Welcome to the Last Great Day with the Great Lakes Church of God.
Every year the holy days remind us of how everybody fits in God’s plan for salvation. Pentecost represents the firstfruits (those called in the 6,000 years of man’s history). The Feast of Trumpets shows us that Christ will return at the seventh trumpet; then the firstfruits will rise from the dead as spirit beings. At the Feast of Tabernacles we learned that the innumerable multitude that lives into the Millennium will be given God’s Holy Spirit, and their descendants will also be given God’s Holy Spirit. One more group of people must be offered salvation, and they are those who lived during the 6,000 years of man’s history but were never called by God.
Turn to I Corinthians chapter 15, often called the Resurrection Chapter. I Corinthians 15:22-24 talks about an order to salvation (each in his own order). First, it refers to those who are Christ’s: in other words, the Christians. Then Christ presents the kingdom to the Father so that all things and all people will be under God.
Revelation chapter 20 tells us that there is to be a first resurrection, which occurs after Jesus Christ has returned and after Satan has been bound and put away. Read Revelation 20:4-5. Verse 5 mentions as a specific aside that this is the first resurrection. Verse 6 states that those who are in the first resurrection will reign with Christ for a thousand years. We pictured that time as we observed the Feast of Tabernacles.
WHAT ABOUT THE REST?
What about the rest of the people who are not in that first resurrection? The people who are not in that first resurrection have not been called yet. John 6:44 states that we have to be called, but not everybody has been called yet.
The Church has been so small over the centuries. If you look at all the Church of God groups, they are composed of a small number of people. There are certainly now no more than a hundred thousand members out of six billion people on the earth; one hundred thousand people out of six billion is a very small fraction.
In Matthew chapter 13, Jesus Christ taught that not everyone was being called yet. He had begun to explain one of His parables, and then He received a question from His disciples asking, “Why do You speak in parables?” He gives His answer in Matthew 13:10-17. Here Jesus Christ explains the exact reason why He spoke in parables. It was not, as some say, just an illustration to make things easy to understand. Rather, it was to hide the meaning from those who had not been called yet. If the whole world has not been called ye, it would be unfair to expect them to behave as if they had been called.
The fact that the whole world has not been called yet does not mean that God loves those who have been called any more than He loves the rest of the world. That is certainly not true at all: just look at the well-known verse John 3:16. God loved the world and gave His Son for everyone, even for the people who have not been called yet.
Continue reading John 3:17. It does not say in this verse when they will be saved–we have to look elsewhere in the Bible for that–but it does say that they will be saved. In Acts chapter 4:12, the apostle Peter is to the Sanhedrin (the council of the Jews). What he is telling them is you cannot be saved without knowing the name of Jesus Christ. In fact, you have to understand what that means. It does not mean to just know the name and think immediately that you are going to be saved. The name portrays everything about a person: in this case, everything that He would be teaching and His authority as well. Most people have never even heard the name, and many that have, have heard the name used incorrectly.
We have seen that not everyone has been called; it is not their time yet. We read in Revelation 20 about a first resurrection. If there is a first one, you would think that there would have to be a second one: there must be more than one resurrection.
THE SECOND RESURRECTION
In John 7 we will learn about The Last Great Day, which pictures the second resurrection. You may remember that the beginning of John chapter 7 talks about Jesus Christ attending the Feast of Tabernacles. Read John 7:2, 10, 14. Here we have proof that Jesus Christ went to the Feast. Continue reading in verses 37-39 of John 7. Verse 37 talks about “the last day, that great day of the feast,” which is why we call this the Last Great Day. On that Last Great Day of the Feast, He was showing us that there was a time coming when anyone could come to Him and would receive the Holy Spirit, which is symbolized by living water. This is connecting the Last Great Day to that great white throne judgment that we are going to read about in a few minutes.
Let’s go to Leviticus chapter 23, the Festivals chapter, and read about that Last Great Day, where it is called the eighth day. Verses 34-36 discuss an eighth day, and that is the day that we are observing right now. It is a day when there is a sacred assembly (a worship service), and we are not to be working on this eighth day.
Read Leviticus 23:39. All of us around the world who understand about the Last Great Day and observe it enjoy this peaceful Sabbath rest. In John chapter 7, Jesus had been at the Feast. Then it was followed by this eighth day, which is what we are calling the Last Great Day.
Let’s go back to Revelation chapter 20, which describes a time after Jesus Christ has returned, after Satan had been put away, and after he had been released for a short time. Then he was put away again forever. In verses 11-12 we find a time when God’s Holy Spirit will be offered to everyone.
Verse 11 talks about a great white throne, people standing before God, and books being opened. That same word “books” can also be used to refer to the Bible. In other words, the Bible is opened to people who are coming up in this resurrection. It is explained and opened to their understanding. These people will be judged not for the works done before they knew anything, but for the works they do after the Bible is opened to them. They are judged according to how well their works agree with what is written in those books.
