The Hebrew word ʽoh·lamʹ carries the thought of indefinite or uncertain time. Lexicographer Gesenius defines it as meaning “hidden time, i.e. obscure and long, of which the beginning or end is uncertain or indefinite.” (A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, translated by E. Robinson, 1836, p. 746) Accordingly, expressions such as “time indefinite” (Ps 25:6), “indefinitely lasting” (Hab 3:6), “of old” (Ge 6:4), “a long time ago,” “of long ago” (Jos 24:2; Pr 22:28; 23:10), and “long-lasting” (Ec 12:5) appropriately convey the thought of the original-language term.
The word ʽoh·lamʹ is at times associated with that which is everlasting. (1Ki 2:45, ftn) The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Jehovah, the Creator of the extremities of the earth, is a God to time indefinite.” (Isa 40:28) Jehovah is “from time indefinite to time indefinite.” (Ps 90:2) Since Jehovah is immortal and does not die, he will continue to be God for all eternity. (Hab 1:12; 1Ti 1:17) However, the Hebrew expression ʽoh·lamʹ does not in itself mean “forever.” It often refers to things that have an end, but the period of such things’ existence can be said to be ‘to time indefinite’ because the time of their end is not then specified. For example, the ‘indefinitely lasting’ Law covenant came to an end with Jesus’ death and the bringing in of a new covenant. (Ex 31:16, 17; Ro 10:4; Ga 5:18; Col 2:16, 17; Heb 9:15) And the ‘indefinitely lasting’ Aaronic priesthood similarly came to an end.—Ex 40:15; Heb 7:11-24; 10:1.
Another Hebrew term, ʽadh, denotes unlimited future time, everlastingness, or eternity. (1Ch 28:9; Ps 19:9; Isa 9:6; 45:17; Hab 3:6) At times, as at Psalm 45:6, the words ʽoh·lamʹ and ʽadh appear together and may be rendered “age-during, and for ever” (Yg), “age-abiding and beyond” (Ro), and “time indefinite, even forever” (NW). Concerning the earth, the psalmist declared: “It will not be made to totter to time indefinite, or forever.”—Ps 104:5.
The Hebrew term neʹtsach can also denote everlastingness. Among the ways it may be rendered are “forever” (Job 4:20; 14:20), “perpetually” (Isa 57:16), and “always” (Ps 9:18). Sometimes neʹtsach and ʽoh·lamʹ occur in parallel (Ps 49:8, 9), or the terms neʹtsach and ʽadh appear together. (Am 1:11) All three words are found at Psalm 9:5, 6: “You have rebuked nations . . . Their name you have wiped out to time indefinite [leʽoh·lamʹ], even forever [wa·ʽedhʹ]. O you enemy, your desolations have come to their perpetual [la·neʹtsach] finish.”
In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the word ai·onʹ may denote a time period of indefinite or indeterminate length, a period of remote, but not endless, time. For example, at Luke 1:70 and Acts 3:21 ai·onʹ can be rendered “of old,” “of old time,” “in ancient times.” (RS, NW, AT) Often, however, the context suggests that ai·onʹ is to be understood to refer to a time period of undefined length because of such period being endless in duration. (Lu 1:55; Joh 6:50, 51; 12:34; 1Jo 2:17) Similarly, the adjective ai·oʹni·os (drawn from ai·onʹ) can, as is evident from the context, signify both “long lasting” (Ro 16:25; 2Ti 1:9; Tit 1:2) and “everlasting.” (Mt 18:8; 19:16, 29) Another Greek adjective, a·iʹdi·os, specifically means “eternal” or “everlasting.”—Ro 1:20; Jude 6, NW, RS, AT; for a further consideration of ai·onʹ, see AGE; SYSTEMS OF THINGS.