The Last Great Day can seem sad — the Feast is over and we must go back into this world. But we must not miss the tremendous — and happy — significance of this day. Just a little more than 1,000 years from now, a fantastic event is going to alter the life of nearly every person who has ever lived.
Yes, you read that right nearly every person who has ever lived.
In scope and imagination, it will far surpass the wildest fantasies of the most creative science-fiction writers. But it isn't fiction — it's already being planned. It will have a greater impact on the lives of people than anything else that has happened to them.
It will be traumatic. It will be unexpected. And it will change the whole future of the human race. Let's take a look at it.
Meet "Ginger" Believe it or not, we will start in the British Museum in London.
The British Museum is fascinating. It is particularly rich in treasures from the ancient Near East: Babylon, Assyria and Egypt. There are great statues, dozens of carved panels showing the exploits of the very men who took ancient Israel into captivity, and row upon row of Egyptian mummies.
The mummies have fascinated me ever since I, as a little boy, first saw them. From their glass cases, the kings, queens, priests and noblemen of ancient Egypt stare impassively back at their modern visitors. They are wrapped in linen and often gaudily painted, and it is hard to believe that they were once living human beings.
For me, the most interesting exhibit in the mummy room is Ginger. It's easy to see that Ginger was once a human being.
Apparently he died before the Egyptians began the custom of mummification. So he was placed, along with some cooking pots and a handful of corn, in a grave in the warm desert sand. His body didn't decay, but was preserved practically intact until he was found a century or so ago.
He was brought to the museum and lies there to this day in a replica of his grave, still surrounded by his cooking pots and the remains of his food. There is nothing grotesque or disgusting about Ginger. On the contrary, he is a rather pathetic-looking figure lying huddled in his grave, oblivious to the gaze of visitors.
There is no way of knowing who he was, unlike the mummies, who were all carefully labeled before burial. So British Museum officials called him Ginger, after the color of what is left of his hair. But one thing is obvious about Ginger: He is very, very dead. Seeing him again recently, I couldn't help being reminded of the words of Ezekiel 37:3: "Can these bones live?"
And of course, the astounding answer is yes! They can and they will! One day, flesh and blood will return to the lifeless bones of Ginger's mortal remains and he will live again. That is the meaning of the Last Great Day of the Feast.
A wonderful — but misunderstood — truth This last of God's annual Holy Days pictures one of the most wonderful and least understood doctrines of the Bible — the time of God's final judgment. It answers the question: What is the fate of the billions who live, have lived and will live, who have never understood the truth about God's plan?
The majority of human beings who have walked the earth are completely unaware of Jesus Christ, and yet it is only through Christ that they can be saved (Acts 4:12). Nearly all of mankind live and die oblivious to the plan of God and their incredible human potential.
God's Holy Days reveal that His plan of salvation is not just for some special "pets" who do Him the favor of accepting Christ — rather, His plan is for all mankind, past, present and future. The Last Great Day anticipates the fulfillment of that plan.
The Kingdom of God is planning — yes, literally planning — the most stupendous achievement of all. The government of God intends to resurrect the human race and give it eternal life!
Mankind, armed only with the carnal mind that Adam chose when he rejected the tree of life (Gen. 3:22-24), has made incredible progress in conquering physical problems. But against man's greatest enemy, death, we have made no progress whatsoever. The greatest minds, the most careful dieters, the most diligent joggers, the peacemakers, the warmongers, the educated and the illiterate all die.
We laugh at the superstitious relatives of Ginger, who sent him to his little grave with food and cooking pots to get him started in his afterlife. Poor people! They just couldn't accept that Ginger no longer existed.
This last of God's annual Holy Days pictures one of the most wonderful and least understood doctrines of the Bible — the time of God's final judgment. It answers the question: What is the fate of the billions who... have never understood the truth about God's plan? But have things really changed? In California, you can arrange to be buried in an air-conditioned grave with soft music piped in. Other people have paid fabulous sums to have their bodies deep-frozen and preserved in a vault, hoping for the day when science has mastered the art of resurrection.
We can't accept death, it seems. We say that we "pass away" and invent myths such as heaven, hell, purgatory, nirvana or reincarnation — anything rather than admitting that when we die, we are dead.
But this life is not all there is. The Last Great Day proves that.
A day of judgment Ginger and the mummies had been dead for several centuries when Jesus Christ began His earthly ministry. They would have been greatly encouraged if they could have heard Him tell a group of His critics, "The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth" (John 5:28-29).
Christ was not limited in vision to the first century. He could look back across the centuries to creation and see the misery that sinful man, guided by Satan, had produced. He could look ahead to the next two millennia, in which even worse things would be done. He saw the billions of deceived, frustrated and ignorant people who had been born and would be born. And He loved them.
