Have you ever considered the word "aion"? I am fairly certain that it is the origin of our word "eon", which appears to be an imprecisely long while? Well, the next time you're really bored, try summarizing Thayers' explanation of word number 165. If that proves to be a too tedious adventure, then just look it up in a concordance.
Here's my short list of what this one word translates into; 1. age, 2. ages, 3. ancient time, 4. beginning of time, 5. course, 6. eternal, 7. eternity, 8. ever, 9. forever, 10. forever and ever (!), 11. forevermore, 12. never (!), 13. old, 14. world, 15. worlds. And these my friend, are all somehow the meaning of one word? I find it particularly odd that the same word is its' own antonym; i.e., evermore and never. This here is quite a word indeed!
It is sometimes difficult for us to arrest the meaning of foreign words into nice tight definitions, but this one is a doozy. It is not as if the idea behind the word is untranslatable, but rather it might take paragraphs in English to convey the freight.
An idea in current usage in one people may well be difficult to say simply in their neighbors' lingo, but to take a people from two millenia ago and say their idea in our current usage, could well take pages, not paragraphs. To this, I endeavor today; and hence this C.P.E.
So, in the first place, let's shrink the discussion some. Even among two speakers of the same language, it is common to have to "translate" certain words or phrases. Metaphor and simile are used, repetition, hand signs and tone of voice are all deployed, for the other to "get it". The "it" is the central nub, the unifying idea behind the pantomime, allusion, comparison and sometimes exasperating explanation of a thing.
For an old word which could alternately mean world, ancient time and forever, we would ask; "What is missing in my brain as the basic idea?". These were (to ancient Greeks) "obvious", to us; not so much. The premise then of today's essay of the crazed pants variety, is that; in our normal inference aion most closely relates to eternal, as if that were the nub of the thing.
I (for one) am not so sure just here, for the excellent reason that I can only dimly grasp the idea of a non-ending sequence. Rather like a rope with only one end, such is hard to imagine! And if I am even mildly accurate, then how could such an unimaginable mental picture become so hugely important a word in that distant culture?
The end of things, the world to come, the eternal ("after" this one) state, and such like stuff are clearly linked to escathology. And if "eternal" (one ended rope) is the general drift of our usage of their word, have we captured the idea that they ordinarily implied?
Now, to be ruthless, the four or seven or twenty three different "main" types of eschatology prevalent in today's church will not become the topic for today. But, as a kind of rule of thumb, they basically divide over whether we await the aion, or are in it presently, or are in it "in principle only" and to be fully realized later. Ruthless me would ask each of the views how does your big idea build trust, how does it contribute to establishing hope in us, or glory to Him? How, in the here and now, does the aion declare the God-Man as presently holding all authority in heaven and earth?
And to be blunt, our actual usage of aion is a far cry from any of the "main" theories, in that it is personal and not global nor cosmic. Where a guy really notices the word in our culture is shortly after funerals.
You know the drill; you stand around in a church somewhere with a bunch of people, eat cake, drink punch and gab. The commentary is to the effect; "Bob is with-Jesus-now". He is better off, not having to suffer (us!) any longer. Essentially, Bob has made an awesome leap to "that place" (aion), and there nobody cries themselves to sleep, nobody is sick, and importantly, nobody is confused about one ended ropes! Our eschatological feuds over whether God is going to smash the universe, or merely remodel the old one, all that bickering over when the "rapture" occurs, the incessant sniping about Him sitting on a chair in Jerusalem (or not), none of that junk bugs Bob anymore!
Weirdly then, we appear to be applying the formula "He is with Jesus now", to affirm that while down here with us, he was not with Jesus? No, of course not, don't be silly! But if Jesus was with Bob here, and Bob is with Jesus there, what changed? It goes on forever? I'd say, that a one ended rope does little to alter our basic premise at funerals; which is simply, the dead are better off than they used to be, provided of course that they "go up".
