Matthew 25:46 New International Version

"Then they will go away to eternal [G166] punishment, but the righteous to eternal [G166] life."

Do these two uses of "eternal" carry the same meaning? If yes, what does it mean?

  • Predictably, there's an interesting split in the answers: those that assume immortal souls and those that don't. Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 13:16
  • Note that this is just a reading between the lines brainstorming. The Greek word for heaven is Ouranus. If we entertain the thought that the planet Uranus is heaven then Neptune would be the New Jerusalem and Saturn would be hell. Jesus is said to be the firstborn from the dead and since Christians are his brothers and sisters they also will be the firstborn from the dead. Thus, the appointed citizens of New Jerusalem will be born first through the service of the 24 elders. Then the appointed citizens of heaven will be born. While the appointed citizens of hell won’t get their body back. Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 10:55

9 Answers 9


The real question here isn't about the meaning of "eternal"; it means forever, without end, and both instances here have that same meaning.

Where the difference in meaning occurs is with the two nouns modified by that adjective.

"Life" (ζωή, zōē, G2222) is also well defined. Outline of Biblical Usage defines it as "the state of one who is possessed of vitality or is animate".

It is the word "punishment" that is the cause of any confusion here.

"Punishment" (κόλασις, kolasis, G2851) is used only twice in the Bible, once in the quoted Matthew 25:46, and once in 1 John 4:18:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Many Christian denominations believe in the non-Biblical concept of the immortal soul. Some interpret this use of "punishment" as a separation or loss of relationship (which is what an insecure love fears most). Other take it more literally as deliberately inflicted pain.

But neither interpretation contrasts well against the presented alternative, "life".

It makes more sense here to think of "punishment" as being the opposite of "life", a separation from life itself. If one alternative is "life", the other must be the opposite of "life", where one would no longer be "possessed of vitality", and no longer be "animate". That is, this punishment is death, the lack of consciousness and existence.

The two alternatives in Matthew 25:46 are "eternal life" and "eternal death".

One can live forever, or be dead forever. One can receive conscious existence forever, or receive unconscious non-existence forever.

Being conscious while continuously being punished, regardless of what form that punishment takes, isn't an option; that would be a form of eternal life, which has already been excluded as a possibility.

Here, "eternal punishment" is the physical equivalent of what our society calls "capital punishment": a prison term might last 7 years, but capital punishment is forever.


Yes. Same word is used. ‘aiōnios’. And, the reason is simple, although it depends on your theological foundation.

Man is spirit. Spirits are eternal. They do not cease to exist. All [men] are eternal.

We equate ‘die’ or ‘death’ as the end. The Bible doesn’t. Death ‘biblically’ means separation. So here in Matthew 25, we see one group eternally separated from God, and the other eternally ‘joined’ with God. God being the source of Life.

  • "The Bible doesn’t. Death ‘biblically’ means separation." +1 for this point. I think this would be stronger with some reference to support the claim, tho. Commented Apr 2, 2021 at 19:00
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    There are no scriptures quoted because there are not any.
    – Steve
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 12:10
  • @Dave Thanks for this response. You are correct, once created we are immortal. And, with that immortality, we can expect one of two destinies. The Bible is clear about those destinies (Matt. 23:33, Matt. 25:41, etc.).
    – Xeno
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 17:22
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    @user48152 Paul spends a lot of ink referring to living people as dead. Clearly they were not non-existent. Regardless of whether "the rich man and Lazarus" is a parable or literal, conscious torment after death is part of the story. Jesus never incorporated an element in any parable or story that did not have real existence since, if he did, the hearers would have no reference point and the story would be meaningless. Example: The Kingdom of heaven is like a flormtrungle. Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 22:05

Eternal punishment vs eternal life

"Then they will go away to eternal [G166] punishment, but the righteous to eternal [G166] life."

Matthew 25:41, 46 (NASB)

41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you accursed people, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

At first glance one may believe that Jesus was teaching eternal hellfire, Obviously, Jesus did not intend to contradict God's word which clearly states that the dead no longer know anything.(Eccl. 9:5)

Ecclesiastes 9:5 (NASB)

5 For the living know that they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor do they have a reward any longer, for their memory is forgotten.

