For the salary of sin is death but the gift of God is permanent life in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23). What exactly is death according to this verse? Some say it is spiritual, but what does that mean exactly? Some also say it is punishment eternal and infinite, never ending and constant suffering. Others say it is complete and total obliteration and its results are permanent.
How does the Bible itself define death? To answer that question we must first understand death in light of life which is the opposite of death according to Romans 6:23 “For the salary of sin is death but the gift of God is permanent life in Christ Jesus”. Death is payment for the work but life cannot be earned, it is only gifted by God.
In Genesis 2:16-17 (LXX), it reads “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it dying you shall die.” After disobeying the command God then said in Genesis 3:22-23 “”Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever“– therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.”
These passages make it known that in order to have permanent life, Adam had to keep eating from the tree of life. A tree which God gave freely upon the condition that Adam abstain from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The word which God spoke, telling Adam that he will die should he break that condition was fulfilled when Adam was driven out of the garden. And surely after losing access to the tree of life, Adam died within a thousand years and the word which God spoke saying “in the day that you eat of it dying you shall die” was fulfilled.
Right in the beginning the bible defines death using Adam as its first example. His life ceased to exist. He was and then he was not. Genesis 3:19 records God saying to Adam, “for out of the ground you were taken, dust you are and to dust you shall return”. Accordingly, Adam died and returned to the dust. God’s punishment of death was realized with Adam. Adam worked and God gave him his salary, death.
This post will be looking to show through scripture that the destiny of the wicked is death, and that death being the salary for sin is complete and utter destruction, a destruction that has permanent results, meaning it is final and there is no chance of life ever again. This post will look to dispel the belief that the wicked will burn and/or be tormented forever and ever into eternity in Gehenna. It will seek to show that the destruction of the wicked is complete and that the obliteration which is the result, will be permanent. Psalm 37:10 Says “yet a little while and the wicked will be no more; indeed you will look carefully for his place but it shall be no more” and thus accordingly, the wicked will be wiped out forever with no trace or evidence of their existence.
This post is divided into three subheading. 1. The fate of the wicked, 2. The unquenchable fire of God, 3. Permanent destruction vs eternal suffering
1. The Fate of the wicked
There is a consistent theme in scripture that the end of the wicked is utter and complete destruction. All of scripture, with the exception of a few passages which are addressed later, make it clear that the wicked are consumed, destroyed and wiped out. The concept of an eternal flame with the cries and groaning of the wicked forever is not supported in scripture. The exceptions as will be addressed later are issues stemming purely out of the English translations. The confusion however does not relate to matters of construction in the texts but the mere translation of words like “forever and ever”, “eternal”, “everlasting”, etc. These are words implying an unbroken continuity unto eternity, yet the greek and Hebrew words translated as “everlasting” or “eternal” or “forever” do not have that implication of continuity without end. But before addressing these translations, let’s take a look at a few passages in scripture demonstrating that death is the cessation of life and the complete annihilation of the wicked.
Psalm 21:9 “You shall make them as a fiery oven in the time of Your anger; The Lord shall swallow them up in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them”.
Psalm 37:1-2,9-12,20,22,28,34,38 “Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb…For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord, They shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes at him with his teeth….But the wicked shall perish; and the enemies of the Lord, Like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish. Into smoke they shall vanish away…For those blessed by Him shall inherit the earth, But those cursed by Him shall be cut off…For the Lord loves justice, And does not forsake His saints; They are preserved forever, But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off…Wait on the Lord, And keep His way, And He shall exalt you to inherit the land; When the wicked are cut off, you shall see it…But the transgressors shall be destroyed together; The future of the wicked shall be cut off.”
Psalm 73:18-19,27 “Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction. Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors… For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.”
Psalm 94:12-13,23 “Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, And teach out of Your law, that You may give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit is dug for the wicked… He has brought on them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; The Lord our God shall cut them off.”
Psalm 112:9-10 “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever; His horn will be exalted with honor. The wicked will see it and be grieved; He will gnash his teeth and melt away;”
Isaiah 1:27-28, 31 (LXX) “Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and her penitents with righteousness. The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together, and those who forsake the Lord shall be finished off entirely… And their strength the stubble of hemp; and their works as sparks, and the lawless ones and sinners shall be incinerated together, and no one will be able to quench.”
