There are several different words in the
original New Testament that are translated in the common version
by this one English word, WORLD; the two principal ones are aion
and kosmos. Though both of these words are usually rendered
world, yet they are really very distinct, and different in their
meaning, and ought to have been rendered respectively age and world.
We shall have space in this number for the consideration of only the
former word, Aeon, i.e. Age.
Our knowledge of God's
"plan of the ages" depends upon a correct understanding of the
meaning of this word; and without a knowledge of that plan we can
understand but little of the truth. Hence we can see how very important
is the study of this word.
There are only two places in
the common version where the word aeon is rendered, as it should be in
every case, age; but these two instances are significant, because they
show of themselves the meaning of the word. In Col. 1:26 we read of
"the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from
generations but now is made manifest to his saints." In Eph. 2:7 we
read that "in the ages to come God will show the exceeding riches
of his grace," etc. Now these passages plainly indicate two
things in regard to this word. 1. The ages are limited periods of time;
several of them have run their course and come to an end in the past,
and there are yet more to come. 2. The "ages to come" are to
be richer in the manifestation of the grace of God than the present or
past ages; in other words it appears that God's grace broadens and
his plan develops as the ages roll, mysteries that have been hid in past
ages are made known, and the future ages are to witness the
"riches of his grace" to an extent "exceeding" that
of any previous age. These points are clear from these passages but we
could not determine from these whether the ages are definite periods of
time, or not; whether Paul refers to the centuries, or whether he uses
the word in a loose, indefinite sense as it is sometimes used at the
present time, or whether he refers to specific and definite periods in
the past and the future. To determine this point let us look at other
Heb. 9:26. "Now once at
the end of the ages (N.V.*)
hath Christ been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of
himself." It plainly appears from this passage that when Christ
came to suffer and die it was at the end of a series of ages; this is
positive. 1 Cor. 10:11, N.V.*
"These things were written for our admonition upon whom the ends
of ages are come.'' This pecuIiar expression," ends of the
ages," is clear when we understand that the apostle, and they, to
whom he wrote, lived during the transition period between two ages. The
Jewish age was closing and passing away, the Gospel age was beginning,
hence the "ends of the ages had come upon them. That this is the
meaning here is still further confirmed when we understand that the word
here rendered "are come," literally means, are met,
thus bringing out the idea of the meeting of the two ends of the
ages. Furthermore it is apparent from many Scriptures that the time from
the first to the second advent is called an age; for example see
Gal.1:4, "this present evil age;" Tit. 2:12, "this
present age;" also, 1 Cor. 2:6,7,8; 3:18; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 6:12; 1
Tim. 6:17; and many other passages; look these out in the new version*,
both text and margin. Now, to still further confirm this point,
see Matt. 24:3. "What shall be the sign of thy coming and of
the end of the age." From this passage it is evident that the end
of "this present evil age" is synchronous with the second
coming of Christ; the gospel age extends from the first to the second
advent of Christ; and then what? then comes eternity, most Christians
think; this is a mistake, however; then comes another age, and beyond
that are more ages, even "ages of ages." In proof of this see
Luke 20:34-36. "The children of this age marry and are given in
marriage; but they, which shall be counted worthy to obtain that age and
the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in
marriage," &c. This passage plainly teaches three important
points: 1. At the close of this age the resurrection takes place. 2.
Then comes another age. 3. Some will obtain "that age"
who will not obtain the resurrection.
Jesus is plainly talking
here of two ages, "this age" and "that
age;'' and at the "meeting" of these two ages he locates the
resurrection; (if I err not, "the first resurrection") then
comes, not eternity, but another age, "that age." Some
will obtain "that age and the resurrection from the
dead;" some who do not obtain the latter will obtain the
former and will be living here on the earth in "that age,"
after one "order" have experienced a resurrection. I cannot
now go into a full explanation of the passage; I only briefly notice it
in order to show how it establishes the three points mentioned above,
which I think it does very clearly.
Very many more passages
might be noticed to still further explain this word had I space, but
lacking this, I will refer to only one more point. This word æon occurs
in the New Testament in so many peculiar and varying forms as to make it
certain, that it expresses some deep and important meaning, well worth
searching out. First we have the simple word many times repeated, both
in the singular and plural; then we have the word in combination with
several prepositions; from the age, Lu. 1:70; and from the ages, Eph.
3:9; out of the age, John 9:32; before the ages, 1 Cor. 2:7; before
times of ages, or before age-times, Tit. 1:2; the purpose of the ages,
Eph. 3:11, (N.V.*,
margin); the age to come, Heb. 6:5; the ages to come, Eph. 2:7; the end
of the age; Matt. 24:3; the end of the ages, Heb. 9:26; the end of
the ages, 1 Cor. 10:11; furthermore in connection with the preposition
unto we find the following remarkable changes.
1. Unto the age, Mark 3:29.
2. Unto the age, Luke 1:33.
3. Unto all the age, Jude 25.
4. Unto the age of the age, Heb. 1:8.
5. Unto all the generations of the age of ages, Eph. 3:21.
6. Unto the age of the ages, Rev. 1:6.
7. Unto the day of an age, 2 Pet. 3:18.
Can any one suppose that
these peculiar forms have no special meaning? Is all this a mere play
upon words? - simply purposeless repetition? Remember, God by his spirit
is the real author of the inspired word. "Holy men of God spake as
they were moved by the holy spirit." Is it not certain then, as I
have said, that these varying forms, so peculiar and striking, hide some
spiritual mystery? and would it not have been more respectful to the
Word if the translators of the common version, and of the new version
too, had rendered these expressions literally, even though they did not
know what they meant, rather than to obscure the sense altogether by
false and capricious renderings? These translators have handled this
word apparently without any respect whatever to its real meaning; they
have rendered its various combinations in thirteen different ways, viz.,
age, course, world, eternal, since the world began, from the beginning
of the world, ever, for ever, forever and ever, for evermore, while the
world standeth, world without end, and, with a negative, never. These
are not translations but paraphrases, and look to me like "handling
the word of God deceitfully," although it may have been
unintentional. We might expect that this unaccountable capriciousness of
rendering would be corrected in the new version, but such correction
would have endangered the creed; it would have set some Christians
(those who read their Bibles) to thinking, and there is nothing that the
upholders of shaky creeds dread so much as to have the people think for
themselves. It seems as though these creed-bound revisers thought
"We must not open this subject, we must not disturb the �€˜traditions
of the elders, by translating these expressions correctly; better
leave them just as they are and then the people will not be
unsettled, and the creed will remain intact." Whether they
thought this or not, they certainly did not correct this glaring fault
of the common version (although, according to their own
representation, to correct such faults as this was the very purpose for
which the New Testament was revised) , but perpetuated it; and hence we
have the same confusion in this respect in the new version as in the
old, and thus God's wonderful "counsel" is "darkened by
words without knowledge." To my mind it is positive that this word
must be connected with some great truth; and it seems to me that we may
be sure of this even though we may not be able to tell what that truth
is, but the scriptures reveal something of this mystery to those who
"search." God's "plan of the ages," as we have
noticed in several articles in this and the preceding paper, makes this
truth apparent. God, through ages past, present and to come, is working
out a glorious "purpose." The accomplishment of this purpose
progresses through these ages, as is prophetically typified in the first
account of the creation, grandly and majestically, until it shall be
complete, and man shall be made in the image of God.
I must stop at this point
for the present. In the next
paper I think I shall be able to make the subject still clearer, in
the consideration of the related word, Kosmos.
New Version; refers to The English Revised Version of 1881-1885 (RSV)