Is the eternal punishment, Jesus warned, literal or symbolic? Note that “the eternal fire” mentioned by Jesus and recorded at Matthew 25:41 was prepared “for the devil and his angels.” Do you think that literal fire can burn spirit creatures? Or was Jesus using the term “fire” symbolically? Certainly “the sheep” and “the goats” mentioned in the same conversation are not literal; they are word pictures that represent two types of people. (Matthew 25:32, 33) The eternal fire that Jesus spoke of completely burns up the wicked in a figurative sense.

So while the sheeplike ones receive everlasting life, the unrepentant goatlike ones suffer “eternal punishment,” being forever cut off from life. The doctrine that hell is a place of torment is not based on the Bible. Rather, it is a pagan belief masquerading as a Christian teaching. God is love and does not torture people eternally in hell. Hell is not eternal torment, but it is the final and irrevocable choosing of that which is opposed to God so completely and so absolutely that the only end is total non-being.”

  • Thanks for your response. In it, you said "Do you think that literal fire can burn spirit creatures?" This is something that I've wondered about as well. If fire really burned-up spirit beings, they would not last long. On the other hand, if this was a "spiritual fire" -- whatever that means, spirit beings might experience torment but never annihilation, which we would like to think. We naturally tend to look at everything through a physical lens and are quite oblivious to spiritual realities.
    – Xeno
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 17:18
  • @Ozzie Ozzie Your assumption that “The doctrine that hell is a place of torment is not based on the Bible.” Is actually an error, Revelation 14:10-11 in the Greek is “unto the ages of ages” literally: eternally. Torment is biblically based. To suggest it would be merely symbolic would only reinforce the suffering & imagery because symbols usually represent the actually reality or point to a higher reality. So Rev 14:10-11 if it’s not literal; then it’s worse than we can conceive. Furthermore, these words have meaning, “their torment”, “for ever & ever”. God is love, that’s His nature.
    – Cork88
    Commented Feb 15, 2022 at 7:31

Matthew 25:46 And these will go away into eternal punishment; but the righteous into eternal life.”

Do these two uses of "eternal" carry the same meaning?

What do we know for sure?

  • Eternal life means exactly that. Life that will never end. Clearly we don't have that now - but those found in Christ (since Adam) will receive this new birth/life at Jesus' return.

  • Those who sin will die,

For God so loved the world that He gave the only begotten Son, so that everyone believing in Him should not perish, but should have eternal life. John 3:16

There are only two options - life or death. In the grand scheme, true life is what Jesus now has (not this physical life we have), death is NOT having true life. Nowhere do we read of sinners or 'the wicked' being given eternal life!

For the wages of sin is death (perish), but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 6:23

I didn't bother getting a stack of verses about what death means - it doesn't mean life! It is the opposite of life. Unfortunately, the immortal soul camp have some verses missing from their bibles, or they read in what they want anyway.

  • be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Matthew 10:28
  • God alone has immortality 1Timothy 6:16
  • Jesus was mortal - not immortal until raised. Rom 6:9, 1Pet 3:18
  • in 800+ mentions of soul, no verse mentions it is immortal
  • Who believes in the Son has eternal life, but who rejects the Son will not see life John 3:36

Which brings us to,

will go away into eternal punishment

  • again, the sinner, not the righteous, is being punished.
  • are they alive? Yes, but not with eternal life. They have a purely physical life. If they get hit by a truck, they will die!

What is eternal punishment?

Obviously, it cannot go on forever (that's just dumb). Why not? Because they are physical and will eventually die.

Why does God punish? (there are dozens of verses like this one)

For the Lord disciplines whom He loves, and He scourges every son whom He receives. Heb 12:6

He punishes to bring about change - of heart, mind, belief, trust, etc. Loving parents punish or discipline their kids. They will love them BY chastising them. God is much better at this than we are. His goal is to save all, He doesn't want any to perish.

Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2Pet 3:9

Peter shows the stark contrast between perishing - which is NOT having eternal life, or via repentance (which He initiates) gaining eternal life.

I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked should turn from their ways and live. Ez 33:11

So the eternal punishment is to bring about an eternal difference and change to those being punished, disciplined, chastised - not tortured!

God's plan of salvation is about bringing true life to all, not death.