Nahum 1:8-10 “But with an overflowing flood He will make an utter end of its place, and darkness will pursue His enemies. What do you conspire against the Lord? He will make an utter end of it. Affliction will not rise up a second time. For while tangled like thorns, And while drunken like drunkards, They shall be devoured like stubble fully dried.”
Malachi 4:1,3 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,…that will leave them neither root nor branch. You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this,” Says the Lord of hosts.”
Luke 13:3-5 “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Take note that those whose death Jesus likened to the impending judgement on the Jews was death, once here and then gone. The word “perish” comes from the greek word “apóllymi”, which literally means “destroy”. Nowhere in the root is there a suggestion of continuous punishment. On the contrary it means destruction, bringing a complete end to something. Which is what Jesus told the Jews; that unless they repent, they will all likewise be destroyed like those whom Pilate killed or whom the tower fell on.
Philippians 3:18-19 “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction…” Note that the end of the wicked is destruction. Greek word “apṓleia” meaning “ruin”, or “brought to nothing”, is the end of the wicked. The greek word for “end” is “télos” which means “termination” or “the point at which something ceases to be”. All together, the final destination of the wicked is destruction, they are terminated and thus they cease to exist and there is nothing left of them. Similarly Jesus said in Matthew 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it”. A path leads to a destination. For the wicked, the broad path comes to a particular end – which is destruction.
2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 “since it is just to repay those afflicting you with affliction from God, and to [repay] you – the ones being afflicted – [with] rest along with us at the revealing of the Master Jesus from heaven with His mighty angels, in blazing fire, delivering vengeance to those who have not perceived God, also to those who disobey the Good Message of our Master Jesus Christ. These shall incur the judgment of permanent annihilation from the presence of the Master and from the glory of His power”. Take note that those who do not perceive God nor obey the Gospel of Christ, shall receive the judgment of annihilation which is permanent.
The same expression is found in 2 Peter 2:1,3,6,12 “Yet there also came false-prophets among the people, just as also there will be false-teachers among you, who will smuggle in destructive heresies, even disowning the One who purchased them, bringing to themselves swift destruction…And with greed, with crafted words, they will peddle you, unto whom the ancient judgment is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep…and [if God] condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, turning them into ashes, making them a demonstration for those intending to be ungodly,… these [men] – like irrational animals having been born for capture and destruction – speaking evil of what they know nothing about, shall be annihilated in their own destruction”.
Take note that just like Jesus made a comparison between those whom calamity fell on and the latter end of the Jews if they did not repent, Peter likewise makes a comparison between the judgement of Sodom and Gomorrah and the latter end of false prophets and sinners. Peter tells his audience that Sodom and Gomorrah was a demonstration of swift destruction which will also befall sinners. Sodom and Gomorrah are not still burning presently. Their destruction was swift and complete, nothing was left but the smoke of burning. Consequently Peter writes that they were turned to ashes. Not only that, but Peter makes known that the destruction of sinners will be swift and complete with nothing left but ashes. Ashes which according to Malachi 4:3, will be trampled under the feet of the righteous. It reads “For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up that will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. You shall trample the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this”
Jude also commenting on Sodom and Gomorrah wrote in Jude 1:7 “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, in like manner to these [men], prostituting and going after other flesh, displaying a pattern of permanent fire”. The last phrase “pattern of permanent fire”, which is “δεῖγμα πυρὸς αἰωνίου”, “deigma pyros aioniou” from the greek is translated in some Bible versions as “an example of everlasting/eternal fire.” Yet, the Greek word “δεῖγμα”, “deigma” means a specimen that is of the same thing and not merely a representation. Thus, the fire that fell on Sodom and Gomorrah was indeed “πυρὸς αἰωνίου”, “pyros aioniou”, that is permanent fire. This shows that “αἰωνίου”, “aioniou” which is rendered “eternal or everlasting” in the various bible translations does not mean that the fire burns forever, but that the effects of the fire are permanent. Sodom and Gomorrah were completely obliterated so that absolutely nothing remains even to this day. The results following the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is lasting even to this very day. Sodom and Gomorrah are not presently still burning. Thus Sodom and Gomorrah being a specimen of permanent fire means that the judgment on sinners at the end of the age will be in like manner. A complete and utter destruction.
