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Isaiah 9:7 (ESV) (emphasis mine):

Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

I have heard that that phrase can be used to mean "a long time" and doesn't always mean eternal (even though it seems like it does). So I wanted to know how we can be sure "time forth and forevermore" really means eternnal.

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The operative Hebrew word here is עוֹלָם (olam) which simply means a long duration either in antiquity or in the future.

Now, let us be very clear, ancient Hebrew, as with most ancient languages, had no real concept of infinity - that came much later with Greek logic, where the idea was only partly formed. Even today, the idea of infinite time is still poorly understood.

The word עוֹלָם (olam) sometimes simply means a very extended but finite time. However, when it comes to the transcendental nature of things associated with God, it always means, "forever", in modern terms. For example:

  • God's covenant is "forever, Gen 9:16, 17:7, 13, 19, Ex 31:16, Lev 24:8, etc
  • God's laws are forever, Isa 59:21, Ps 119:89, 160, etc
  • God's promises are forever, Isa 40:8, 2 Sam 7:13, 16, 25, etc.

As is well-known, Isa 9:6, 7 is a Messianic prophecy about the future Messiah (Jesus Christ) and His eternal kingdom. We see similar prophecies about the future Messiah's eternal kingdom regularly in Scripture such as:

  • 2 Sam 7:12, 13 - And when your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for My Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. see Luke 1:32, 33
  • Ps 45:6, 7 - Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever, and justice is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you above your companions with the oil of joy.
  • Dan 2:44 - In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will shatter all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, but will itself stand forever.

These and other prophecies about Messiah are explicitly said to have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ:

  • Luke 1:32, 33 – [Jesus] will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never end!”
  • Rom 1:3 - regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David,
  • John 1:49 - “Rabbi,” Nathanael answered, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” See also Mark 11:7-11. Matt 27:37 - Above His head they posted the written charge against Him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
  • Heb 1:8, 9 - But about the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever, and justice is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You above Your companions with the oil of joy.”

Thus, the promised, "child [who] is born, unto us a son is given" (Isa 9:6) is the "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" whose eternal government and kingdom would last 'forever".

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