Lesson 9: Last Great Day: Hope for All Who Have Ever Lived
Billions of people have died without ever having a chance for salvation. Could a loving God allow so many to be lost? The last Holy Day and the last step in God's plan of salvation reveal surprising and encouraging answers.
The Bible tells the stories of many who have encountered God and His plan,
but it also shows that many people have not had this opportunity. Jesus
pointed out that there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah,
but Elijah was sent to only one widow, and she was in the gentile area of
Sidon (Luke 4:25-26). Only she experienced the miracles described in 1 Kings
17. What is God's plan for all the others?
Another story of a widow of the same region hundreds of years later raises
similar questions. Consider Matthew 15:21-28:
"Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and
"And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him,
saying, 'Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely
"But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him,
saying, 'Send her away, for she cries out after us.'
"But He answered and said, 'I was not sent except to the lost sheep of
the house of Israel.'
"Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, 'Lord, help me!'
"But He answered and said, 'It is not good to take the children's bread
and throw it to the little dogs.'
"And she said, 'Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which
fall from their masters' table.'
"Then Jesus answered and said to her, 'O
woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.' And her daughter
was healed from that very hour."
Jesus was not
being rude to the woman, but this passage does show that God's plan
includes a time order. Some are called at one time, and some at another.
Only God knows when is best for each person. But knowing that Jesus
Christ loves everyone and doesn't show favoritism, we must wonder, What
about those who never had a chance in their lifetimes? What is in store
Someday all the widows of Tyre and Sidon, and everywhere else, will have
the opportunity to experience the mercy of Jesus Christ. The final festival
helps explain how our loving God will extend the opportunity for salvation
to everyone at the right time.
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What Does the Bible Say About the Eighth Day?
What is the seventh and last of God's annual festivals and Holy
Leviticus 23:36, 39
"For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the
Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall
offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly,
and you shall do no customary work on it...
"Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have
gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord
for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and
on the eighth day a sabbath-rest."
In previous lessons we have discussed the first six festivals of the
year. The final festival and Holy Day is closely related to the seven-day
Feast of Tabernacles. Since it occurs immediately afterward, it is called
the Eighth Day, but it is a separate festival with a special meaning.
Among Christians today, this final festival has come to be known as the
Last Great Day.
After the children of Israel went into captivity for neglecting
God's Sabbaths, including the annual Sabbaths (see Ezekiel 20:23-24),
did the returnees learn to again celebrate all of them, including the
Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the
Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the
eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed
Resting from our regular work and meeting together are common elements
of all of God's Sabbaths and annual Holy Days.
Solving a Mystery: Are Most People Lost?
Before examining the specific meaning of this Holy Day, first let's consider
one of the greatest questions religious people have faced through the
ages. If God is all powerful and all loving, why does it seem so many
are missing out on salvation? Why are so many people "lost"?
Can anyone be saved without knowing and believing in Jesus Christ?
Acts 4:9-10, 12
"If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man,
by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and
to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,
whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands
here before you whole...
"Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name
under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
The apostle Peter made it clear that without knowing Jesus Christ, no
one can come to salvation. Yet throughout history billions of people,
through no fault of their own, never even heard the name of Jesus, let
alone understood His sacrifice and His way of life. What happens to them?
In God's plan of salvation, is Satan allowed to "win"? If the
majority who don't know or accept Jesus Christ's name are "lost," hasn't
1 Timothy 2:3-4
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires
all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness,
but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but
that all should come to repentance.
For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all
things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their
salvation perfect through sufferings.
God wants everyone to repent, to be saved and to become one of His many
children! God is all powerful and all loving, so we can be sure He hasn't
given up on the majority of humanity. He will not let Satan win.
Does God have a plan for each person?
But glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the
Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.
1 Corinthians 15:22-23
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But
each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who
are Christ's at His coming.
Even though God's plan reaches different people at different times, God
does not show favoritism or partiality. All will eventually have a chance
at salvation. But how?
What Does the Last Great Day Mean in God's Plan of Salvation?
We saw in the last lesson that the Feast of Tabernacles pictures
the prophesied Millennium. What prophetic event comes after the Millennium?
But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were
finished. This is the first resurrection.
Revelation 20:4 and 6 talk about the first resurrection to spirit life,
but the first part of verse 5 is like a parenthetical insert that refers
to a second resurrection of those who weren't servants of Christ. This
includes billions who never heard of or accepted Jesus Christ.
Will the rest of the dead be raised to physical life?
Ezekiel 37:3-6, 11-14
And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" So I answered,
"O Lord God, You know."
Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them,
'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!
"'Thus says the Lord God to these bones: "Surely I will cause
breath to enter into you, and you shall live.
"'"I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin
and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I
am the Lord..."'"
Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house
of Israel. They indeed say, 'Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and
we ourselves are cut off!'
"Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Behold,
O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your
graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.
"'"Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened
your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves.
"'"I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you
in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it
and performed it," says the Lord.'"
Though these people are brought back to flesh-and-blood physical life,
they will be offered God's Spirit (verse 14). This shows that those who
have never had their chance for salvation will be given their full, complete
and only chance. It is not a "second" chance.
Besides the people of Judah and Israel, will other nations also
be raised to physical life?
"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty
works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would
have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
"But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon
in the day of judgment than for you.
"And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought
down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been
done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
"But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land
of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you."
"The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation
and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and
indeed a greater than Jonah is here.
"The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this
generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to
hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here."
Jesus explained that in the day of judgment at the second resurrection,
people from nations around the world and from different time periods will
all be raised to life together. How would it be more tolerable for ancient
evil cities? This only makes sense if our loving and fair God will give
them a chance to repent. To know that they would have repented, yet to
never give them that opportunity is the antithesis of the loving God we
know (John 3:16).
What is the great white throne judgment, and how will God judge?
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face
the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were
opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the
dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written
in the books.
Our lesson on the "Second
Resurrection" explains these verses well:
"The purpose of resurrecting 'the rest of the dead' (verse 5) is so
they can experience their time of judgment. In the Bible, judgment does
not just mean final sentencing and does not always mean condemnation. It
can include an evaluation—a time to demonstrate our conversion.
"Consider how Peter said, 'For the time has come for judgment to begin
at the house of God [the Church]' (1 Peter 4:17). Members of God's Church
are being evaluated—judged—now. And in the second resurrection people
who have not yet had a chance will have their opportunity—their time to
learn spiritual knowledge and then be judged over a period of time for
how they apply and obey that knowledge.
"Because of the wording of verse 11, the time of judgment for those
who are raised in the second resurrection can be known as the Great White
"God will judge them by the same standards as He has judged people
at any other time. Those who are raised in the second resurrection will
be 'judged according to their works, by the things which were written in
the books [the books of the Bible]' (verse 12, emphasis added; see also
Daniel 7:10; Romans 2:12-13). If they believe, repent, obey and receive
God's forgiveness and grace, their names will be written in 'the Book
of Life'—which means God will give them His gift of eternal life (Romans
6:23; Philippians 4:3)."
Of course, God will give people then, as He gives people now, free will.
That means some few, understanding the incredible sacrifice of Jesus Christ
and the offer of forgiveness, will refuse to repent or change from their
selfish and prideful way of thinking. See "What
Is the Fate of the Unrepentant?" for a brief discussion of the biblical
But as we mentioned earlier, God desires for all to repent, and we believe
that the great majority of people will come to see how wonderful God's
offer is. When everyone understands God's great plan of salvation as you
are discovering through His festivals, we believe most will repent and
accept Jesus Christ's sacrifice and seek His help to change and follow
God's way. When everyone follows God's law and way of life that leads
to peace, everyone will find true happiness, fulfillment, joy and pleasure
forevermore as God's children (Psalm 16:11; 1 John 3:1-2)!
Make a list of people you would like to teach God's ways in the second
resurrection. This could include family members or historical figures
who haven't had the understanding or the chance to repent and accept Jesus
Christ's sacrifice and to become converted to His way of life. What would
be the first thing you would teach them?
Now that you have studied the seven steps in God's plan of salvation,
make a plan to rehearse God's plan every year—that's what God created
the Holy Days for! Read "How
Should We Observe God's Festivals?" to learn more about how Christians
around the world are celebrating and rehearsing the great meaning of these
annual Holy Days. We are happy to answer any questions or help you find
a group celebrating God's festivals nearest you. You can reach us by e-mail
Next Lesson: How to Celebrate God's Festivals Today
Questions about this lesson? Feedback about
Day: Eternal Life Offered to All from the booklet God's
Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind
Eternal Life Will Ultimately Be Offered to All
should Christians celebrate the biblical festival called the eighth day
or the Last Great Day?
should a Christian today celebrate the annual festivals observed by Jesus
Christ and the apostles?
for the Annual Festivals of God This Year
Second Resurrection: Humanity's Opportunity for Salvation!
Hope for Unbelieving
in the Tombs Will Hear His Voice"