Question 4: Does the meaning of “forever” differ in the Old and New Testament?

Answer: The answer is that we are dealing with two different languages. What a word means in Hebrew might not be the same as what the word means in Greek.

In Classical Hebrew, there was no word that meant “forever” in the eternal sense. When the Jewish people wished to convey the concept of eternity, they had to use a phrase such as “without end.” The Hebrew word olam means nothing more than the end of a period of time. That period of time can be a man’s life, ten generations, an age of dispensation, or the end of human history. I have given a number of examples in my writing where you have all four usages of that term. Even those who want to claim that the Mosaic Law “is forever” often have to fudge because the same term is used for things like the Levitical priesthood, the blood sacrifices, and other elements that they all agree was not intended to be practiced forever in the eternal sense.

When the New Testament talks about our having eternal life, it uses a Greek word, ainos, and the Greek word does have the same connotation as the English word “forever.” That is why we can claim that our salvation is indeed eternal because it is not based upon a Hebrew word, but a Greek word that carries that meaning.

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Arnold Answers is a bi-weekly Q & A with founder and director of Ariel Ministries, Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum.