Is God judging the whole world now? What about the billions who have died without ever hearing of Jesus Christ? Are they lost forever? The Last Great Day reveals the answers.
Just after the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles comes another Festival that lasts for one day. This eighth day, a Holy Day (Lev. 23:34-36), is called in the New Testament "the last day, that great day of the feast" (John 7:37). Do you know what this "Last Great Day" pictures in God's great master plan? The meaning of the Last Great Day is tremendously significant!
The great deception
One of the greatest deceptions Satan the devil has foisted upon this world is that God is now trying desperately to save all mankind. The vast majority of Christians hold that, unless a person believes in God, accepts Jesus Christ as personal Savior or repents of sin during this lifetime, he will be sentenced, immediately after death, to "hell," a place of everlasting torment. Those who do manage, during their lifetimes, to somehow "get saved" waft off to "heaven," a place of vague, eternal bliss, after they die. In other words, all are to be judged immediately after death by God, the great Judge of all (Heb. 12:23), who will supposedly reward the "good" with heaven and the "bad" with hell. If one does not know and obey God during this mortal life, but dies in sin, he is forever lost — doomed for all eternity! But is this true, according to God's Word? What is God's judgment really all about?
God the great Judge
The apostle Paul wrote: "But why dost thou judge thy brother?... for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then everyone of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another anymore" (Rom. 14:10-13). Why must we all appear before Jesus Christ? "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (II Cor. 5:10). What does "judgment" mean in the Bible? Many Christians mistakenly believe that God's judgment has only to do with judging past deeds. According to this view, God's judgment is not an ongoing period of trial and testing, but a definite time when sentence is meted out for past actions. The Bible uses the word judge in two senses: 1) to judge can mean to sit in judgment of someone who commits a certain act, or 2) to judge can mean to rule or govern. So when we read about God judging man, we must determine whether God is passing judgment on man's past deeds or whether He is judging man's present, ongoing conduct. And we need to know as well when God's judgment takes place. Is there only one time of judgment, or does God's judgment take place in several phases? God's plan of salvation for all mankind is revealed through His annual Holy Days! And the matter of when the whole world will be judged is explained, in part, by the Last Great Day. God simply is not now seeking to save the world. At this time He is only offering salvation to His Church — that Body of believers He has called out of the devil's deceived world (the Greek word ekklesia. translated "church" in the New Testament, means "called-out ones"). All the rest of humanity have been blinded by Satan, the god of this world (Rev. 12:9, II Cor. 4:4). Why does God allow Satan to blind the world? Isn't it necessary that everyone know the real Jesus Christ? After all, no one can be saved without accepting Christ as his personal Savior: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Christ said, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved" (John 10:9) and "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). God has, for the time being and for a good purpose, given the world over to Satan, that mankind might taste of Satan's way of get, of hate, of lust, greed and vanity — that man may learn once and for all that sin does not pay! Satan's way is the way of unhappiness and death. Adam and Eve rejected God's way in the Garden of Eden, and God cut them off from Him so they could go their own way — actually Satan's way — and write the results of that decision in the miserable pages of human history. Now is simply not God's time for the masses to understand the truth. Salvation is not now available to anyone except those few God calls for special purposes. God, according to His great, wise master plan, has ordained three separate judgment periods in which He will offer salvation to all mankind.
The first period of judgment
After Adam and Eve rebelled against their Creator and chose the way of Satan, God drove them out of the Garden of Eden and barred them and their children — all mankind — from access to eternal life (Gen. 3:22-24). But when the right time came, God sent Jesus Christ to die for the sins of all mankind, and ordained that Christ found the Church of God, which is composed of the Spirit-filled members of the spiritual Body of Jesus Christ. Once God opens a person's mind to His truth and gives the person His Holy Spirit, that person is held accountable for his actions from that moment forward. In other words, God begins judging that person. That's why we are told, "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house [Church] of God" (I Pet. 4:17). Judgment in the true sense did not begin with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Judgment first began with God's Church. Spiritual salvation was nowhere offered to any group of people as a whole in Old Testament times. Of course, however, God did call the prophets of old for special jobs, and they form part of the foundation of the New Testament Church of God (Eph. 2:20). When Jesus Christ returns to this earth, the members of His Church, both those living and those who have died, will be made immortal. That moment in history will end this first period of judgment.
God's second judgment period
Christ's return will herald the beginning of Christ's 1,000-year rule on earth, pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles. At that time Satan will be bound and removed from the scene (Rev. 20:1-3), and Christ will establish His wonderful Kingdom on this earth. The resurrected saints of God, then made immortal spirit beings, will rule on earth with Christ, helping Christ judge the earth, during the Millennium (verses 4-6). Daniel prophesied of this time when "the Ancient of days [Christ] came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom" (Dan. 7:22). Furthermore, says Daniel: "And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him" (verse 27). This refers to the time when Christ and His saints will judge all nations on this earth. During this period human beings, under the rule of God's government, will be given the opportunity to choose God's way of life, receive God's Holy Spirit, develop God's character and be changed into spirit-born members of God's Family. "And he [the Messiah] shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness" (Ps. 9:8). Yes, Jesus Christ and His resurrected, then glorified saints will together judge (here meaning to rule or govern) all nations on this earth for 1,000 years. Only then shall the earth have peace at last.
