How Long is “Forever and Ever”
By: Rev. Sam Harris
|By: Rev. Sam Harris; ©2000|
|Rev. Sam Harris looks at biblical passages regarding “forever” to see if it really means eternal, or if there is an end to it.|
How Long is “Forever and Ever”?
The subject is the understanding of the phrase “forever and ever” in the light of this question: I hear people saying that this does not mean eternal and that eventually God will release those in the lake of fire to occupy a part of His kingdom. I do not see this in the Bible. Can you help me?
You are right, it is not in the Bible! Now let’s look at the evidence. The words “forever” and “forever and ever” are used many times in the New Testament. The Greek word used consistently in these passages is a combination of the preposition “for” (eis) implying, in this case, with the word “ever” (aion—age), an indefinitely long period of time, perpetuity, ever, forever, eternity. For example, Jesus said in John 6:51: “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever. . . .” This is the promise to us as Christians that, if we have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord, we will live forever with Him throughout all of eternity.
The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 45:6: “But of the Son He says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever’.” (Heb. 1:8) The authority of Christ is forever.
In 1 Peter 1:25, we read: “But the word of the Lord abides forever.” The word “abide” means to be faithful and steadfast, therefore God’s word is a faithful word forever and doesn’t change.
Finally, in Revelation 11:15, John writes: “And the seventh angel sounded; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He will reign forever and ever’.”
The passage of Scripture which is most important regarding the essence of your question is found in Matthew 25:31-46, dealing with the final judgement. I would specifically call your attention to verse 46: “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The Greek word for “eternal” is aionios which means perpetual. When referring to eternal, it means the life which is God’s and thus is not affected by limitations of time.
In this section, verses 31-46, the lesson is that God will judge us in accordance with our reaction to the needs of those with whom we come into contact in our lifetime. James will say, “Faith without works is dead.”
Notice particularly verse 41: “Depart from me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” Notice Jesus’ use of the word “eternal.”
All of this is to say that “forever” and “eternal,” Scripturally, mean exactly what they say. There is no passage or evidence in the Scriptures where God will eventually release those who are in the lake of fire; that punishment is eternal, perpetual, and forever and ever.
Not long ago, I saw a “Save the Whales” bumper sticker. On the sticker was a picture of a whale followed by the words: “Extinction is forever.” It is important to do all we can to save animals from extinction because it is forever. The world spends millions of dollars and hours to provide for their existence. We, however, often fail to do anything about the eternal destiny of people. For those who reject Jesus, their future is worse than extinction—”everlasting punishment.”
Humans have a choice—to live with God in eternal joy or to suffer with the devil in the lake of fire. This is why evangelism is our number one priority!