AION and AIONIOS (AIONION)
Part 1: What is Forever, Eternity and Eternal?
I believe the definition of Aion remains as it has always been and it should not be reinvented by anyone to fit any doctrine or denomination. Whether it is ET or UR, the greek language is not dependant on our beliefs. Many in Universal Reconciliation have also defeated their own hope by falling prey to the temptation to redefine a word to fit their doctrine. I believe semantics always dictates the syntax. In fact, the practice of 're-defining' terms and definitions has always baffled me, especially when someone is emphesizing truth in knowledge to be set free from the lies. Now I believe in Universal Reconciliation and in no way do I need to reinvent the definition of AION or AIONIOS to fit what I believe because it defends the Gospel as it has traditionally been known.
What is AION and AIONIOS? In case you are not aware, these words translated as forever, eternity, and eternal in Scripture.
What is AION?
In Classical, Ancient, Higher and Lower forms of Greek have consistently defined AION as:
1) for ever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity
2) period of time, age
3) the worlds*, universe*
*This one is contested
A small tutorial of what is a NOUN.
A noun is a word used to name a person, animal, place, thing, and abstract idea. Nouns are usually the first words which small children learn. The highlighted words in the following sentences are all nouns:
Late last year our neighbours bought a goat.
Portia White was an opera singer.
The bus inspector looked at all the passengers' passes.
According to Plutarch, the library at Alexandria was destroyed in 48 B.C.
Philosophy is of little comfort to the starving.
To someone who knows the language, it doesn't nessesarily confuse them to read the word AION being described as perpetuity and at the same time another instance an age (period of time with definitive beginning and end). The same word, opposite meaning indefinitive time even upto pertuality and the other definitive time with absolute beginning and end.
What is AIONIOS?
Now where I find concern regarding 'biblical' scholar's interpretations is with AIONIOS. AIONIOS is the adjective form of Aion. AIONIOS is an adjective.
Now why is this important? An example: Heavenly.
Heavenly is the adjective form of Heaven. So if I say, let us share this heavenly meal, I am saying that the meal posesses the attributes of heaven. In the same manner, AIONIOS is the adjective form of AION. So if I say let us share AIONIOS life, I am saying that the life posesses the attributses of an AION.
A small tutorial of what is a ADJECTIVE.
An adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun by describing, identifying, or quantifying words. An adjective usually precedes the noun or the pronoun which it modifies.
In the following examples, the highlighted words are adjectives:
The truck-shaped balloon floated over the treetops.
Mrs. Morrison papered her kitchen walls with hideous wall paper.
The small boat foundered on the wine dark sea.
The coal mines are dark and dank.
Many stores have already begun to play irritating Christmas music.
A battered music box sat on the mahogany sideboard.
The back room was filled with large, yellow rain boots.
Now knowing what an adjective is and that AIONIOS is an adjective; if a noun is modified by AIONIOS, the noun is being described with the characteristics of AIONIOS.
Then the obvious definition, knowing the definition of AION, AIONIOS is:
1) of or in the AION
2) of, belonging to, or coming from the AION.
3) resembling or befitting AION
This means AIONIOS may or may not describe a noun as of, in, belonging to, coming from, resembling or befitting an indefinitive time even upto pertuality; or may or may not describe a noun as of, in, belonging to, coming from, resembling or befitting a definitive time with absolute beginning and end.
Is also an AIONIOS an adverb?
As the word itself suggests, an "adverb" can be added to a verb to modify its meaning. Usually, an adverb tells you when, where, how, in what manner or to what extent an action is performed. An adverb indicates manner, time, place, cause, or degree and answers questions such as "how," "when," "where," "how much".
However when AIONIOS is used to describe the NOUN, it would not be an adverb but remain an adjective.
What do adjectives describe concerning a noun?
Adjectives give us objective information about the noun and they also give us subjective information about the noun. In each case the adjective stays the same, whether it is describing a maculine, feminine, singular or plural noun.
Opinion: good, pretty, right, wrong, funny, light, happy, sad, full, soft, hard etc.
Size: big, small, little, long, tall, short, same as, etc.
Age: old, young, elderly, etc.
Shape: round, circular, triangular, rectangular, square, oval, etc.
Colour: blue, red, green, brown, yellow, black, white, etc.
Origin: Where it came from. Example: German flags
Material: cotton, paper, metal, etc.