God our Saviour... desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1Tim 2:3

Clearly, there are some who will meet the 'second death'. That is it for them, they will not exist again, ever. Need it be said, they are physical, they won't be in eternal flames - this is pure nonsense as it contradicts too much scripture.

God will give all an opportunity to live - not several opportunities - just one decent, undeceived opportunity.

How does He bring about life? Through knowing the truth about Him and His son. No one can know this except God reveal it to them. While in this age, most have not had an opportunity, but they will. That's what the 2nd resurrection is for.

Whatever He has in mind for punishment, it will be to bring about good - not evil, and this resultant good will last for eternity in the lives of those who choose God. Those for whom loving punishment does not effect the changes God requires, will NOT be granted eternal life and will die the 'second death', never to be heard of again. Ps 34:16

We must remember that the evil includes all men - all are opposed to God until He brings about a change. So the evil are merely those who resist God or are yet to be offered their opportunity for repentance.

As if Jesus hasn’t made this abundantly clear for those who can see this reality. The prodigal son (Luke 15) readily represents those ‘wicked’ ones, and they are welcomed back with great delight by the eager and waiting Father. Here too, the son came to know the truth about many things that had escaped his notice previously - even if they were right under his nose!


What do the two uses of "eternal" mean (Matt. 25:46)?

Answer: The two uses of this word both mean "forever" or "without end".

And, unfortunately, that means either eternal life with God or eternal separation from Him. Almost everyone will agree that, as human beings, we simply cannot fathom the depths of eternal, spiritual punishment.

The distinction between these two destinies is up to us. We decide what future lay ahead. As has been said, in the end, "God will either say, 'My Will be done', or He will say, 'Thy will be done.'"

This is a profoundly important reality, a matter that requires an answer from every one of us. We are all on our own with this question and, ultimately, our response is the very reason for which we exist. Those who die "in Christ" will be eternally rewarded; those who do not are destined for eternal destruction.

We all wish this were not true. However, wishing for something contrary to the will of God doesn't make it go away. We might first consider what the apostle John has to say regarding our salvation in Christ:

1 John 5:3: "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome" (emphasis added).

The Holy Spirit has just conveyed to us that keeping our commitments to God are not difficult at all. The steps to salvation: hearing the Word, believing Christ as the Son of God, repenting of our old sinful lives (repentance), confessing that Christ is Lord as we are baptized, and living a godly life — all of these seem trivial.

Perhaps "living a godly life" is the most difficult because we are continually tempted by the cares of the world. This is why Christ is faithful to cleanse us from all sin and all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:7, 9). Of course, many will insist that we need to do none of the salvational steps enumerated above, which is an enormous tragedy.

Nonetheless, that is why Christ will say to them:

Matthew 7:23: "DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS" (caps in the original).

What does Christ mean by "lawlessness"? He means that unless we have been, and continue to be, cleansed (initially baptism, then godly lives) we are eternally lost. And, yes, "eternally" means forever. What we rarely, if ever, stop to recognize is our actual wretchedness as human beings.

This is spelled out for us in the Gospel of Mark:

Mark 7:20-23: "And [Christ] was saying, 'That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. 21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.'"

As well, from the Letter to the Romans, we also read:

Romans 1:29-31: "[The godless,] being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful"

Just who is "godless" in the bracketed notation above? Those outside of Christ, those that refuse to "walk in the Light" (1 Jn. 1:7) as we have been told.

Suppose we now present this full list of horribles from Mark 7 and Romans 1 below:

      Mark 7:20-23          Romans 1:29-31
  1.  Evil thoughts     14. Greed
  2.  Fornications      15. Strife
  3.  Thefts            16. Malice
  4.  Murders           17. Gossip
  5.  Adulteries        18. Haters of God
  6.  Covetousness      19. Insolence
  7.  Wickedness        20. Arrogance
  8.  Deceit            21. Boastfulness
  9.  Sensuality        22. Inventors of Evil
  10. Envy              23. Disobedient to Parents
  11. Slander           24. Untrustworthy
  12. Pride             25. Unloving 
  13. Foolishness       26. Ruthlessness 

Now think: Which of these qualities have never been part of our lives? If you answered that question with: "None" then it might be wise to consider this:

1 John 1:10: "If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us."

This passage is telling us that if we staunchly maintain we have never sinned, we are calling God a liar. Perhaps we might re-examine that list again and think about it more carefully?