The third judgment period
But what about the untold billions of people who have lived and died and never so much as even heard of the name of Jesus Christ or seen a Bible, let alone heard the truth of God preached in all its purity? Are all of these billions doomed eternally to the lake of fire? Did they ever truly have a chance for salvation? Could a just God consign all of these misled, blinded, dumb sheep to everlasting oblivion? Has God ever really judged them? No. The vast majority of humans who ever lived never had a chance for salvation. It was not God's purpose to offer them salvation yet. Most Christian missionary work is based on the idea that the churches must save as many "heathen" as possible before these "heathen" die and it is forever too late. Many teach that if a sinner does not accept Christ and turn from his sins now, during this life, he will be forever lost — will never have a chance for salvation. If this is so, then God has Himself doomed many billions of people to oblivion. But the simple truth is that the Creator Himself has ordained various times in which all shall hear the truth and have their opportunity to be saved. "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise... but is... not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Pet. 3:9). Does that verse say that God wants all to come to repentance now – at this time — in this, their first natural life? "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time" (I Tim. 2:3-6). The fact that God wants everyone to be saved and that Jesus Christ died for all will be " testified in due time." God has allowed Satan to confuse billions with all kinds of false doctrines. Man chose to reject God's government, and God is allowing man to burn his fingers, ,stub his feet and beat his head against the rocks, so man can learn that "the way of transgressors is hard" (Prov. 13:15). But God's Word reveals that a special time will come when. God will raise up the dead who died in sin, reveal Jesus Christ to them and give them His Holy Spirit — then grant them true salvation. Paul said there would "be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust" (Acts 24:15). Daniel recorded that "them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Dan. 12:2). "Marvel not at this," Christ said, "for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation [the Greek word for damnation means "judgment"]" (John 5:28-29). Jesus Christ mentioned two resurrections. One is the resurrection to life or the first resurrection – the one now awaiting the true members of God's Church (Rev. 20:4-6). The other is the resurrection to judgment or the second resurrection. Jesus had quite a bit to say about the second resurrection, indicating that the people of Sodom, Gomorrah, Tyre, Sidon, Nineveh and the queen of Sheba would rise along with Israel in that day of judgment (Matt. 10:15, 11:22, 12:41-42). This same resurrection to judgment is also spoken of in Ezekiel 16:53-55. Ezekiel foretells Old Testament Israel being released from the "captivity" of death along with the deceived and debauched peoples of Sodom. Ezekiel 37 also depicts, quite vividly, the resurrection of "the whole house of Israel" from their long sleep in the grave. "Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.... Behold, 0 my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. "And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, 0 my people, and brought you up out of your graves" (verses 11-13). God says He will once again put life into these resurrected people of Israel and place them in their own land, and they will come to know that God has worked a mighty miracle on their behalf (verse 14). Paul spoke of this same resurrection of the Israelites to mortal life: "For if the casting away of them [the blinded, deceived Israelites] be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" (Rom. 11:15). Yes, they will eventually be raised from the dead and judged of God. When all of these texts are combined, here is the picture that is revealed: All the people who ever lived and who never had a chance for salvation are going to be resurrected and given a chance to become part of God's Family. This is the second resurrection.
The "Great White Throne Judgment"
When Adam and Eve sinned, turning their backs on God and His way, their Creator consigned them and their children to Satan's deceptive sway. God decided to let man go his own way, sin, suffer and die. Then, eventually, God would resurrect these deceived billions to a time of judgment, reveal His truth to them and then grant them eternal life — after they had first learned the lesson that sin does not pay. This same "resurrection to judgment" is described in Revelation 20: "And I saw a great white throne. and him that sat on it... And I saw the dead, small and great, stand [now resurrected] before God; and the books [of the Bible] were opened [to their understanding]: 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" (verses 11-12). In other words, all of this earth's deceived billions will be raised to mortal life, and will live for a certain period of time during which they will be judged by God, who will use the Bible as the standard of judgment. How long will their time of judgment be? Some feel Isaiah 65:17-25 reveals that these resurrected to judgment will live for "a hundred years" (see verse 20). These people will then have their first chance for salvation — their first chance to understand God's truth, accept God's way of life and be saved spiritually. But they will have a choice. God will not force anyone to accept His truth. Any who do not freely choose God's way of life, but who choose the way of death, will be sentenced to death in the lake of fire – gehenna (Rev. 20:13-15). God will mercifully blot out their lives, rather than allow them to live on in the way that causes suffering, sorrow and every evil this world has known. Then the new earth and the new heavens will be populated with Beings who have freely chosen to live God's way of peace, love, joy and happiness for all eternity (Rev. 21-22). Now you can see why Jesus Christ stood up "in the last day, that great day of the feast" and spoke of the "living water" a salvation-thirsty mankind can and will receive during the Great White Throne Judgment (John 7:37-39). If only mankind kept God's commanded Holy Days, they would understand His great master plan of salvation. The Bible clearly reveals three distinct judgment periods during which God will offer salvation to every single human being who has ever or will ever live. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out" (Rom. 11:33). What good news! How wonderful to know that our-all-wise, loving God is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Pet. 3:9) and receive their chance for salvation. The Last Great Day has a tremendous meaning indeed!