even where readers and translators lack the light to apprehend it.

The "ages," therefore, are periods in which God works, because there is evil and His rest is broken by it, but which have an end and pass away, when the work appointed to be done in them has been accomplished. The "ages," like the "days" of creation, speak of a prior fall: they are the "times" in which God works, because He cannot rest in sin and misery. His perfect rest is not in the "ages," but beyond them, when the mediatorial kingdom, which is "for the ages of ages" (Rev. 11:15), is "delivered up" (1 Cor. 15:24), and Christ, by whom all things are wrought in the ages, goes back to the glory which He had "before the age-times," (Note: 2 Tim. 1:9; and Tit. 1:2; πρὸ χρόνων αἰωνίων; translated, in our Version, "before the world began." The Vulgate translation here is, "Ante saecularia tempora," which is as literal a rendering as possible.) "that God may be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28). The words "Jesus Christ, (that is, Anointed Saviour,) the same yesterday, to-day, and for the ages" (Heb. 13:8; εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας), imply that through these "ages" a Saviour is needed, and will be found, as much as "to-day" and "yesterday." It will I think too be found, that the adjective (αἰώνιος) founded on this word, whether applied to "life," "punishment," "redemption," "covenant," "times," or even "God" Himself, is always connected with remedial labour, and with the idea of "ages" as periods in which God is working to meet and correct some awful fall. Thus the "aeonial covenant" (Heb. 13:20), (I must coin a word, to shew what is the term used in the original,) is that which comprehends "the ages," during which "Jesus Christ is the same," that is, a Saviour; an office only needed for the fallen, for "they that are whole need not a physician." The "aeonial God," (language found but once in the New Testament,) (Note: Rom. 16:25-26. In this passage we read, first, of "the mystery kept secret from the aeonial times," μυστήριον χρόνοις αἰωνίοις σεσιγημένον, (translated in our English version, "Since the world began,") and then of "the aeonial God," αἰωνίου Θεοῦ, "by whose command this mystery is now made manifest." Is it not reasonable to conclude that the same word, twice used here in the same sentence, must in each case have the same sense. But as applied to "times," passing or past, aeonial cannot mean never-ending. In the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, the epithet αἰώνιος is only applied to God four times, in one of which the corresponding עולם of the Hebrew is not to be found; though in all the reference is direct, either to "the age of ages," or to God's redeeming work as wrought through "the ages." The passages are Gen. 21:33, where after the birth of Isaac, the type of Christ, God is known by this name אל עולם; then Isa. 26:4, and Isa. 40:28, in both which the context shews the reason for the epithet; and lastly Job 33:12, in which passage the LXX. have given us αἰώνιος for אלהים or Elohim, in the original; which name, as we see from a comparison of Gen. 1 and 2, (in the former of which God is always Elohim, in the latter Jehovah Elohim,) refers to One who is working through periods of labour to change a ruined world, until His image is seen ruling it; a title not lost when the day of rest is reached, but to which another name, shewing what God is in Himself, is then added. In Exod. 3:15, we read of God's ὄνομα αἰώνιον, that is, His name as connected with deliverance. I believe the word is never used but in this connection.) refers, as the context shews, to God as working His secret of grace through "aeonial times," that is, successive worlds or "ages," in some of which "the mystery has been hid, but now is made manifest by the commandment of the aeonial God," that is, (if I err not,) the God who works through these "ages." And so of the rest, whether "redemption" (Heb. 9:12), "salvation" (Heb. 5:9), "spirit" (Heb. 9:14), "fire" (Jude 7), or "inheritance" (Heb. 9:15), all of which in certain texts are called "aeonial," the epithet seems to refer to the same remedial plan, wrought out by God through "worlds" or "ages." And does not our Lord refer to this in the well-known words, "This is life eternal (ἡ αἰώνιος ζωή, that is, the life of the age or of the ages,) that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3)? Does He not say here, that to know the only true God, as the sender of His Son to be a Saviour, and to know that Son as a Saviour and Redeemer, mark and constitute the renewed life which is peculiar to the ages? Aeonial or eternal life therefore is not, as so many think, the living on and on for ever and ever. It is rather, as our Lord defines it, a life, the distinctive peculiarity of which is, that it has to do with a Saviour, and so is part of a remedial plan. This, as being our Lord's own explanation of the word, is surely conclusive as to its meaning. But even had we not this key, the word carries with it in itself its own solution; for "aeonial" is simply "of the ages;" and the "ages," like the days of creation, as being periods in which God works, witness, not only that there is some fall to be remedied, but that God through these days or ages is working to remedy it.