Who among us does not show contempt for someone we see on the news or read about on the Internet? Well, contempt for another person is sinful. It is the very fact that we cannot (or choose not to) admit to our failings that condemns us outside the blood of Christ. Those with spiritual discernment do see many of these qualities, and are willing to do something about it. It is a monumental tragedy that so many others will never appropriately react at all.

It is only when we do that, that we have any chance of salvation. God will punish the items on preceding list; each point, or any combination is "lawlessness" to God because, as we read:

1 John 3:4: "Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness."

Hebrews 3:12 tells us that disbelief is evil. Now, if you ask anyone whether they are a "good person" you will get a "Yes" answer to that question 100 times out of 100. We all think we are "good people." This is obviously not the way an infinitely holy God sees us. In fact, lest we believe otherwise, no amount of "good works" can compensate for the fact:

Isaiah 64:6: "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away" (emphasis added).

Once created, we are immortal spirits that dwell within a physical body:

2 Corinthians 4:16: "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man [physical body] is decaying [and will die], yet our inner man [our spirit] is being renewed day by day. "

There is an interesting corollary to this in a statement by James, the Lord's brother:

James 1:17: "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow."

If we take this verse at face value, it seems that James may be telling us that all of our good qualities come from God, while all of the sinful behavior (listed above) is the result of the world. Suppose God removes all of His goodness at our moment of physical death. What is left?

What remains of our spirit but the demonic abominations with which we are all condemned?

Physical death is hardly the end as some suppose. Our mind, consciousness — our spirit, lives on eternally. So what is an infinitely holy God of absolute perfection to do with those who are lost, having made the choice to never be cleansed of their sins? From the OP:

Matthew 25:46: "These [the lost] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous [in Christ] into eternal life."

Are these two uses of the word "eternal" the same? You better believe they are. We don't know why God will not annihilate lost spirits. Nonetheless, the brutal fact remains.

  • 1
    "Once created, we are immortal spirits that dwell within a physical body". I see nothing there that even implies immortality. Compare with 1 Corinthians 15:53, which says "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.". That implies that until resurrection as spirit beings, even the elect are not yet immortal. Those that do not receive salvation do not receive immortality. It's all or nothing. That merciful fact remains. Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 21:33
  • @RayButterworth Thanks for that Ray. My interpretation of "this corruptible" is human flesh. Our spirit within must be clothed with immortality just as the verse tells us. I've also tried (many times) to explain that we enter eternity at death to be with Christ (1 Thess. 4:17, 2 Cor. 5:8, etc.). We have departed this material world forever. I'm reasonably certain we will disagree, but that's OK.
    – Xeno
    Commented Aug 31, 2021 at 21:39
  • @Xeno sadly, what you have tried many times to explain is your ideas - with which scripture often disagrees. "immortal spirits that dwell within a physical body" is not biblical - it is AN interpretation from tradition. Perhaps also, you should stick to the answer format and not the sermon format.
    – Steve
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 2:35
  • @user48152 Allow me to ask, what is your interpretation of this passage, 2 Corinthians 4:16: "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day." What does Paul mean by "outer man" and "inner man"? Do you dismiss the idea that we possess a spirit, and if so, what then explains human consciousness? If you are suggesting that we have no spirit then I'm not following you. (I also don't give sermons because I am not a preacher, just an ordinary Christian.)
    – Xeno
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 7:25
  • The inner man is the new life formed by the HS within us as a deposit only - aligning our spirit with kingdom values (it is not I who live but Christ in me..). The outer man is the physical body including our spirit in the form before God began His work in us. Thus, the old, dead from sin, sinner, compared to the new, redeemed, counted righteous saved child of God.
    – Steve
    Commented Sep 1, 2021 at 7:36

It means that as bliss has no end for those who inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, so torment has no end for those who do not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

This is a simple and plain parallelism and counterposition and the force of "eternal" in two parallel clauses of this counterposition, thus, is absolutely same, like, to give an analogy, a word "permanent" in a sentence: "Those professors who will fulfill their duties properly, will get permanent tenure by the end of the year, while those professors who will fail, will get permanent expulsion from the university". Now, no professor in his right mind will think that the word "permanent" in the second clause of this sentence means anything less than the "permanent" in the first clause, which he, rightly, understands as that the good professors will have a life-long, permanent tenure at the university, and therefore, those who fail will get the very identical life-long expulsion with no prospect of return. If this is so plain and clear, why at all all this mess here? But, OK, since the readers of my post asked me to give more Scriptural grounds, although this very verse, I think, is fully sufficient, unless one has an ill-advised intent to unduly stir clean waters, I will give them.

