First, let us notice that the words eternal, everlasting and forever and ever are used interchangeably in several versions of the Bible. The change of these words, no doubt, was made to properly put across the meaning the translators sought most likely was meant. It is interesting to note that a translation of the New Testament by a Dr. Weymouth does not use any of these words, but uses a phrase like, “the life of the ages” and “unto the ages.” As anyone who studies the Scriptures finally comes to realize, one must finally ask the scholars what the original words meant. We are told that all of these words we have mentioned are translations of one Hebrew word and two Greek words. We are told that the simplest translation of these words is the English word “age.” Hence, we get Dr. Weymouth’s translation without using the words eternal or everlasting at all.
We employ the word “age” today to measure temporal things, and it may a measure of varying lengths. For example, the geologist knows that the world has passed through many ages — the Cambrian, the Silurian, and the Glacial — and he knows that these ages lasted for different lengths of time. The Bible uses the word in exactly the same sense, in that it means a temporal measurement. An example of this is the passage in Hebrews which says, “Christ has appeared, once for all, at the close of the ages in order to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” The thought here is that in the Divine plan for man, age has succeeded age, and that Christ came not at the end of the world, but at the end of all the preceding ages. His coming inaugurated a new age. Our age today is the new Age, the Gospel Age, but this Age will end just as the other Ages have ended. Jesus himself says that this Age is to end and be succeeded by the Age to Come. So in the Gospel, there is a well-defined use of the word “age”, which we must understand. In a sense, it is an Epoch, and Christ’s relation to them is that He was before them, is now, and will remain after the ages pass. God alone is independent of the ages, and He alone is Eternal. God’s Eternity then is Absolute. Ours is relative.
Therefore, when we read the Bible, and come across the word “forever” applied to human institutions, it does not signify endlessness, in the same sense to which it is applied to God’s institutions. To use it in regard to human institutions means endless within the sphere of its own existence. If you are confused, let us use some examples. The Old Testament, speaking of the Temple at Jerusalem, says, “I have surely built thee a house of habitation, a place for thee to dwell in forever.” “Forever” here cannot mean endless time, for Jesus Himself predicted that not one stone should be left upon another. Again in the Old Testament, we are told of the slave who did not want to leave his master, and the master was to take an awl and drive it through the slave’s ear, and then “he shall be thy servant forever.” Of course, this could not mean through eternity, but within the lifetime of the man. Obviously the word “forever” is used in a relative sense.