Is the English phrase "forever and ever" a proper translation of the Greek? Does it mean without end? Is it ever used of something not eternal? Does it refer to eternal torment? These questions are important because the universalist position denies the eternality of hell fire. Universalists take the literal Greek phrase of "eis tous aionas ton aionon, -- into the age of the ages" which is commonly translated as "forever and ever," "forevermore," and state that it refers to an age of time, a finite period of time.
It is true that the basic root of "aion" means age. But it is not true that all words derived from that root mean a finite duration of time. The phrase means "unlimited duration of time, with particular focus upon the future - ‘always, forever, forever and ever, eternally.'"1
Additionally, the phrase is used to describe both God's eternal attributes and His eternal nature as well as eternal torment.
Following is a table containing every single usage of the Greek phrase "eis tous aionas ton aionon -- into the age of the ages." It clearly shows that it means "forever," "without end." The first two verses deal with eternal condemnation and judgment. The next 16 deal with God's Glory and honor.
"into the age of the ages"
Translated as "forever and ever"; "forevermore"
- "And a second time they said, "Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever," (Rev. 19:3).
- "And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever," (Rev. 20:10).
- "to whom be the glory forevermore, Amen" (Gal. 1:5)
- "Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen," (Phil. 4:20)
- "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen," (1 Tim. 1:17).
- "The Lord will deliver me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen," (2 Tim. 4:18).
- "equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen," (Heb. 13:21).
- "Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen," (1 Pet. 4:11).
- "and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen," (Rev. 1:6).
- "and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades," (Rev. 1:18).
- "And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever," (Rev. 4:9).
- "the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne," (Rev. 4:10).
- "And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever," (Rev. 5:13).
- "Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen," (Rev. 7:12).
- "and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there shall be delay no longer," (Rev. 10:6).
- "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,'" (Rev. 11:15).
- "And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever," (Rev. 15:7).
- "And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever," (Rev. 22:5).
Clearly, the phrase "forever and ever" is a correct translation of the Greek "eis tous aionas ton aionon" -- forever and ever" Every instance of the phrase shows eternality.
But, a word of caution. The Universalist may say that Rev. 19.3 is not eternal because it is the description of smoke from the City of Babylon. But, the judgment that is cast upon her is only the beginning of the eternal punishment of the wicked, indicated in the statement that the smoke from her goes up forever and ever.
The phrase is always speaking of eternal duration.
Universalism is incorrect because not all will be saved because:
"And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever," (Rev. 20:10).
- 1. Louw, J. P., and Eugene A. Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, New York: United Bible Societies, 1989.