Revelation 14.11 – αἰῶνας αἰώνων and Eternity

I can offer nothing here, but I sure would like some help.

In our recent discussion on hell, the point came up – and it is a very valid point, very valid – in at least one example, those who take the mark of the beast are consigned to burn forever and ever:

The smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever, and they will have no relief day or night, for they have worshiped the beast and his statue and have accepted the mark of his name.” (Rev 14:11 NLT)

In the Greek:

καὶ ὁ καπνὸς τοῦ βασανισμοῦ αὐτῶν εἰς αἰῶνας αἰώνων ἀναβαίνει, καὶ οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἀνάπαυσιν ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς οἱ προσκυνοῦντες τὸ θηρίον καὶ τὴν εἰκόνα αὐτοῦ καὶ εἴ τις λαμβάνει τὸ χάραγμα τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ. (Rev 14:11 BGT)

One of the problems that I see, first, is that this phrase, αἰῶνας αἰώνων, is found only once in the Greek Bible (OT/NT including the Deuterocanon and pseudepigraphical materials – unless I have missed something. Nor is it found in the Apostolic Fathers.)

Other New Testament examples of similar wording:

NLT  Ephesians 3:21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

BGT  Ephesians 3:21 αὐτῷ ἡ δόξα ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ εἰς πάσας τὰς γενεὰς τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων, ἀμήν.

NLT  Philippians 4:20 Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.

BGT  Philippians 4:20 τῷ δὲ θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ ἡμῶν ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, ἀμήν.

The phrase found in Philippians, αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, is that which is found throughout Revelation (and the New Testament not to mention the Deuterocanon). There is an important difference, especially given that we believe that one author wrote Revelation. If one author wrote this book, then it would mean something that his construction here is different than his other uses.

Literally, αἰῶνας αἰώνων is translation as ages of ages while αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων is translated as ages of the ages.

Now what? There is point of comparison, and it is seen that the author of Revelation uses the latter, proper construction, throughout all of Revelation. So, is this just a quirk of John or does it actually mean something? If we truly believe that God inspired every word, then we have to face the very real fact that this portion of Scripture is different for a reason.

As a post script, I note that only in the final hours of the late great planet, is the mark of the beast available, and it is only those who take it who are consigned to torment.

Now what?

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20 Replies to “Revelation 14.11 – αἰῶνας αἰώνων and Eternity”

    1. Tell me about it. I am really wrestling this part here. Rory has made a good point about the eternality of hell using this verse, but for some reason, divine I suspect, this emphasis on a long/everlasting age is different than every other phrase used in Revelation, the Greek NT, Greek OT, Deuterocanons, and other materials. Why?

  1. This is an interesting point, and it’s not obvious to me why Rev. 14:11 has this slight deviation in Greek. I haven’t found any disagreement that the Greek for this verse is as stated, and I agree with the reasoning that there may be a unique shade of meaning here since Rev. is all written by the Apostle John. What that shade is or may be I do not find. If anyone has any specifics on this please share.

    However that may be, Rev. 20:10 uses the ‘standard’ Greek construction for ‘eternity’:

    “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 ever and ever.”

    “καὶ ὁ διάβολος ὁ πλανῶν αὐτοὺς ἐβλήθη εἰς τὴν λίμνην τοῦ πυρὸς καὶ θείου ὅπου καὶ τὸ θηρίον καὶ ὁ ψευδοπροφήτης καὶ βασανισθήσονται ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων

    This verse alone speaks of the eternal torment of the ‘beast’ (a.k.a. Antichrist), false prophet, and Satan. It is of note that the beast and false prophet are men, and have already been there ~1,000 years when Satan joins them (Rev. 19:20, 20:2-7).

    This shows that the ‘lake of fire’ is eternal, and that men may continue to exist in it indefinitely. All those not written in the Book of Life are judged by their works, and join them (Rev. 20:12-15). There is no indication any of them ever leave.

    Later, the people God dwells with in the heavenly city are contrasted with the lost in the lake of fire, which is still burning (“burneth” in the verse below is in the present tense), and the lost are still in the lake (“shall have their part in the lake” below is more literally translated “their part is in the lake”). One is either God’s adopted heir or in the lake, and there is no third group in view:

    “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God … He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Rev. 21:2-3, 7-8).