I guess, nobody questions the eternity and irreversability of the inherited Heavenly Kingdom, but all question what will happen to those outside, whether a) they will be thrown out always, or not always, or b) whether they will disappear altogether from being/existence in a total annihilation?

That they will be thrown out always, is clear from the very passage itself, as shown above. Now, that it will not be a total annihilation of those out of the Kingdom (as Jehowah-witnesists firmly hold and Pope Francis, shamefully, grants a timid possibility cf. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pope-francis-abolishes-hell-saying-souls-of-unrepentant-sinners-will-simply-disappear-pwlv6l667), is clear from other passages, like from the metaphor of unsleeping worm (Mark 9:44), unending fire (Mark 9:48), or weeping and gnashing of teeth (cf. Matthew 13:42), which all, first of all, metaphorise pangs of conscience of those who have their personhood and conscience retained for eternity; for of course their calamities start already after leaving body, when they are in disembodied state, when neither physical fire, nor physical worm can harm them and nor can they weep with physical tears, or gnash physical teeth, but all those metaphors show that they will retain personalities and be conscious. As also Revelation tells about them that those unrepented sinners retain full consciousness as to be ashamed of and tormented by their sins and wish to cease existence by being buried under mountains and rocks, which is not granted to them (Revelation 6:16). And, in difference from penitential sufferings, that are salubrious and end, their suffering will not be penitential and salubrious and will never end.

It sounds cruel, but that is what is taught by the Lord whose mercy and long-suffering is His very nature and thus it is both stupid and arrogant simultaneously to judge Him and His words from the point of view of humanists who even often are of a questionable moral standing and whose humanistic concerns are as narrow as abstract, heartless and indifferently theoretical.

(For such other, unbiblical, cheesy-humanistic and, for that matter, deceptive heretical ideas on the issue, read little short of 1000 pages of Ilaria Ramelli’s “Christian doctrine of apokatastasis”, Brill, 2013, if you have a patience of a boulder to do so, with its carefully distorted and here-and-there picking interpretations of Church fathers). Bene valete!

  • @Down-voter Hey, my old anonymous friend! Any substantiation for your “-“? If not, then have a good day! Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 3:50
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    There are actually 2 down-votes at the moment. Rather than an answer to the original question, this seems to be more of a ad hominem attack on those that you disagree with. The Ramelli paragraph seems especially irrelevant to the question. ¶ And what the answer does offer in way of support of your view, doesn't provide explicit Biblical references (e.g. "unsleeping worm"). ¶ Answers on this site are supposed to provide analysis of a specific scripture. This answer would be more suitable for Christianity.SE, but again with better citations and fewer personal attacks. Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 6:58
  • @Ray Butterworth Thanks, I appreciate that. Ok, at leisure, perhaps even today, I will try to provide more evidences from Scripture, but the verse is self evident and it seems indecent to quibble about the self evident. Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 7:21
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    @RayButterworth Have done it! Thanks for your helpful comment that made me to. Commented Sep 4, 2021 at 14:52

This is from the Concordat version with commentary.

This verse here is limited to the nations who will not succor The faithful of Israel in their time of sore distress. It has no bearing on the sins of individuals. It is disciplinary and corrective.

Then shall He be answering them, saying, " Verily I am saying to you, inasmuch as you do it not to one of the least of these, neither do you it to Me.' And these shall be coming away into eonian chastening, yet the just into eonian life. Mathew 25:46<

So the duration is the same but some will be enjoying life in the next age probably spoken about in Mark 10:30

who may not receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and fields, with persecutions, and in the age that is coming, life age-during;<

Others will be going under eonian chastening. I am not sure what that entails.

