Doesn’t the Old Testament (OT) teach everlasting (eternal) punishment for the wicked?
The answer: No!
Let’s begin with an interesting question:
“what this verse means in terms of salvation of all mankind? “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh”….Isaiah 66:24”
It’s the same as the “fire not quenched” as Christ used to describe Gehenna in the NT verses (Mark 9:44; Mark 9:48).
The key is to note that both the phrases “their worm does not die” and “fire not quenched” does “not” indicate “time” but rather that while it’s performed (carried out) nothing can stop that Judgment!
We know for sure that it’s no indicator of time from the writings in the book of Jeremiah itself (let Scripture interpret Scripture – as to whether a phrase indicates any reference to say, “time” or not especially in previous usage; see Jeremiah 4:4; Jeremiah 7:20; Jeremiah 17:27).
Indeed, in Jeremiah (see the verses mentioned above), some “earthly” Judgment was also described with the phrase “the fire shall not be quenched”. But we know now (more than 2000 years later), — after that prophecy– was fulfilled, that no “fire” is literally or continuously burning till today! (indicating “time” is not what is referred to by those phrases but rather that it’s fulfillment cannot be altered during when it occurs).
Note also by Christ speaking both phrases literally “together” implies that their meaning refers to the same punishment with regards to its same aspect without referring to duration or “time”.
Lastly, the punishment at Gehenna (hell) is described with the word “age-during” only (1 age – limited – indicated in “time”- Matthew 25:46).
A good verse in Jude 7 or (Jude 1:7) also mentions this usage of an equivalent derivation of the root word “aion” (age) in describing the “age-during fire” (not eternal fire as many translations wrongly render) that came upon as “punishment” on Sodom & Gomorrah .
Lastly, do take note that the translations “eternal fire” in Jude are proven “wrong” since no fire is burning continuously till “today”, how much more “forever and ever” (even in verses which literally describe the duration of such divine fire in “time”!).
Now let’s deal with further verses:
You have blotted out their name forever (same word in Hebrew) and ever.”
“But the LORD abides forever; He has established His throne for judgment,” (Psalm 9:7)
And their time of punishment would be forever.”
For the first verse in Psalm 9:5, even the popular literal YLT translation makes a mistake by translating it incorrectly as “to the age & for ever”. The mistake is in the translation of the second part which is supposed to be “permanently” (or always) and not “for ever”.
Thus your first verse in Psalm 9:5, is supposed to literally ( be translated) as “to the age, permanently (always)” but not in the sense of “forever” but the the appointed time until which it’s to hold (most likely to the ‘age’ into which it is to ‘hold’).
Why? Check out this “exact” word in Leviticus 25:46 for which almost all translations do “not” render it as “for ever” simply because it would then teach “everlasting” slavery!
So, what’s literally stated here? His presence (abiding) is highlighted (or emphasized) to the age (why an age? As long as the 1-age during Covenant is to “last”.
It’s similar and is done in Scripture say when God is said in OT Scriptures as God of Israel (almost all the time). Why? He is highlighted (or emphasized) as God for those obedient ones who kept His OT Covenant. That’s all is written. It in no way implies that He’s “not” the God of all etc (to derive such would literally mean adding to the Word because such words are “not written”).
You may also view the verse* in Psalm 9:5 with the literal phrase “to the age, permanently” to mean the punishment of the wicked is last to the “age” (agreeing with the age-during correction of Matthew 25:46 — in NT Scripture) but its carrying out and effects are “permanent” (relative to those wicked men’s punishment age) just like this same Hebrew word appears in Leviticus 25:46 to mean that a slave is “not” a slave “forever” but rather “to the age” (of him being a slave) .
The “effect” is further “stressed” upon (or emphasized) in Psalm 9:5 but not in Leviticus 24:46 which is evidenced by the slightly different phraseology used! This is probably due to the intent of highlighting it until the fulfilment of the prophecy in Revelation where “the remembrance of the former things” — which includes those wicked acts — is to be “remembered no more”– when He Who sits on the throne makes “All things New” — Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:4 — His Words are Faithful and True — Revelation 21:5).
The YLT literal translation gets it “right” here:
“Those hating Jehovah feign obedience to Him, But their time is — to the age.” (Psalm 81:15)
Note: It’s both literally true and clear (agreeing to NT Scripture — e.g. Matthew 25:46) that the punishment of the wicked is to an “age” (1 singular age only) – limited — “age during chastisement/correction” – to be exact.Note that to view Judgment with no reference to Time, one is “not wise” as the verse below “literally” states too:
*Note: The Hebrew word wā·‘ed (transliterated) literally means “permanently” and thus the phrase “le·‘ō·lām wā·‘ed” (example of occurrence: Psalm 9:5; Daniel 12:3) means to the “age, permanently”. Note that “wā·‘ed ” does not mean “eternity, ever” nor “age” by itself.
It just implies or stresses on the thing talked about (punishment; God’s Glory; Slavery; Brightness etc) as to being “permanent” with respect to (or “relative” to) the “age” (le·‘ō·lām — which is the word that is describing the limited age-during time duration for each of its occurrence in the phrase “le·‘ō·lām wā·‘ed”)