A summary of Old Testament terminology used for the fate of the wicked include, die; death; consumed; perish; destroyed; be silent in darkness; burn up; consumed like chaff, cut off, are no more, melt away, be ashes, permanent contempt, burn with unquenchable fire; be stubble; be no more; be as though they had never been; vanish; vanish away like smoke; cut down like the grass; are no more; could not be found…
New Testament terminology include, in danger of Gehenna fire; cast into Gehenna fire; destroy both soul and body; condemnation of Gehenna; perish; permanent punishment; destruction; swift destruction; permanent annihilation; indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish; outer darkness; death/die; burn up; burn with unquenchable fire; outer darkness; weeping and gnashing of teeth; perdition; permanent blackness of darkness; passing away; second death; cast into the lake of fire…
2. The unquenchable fire of God
It ought to be noted that the unquenchable fire of God in scripture never refers to fire that is burning continuously without end. The word unquenchable may imply an inability to be put out, but its use in scripture does not mean burning forever into eternity. Certainly also, God is able to put out his own fire as he always has in scripture. Unquenchable fire, when used in scripture is a reference to fire that completely consumes until nothing is left. Already briefly mentioned above, Sodom and Gomorrah suffered a judgment of permanent fire. According to Genesis 19:24, the fire came directly from the heavens and consumed the two cities completely. Peter commenting in 2 Peter 2:6 writes “and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, [God] condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly”. Thus Peter makes it clear that Sodom and Gomorrah, which is an example of the judgement to come, was turned into ashes as the result of its condemnation. Similarly, all those who would live ungodly will be turned into ashes by the unquenchable fire of God.
The unquenchable fire of God is popular in scripture. Leviticus 9:24 reads “Then fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.”
Also Numbers 11:3-4 “Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched.” The fire consumed parts of the camp and was not quenched until Moses prayed to the Lord.
Following the contest between Elijah and the false prophets, 1 Kings 18:38 reads “Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.” The fire of God consumed not only the offerings, but it also had the ability to consume the wood, the stones, the dust and the pool of water.
In Revelation 20:9 after the gathering of the nations with Gog and Magog, it reads “they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.”
It is clear that the fire of God is able to consume and incinerate anything and everything God wishes to destroy. In Jeremiah 17:27 God declared to the ancient Jews saying, “I will kindle a fire in… Jerusalem and it shall not be quenched”. This God fulfilled in 2 Chronicles 36:19–21 when he brought the Babylonians against Jerusalem. Since God declared that the fire shall not be quenched, are we to assume that Jerusalem is still burning and will keep burning forever? On the contrary, we know Jerusalem is not burning presently but rather as God had intended and fulfilled, the fire was not quenched until it had consumed and laid Jerusalem to waste in the Babylonian siege.
Isaiah 1:27-28,31 (LXX) also teaches that the wicked will be consumed like chaff with unquenchable fire. It reads “Zion shall be redeemed with justice, and her penitents with righteousness. The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together, and those who forsake the Lord shall be finished off entirely… And their strength the stubble of hemp; and their works as sparks, and the lawless ones and sinners shall be incinerated together, and no one will be able to quench.” Writing at the time Isaiah prophesied concerning the impending judgement to fall upon Jerusalem when the Babylonians would come.
Drawing from the terminology in Jeremiah and Isaiah, John the Baptist in Matthew 3:11-12 said “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” In other words, the chaff will be completely burnt up by unquenchable fire. Notice that the use of unquenchable fire by John the Baptist is not everlasting or eternal fire but rather, borrowing from Jeremiah, the fire which is not quenched will burn up the chaff completely.
Speaking to Israel concerning their destruction, Isaiah further writes in Isaiah 10:16-19 “Therefore the Lord, the Lord of hosts, will send leanness among his fat ones; And under his glory He will kindle a burning Like the burning of a fire. So the Light of Israel will be for a fire, And his Holy One for a flame; It will burn and devour His thorns and his briers in one day. And it will consume the glory of his forest and of his fruitful field, both soul and body; And they will be as when a sick man wastes away. Then the rest of the trees of his forest will be so few in number that a child may write them.”
Drawing the attention of the Jews to this passage in Isaiah, Jesus said in Matthew 10:28 “do not fear those who kill the body and cannot kill the soul. But rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna”. Further saying in Mark 9:43-44 “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to Gehenna, into the fire that shall never be quenched— where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’”
Explaining that God will set up an unquenchable fire in Gehenna, intended to destroy both body and soul (that is, the person’s entire existence with no chance ever again of life).