He was about to die for each of them, so that one day their sins could be forgiven and they could have the chance for life. Not just a physical life of a few years on earth, but real life — the kind of life He had already enjoyed for eternity.
He knew that after His physical death, His Father would give Him that real life back. And the way would be open for Him to share it with everyone. For the Father and Christ are "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Pet. 3:9). But how? And when?
The second resurrection God, never the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33), has set in motion a great process. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming" (I Cor. 15:22-23).
Those called and chosen, who overcame and remained faithful until death — Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Joshua, David, Peter, Paul and, it is to be hoped, you and I, will be born into God's Family — changed into immortal spirit beings — at the return of Jesus Christ (I Thess. 4:13-17). But what about the rest? What about Ginger?
Christ gives the answer in the book of Revelation. Christ showed the apostle John that, after the stupendous events that occur at His Second Coming, "the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" (Rev. 20:5).
What John had been shown so far was to lead up to the first resurrection. But then, after witnessing the final defeat of Satan, John saw "the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books [of •the Bible, hitherto closed to their understanding] were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" (verse 12).
John saw, in vision, the resurrection of those who had lived down through the ages. They had died, not having had the opportunity to know the truth about God, Christ and eternal life. Now, at last, the understanding of God's plan, as revealed in the books of the Bible, could be opened to their understanding. Free of deception, they could make a decision based on the facts.
They will see around them the fruits of the 1,000-year rule of the Family of God. They will compare it with the world that they left. And most will decide to live God's way.
This time, which comes after the Millennium, is pictured by the Holy Day that comes after the Feast of Tabernacles. That Holy Day is a distinct and separate Feast (Lev. 23:34, 36).
It is a period of judging, not sentencing. Just as God's Church is being judged now (I Pet. 4:17), the rest of mankind will be judged at that time, after a resurrection to physical, temporary life. But one thing will be different. Satan will no longer be around to deceive and mislead them — they, unlike us, will not have Satan to overcome!
What a wonderful time! What a time it is going to be! Everyone who has ever lived will come back to life. A thousand questions about organization come to mind. Where will there be room for them? What will they eat? What age will they be? Will babies who died be resurrected as babies? What about old people? What about those who had more than one wife or husband?
The Sadducees, who, reasoning humanly, had convinced themselves that the whole concept of resurrection was ridiculous, tried to trap Christ on this very point. They brought up the case of a tragic family of seven brothers, each of whom died. Since the brothers were obedient to the Old Testament teaching, when the oldest died, the second oldest took the oldest's widow to be his own wife. Then when the second oldest died, the third son took her, and so on until the unfortunate woman had been legitimately married to all seven brothers. Then she died.
The Great White Throne Judgment... is an actual event planned for millennia by... the Family of God!... We aren't avoiding a responsibility to the rest of humanity. We are learning a way of life so that when the time comes, we will be ready... to teach them that way. Now, the Saddcees asked triumphantly, whose wife would she be in a resurrection where she and all seven brothers were raised to life (Matt. 22:23-28)?
Jesus replied confidently, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God" (verse 29). It was a beautiful response. The answer to the question went far beyond the limited understanding of the Sadducees.
Such a decision would require tremendous wisdom, compassion, understanding and love — faculties beyond the capacity of a human being. But have you ever noticed that when we ask God to help us with difficult decisions, where personal relationships are concerned, nobody seems to get hurt?
Don't underestimate the power, wisdom and love of God to solve this problem. And by that time, remember, the firstfruits of God's Family will have had 1,000 years of experience using God's power. We will be qualified to help God the Father and Jesus Christ in the momentous decisions concerning the last judgment.
Prepare for the future It is hard to believe, but one day I am really going to meet Ginger. And you are going to meet and help your ancestors and thousands more. The Great White Throne Judgment is not just an interesting idea. It is an actual event planned for millennia by the only ones with the power to make it happen — the Family of God!
For years, Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong has been telling us that the Church should not be on a campaign to see how many souls we can save. That is not God's Work now. But it will be one day.
We aren't avoiding a responsibility to the rest of humanity. We are learning a way of life so that when the time comes, we will be ready and qualified to teach them that way. That is why you attend your local church. That is why you go for intensive instruction at the Feast of Tabernacles.
There is an old saying that all good things must come to an end. The Feast of Tabernacles is no exception. At the Feast we have been happy and relaxed away from this world, but when the Feast is over we must go back and face the reality that God's Kingdom is not here yet. You say good-bye to your friends and start thinking about the journey home.
But if we let our minds dwell too much on good-byes, we will fail to appreciate the significance of the last day. So as you say your goodbyes after the last service on the Last Great Day, do so with a smile. Why? Because you and your brethren have just anticipated the greatest "hello" in all history!