Doesn't it seem a bit odd to you that Jesus's message if this were true, ought work out to; "If you're miserable here, well face it that's the way things are it is a lousy world. But, if you believe in Me, I've got this other world upstairs where (after you croak that is); you can really begin to live! Not only that, but it goes on and on and on. . ." This is His message? So, from our side then, a modicum of decency, a dab of humility, and a boatload of endurance is the the entry card? This is the good news; "Try harder?".
In the Bible I read, the actual Jesus is all the time pointing out the cheapskate, pee-wee spiritually midget faith we humans are so fond of, as a thing to be walked away from. But have we asked Him why He keeps talking that way? Back to Bob's funeral for a moment, we keep reciting the midget theme of "Bob-to-Jesus". But to invert this, Jesus to Bob, and to us, and to the world, and to all creation and likewise the new creation, is the big idea!
The kingdom is come, how can we tell? Duh, the King arrived? Jesus went (from on high) to "be-with-us", that is the theme He keeps hammering home. The universe has been stood on its' head! The highest stooped to join the nobodies, so the first has become last, thus the last shall be first. He who is the treasure, impoverished Himself, that we be enriched, indeed, the poor are blessed! The reason He is impatient with our lack of faith here is that this horrendously obvious inversion of reality is mainly going un-noticed by those standing upon their heads. They always see things upside down in the first place, and of themselves cannot note that one Man standing upright is signal of a new thing breaking into the world. But, Him coming to us means we are not "of our own selves", it is this which He objects to!
I mean, can you even imagine an Alexander the Great, or a Napolean Bonapart, going out amid the working stiffs to make friends of them, contibute to their sanity and help with the chores? Can you picture "the great ones" coaxing loyalty, easing fears so to convince the numbed and broken of good sense? Heck no! They sit on their high chair and are pampered. To them the "low" bring tribute, taxes and flattery. Our unlikely Alexander (at alarming levels of authority!) has arrived. And even today, rather than us going to Him, He is coming to us!
This new thing has no end, and so the one ended rope isn't about time-cubed or some darned thing, it is about Him! He comes to persuade, to argue with, to woo and charm, to irresistably draw them. And He does so by capturing hearts!
The powers of the aion to come, have come, and also today is coming, and so, shall ever. His goodness knows no end! He the eternal-One, is the one making eternity a thing worth having in the first place.
It is not as if Bob is more forgiven now than he used to be down here, it's just that the blockhead finally "got it"! The reason the King is impatient with"doubts" is about the same as you being impatient with a third grader who has "legitimate doubts" about the times tables, except far moreso. Junior simply has no right to "doubt" 3 X 4 = 12.
The premise of math is based upon the theory of counting. To any number, add one, and you always get the next number. Is this proven infinitely true, have we examined all possible examples? No, that was never the point! We are to use counting, and so build a world. Jesus invented and owns math.
He is the actual builder of worlds, the eternal Son, the ancient of Days, and yes our faith is weak and small, and also in trust we ask for it to grow, to keep adding one! The resurrection to come is not a "new" thing to those already awakened from the dead. Awakened today, not so much to cling-to Him, but rather to be embraced-by Him. Reality is safe, because He went to be with us! Simply said, there are some things we just have no right to doubt!
His hollering at hillsides, so to cast them into the sea, is saying that with Him coming to be with us, there is no "upper limit" as to how much traction and growth, how many ones we may safely add "down here". The highest of the high, has gone to be with us, and He lifts us, "up there", we see no "top" to that building. In Him, one ended rope makes sense! He is what the aion is "about", He is whom we trust, and in He we hope. By Him, we are taught, in Him we thrive, this is our missing connect.
A new kind of tree is growing in earth, but not of it. Shining with the light of a clean fresh wild world, and as it spreads seed across the globe, those "plant children" of that tree are likewise shining with a light not of this dark. So, take notice already!
Thus, the aion unto the aion of aions. He sees us, and as a result we too begin to see. . . Him!