The word kolasis is used here: For chastening.

Strong's Concordance kolasis: correction Original Word: κόλασις, εως, ἡ Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine Transliteration: kolasis Phonetic Spelling: (kol'-as-is) Definition: correction Usage: chastisement, punishment, torment, perhaps with the idea of deprivation

Eonian pertains to the eons or to the ages… Which is another study in itself.

So to summarize the duration is the same for an age or eon. Life will be pleasant for one group and suffering for the other. The judgment will be based from the context of Mathew 25: 35-40


Yes, the root word and its referent are the same in both cases.


There are multiple Biblical means of describing something that is "forever"; there is a risk of treating them all the same. I'll take 2 of the examples most relevant to this question:

  • Immortality is not a uniquely theological word–in both religious & secular use, immortality means living forever–the focus is on time and an absence of decay, not on quality. Immortality–through the resurrection–is promised to all the family of Adam (see 1 Cor. 15:22).
  • Eternal life, however, is only promised to the faithful (for example, see John 3:36). What then is eternal life?


That they might know thee

The eternal life Jesus speaks of in John 17:3 is past the confines of our mortal comprehension:

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Truly knowing someone does not happen at a distance. In the days before caller ID there were a handful of people I knew so well, I could recognize their voice on the phone from a single word. At "hello" I knew exactly who I was talking to. Developing that profound, up-close familiarity with someone is a process, not an event.

This profound, up-close familiarity with God is maximized only after we receive a resurrected body capable of existing in that state of glory (see 1 Cor. 15:40-42).

The Eternal Nature of God

In this mortal existence, everything we create, everything we experience, and everything we agree to, has a beginning and an end. Whether it’s human life, or the pyramids, or a mountain range, or even a star, none of it lasts forever.

Psalm 102 makes this contrast explicit:

25 Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands.

26 They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed:

27 But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end (Psalm 102:25-27)

Whatever plans we make or agreements we enter into, once we are dead we will have no ability to carry them out or enforce them–even a last will and testament relies entirely on the living left behind to be put into effect (this is the point being made in Psalm 146:3-4, contrasted with God’s eternal power in v10 of the same Psalm)

Eternal, then, is an attribute of God. God has the power to speak and it will be done (e.g. Genesis 1:3, Isaiah 46:11); God can command and enforce with efficacy beyond the grave; God possesses the attribute of eternal in a way nothing we make or do ourselves does. A few example passages:

The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut. 33:27)

Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting (Psalm 93:2)

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever (Hebrews 13:8)

Eternal describes Deity in a way it doesn’t describe anything else.

As succinctly stated by Dr. Jason Carroll:

Eternal life is a life that is both endless in duration and godlike in quality



Eternal punishment is God's punishment; eternal life is God's life--the kind of life that God has.


To the first part of your question, the answer is yes. Though, we have to note that "eternal" means different things when it's applied to YHWH vs when it's applied to created things. YHWH created time-space-matter/energy, so when we call him eternal, that means "without time". When we call created things eternal, that means "existing forever because it is being sustained forever".

To the second part, I disagree with both the view that the spirit is immortal and the view that the opposite of life is nonexistence. Both are unbiblical.

YHWH is immortal (without time). Therefore, nothing else can be immortal, but everything can be "clothed in immortality" (existing forever), which is stated in 1 Corinthians 15:53-55. That means clothed with YHWH.

YHWH is also Life. Particularly, the glory of YHWH (the Light) is Life, as seen in Genesis 1. The opposite of him is not nonexistence, since he created his opposite when he created Tehom (Genesis 1: the Spirit of God hovered over the face of Tehom). Yet Tehom exists and is also dead. Then YHWH shares his Life with Tehom and Creation is created. So the nonexistence view is just as unbiblically derived as the immortality of the spirit view. As the one comes from pagan conceptions of the spirit, the latter comes from atheist conceptions of life and death. The one is an ancient anachronism upon the text while the latter is a modern anachronism upon the text.

(Moreover, the Bible says that the dead will be resurrected and then sent to Tehom (Hell) not as spirits, but as living nephesh. So this compounds the problems with both views. It shows that they overlook the fact that this eternal torment / eternal shame will happen to living nephesh and not spirits. This is overlooked because they're missing a mechanism. They're missing the mechanism because their worldviews are wrong.)

