In Jude 7, we read of how the people of Sodom, GomorRah, and surrounding cities were condemned to age-long fire (greek: pyros aioniou). We also see in Matthew 18:8 and Matthew 25:41 how Jesus said that some are condemned to the same fate.
This term is usually translated in other Bibles as eternal fire, and it has long been understood to be speaking of an eternal punishment of torture in Hell Fire. Others may see it as a symbol of eternal destruction.
However, we believe that ‘age-long’ more accurately reflects the word usually translated as eternal in the source texts, and therefore, ‘eternal fire’ may actually be a mistranslation. Why?
Well, the word that most Bibles usually translate as ‘eternal’, aioniou, doesn’t actually mean that. Instead it means age or era, and it appears in this translation as age-long. The original word means an undefined period of time, not eternity or forever.
Further, if we wanted to view the words as meaning an eternal punishment in Hell Fire, other verses contradict the idea. For example, the Greek word for immortality (athanasia, which literally means undying) only appears in the Bible three times:
- Once at 1 Timothy 6:16, where it speaks of Jesus as being immortal.
- Twice at 1 Corinthians 15:53-54 where it tells us that God offers immortality as a reward to the faithful.
So, there is no scripture in the Bible that ever speaks of sinners as having athanasia (immortality) or of having immortal souls, something that would be necessary to be tortured eternally in a Hell Fire.
Translating pyros aioniou (age-long fire) as ‘eternal fire’ therefore deceives readers into thinking that the text is describing sinners being burned for eternity, when the original text does not say eternal at all, but age-long, and other verses describe eternal life only as a reward to faithful ones.
Therefore, you can see how seriously we must take the translation of these words. If we get it wrong, readers can be wildly misled.
What exactly, though, does ‘age-long’ mean? For a greater discussion on the meaning of this word, please see our translator note on the word forever.
Note also that fire is sometimes symbolic in the Bible. For a greater discussion of the subject of Hell Fire, please see the commentary on Hell.
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