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Revelation’s “For Ever and Ever”

For Ever and Ever

A Biblical Case Study

 

The term “for ever and ever” is used 46 times in the Old and New Testaments. Not every time is it derived from the same Hebrew and Greek formula. This short paper is an examination of these 42 passages that will categorize them on the basis of their formulation and on the basis of their application.

 

We will begin with a review of the various words used for ‘ever’ in theses passages. In every case we will refer to them simply by their Strongs number.

 

Words Translated “Ever” in the 46 Passages

 

05769  Used 439 times in the Old Testament. Incidents where it is clear that it does not denote an eternal volume of time include Genesis 6:4 where it is translated ‘of old’. An interesting use is the first use—Genesis 3:22. Here those that eat of the tree of life ‘live for ever.” For this reason Adam and Eve were removed from the garden. Youngs Literal Translation renders 05769 most consistently as ‘age-during.’ Rotherham renders it as ‘age-abiding’ and in the past as ‘age-past.’

 

05703  Used 49 times in the Old Testament. Incidents where it is clear that it does not denote an eternal volume of time include Hab. 3:6 where the ‘everlasting’ mountains are scattered by Christ’s coming. In Amos 1:11 the descendants of Esau are condemned for having kept their anger against their brother ‘for ever.’ Rotherham often renders it “to futurity” or “perpetually.”

 

These two make up all the occurrences prior to Isaiah 33 and all but 3 of those in the Old Testament, for a total of 21 formulations. The other three formulations are found in Isaiah and Daniel.

 

05331  Isaiah 34:10.  This word is used 43 times in the Old Testament. It is often used in parallel with 05769 and so should not be much distinguished from it. It has some usages that are unrelated to the question—“victory,” “strength”—and is often used in questions and in negatives.

 

05957 Daniel 2:20; 7:18.  This is the Aramaic of 05769. It is used uniquely in Ezra and Daniel where it occurs 20 times in uses very similar to 05769.

 

05705  Daniel 2:20; 7:18.  This is the Aramaic of 05704 (not a typo for 05703). It is used uniquely in Ezra and Daniel where it occurs 32 times. Only when used in conjunction with 05957 does it denote ‘ever.’ In other passages it is translated “until” “season” “end” and in various other ways that designate a limited time.

 

Formulations of These Five Words

 

05769  05769              I Ch 16:36; 29:10; Neh 9:5; Jer 7:7; 25:5

 

05769  05703              Ex 15:18; Ps 9:5; 10:16; 21:4; 45:6, 17; 48:14; 52:8; 119:44; 145:1, 2, 21; Dan 12:3; Mic 4:5; Ps 111:8[1]; 148:6; Is 30:8

 

05331  05331              Is 34:10

 

05957 05705 05957  Dan 2:20

 

05705 05957  05957  Dan 7:18

 

Each of these formulations is translated, as noted already, as “for ever and ever.” The reduplication of 05769 in the first formulation, and the extending of the same in the second by adding 05703 are both interesting.

 

We would not in English write “eternity and eternity” or “to everlasting and everlasting.” These would seem redundant. We do, however, say “for ever and ever” and have probably picked this up from the Bible.

 

But in the Bible it appears that this is no redundancy. The individual words “ever” do not, of themselves, necessarily indicate eternity. The habit of using them in reduplication is enough to demonstrate the truthfulness of this assertion. Rotherham and Youngs Literal (two of the most literal translations available) translate these two formulas as follows:

 

Rotherham

05769-05769               “one age even to/unto another” “age even unto age” “age to age”

05769-05703               “age-abiding and beyond”; “futurity, to/unto times age-abiding”

“perpetually—age abiding”[2]

Young’s Literal

05769-05769               “from the age [and] unto the age” “from age even unto age”

05769-05703               “to the age, and for ever”; “age-during—and for ever”; “for a latter                           day…unto the age”; “for ever to the age”[3]

 

The subjects of these formulas—the persons or objects that were to last “for ever and ever” are differentiated below. The designation A represents the first formula, B the second. B2 represents the reversed order pairs. C and D represent Daniel 2 and 7 respectively.

 

Jehovah                       A         I Ch 16:36; 29:10; Neh 9:5

Jehovah                       B          Ex 5:18; Ps 10:16

Blotting Out                 B          Ps 9:5

Gift of Life                  B          Ps 21:4

Jehovah’s Throne        B          Ps 45:6

Jehovah’s Praise          B          Ps 45:17; 145:1, 2, 21

Jehovah’s Praise          C          Daniel 2:20

Jehovah’s Identity       B          Ps 48:14

My Trust in Jehovah    B          Ps 52:8

Commandments           B-2      Ps 111:8

Law Keeping               B          Ps 119:44

Heavens[4]                     B-2      Ps 148:6

Record of Rebellion    B-2      Isaiah 30:8

Gift of Canaan             A         Jer 7:7; 25:5

Evangelists; Stars         B          Dan 12:3

Right-Living                 B          Mic 4:5

Saints’ Reign                D         Dan 7:18

 

Summary: The Old Testament formulations translated “for ever and ever” always refer to Jehovah, His qualities, His work, or the Saints. They are often stated in terms of contrast with the wicked and the works of men—both of which are transitory.