That said, if you look into the Land of the Dead theology of paganism, you'll find that the Bible shares the same theology. You have a Spirit Land of the Living (Heaven), an Our Land of the Living (Earth), a shared Land of the Dead (Sheol/Hades), and a Place of the Second Death (Revelation 20:6) where the eternal restlessness of the spirit (Revelation 14:11) happens. In the OT, this Place is called either the Pit or Abaddon. The NT calls it "the Abyss", and "Abyss" is the Greek translation for "Tehom". This became "Hell" because "Hel" is the name of this place in the European paganism.

Probably the closest parallel to the biblical language comes from the Egyptian paganism, though, which also spoke of glorification, although this was plural — glorifications — and was based on burial and funeral rituals, as well as other things, not on sanctification in this life. The end of these glorifications was to become an akh, and the akh has the same appearance as Daniel's description of the glorified body — shining like the stars, or like the brightness of the heavens.

Something to note. Even the Land of the Dead was understood to be a state of life. That's why there's a Second Death. The Second Death makes no sense under the nonexistence view, and is odd under the immortal spirit view, feeling unnecessary and misplaced, much like Hell does in annihilationist views or like nirvana in Buddhism. (That is, why recreate a nonexistent being just to annihilate them in Hell when that already happened when they died. Makes no sense. Something's missing, or something was added on somewhere because it doesn't line up.)

Also, note that the OT teaches that there are spirits, known as the Rephaim, who have already been to this place, which is located "deep" within Sheol (Proverbs 9:18). So this gives us one of the identities of the demons and explains their fear of being sent to the Abyss (Luke 8:31). Notably, demons also come up from the Abyss in Revelation 9. So we can clearly see that the eternal torment of the eternal restlessness of the spirit isn't nonexistence.

Add to this that Daniel 7 seems to teach that the eternal hellfire is the glory of YHWH and you get the mechanism for the preservation of the body, and of the preservation of the spirit, and of the preservation of the heart/Self. Until this final event, the dead Self is preserved by other means.

So, what the text means is really what it sounds like it means. Those who are punished will be eternally aware, and eternally suffering therein. This state, called the Second Death, is the eternal restlessness of the spirit. There is no concept of nonexistence as the punishment in the Bible. For nonexistence to be the case, YHWH would have to wipe Tehom from existence, and yet: "death and the Land of the Dead were thrown into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:14) — and the lake of fire is in Tehom. Or will be, however you happen to view it. Tehom (the Abyss) goes nowhere. It is sustained — and this is necessary, note, since Tehom is the fetal/embryonic state of Creation. No Tehom = no Creation = no us.

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    Seems like quite a lot of opinion unsupported by scripture. You use terminology without justifying the scriptural reliability of such.
    – Steve
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 12:58
  • @user48152 Then you didn't read what I wrote. You're too busy reading your own subjectivism. In which case you shouldn't be replying to people. What you say isn't there clearly is. Assuming goodness as opposed to abuse, though (and it's odd that you replied this way given that there's no insult in my OP), if you're confused about the non-english words, and if that is what you mean by unsupported, biblehub will help with that. They're in the original manuscripts, not always present in our English translations.
    – The Wayist
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 13:04
  • The criticism isn't that what you say is necessarily wrong, but that it isn't presented properly. Statements like "the bible says that the dead will be resurrected and then sent to Tehom (Hell) not as spirits, but as living nephesh" and "the OT teaches that …" need to be supported by explicit citations of what the Bible actually says. Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 13:09
  • (Also, note that a good deal of what I'm explaining has been preserved in EOC and RCC teachings. For example, where I would say the Light in Genesis that is given to Tehom is Yeshua (who is himself the glory of YHWH), the EOC will say it's the uncreated energies. It's foreign to a Protestant (which I am as well), but will sound strikingly familiar to non-Protestants. So these things are both scripturally and historically supported, both within and outside of Christian history. Protestantism simply has a lot of ignorance on these things.)
    – The Wayist
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 13:11
  • 1
    @TheWayist, which is more efficient of time: the research being done by the writer (1 person) or being done by the reader (potentially thousands of people)? Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 14:11

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