Think for a minute. On what are people with the Holy Spirit judged? Are we being judged now based on what we did before we were converted? No. Those sins were put under the blood of Jesus Christ and forgotten. We are being judged by what we have done after conversion and how we have grown in God’s perfect, holy, righteous character. Remember, righteous character is discerning right from wrong, choosing the right, and doing it under all circumstances.
Have we learned to put sin out of our lives? Have we learned to overcome ourselves, Satan, and the world? Conversion in the great white throne judgment will be similar, except that people called then will not have Satan to overcome. They will be judged by what they do after they have received the knowledge of the truth, which they have never had before. They will be judged after they have received God’s Holy Spirit, which they have never had before. Then comes their period of judgment.
Ezekiel chapter 37 gives us proof that there is a physical resurrection. As you know, the first resurrection is a resurrection to spiritual life. The second resurrection is a physical resurrection; in other words, it is a resurrection to physical life. Ezekiel 37:1-8 is obviously talking about a physical resurrection because it is talking about bones, sinew, flesh, skin, and even breath.
Continue reading Ezekiel 37:9-14. Not only is this a physical resurrection, but they will be given God’s Holy Spirit as well, and with it the opportunity for salvation.
Ezekiel 37 only mentioned the house of Israel and not the other nations. Matthew chapter 12 illustrates that this opportunity is actually extended to all nations. The people of Jesus Christ’s time who had not already received God’s Holy Spirit will be in this second resurrection. Read Matthew 12:41-42. The people of Nineveh were given the message by the prophet Jonah. They repented but did not receive God’s Holy Spirit. They were spared the destruction that would have happened to them. This was around the eighth century before Christ. The queen of the south coming to hear the wisdom of Solomon was about one thousand years before Christ. They were in different times and different nations, but they will all be in the judgment with the Pharisees of Jesus Christ’s time, the people of the first century. These verses show that this period of judgment will be opened to everyone.
Let’s go back to John chapter 8 and pick up the story on that Last Great Day when Jesus Christ was speaking. Remember, in John chapter 7 Jesus Christ had talked about the meaning of the Last Great Day. He must have made that statement about rivers of living water on the evening of The Last Great Day. Go to John 8, which is the morning of the Last Great Day. (Remember, in the Bible the day starts at evening.)
Read John 8:2-11. On that Last Great Day, Jesus Christ had a woman stand before Him who was accused of sin. She did not deny it; she did not say she was falsely accused. He told her, “Sin no more.” In the great white throne judgment, people will stand before Christ, will remember their sins, and will be told to sin no more. In fact, they will then go through the same process that Christians do now.
They will have to repent and believe the gospel of the kingdom. Christ told us we had to repent, but of course one has to know what to repent of. A person has to repent of breaking God’s law, and in the great white throne judgment they will have to repent of how they were living before. A person has to understand what to repent of before he can repent, and it takes some learning. By then the books of the Bible will be opened to everyone.
In the Millennium, everyone will be called. Then the great white throne judgment will take place when everyone who has never had an opportunity for salvation will be brought back to life. One of the main differences between calling now and calling in the Millennium is that Satan will not be around. We read in Revelation 20 how Satan will have been bound permanently, so these people will not have to deal with Satan. Everybody who is coming up in this resurrection will be having the same opportunity, but they will not have quite the same pressures of this society that Christians have to work against. They will have to overcome themselves because they will still have their memories and their bad habits from before, but that can all be overcome with God’s Holy Spirit. This time will be like an extension of the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth, with with the same type of joy, peace, and plenty.
THE THIRD RESURRECTION
In Revelation 20:13-15 we read about a third resurrection in which the sea (Satan’s system) gave up the dead. These people were those who had never accepted God’s way of life. We have already covered everybody else up to this point, as we discuss salvation. Now we have only those left who are cast into the lake of fire, as it talks about in verse 14.
Instead of having eternal life in rebellion and hatred like Satan the devil, these people are mercifully destroyed. They are gone, but very few people will be in that condition.
God’s plan is very fair. In fact, it is more than fair. Read II Peter 3:9. God wants all to come to repentance; that is His desire. It is not His desire to put anyone into the lake of fire. He wants all to repent in their own time. God wants to offer salvation to everyone, but each in his own time. With verses like this, you can see that there will be very few who would fail in God’s plan. God is not a failure; God will succeed with the vast majority.
TO INHERIT THE UNIVERSE
Let’s go back to Revelation chapter 217. Verse 7 talks about our potential that all humans will have. That is our promise to inherit all things (all things meaning the universe)! Those who are now Christians will be sons of God and members of God’s family. We will become one with God, and so will all of those billions of people who will be in the Millennium and who will be in the great white throne judgment. All those people who never knew God will have that same opportunity we have to inherit all things.
This Last Great Day has some special significance for me this year. I had to take a break from preparing this sermon to go to a visitation for someone who died. We were there to console the family members, who will miss the person who has died. Even for those of us who understand God’s truth, funerals are not easy. We know it will be a while until we see those people. We will miss them in the meantime, yet we know we will see them again. While I was there at that funeral visitation, I was meditating on God’s wonderful plan that offers salvation to everyone.