(Note: As to the Old Testament use of the word "age" or "ages," (translated "for ever" in the English Version,) a few words may be added here. We have first the unconditional promise of God, that "the seed of Abraham shall inherit the land for ever;" לעולם; LXX., εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα; Exod. 32:13. The same words are used of the Aaronic priesthood; Exod. 40:15; of the office of the Levites; 1 Chron. 15:2; of the inheritance given to Caleb; Joshua 14:9; of Ai being a desolation; Joshua 8:28; of the leprosy of Gehazi cleaving to his seed; 2 Kings 5:27; of the heathen bondsmen whom Israel possessed, of whom it is said, "They shall be their bondsmen for ever;" Lev. 25:46. The same words are also used of the curse to come on Israel for their disobedience:—"These curses shall come on thee, and pursue thee till thou be destroyed; and they shall be upon thee for a sign, and upon thy children for ever;" Deut. 28:45-46. So of Ammon and Moab it is said:—"Thou shalt not seek their peace for ever;" Deut. 23:6; and again, "They shall not come into the congregation of the Lord for ever;" Deut. 23:3; here עד עולם. In all these and other similar instances, עולם and its equivalent αἰὼν mean the age or dispensation. In Exod. 21:6 where the ear of the servant, who will not go free, is bored, and he becomes a "servant for ever," (עולם; LXX., εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα,) the sense must necessarily be much more limited; as also in 1 Sam. 1:22. It is to be observed also that not only the singular, עולם, as in 1 Kings 9:3, and 2 Kings 21:7, but the plural, עולמים, is used in 1 Kings 8:13, and 2 Chron. 6:2, in reference to the temple at Jerusalem. The double expression, לעולם ועד, is variously translated by the LXX.; sometimes εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα καὶ ἔτι, as in Dan. 12:3, where it is used of those "that turn many to righteousness;" sometimes τὸν αἰῶνα καὶ ἐπ᾽ αἰῶνος καὶ ἔτι, as in Exod. 15:18, where it is used of God; sometimes εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος, as in Psalm 45:2, where it is used of Christ and His kingdom; while in Micah 4:7, the same Hebrew words, here ועד עולם, are translated by the LXX., and here only, by the plural, ἕως εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας. More commonly, however, עד עולם is rendered simply ἕως τοῦ αἰῶνος by the LXX., as in Gen. 13:15, Joshua 4:7, and elsewhere. Lastly, in Dan. 7:18, we have both the singular and plural form together, עד עלמא ועד עלם עלמיא, rendered by the LXX., ἕως αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων.

The adjective αἰώνιος is used continually by the LXX.,—in reference to the Passover, Exod. 12:14, 17,—the tabernacle service, Exod. 27:21,—the priestly office of the sons of Aaron, Exod. 28:43,—the meat-offering, Lev. 6:18,—and other things of the Jewish dispensation, all of which are called νόμιμον αἰώνιον. So in Jer. 23:40, we have αἰώνιον ὀνείδεισμον, and ἀτιμίαν αἰώνιον, used of the corrective judgments on Israel, whose restoration is also foretold. I will only add that the very remarkable language of S. Paul, (2 Cor. 4:17,) καθ᾽ ὑπερβολὴν εἰς ὑπερβολὴν αἰώνιον, seems intended to add to the force of the word αἰώνιος, which could scarcely be, if αἰώνιος meant eternal. Beza's comment here is, "aeternitas ipsa aeternitate magis aeterna." See too Corn. a Lapide, in loco.)

Be this as it may, the adjective, "aeonial" or age-long, cannot carry a force or express a duration greater than that of the ages or "aeons" which it speaks of. If therefore these "ages" are limited periods, some of which are already past, while others, we know not how many, are yet to come, the word "aeonial" cannot mean strictly never-ending. Nor does this affect the true eternity of bliss of God's elect, or of the redeemed who are brought back to live in God, and to be partakers of Christ's "endless life," (Note: See Heb. 7:16. The word here used of Christ's resurrection-life, which we share with Him, is ἀκατάλυτος, translated in our Version "endless"; literally "indissoluble"; a word never used in Scripture respecting judgment or punishment, but only of that life which is beyond all dissolution.) of whom it is said, "Neither can they die any more, for they are equal to the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection" (Luke 20:36); for this depends on a participation in the divine nature, and upon that power which can "change these vile bodies, that they may be fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able to subdue even all things unto Himself." (Phil. 3:21. See also 1 Cor. 15:53; Rom. 8:29; Heb. 7:16; 12:28; 1 Pet. 1:3-5; 1 John 3:2).


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