Sometimes we are confident that we know the meaning of words and terms. Their definitions seem so fixed and settled. For instance what does "for ever" mean? Are we sure that we know? Just how long is "for ever?"

"In all languages, it is usage that determines meaning.... Since usage always determines meaning, Biblical usage, certainly, always determines Biblical meaning."1

The scriptural usage of "for ever" demonstrates that it cannot mean "unending." The following verses obviously cannot mean "without end."

"I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God" (Jonah 2:6).2

"Then his master shall bring him unto 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 aul; and he shall serve him for ever" (Exodus 21:6).3

"And the LORD said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever" (I Kings 9:3).4

"Here is something that ought to be clear to any intelligent, honest man. A word that is used to mean, in one case, three days and nights, in another case, a manís lifetime, and in still another, a period of about four centuries, surely does not mean unending or eternal Ė no matter what English word is used to translate it. Usage determines meaning."5


  1. Loyal Hurley, The Outcome of Infinite Grace, Corcordant Publishing Concern.
  2. Jonah was only in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights.
  3. Here "for ever" could not possibly extend past the servants life.
  4. Solomonís Temple lasted only about 400 years.
  5. Ibid, Hurley

by Clyde L. Pilkington, Jr.
© 2004-2007
Pilkington & Sons
See Available Books on this Subject at

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