Take particular note at Jesus’ words in regards to Gehenna fire “where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched”. This is a direct quote from Isaiah 66:22-24, a passage removing any doubt as to the location of Gehenna. It reads “For as the new heavens and the new earth Which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the Lord, “So shall your descendants and your name remain. And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me…And they shall go forth and look Upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh”. Notice that people will be able to go look upon the corpses of those who rebelled against God. Isaiah unequivocally teaches us that the fire prepared for the wicked will be on the earth outside the city and Jesus confirmed this by quoting it and applying it to Gehenna fire.
In Matthew 13:41-43 Jesus said “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth is not a reference to eternal suffering but rather of hate from those being condemned towards the righteous who will shine forth in the kingdom of God. Weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth is a reference from Old Testament passages such as Psalm 37:9-12 which reads, “For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord, They shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes at him with his teeth….But the wicked shall perish; and the enemies of the Lord, Like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish. Into smoke they shall vanish away”. Also Psalm 112:9-10 “…He has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be exalted with honor. The wicked will see and be grieved; he will gnash his teeth and melt away”.
Gehenna will not be burning forever and ever. Neither is Gehenna – which is the “valley of the son of Hinnom” a place that is unknown to man. The Jews understood Jesus when he spoke of it, and it was a place they were accustomed to, since it was in the southwest region of Jerusalem. Jeremiah 31:38-40 makes it clear that even Gehenna will be restored as a holy place for the Christ. It reads “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that the city shall be built for the Lord from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. The surveyor’s line shall again extend straight forward over the hill Gareb; then it shall turn toward Goath. And the whole valley of the dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields as far as the Brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be holy to the Lord. It shall not be plucked up or thrown down anymore….”
Now onto Subheading 3, which addresses where the belief of eternal torment and suffering originated from. The issues stemming from the English translation
3. Permanent destruction vs eternal suffering
A crucial thing to note is that there is no single word in the Hebrew Old Testament that means “infinite” time. In other words, there is not a single word which means forever, eternal or everlasting. Any attempt to covey an infinite time, has to be done using two words. Infinite time like “forever” or “eternal” is conveyed by saying “without end”, for example Isaiah 9:6-7 LXX “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; the government will be upon his shoulder. His name will called Wonderful, Counselor, mighty God, Father of the age, Prince of peace. Of the increase of his government there shall be no end”.
The Hebrew word defining “time” is “Olam” and it means “beyond what is observable (both past and future)”. “Olam” which literally means “concealed”, is derived from the verb “Alam” which means “to cover or hide from view”, that is “time beyond the horizon or out of one’s view point”.
In translating the word “Olam” into English, translators input adverbs like “forever” and “eternal” or adjectives like “everlasting” which are not only a wrong translation of the meaning of the word “Olam”, but they also end up creating internal contradictions in scripture. For example, in Exodus 40:13-15 it reads “You shall put the holy garments on Aaron, and anoint him and consecrate him, that he may minister to me as priest. And you shall bring his sons and clothe them with tunics. You shall anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may minister to me as priests; for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations.” Take note of the translation of “Olam” in this text as “everlasting”, thus the priesthood under Aaron will be everlasting, yet Hebrews 7:11-12 reads “Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.”
Notice that the priesthood has been changed. Aaron and the generation after him are no longer priests to God because Christ is the new High priest. Surely if according to Exodus “their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood”, then there is a problem with Christ as high priest and Christ’s priesthood would be illegitimate. However if “Olam” is correctly translated as “time unknown” or “concealed” then scripture is consistent. Just because the end of something is unknown or concealed does not of necessity mean its forever or everlasting.
Another example is Deuteronomy 15:12,16-17 “”If your brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and serves you six years, then in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you… And if it happens that he says to you, ‘I will not go away from you,’ because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you, then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever.” Here “olam” is translated as “forever” but that is problematic. Can a servant live forever? Or is the servant, if resurrected to life at the last trumpet going to remain a servant of his master in the Kingdom to come also? Yet if “olam” is translated correctly as “time unknown” or “concealed”, then it factors in certain variables like the death of the servant or his master. Surely a servant cannot be submitted to his master forever, even in death.
“Olam” has a variation “Ad Olam”. “Ad” means “as long as” or “until” or “without interruption”. As previously stated “Olam” means “concealed” or “beyond what is observable” therefore “Ad Olam” means “continuously until time concealed” or in other words conveying the concept of an uninterrupted state until a time out of sight. For example Genesis 13:15 “for all the land which you see I give to you and your seed forever”. The word forever here is “Ad Olam”, that is continuously without interruption until a time beyond sight. Also Exodus 14:13 “And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.” Also 1 Samuel 1:22 “But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “Not until the child is weaned; then I will take him, that he may appear before the Lord and remain there forever.“. In all these verses and many others, “Ad Olam” does not mean forever into eternity although translated as such in English, it simply means “continuously until a time concealed”.
