"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."Other passages state the alternative to eternal life is death or perishing. Matthew 25:46 is one verse that seems to clearly support the option of eternal punishment.
I have previously understood one way of making this verse fit into the 'perish' view: Consider someone getting multiple life sentences for a crime. It does not mean the person will live as long as the sentence. Is it possible that the punishment is eternal, but the life of the person is not eternal?
However the more I research, the more complicated it gets.
Supposedly the eternal in this verse is the greek αἰώνιον or aionios.
aionios comes from aion which usually means age.
There seems to be some connection between the greek work used in Matt 25:45, with the one in Matt 28:20.
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (NIV)But it wouldn't make sense here to say "to the very end of eternity".
So Young's literal translation translates Matt 25:46 as:
And these shall go away to punishment age-during, but the righteous to life age-during.'And that's as far as my non-greek mind can take me for now... there's a range of ways of reading this passage. I'm not prepared to take any firm position with this verse alone.