There are times when English Bibles take shortcuts in their translation of the Greek text. "Forever and ever" is one of those. This article exposes the less accurate traditional "forever and ever" and lays out a more accurate translation.
This article is about the twenty-one times that "forever and ever" is in the New Testament.
As a translation of the Greek text, the phrase "forever and ever" fails to translate two Greek words ("tous" and "ton"), adds a word (and), and translates two words (ever) incorrectly. The word "for" is the only word translated correctly.
The first English Bible (Wycliffe) written in 1395 translated it better. It says, "to worlds of worlds." It was translated from Latin instead of Greek. Latin does not have definite articles (the) and so "to worlds of worlds" does not have the two definite articles that are in the Greek.
The Interlinear Bible has the two definite articles. It says, "to the ages of the ages."
The Breakthrough Version and the Breakthrough KJV have the best translation: "for the spans of time of the spans of time" (breakthroughversion.com).
The phrase in Greek is "eis tous aionas ton aionon." It is three Greek words (with two of them used twice): eis, ho (twice), and aion (twice). An explanation of each of them follows.
The literal meaning of eis is "into", but it may also be translated as "for" or "to".
"Ho" is the definite article ("the"). In this phrase it is "tous" and "ton" (these are plural forms of "ho"). The phrase "forever and ever" leaves them out. If it had not, it would be "for the ever and the ever."
Aion is a noun. "Ever" is not a noun. It is an adverb. It is a wrong translation. Even though aion is translated as "ever" in the phrase "forever and ever", English Bibles translate it as "age" or "world" at other places in the Bible. Galatians 1:4 and 5 is an example of this. In verse 4 it is translated as "world" or "age", but in verse 5 as "ever". This hides how these two verses are related.
Looking at the use of aion in the New Testament, it seems to refer to a period of time.
Many times it is the time span of this world which explains why "world" is used to translate it, but there are two other Greek words that mean "world", and "world" is not a time period. So world is not a good translation of aion.
"Age" is a time period, but a shorter time period than what is usually referred to by aion (for example, Middle Ages, Dark Ages, Church Age).
"Span of time" is a better translation because it can be long or short.
Aion cannot mean "ever" or "eternity" (the noun form of ever) because six times in the New Testament aion is said to have an end (Matthew 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20; Hebrews 9:26). Ever and eternity do not have an end.
The Bible also tells of a future aion (Matthew 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; 20:34,35; Ephesians 1:21; Hebrews 6:5).
The first part of this phrase (forever) is often used by itself in the Bible. What does it mean? And how does adding "and ever" change that?
Some Bible versions have forever as one word and some have it as two words (for ever).
The Greek of "forever" takes two forms: "eis ton aiona" (singular, 27 times, "for the span of time") and "eis tous aionas" (plural, 8 times, "for the spans of time").
The singular phrase does not signify forever. It signifies the time of this earth. Not beyond it.
The plural phrase includes all spans of time. This is the same thing as forever without the emphasis on it never ending that forever has.
How does adding "and ever" to "forever" affect the meaning?
In English, it makes forever even more forever.
In Greek, it doesn't. In Greek the phrase is "for the spans of time of the spans of time." If "spans of time" are the spans of time of all worlds that have and will ever exist, then "the spans of time of the spans of time" are the spans of time in those spans of time. It is not just in some parts of all the big spans of time, but in every part at every time in the spans of time.
What are the things that are at every time in all the spans of time? Here is a list from the New Testament: God's glory (9 times), God's honor (3 times), praise to God, God's dominion (3 times), God's life (5 times), God's blessing (2 times), God's power (2 times), God's wisdom, thanksgiving to God, God's might, God's reign (2 times), and the torment of those in the Lake of Fire (3 times).
What does "forever and ever" mean in the Bible? It really is "for the spans of time of the spans of time." It means at every time in all the spans of time.