Translating words from one language to another can be quite challenging especially if there is no exact equivalent word. “Olam”, time out of sight has no exact greek equivalent. The translators of the Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek Old Testament (LXX) chose to render “Olam” (an adverb) as “εἰς τὸ αἰῶνα”, “eis to aiōna”, that is “unto the age”. An “age” in Greek is a finite period of time, its length is unknown but can be determined by context. For example, Deuteronomy 15:17 LXX, cited earlier,“….and he will be your servant unto the age (εἰς τὸ αἰῶνα).
Like every language Hebrew also has superlatives. The superlative Hebrew form of “olam” is “olam, olam” (literally “concealed, concealed” or “time out of sight, out of sight”). A superlative is a form of an adjective or adverb that expresses the concept of surpassing all others with regard to the quality or quantity that the adjective or adverb portrays. In English, a superlative of “quick” would be “quicker,” or “quickest.” Hence, making “olam” (time out of sight) a superlative, one might say “until time out of sight surpassing others.” The LXX translators translated “Olam” as “unto the age”, thus in instances where a superlative of “Olam Olam” is used, they translated using the plural “unto the ages” (εἰς τους αἰῶνας) rather than translating it verbatim as “unto the age, age”. This does not mean there are necessarily multiple defined “ages” beyond the limit of sight, but just like the Hebrew, it places a stronger emphasis on just how concealed from view the time is. The Greek expression “unto the ages” (plural) is an idiom, and simply means beyond merely just over the horizon, but farther still (perhaps over 2 hills), thus doubly concealed. Idioms are expressions that everyone understands, but no one takes literally. Common examples are: “change your mind; clear the air; dropped the ball; in the dark; on the ball; fed up; etc.
For the Jewish mind, “unto the ages” would mean that once you reach the point that is now out of sight beyond the horizon, this time would still be over the next horizon. How much farther is completely undefined and unknown. For example 1 Kings 8:13 LXX “And I built a house to your name, holy to you, and made it ready for you to dwell in it unto the ages”. Also Psalm 61:4,8 LXX “I will abide in your tent unto the ages… I will sing praise to your name unto the ages”.
Besides all this, a new super-superlative expression appears in a few places, that is “Ad Olam (singular) Olam (plural) Olam (plural)”. The LXX renders this expression as “unto the ages of the ages” (εἰς τους αἰῶνας τῶν αἰῶνῶν). The Hebrew language sometimes uses the plural of a word as a superlative. For example, “Elohim” (which is plural) means “God” but implies the highest God, or the God of the greatest Godness. Thus, the expression “Ad Olam Olam Olam” literally translates: “until time concealed, until time utterly concealed, utterly concealed.” In other words, when you reach the time concealed over the horizon, and the next horizon, the time indicated will be over another horizon, still out of sight. It is extremely concealed. The LXX translators did essentially with the Greek language what Daniel did with the Hebrew (Aramaic) language where this clause appears – repeating the terms to express the extreme, and using the plural form. Thus in Daniel 7:18 LXX it reads “And the saints of the Most High shall take the Kingdom, and they shall hold it until the age, and unto the ages of ages” (εῶς αἰῶνος και εῶς αἰῶνος τῶν αἰῶνῶν). Also in Psalm 84:4 LXX “Blessed are the ones dwelling in your house; unto the ages of the ages they shall praise you”.
It is also important to note that the extreme super-superlative “unto the ages of ages” is used of finite periods of time despite its extreme nature. For example in Psalm 119:44 LXX “So shall I keep your law unto the age, unto the ages of ages”. Meaning time concealed and beyond. In the context throughout Psalm 119, David was speaking of the Law of Moses, which according to Hebrews 8:13, has now become obsolete with the coming of the New Covenant. The Hebrew word used is “Ad” which as stated before means “uninterrupted time”, thus it is clear that David was speaking only about his lifetime (not the resurrection), beyond what he could foresee and even beyond that. This was how determined David was to obey the Law that God had given to Israel. The clause, “unto the ages of the ages” did not imply infinity, but was still limited to David’s own lifetime.
