What Does Eternal Mean?

Q. What is the meaning of the original word when the Bible talks about eternal punishment/damnation? Does the original word really mean “eternal”? I heard many times about this “aeons after aeons”.  Can we really equate them with eternity?  What do you think about 1 Tim. 4:10 that “God is the Savior of all men, specially of them that believe” ?  If God will be all in all, can this include an eternal lake of fire filled with condemned beings?

A. The idea of eternal punishment for unbelievers has only been challenged in the past few years.  The Greek word  translated “eternal” is also translated “everlasting”.  It appears a total of 71 times in the New Testament, both in reference to punishment for unbelievers and life for believers.  It always means “without end, never to cease.”  Just as believers receive eternal (everlasting) life, unbelievers receive eternal (everlasting) torment.  If you change the meaning for one group, you have to change it for the other as well, since the Bible uses same word in reference to both.

As for 1 Tim.4:10 which says “God is the Savior of all men, and specially of them that believe,”  it means the Lord’s death made salvation available for all men, but it doesn’t mean all men will be saved.  While salvation will be granted without prejudice to everyone who asks (Matt. 7:7-8) those who don’t  ask will for it not receive it.

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