 

The only passage that is even apparently troubling to standard Adventist doctrine is Isaiah 30:8. Adventists would expect the record of evil to be erased after the final burning. But perhaps this is unfounded. Perhaps the record of sin and all that it caused will be always available for review.

 

New Testament Passages

 

All the New Testament Passages are formed the same way. They are a reduplication of 165. The second word is generally in the genitive form. These phrases are translated as follows:

 

Rotherham                  “ages of the ages” “ages of ages” “times age-abiding”[5] “the ages”

 

Young’s Literal          “ages of the ages” “age of the age”[6] “ages of ages”[7]

 

The subjects of these formulas—the persons or objects that were to last “for ever and ever” are differentiated below.

 

Glory be to God                       Gal. 1:8; Phil 4:20; I Tim 1:17; 2 Tim 4:18; Heb 13:21; I Pet 4:11;

Rev 1:6; 5:13; 7:12

God’s Throne              Heb. 1:8

Dominion be to God    I Pet 5:11;

God’s Life                   Rev 4:9, 10; 10:6; 15:7

God’s Reign                 Rev 11:5

Torment Smoke’s Ascent         Rev 14:11; 19:3

Devil’s Torment           Rev 20:10

Saints’ Reign                Rev 22:5

 

Summary: The New Testament formula nearly always refers to God’s deserved honor, His reign, and that of his Saints. The exceptions to this formula refer to the ascent of the smoke of torment from the last-day wicked persons (Rev. 14:11; 19:3) and to Satan’s torment itself.

 

Only the other of these passages, Revelation 20:10, is apparently troubling to the Adventist view. The two forever-smoke passages are similar in meaning to Isaiah 30:8 and seem to refer to the everlasting impact of sin on those that know its history and it sure results. They will ever be aware that sin caused suffering and destruction. This eternal knowledge will be to the righteous as the scent of smoke on a fireman’s clothing—evidence of what once was.

 

But what are we to make of Rev. 20:10?

 

From Ezekiel 28 we find that Lucifer will be brought “to ashes” by a fire that God kindles from the midst of our foe. In Isaiah 14 we find that he will be brought down to the “side of the pit” and that those that “see” him there will “narrowly look upon” him and will consider the irony that such a helpless criminal could be the one that destroyed the world and its cities.

 

As an apparent statement of justice, they comment that he “opened not the house of his prisoners.” There is no record of them seeing anyone else. And the impact of his wickedness is spoken of entirely in a past tense.

 

In short, it seems that Satan will be left to suffer for some significant period of time, apparently appropriately described as “for ages and ages.” This does not seem entirely unlikely when one considers:

 

  1. That the scapegoat bears the sins of the congregation in the Day of Atonement
  2. That there have been an estimated 20 to 60 Billion persons alive since creation
  3. That if only 1 in 700 of 28 billion were saved at last, that would be 40 million
  4. That if the Devil only burned two hours each of these persons, that would be 80 million hours. That comes to 3 million days. That amounts to 9,000 years.

 

While the numbers above are entirely speculative, excepting the estimate of world population which is more like a reasonable guess, they illustrate well the point. The Devil has significant suffering awaiting him after all others have been consumed.

 

And as the last phrase in Revelation 20:9 speaks of the fire consuming the rest of the wicked, it seems that this contrast in burning time must be the burden of Revelation 20:10 if it is to be harmonized with the rest of scripture.

 

And we recall the evidence that neither of the words translated “ever” is necessarily indicative of an eternity. Together, in Revelation 20:10, they should be understood “for ages and ages.”

 

“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ages and ages.”

 

And that will be just. Just and True are Thy ways, oh King of Saints.

 

For questions or comments on this study, please write the author at [email protected].

 

Eugene Prewitt

January 11, 2005

 

 

 

 



[1] In the last three of these, Ps. 111:8; 148:6; and Is 30:8, the order of the words is reversed…05703 05769.

[2] The first of these three renderings is used for all cases of 05769 05703. The latter two are used for the three reversed orderings.

[3] The first two of these four renderings are used for all cases of 05769 05703. The latter two are used for the three reversed orderings.

[4] The antecedent is earlier. It seems to include the ‘waters’ above the heavens. I am not certain of its meaning.

[5] In Hebrews 1:8. This passage alone is singular in Greek.

[6] In Hebrews 1:8. This passage alone is singular in Greek.

[7] Revelation 14:11. This passage alone is lacking the definite articles.

For a Word Document click here:Rev_14_-_21_-_For_Ever_and_Ever

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