Coming now into the New Testament, the writers who were Jewish, were all familiar with the use of “olam” in the Hebrew Old Testament. They were also well versed in the Greek Old Testament, and quoted from it often. In writing the New Testament, they simply borrowed the superlative expressions from the Septuagint, which were well known and understood as idioms. David’s expression that he would keep God’s Law “unto the age, even the ages of ages,” (which is confined to his own lifetime), is exactly the same expression concerning the tormenting of Satan, the Beast, and the False Prophet in the “Lake of Fire” in Revelation 20:10. Bearing in mind that Satan, the Beast and the False prophet are demonic entities (see Revelation 16:13-14).
All of the terms in the English Bible which mean infinite, unending time, including the adverb forms “forever, forever and ever,” as well as the adjectival forms “eternal” and “everlasting,” are simply superlative idioms incorrectly borrowed from the Hebrew “Olam” (which means time concealed, or beyond the horizon). None of the terms either in Hebrew or Greek ever mean infinite time, or unending time. Any concept of unending time or infinite time is expressed by simply saying “no end” as in Luke 1:32-33 “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob unto the ages, and of His kingdom there will be no end (ουκ έσται τέλος)”.
So what is the destiny of the wicked? Matthew 25:46 “and these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life”.
The words translated as “everlasting” and “eternal” in this verse is “aionion”(αἰῶνιος) meaning “age-lasting”, an adjectival form of “aion” (αἰῶν), which means “age”. As explained previously, “age” is taken from the Hebrew word “Olam” which means time concealed and does not mean eternal or everlasting as rendered in the English translation. Consequently, the correct translation of Matthew 25:46 is “and these will go away into age-lasting punishment, but the righteous into age-lasting life”. Age-lasting does not mean forever or eternal but a time to which end is unknown. Just because the end of something is unknown does not necessarily mean it is forever, neither does the end being concealed mean it is going to end, It is simply concealed from sight and only God knows if it is eternal or not. Like Romans 6:23, Matthew 25:46 draws a contrast between death and life. The righteous have the free gift of life and the wicked have a wage of death. The righteous is graced with age-lasting life and the wicked is paid with age-lasting death. As already addressed, death is complete and total annihilation, and its result is permanent. Thus death which is the punishment, that is the cessation of life, will be age-lasting. Meaning the wicked when destroyed will have no chance to ever come back to life. That judgement is permanent as it was with Sodom and Gomorrah. It is however important to note that while the judgment of unquenchable fire will not be continuously unending into eternity, it also will not be immediate for every sinner. Justice demands that judgment and punishment is distributed accordingly in line with one’s crimes. God is a just judge and will render to each person what is due. The logistics of how God will render punishment through fire is concealed. God is the judge and will determine and perform it accordingly.
For more on the fate of Satan, the Beast and the false prophet, look out for “The End of Satan and His Angels”. To be published at a later time in the future as the Lord wills.
1. The fate of the wicked
Defining death – Romans 6:23; Gen. 2:16-17; 3:19, 22-23
Complete annihilation – Psalm 21:9; Psalm 37:1-2,9-12,20,22,28,34,38; Psalm 73:18-19,27; Psalm 94:12-13,23; Psalm 112:9-10; Isaiah 1:27-28, 31 (LXX); Nahum 1:8-10; Malachi 4:1,3; Luke 13:3-5; Philippians 3:18-19; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9; 2 Peter 2:1,3,6,12; Malachi 4:3; Jude 1:7
2. Unquenchable fire
Leviticus 9:24; Numbers 11:3-4; 1 Kings 18:38; Jeremiah 17:27; Isaiah 1:27-28,31 (LXX); Matthew 3:11-12; Isaiah 10:16-19;
Gehenna Fire – Matthew 10:28; Mark 9:43-44; Isaiah 66:22-24;
Weeping and gnashing of teeth – Matthew 13:41-43; Psalm 37:9-12; Psalm 112:9-10;
Gehenna restored – Jeremiah 31:38-40
3. Permanent destruction or eternal suffering
Contradictions – Exodus 40:13-15 (see Hebrews 7:11-12); Deuteronomy 15:12,16-17
Continuous time without interruption until time beyond – Genesis 13:15; Exodus 14:13; 1 Samuel 1:22;
Extreme superlatives – Daniel 7:18 LXX; Psalm 84:4 LXX; Psalm 119:44 LXX; Revelation 20:10; Luke 1:32-33