Immortality and Mortality

Question 6

What do the words 'eternal,' 'everlasting' and 'forever' mean? How do we and others use these words?

We all know what eternal, everlasting and forever mean. They mean without end; a time span which is absolutely forever and ever.

This being so, how do we use these words?

We use expressions such as 'a diamond is forever.' Does forever in this phrase mean absolutely forever and ever? Probably not!

A man might pledge his eternal love for a maiden. This is translated at the marriage ceremony to 'til death do us part.'

Eternal, everlasting, and forever are to be understood within the context in which they are given.

In Scripture this is also the case.

A slave forever?

In Exodus 21:5, 6 there is described an arrangement whereby a slave is committed to his master forever. Forever in this case is obviously limited to this life, not for eternity.

Exodus 21:5, 6
5 And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master... I will not go free.
6 Then his master shall bring him before the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve his master forever.

Everlasting hills?

In Habakkuk 3:6 the hills are described as everlasting. They are obviously so described because they appear so permanent. Yet the very same verse points out that at God's touch they quake. They are not as permanent as they appear -- they are not everlasting in the sense of necessarily lasting absolutely forever and ever.

Habakkuk 3:6
He stood, and measured the earth: he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow: his ways are everlasting.

Eternal fire?

Jude describes the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Jude 1:7 he states that these wicked cities were destroyed by eternal fire. Peter also describes their destruction. In 2 Peter 2:6 he says that they were turned to ashes.

There may appear to be conflict between these two statements. Is the fire still burning because Jude states it is an eternal fire, or do only ashes remain of Sodom and Gomorrah as Peter states?

Jude 1:7
Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of 'eternal fire.'
2 Peter 2:6
And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah 'into ashes' condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that afterwards should live ungodly.

See also the following Scriptural references to Sodom and Gomorrah.

  • Genesis 10:19
  • Genesis chapters 13, 14, 18, 19
  • Deuteronomy 29:23
  • Jeremiah 23:14
  • Luke 17:29

As Scripture gives considerable information regarding the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and we know the general location of these cities, we can confirm with Peter that the cities were turned to ashes.

Concerning Jude's comment that they were destroyed by eternal fire, we observe that the fire is no longer burning because there is no ongoing eternal fire in these regions. Because of the absolute destruction of these cities we know that fire completely consumed them. In the context of the lives of those who formerly lived in Sodom and Gomorrah the fire was eternal. To them it had no end. It brought their destruction.

To determine the absolute implication of words such as eternal, everlasting, and forever we always need to consider them in the context in which they are given.

Consider the following

To relate these comments to our study -- consider the following verses.

The worms

Mark 9:45, 46
45 ... to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
46 Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

'Their worm dieth not.' (v 46)

Are worms immortal?

No, worms do not have immortality.

The devil

Revelation 20:10
And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire... and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Is the devil tormented in the lake of fire for all eternity?

The devil is not immortal, and because he doesn't have immortality, the torment lasts just as long as he lives.

The wicked

Revelation 14:10, 11
10 ... they shall be tormented with fire and brimstone...
11 And the smoke of their torment rises up forever and ever.

Are the wicked tormented in the lake of fire for all eternity?

The wicked are not immortal, and because they don't have immortality, the torment lasts just as long as they live.

For the devil, the wicked, and the worms such torment is over when they die the second death.

Following the death of the devil and the wicked, 'even death and hell are cast into the lake of fire.' Death and hell will no longer exist -- as everything cast into the lake of fire ceases to exist.

'In its place God creates a new heavens and new earth' -- wherein dwells righteousness. See the sequence of events John describes in Revelation 20:14 -- 21:1.

Revelation 20:14; 21:1
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death...
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.

Invitation to revisit these chapters

If you wish to review the related studies, see these chapters.

The Lost

  • Resurrection to life -- Resurrection to damnation
  • The resurrection of the just
  • The resurrection of the unjust
  • Lake of fire

Grand Climax - new heavens and new earth

  • The end of the lake of fire
  • Dying twice

Absolutely Forever

What Jesus promised

Following is a sample of verses wherein the contexts indicate that forever, eternal, and everlasting mean absolutely forever and forever -- never ending.

It is evident in these verses -- that God, His kingdom, and the redeemed continue absolutely forever.

Regarding God -- He is forever

Psalm 90:2
Before the mountains were brought forth, or before You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
Jeremiah 10:10, 12
10 But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, the everlasting King...
12 He made the earth by His power, He established the world by His wisdom, He stretched out the heavens by His discretion.
1 Timothy 1:17
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Regarding God's kingdom -- it lasts forever

Psalm 145:13
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations.
Daniel 4:3
God's kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation.
Daniel 7:13, 14
13 One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days...
14 He was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. It shall never pass away, and it shall never be destroyed.
Matthew 6:13
For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

Regarding the redeemed -- they live forever

John 3:15, 16
15 Whoever believes in Jesus will not perish, but will have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 6:40
This is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which sees the Son, and believes on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
John 10:28
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
Romans 6:23
The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
2 Peter 1:11
For an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Jude 1:21
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.