[Eph 3:21 KJV] 21 Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

[Eph 3:21 mGNT] αὐτῷ ἡ δόξα ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ εἰς πάσας τὰς γενεὰς τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων ἀμήν

In concept, this may be an allusion to:

[Isa 45:17 KJV] 17 [But] Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.

Isa 45:17 Masoretic: יִשְׂרָאֵל נֹושַׁע בַּיהוָה תְּשׁוּעַת עֹולָמִים לֹא־תֵבֹשׁוּ וְלֹא־תִכָּלְמוּ עַד־עֹולְמֵי עַֽד׃ פ

Isa 45:17 mGNT: Ισραηλ σῴζεται ὑπὸ κυρίου σωτηρίαν αἰώνιον οὐκ αἰσχυνθήσονται οὐδὲ μὴ ἐντραπῶσιν ἕως τοῦ αἰῶνος

Isa 45:17 Brenton LXX: Israel is saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation: they shall not be ashamed nor confounded for evermore.

However, Paul may be alluding to a more specific reference, though again the wording is pretty different:

[Psa 119:90 NLT] 90 Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created.

WLCלְדֹ֣ר וָ֭דֹר אֱמֽוּנָתֶ֑ךָ כֹּונַ֥נְתָּ אֶ֝֗רֶץ וַֽתַּעֲמֹֽד**׃**

LXX εἰς γενεὰν καὶ γενεὰν ἡ ἀλήθειά σου ἐθεμελίωσας τὴν γῆν καὶ διαμένει

Is he saying that the physical heaven and earth will go on forever or something else?

Possibly related:

[Ecc 1:4 KJV] 4 [One] generation passeth away, and [another] generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

1:4 דֹּור הֹלֵךְ וְדֹור בָּא וְהָאָרֶץ לְעֹולָם עֹמָֽדֶת׃

1:4 γενεὰ πορεύεται καὶ γενεὰ ἔρχεται καὶ ἡ γῆ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα ἕστηκεν

[Gen 8:22 KJV] 22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

  • Both the Greek aeon and the Hebrew olam can mean both age and world.
    – Lucian
    Feb 5 '19 at 2:39

First, there is no significant variation in the underlying Greek here. The TR is the same as NA28, etc.

The phrase, "world without end" is a most unfortunate translation and a quirk of the KJV and its progeny (KJ2000, American KJV).

A good representative translation of the Greek is given by almost all other versions of which the NIV and ESV are typical: "to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

That is, Paul is simply hoping for eternal praise of Jesus by all peoples in all time. Nothing could be more Christian.

The translation issue here is how to translate, εἰς πάσας τὰς γενεὰς τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων ἀμήν. YLT renders this (correctly), "to all the generations of the age of the ages. Amen." I have always been mystified how the KJV translators got "world" from the Greek "ainos" (eg, Matt 28:20). But that is another matter.

  • Does it seem that Paul expects the world to end? Or to continue for endless generations?
    – Ruminator
    Feb 5 '19 at 21:44
  • I do not believe he says either. What I believe he says is simple - He is expecting praise from all people in all times. All times must include this life and the next. There is no statement here about how long or short our world will be.
    – user25930
    Feb 5 '19 at 21:54
  • Soooo, throughout all generations for ever for ever... doesn't that suggest and unending world?
    – Ruminator
    May 14 at 1:01

In Ephesians what does Paul mean by “world without end”?

Answer: The word "forever" is often used symbolically "until the end of time and the destruction of the physical world."

The NASB renders these verses from the OP as follows:

Ephesians 3:21: "[To the Father] be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations [of human beings] forever and ever. Amen."

Here, Paul is simply stating that the glory in the church and in Christ will endure until the material universe is annihilated (2 Peter 3:10). "All generations" is a human term. And the "forever" used in this passage is restricted to the material Creation.

I believe the reference to Israel in Isaiah is correct in the sense that Israel, whether the physical nation or the spiritual Israel of Christ will receive an enduing salvation throughout world history by the will of God.

Isaiah 45:17: Israel has been saved by the LORD With an everlasting salvation; You will not be put to shame or humiliated To all eternity.

Question: "Is [Paul] saying that the physical heaven and earth will go on [forever]?"

No, Paul is not saying that. The physical heaven and earth will not go on forever, as I alluded to earlier in reference to Peter's pronouncement above. He is very explicit in his description of the annihilation of everything physical:

2 Peter 3:10, 12: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens [cosmos] will pass away with a roar and the elements [atomic elements?] will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up [no more earth]."

While it is certainly true that "forever" often means just that, eternal, that is not the sense in which the words are applied by Paul in these verses.

  • For an alternate view of 2 Peter 3:10ff, please see: quora.com/…
    – Ruminator
    May 13 at 23:39
  • It seems to me that your answer is entirely circular. Your definition "The word "forever" is often used symbolically "until the end of time and the destruction of the physical world." is entirely fabricated, based entirely on the notion that there is a destruction of the physical world. In other words, you are making assertions without evidence.
    – Ruminator
    May 14 at 1:00
  • @Ruminator I'm afraid I disagree that 2 Peter 3:10-12 is merely symbolic. I do understand symbolism when I read it. Above, I neglected to include verses 11-12: "Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!" I see absolutely no symbolism in this at all, but rather a literal description of God's destruction of the entire material Creation.
    – Xeno
    May 14 at 1:44
  • Isaiah 34: (10) This judgment on Edom will never end; the smoke of its burning will rise forever. The land will lie deserted from generation to generation. No one will live there anymore.
    – Ruminator
    May 14 at 1:51
  • @Ruminator From your reference to Quora, am I to gather that your stance is with premillennial doctrine, or have I misread that?
    – Xeno
    May 14 at 2:23

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