How do you say “forever” when you can’t say “forever”?

How do we know that the kingdom of God is eternal? That word in English, “eternal,” can be interpreted differently depending on the underlying word in the original language.

One of the most common Hebrew words is “olam” or “ad olam,” which is usually translated as “forever.” However, it literally means “into the age” or “until the age” and can be construed as not really eternal, but lasting a really long time until a new age begins. In Greek this is typically rendered as “aion” (age) or “eis aionos” (into the ages).

There doesn’t really appear to be any Semitic way to render the abstract term “forever” in the original languages, as these languages typically use more concrete terminology and phrasing, such as “as tall as the highest mountain,” or “spread as far as you can see,” or “under the stars”.

So it is interesting to find a passage like Daniel 7:14, when Daniel is trying to describe the kingdom of “one like a son of man” received at the hands of the “Ancient of days” (“son of man” being generally accepted as a prophetic euphemism for the Messiah).

Now, while Daniel is written in Aramaic, not Hebrew or Greek, I find it amazing how it appears that Daniel wanted to make no mistake about the eternal nature of this kingdom. Since he did not have a word for the abstract “forever,” he actually uses three words or phrases to show its eternal nature.

Dan 7:13-14 YLT   I was seeing in the visions of the night, and lo, with the clouds of the heavens as a son of man was one coming, and unto the Ancient of Days he hath come, and before Him they have brought him near. And to him is given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, and all peoples, nations, and languages do serve him, his dominion is a dominion age-during, that passeth not away, and his kingdom that which is not destroyed.

I’ve used the Young’s Literal Translation to show some of what I’m talking about. You can see it says “his dominion is…age-enduring.” This is the Aramaic “alam.” Then he says this dominion “passeth not away” which is “la yedeh”. Then he states this kingdom “is not destroyed,” or “la titchabbal.”

Since Semitic thinking and expression runs very consistently in parallels, it is not difficult to see the overall message that Daniel is attempting to convey, as each of these terms can be equated:

  • his dominion is age-during
  • his dominion passeth not away
  • his dominion is not destroyed

When these phrases are taken together, I can’t think of a more concrete way to explain the eternal nature of God’s kingdom that Yeshua established during his ministry on earth and his exaltation to the Father, as I believe is depicted in Daniel 7 above. This is extremely convincing evidence to me that Daniel was attempting to convey the more abstract everlasting nature of this kingdom, and this kingdom is wrapped up in the successful work of “one as a son of man,” the Messiah.

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