    Emphatically in the Greek (“in no wise” below is Gr. ou me, a double negative), only those written in the Book of Life may enter the city, and nothing defiled may ever enter:

    “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither [whatsoever] worketh abomination, or [maketh] a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27).

    At the very end of Revelation, the same two groups remain in view (presumably with the same residences most recently indicated in verses above): the redeemed who enter the city, and the lost without, and they both continue to exist forever in their established state:

    “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward [is] with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed [are] they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without [are] dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. ” (Rev. 22:11-15)

    1. Rory,

      I think that we have more than a shade of meaning. We have ‘ages of ages’ (which is a long time no doubt) assigned only to those who have taken the Mark of the Beast, which if we believe Revelation, is allowed only for a short time at the End. Then we have ‘ages to the ages’ which is eternity which is the length of the lake of fire where only the unholy trinity burn. Are then mere men? Or are they satanic incarnations? I think that this difference is very important and should be mediated upon, especially givent he fact we cannot find a usage in any other author of biblically related materials.

      There is a very strong indication that they leave because the eternal punishment is never assigned to the nations unlike the direct assignment made to the unholy trinity.

      ‘Presumably’ but not scripturally. Scripturally, we still have the problem that only those given the mark of the best burn ages of ages while the unholy trinity burns ages to the ages. Then we have the same nations and kings of the earth who have stood against God and His Christ and have been killed twice entering into the holy city to surrender their glory. Further, we have a tree of life which heals the nations. Christ is our balm, and we are healed of sin during this life, but after all the judgments and punishments, the nations and the kings come to be healed.

      I still note that the passage in Revelation 22.11-15 is a post script and not prophetic language due to the change in voice. A key indicator is that Christ talks about coming.

      While the book of life present people from entering into the city, it doesn’t prevent them from being healed or living on earth outside of the city.

        1. James,

          Does Christ really tell us to hate our parents?

          I think if you read this, this is a warning passage. Unlike in Daniel, John is told not to seal up the words, that He is coming quickly to reward everyone with their deeds. From Barclay:

          (i) There comes a time when it is too late to change. In Daniel we read: “The wicked shall do wickedly” (Dan 12:10). As Ezekiel had it: “He that will hear, let him hear; and he that will refuse to hear, let him refuse” (Eze 3:27). A man can so long refuse the way of Christ that in the end he cannot take it. That is the sin against the Holy Spirit.

          (ii) The ancient commentator, Andreas, says that the Risen Christ is saying: “Let each man do what pleases him; I will not force his choice.” This, then, would be another warning that every man is writing his own destiny.

          Further, it could be that when the End starts – much like the Noah – the door (to repentance) is sealed.

          Regarding the exhortation of repentance, I note while it was given, no one took it seriously and none repented.

          1. Everyone seems to be assuming that John is referring to some distant future age, but he says, “I come quickly>” and throughout the apocalypse he says things like the time is at hand and behold I come quickly and do not seal the scroll for these things are about to take place.

            I think the answer to this question may lie not in our future but the distant past. It was future for the saints of the first century. It was about to take place back then. How could it be about to take lace now?

            Now if we take the plain speaking about the immenancy of these events at its face value and approach the imagry within that framework i think we can arrive at something that makes more sense.

            Also I think the beast is the Roman Government, the false prophet weas the jewish religious leaders who were always opposing Christ and of course the dragon is satan (explicitly stated). So we are not talking about people but authorities and powers both human and demonic.

            I think we are on the wrong track if we take this imagry too literally. It is symolic.

          2. Bill, I tend to think that Revelation is about the future, however, I tried not to get into the prophecy issues as it clouds the issue, I think.

  2. I types in a point and it got lost. I hate that!

    Basically, I said that I see your point a little better, since Christ could be saying, “Have it your way! But I’m still coming.”

    On the door of repentance being sealed at the End, I acknowledged your point that many in Revelation refuse to repent in response to God’s judgments. But there’s a passage that intrigues me: Revelation 11:13, in which 7,000 people are killed in an earthquake, but the remnant—the people left—give glory to God. In context, I take remnant there to be people left, not God’s people (which it many times is in Scripture). But then I raised the question if the repentance is genuine, or a temporary response flowing from fear (the type of fake repentance that Jonathan Edwards criticizes).

    1. James, in Luke we read of people giving God the glory which the author uses to signify a passage of the OT. Not saying that this is what is happening here, but you do bring up a good point.

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