Distance: long, short, far, around, start, high, low, etc.
Temperature: cold, warm, hot, cool, etc.
Time: late, early, bed, nap, dinner, lunch, day, morning, night, etc.
Purpose: Describe purpose. Sleeping bag.
AION may or may not mean indefinitive time even upto pertuality; or may or may not mean definitive time with absolute beginning and end.
AIONIOS may or may not describe a noun as of, in, belonging to, coming from, resembling or befitting an indefinitive time even upto pertuality; or may or may not describe a noun as of, in, belonging to, coming from, resembling or befitting a definitive time with absolute beginning and end.
We cannot make a conclusion on what context or definition is being used by the word AION or AIONIOS, by the word AION or AIONIOS alone.
Part 2: Eternal Life and Eternal Punishment
When I hear, "Many people, including many Universalists, believe that if aionios means 'eternal' in verses such as Matthew 25:46, then this rules out, or at least undermines, the doctrine of Universal Salvation. " I nod my head and absolute agreement because I have seen it done consistantly in my life and other's who witness to the damage done by insisting on something that is actually not there.
I believe one of the best examples of Aionios and Aion came from my roommate, a World Historian PhD, who shared with me a story about the King of Sparta.
There was a king named Lykurgos, who instilled some very harsh laws in Sparta which would guaruntee the independance and the strength of the nation. These laws strained the people who asked for new laws. Seeing that his laws were accepted but the senate could break and enact new laws, King Lykurgos (knowing the Spartan people were men of honor and pride) had them swear an oath upon the gods to keep his laws active and unchanged until he returned from a trip to Delphi.
He never came back, making sure that his laws would not change. He died at Delphi and according to some in Crete and it is said that before his death, he asked his body to be burned and the remains to be scattered in the wind. Lykurgos thus did not permit even his dead body to return.
Now why is this story important in discussing AION and AIONIOS? Well, let me share.
The laws of Sparta were to last the AION. The AION concerning those laws had a definitive beginning and end. The beginning was when he enacted them and the end was when he returned. The spacial time period between these destinations made the laws of Sparta AIONIOS. The laws remained AIONIOS as long as he did not return. Had he returned, the AIONIOS laws would cease and new laws enacted. He never returned, thus the AION remained perpetual along with the AIONIOS laws.
Here you have AION and AIONIOS meaning both a definitive time period and a perpetual time period even though they contridicted themselves in the same paragraph.
Now how does this apply to:
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Well from first look, most people compare the eternal in eternal punishment with the eternal in eternal life. Estimating that should both be considered a time period, that should one represent perpetuality, the other also must. They consider that eternal in both instances both represent the same indefinitive perpetuality or the indefinite end. It is an easy mistake and I believe very costly to Universalists.
What should be noted is that just like in the King of Sparta example. The AIONIOS punishment lasts only as long as the punishment remains and the AIONIOS life lasts only as long as the life remains. Should punishment have an end and the life be perpetual, both are considered AIONIOS but both do not represent the same meaning. The red rose remains red by nature, but the red hydrangeas changes color as it begins to mature and suck the nutrients from the ground.
Do you see the understanding? Now look again at:
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
We do not compare the 'adjectives' eternal in both cases but rather the 'noun phrases' which are completely different. We compare the noun phrases "eternal punishment' with 'eternal life' to discover "eternal punishment" is definitive in duration while "eternal life" is perpetual in duration. So the word AIONIOS represents an unknown and unquantifiable duration.
The quality of life is found in the word "zoe", it means, "Life as a principle, life in the absolute sense, life as God has it. Abundant life." Zoe, in itself, represents an immeasurable vast quality of life.
The word for punishment is actually called "kolasis" and means, "Correction". Kolasis, in itself, represents a positive attribute of reformation and repentance.
Together, AIONIOS ZOE is Eternal Life, an unknown and unquantifiable duration of an immeasurable vast quality of life. Life perpetual. AIONIOS KOLASIS is Eternal Punishment, an unknown and unquantifiable duration of reformation and repentance. Since correction will end in Christ, and life begins in Christ, the duration of punishment will end, but the duration of life is perpetual.
I just find this discovery overwelming and surreal and it is knowledge I found rejoiceful! Eternal Punishment has an ending while Eternal Life remains forever! When
"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:32, 36