A Study of Eternal / Everlasting

everlastingEverlasting – It boggles the mind – at least my mind!

How can I grasp this concept?

I remember laying in bed at night when I was a young’n and thinking about the eternal, and just when I thought I had it figger’d out, some extra years would appear in my thoughts. I felt like a dog chasing my tail!

“Everlasting” in the Bible

When I was a dog chasing my tail, I didn’t have the desire or will power to go to the source to research this concept. Now that I am a Christian, I have the Word of God to search for answers.

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So lets Consider the Bible and search for answers.

First off, lets find out the words, in the Old and New Testament, that the inspired writers used to describe this concept!

Four Old Testament Hebrew words and three New Testament Greek words are translated to describe the concept of eternal/everlasting .

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OLAM – Old Testament “Eternal”
The most common word in the Old Testament is “OLAM”.  The following table analyzes this word in describing various eternal/everlasting things.

You might be asking by this time – What’s your point Carl?

infinity 1My point is that we cannot interpret the Word of God in a strictly literal, “technically accurate” manner.  Some folk have complained that this makes the Bible an unreadable document, that is, they could not simply pick up a Bible and understand it correctly.

When was the last time you considered the Bible to be a cartoon?  When I pick up a Blondie or Garfield cartoon, I don’t intend to spend more than a few seconds (at most) in understanding the message being conveyed.  I think the attitude towards the Word should be somewhat different.

The Bible was written in a completely different culture, time and place than what we live in.  To assume that  we have the right to simply understand the message in a 20th century North American context is foolishness.  Unless, of course, we see the Bible as a magic talisman, instead of a message from the living God.

In the case of this particular study, I find it amazing that some things that are described as eternal and everlasting (in our mindset) are not!

Does this take away from the core definition of eternal/everlasting? No – the core meaning is the core meaning!  What I think I have tripped over is how the overall context can affect the specific message of a particular word.

What do I mean?

Consider

Gen 9:16

And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

What will happen to this covenant when there is no living creatures on the earth?  (BTW – that will happen!)  It is eternal between the two parties that enter into the covenant, so the default message is that although the term everlasting is used, it is not everlasting/eternal. The everlasting condition of this covenant is dependent on the existence of “every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth”.


How about this one.  The land of Canaan is to be an everlasting possession for the seed of Abraham.

Gen 17:8

And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.

Two issues erupt in this verse.

  1. Who is the seed of Abraham?
  2. Is this promise or it’s reaffirmations unconditional?

The first point is simple to answer.  Paul labors the point of describing who the seed is in the book of Galations.

Gal 3:29

And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Then two more issues occur to me. – (Come on Carl – gimme a break!!)

Was this promise or it’s reaffirmations unconditional?  Or did the Jewish people misunderstand this verse and “literally” interpret the promise, assuming the land was theirs unconditionally forever?

The very next verse after the great promise to Abraham, the Lord stated…

… Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.

Unconditional promise?  Could the Jewish nation survive if they were disobedient and rebellious? (Did they?)  Could they assume upon verse 8 and ignore verse 9?  (What about the nation of Israel today?  Are they presently keeping “my covenant”? )  The everlasting possession was dependent on the Jewish nation’s keeping of “my covenant”.  It is very interesting to me that the covenant being referred to here was the Abrahamic covenant and that the nation’s allegience to the Siniatic covenant revealed the heart of the people towards God.  Additional examples of how the eternal/everlasting concept is modified by the context, can be found above and I would encourage you to consider them.

Does this contextual effect on the concept of eternal/everlasting continue into the New Testament?  I will leave that for you to study out.  Get back to me when you find something out, eh?

I gotta go study some Garfield!garfield


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Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.

3 thoughts on “A Study of Eternal / Everlasting

  1. In my study of the scriptures, I have found many examples of how eternal was used both to mean until its completion and also conditions that must be met. Many of the promises of the Bible have requirements that must be met.

    Jude 1:6-7 (KJV) 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. 7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

    How long are the everlasting chains to bind the evil angels? Until the judgment. It has a time of completion. Sodom and Gomorrah are shown as an example of “eternal fire.” Are these cities still burning? No. Was the results eternal? Yes. These cities will never exist again.

    I don’t believe in a literal eternal hellfire, but one that destroys every sinner, evil angel, and Satan himself. The results will be eternal.

    Malachi 4:1 (KJV) For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

    All the wicked will be completely destroyed in this fire.

    Ezekiel 28:18-19 (KJV) 18 Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. 19 All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never [shalt] thou [be] any more.

    Looking at the context starting in verse 12, Ezekiel is describing Satan. Satan will be brought to ashes, never to live again.

    These are some of my thoughts on this subject. Thanks again for taking the time to write these articles. They have been a blessing.

    Like

    1. Cory. Appreciate the comment.
      I hadn’t thought of the eternal chains implication – good point.
      I too lean towards the annihilation teaching of hell.
      The book by Fudge was illuminating on that teaching.
      Have a great day.

      Like

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