Opinions by COGwriter
The following unbolded text is a copy of the
As a further preface, perhaps it should be stated that I was simply disappointed and surprised when the leadership in UCG moved away from the Bible so much in this study paper. Of course, UCG has changed many doctrines (see my article at Differences between the Living Church of God and United Church of God ), though its membership does not always seem to realize it (for example, this study paper was not an approved doctrinal change by UCG’s general eldership, just its doctrinal committee and Council of Elders—thus it violated section 4.1 of the Constitution of the United Church of God). It is my hope and prayer that whatever ‘Philadelphians’ that may be left in UCG will have eyes to see and ears to hear. At risk of being accused of ‘sectarianism’, it is hoped that brethren in whatever affiliation will understand that biblical scholarship did not require UCG’s change:
This is not really accurate. Herbert Armstrong taught that it was called the Last Great Day based on John 7:37. UCG previously taught that they call it "the Last Great Day" based on John 7:37 (God’s Holy Day Plan. UCG Booklet, 1996;pp.7, 52). Thus to not mention John 7:37 here, and suggest tradition alone, is disingenuous.
We see from this section of Scripture that the "eighth day" is a distinct festival and it is also a Sabbath. While it is connected with the Feast of Tabernacles, it is not specifically a part of this festival. Notice the instruction regarding this eighth day:
"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" (Leviticus 23:36).
The final two festivals of the fall are the Feast of Tabernacles, for seven days, followed immediately by another festival, simply called the "eighth day" (Leviticus 23:34-36, 39). In the context of a seven-day feast, the term last day would be the seventh day of the Feast. However, in the combined context of eight consecutive days, the "eighth day" would be the last day.
This is accurate.
The term "Last Great Day" does not appear anywhere in Scripture. The term "the last day, that great day of the feast" only appears in the book of John.
This is misleading. Let’s look at John 7:37 with each of the Greek words (with Strong’s numbering) and the English listed below each number:
Actually, the first half of John 7:37 could be translated ‘Moreover, on the last great day of the feast’ or ‘Moreover, on the last high day of the feast’. Word 1161, which was left out of the KJV/NKJ/NIV, should be translated as ‘moreover’. The term ‘day’ (9999 means it was not a word) is not in the original Greek twice as the KJV/NKJ translations suggest. The KJV/NKJ translations also leave out another ‘the/that’ later in the verse, which implies that it may be appropriate to leave out the earlier term ‘that’ out as well.
The NIV translates the first portion of John 7:37 as, "On the last and greatest day of the Feast". Since the term ‘and’ was not in the original Greek, the NIV statement could have been translated as ‘Moreover on the last greatest day of the Feast’ (and the term ‘greatest’ could have been translated instead as ‘great’ or ‘high’). Hence it seems to be highly misleading to state that the "term ‘Last Great Day’ does not appear anywhere in Scripture".
Furthermore, just because something is only called something once in the Bible does not mean that the term is inappropriate (i.e. ‘His number is 666’ is only used in Revelation 13:18).
There is no reference in the Old Testament to a "Last Great Day" festival.
There is no reference in the Old Testament (the Septuagent possibly notwithstanding) calling the Day of Pentecost, by that name; even though it is used that way in the New Testament (Acts 2:1). Nor, even though the New Testament calls the Day of Atonement, ‘the Fast’ (Acts 27:9), does the Old Testament specifically call it that name either.
Of course, there are several Old Testament references to the ‘eighth day’ festival (Leviticus 23:36,39; Numbers 29:35-39; II Chronicles 7:9; Nehemiah 8:18). The ‘last holy day’ mentioned in the Old Testament is what we refer to as ‘the last great day’ or ‘the last high day’. Also, it may be of interest to note that even historically, the Feast of Tabernacles was considered to be an eight-day festival, counting the last day. The Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote near the time Jesus was on the earth, wrote, "Upon the fifteenth day…the law enjoins us to pitch tabernacles…and keep a festival for eight days" (Antiquities of the Jews, iii, x, 4).
The reference in John is in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles. John 7 begins with a discussion of the Feast of Tabernacles and then proceeds to the statement "the last day, that great day of the feast…." Notice the full statement in John 7:37: "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink" (emphasis added throughout).
UCG left out the fact that the term
‘Moreover’ should have been (in English) the first word, thus perhaps further
suggesting that John was introducing a different day (like right after
sunset—for further information please see the postscript at the end of this
article). Even in the
This leads to an obvious question. Does John 7:37 refer to the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles as the "last day" or does it refer to the separate festival, the eighth day? Scholars are divided in their opinions. Leon Morris in his commentary on John writes, "It is not quite clear whether it was the seventh day or this eighth day which was the climax of the whole celebration, and of which John speaks as ‘the great day of the feast.’" Similarly, we find in The Expositor’s Commentary on the Bible under the explanation about John 7:37, "Whether the ‘last day’ of the feast was the seventh or the eighth day is not clear."
In other words, those that UCG’s leadership considers being legitimate scholars accept that John 7:37 could be talking about the eighth day. That is good—of course this demonstrates that any conclusion to change John 7:37 based on this reasoning is totally suspect.
One could certainly conclude that this reference in John was to the festival that occurred on the eighth day. On the other hand when the Bible speaks of the Feast of Tabernacles it always mentions seven days. In a seven-day festival, the last day would be the seventh day. Here is what the Bible has to say about the Feast of Tabernacles.
Leviticus 23:34-36 "The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord. 35On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. 36For 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."
Leviticus 23:39-43 "Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month…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. 40And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. 41You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. 42You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God."
In the Old Testament, the "eighth day" is not given a specific title such as the "Last Great Day." It is simply known as the "eighth day."
Yes, but it is only the eighth day in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles (otherwise how is it the ‘eighth’?). Throughout the Bible this eighth day is always mentioned in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles.
The biblical distinction between the seven-day observance of the Feast of Tabernacles and the observance of the eighth day continued during the days of Solomon.
1 Kings 8:65 "At that time Solomon
held a feast, and all
The last day of Solomon’s seven-day feast for the altar was the seventh day. And the last day of the following seven-day feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, was the seventh day. The total of "fourteen days" clearly omits the eighth day from the number of days in the literal "feast." Therefore, the eighth day was observed after the seventh and last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Yet if the Feast of Tabernacles were literally an eight-day feast, then a total of "fifteen days" would have been given for the "feast" in 1 Kings 8:65-66. This is also reflected in the parallel account in 2 Chronicles.
2 Chronicles 7:8-9 "At that
time Solomon kept the feast seven days, and all
This logic is questionable and essentially irrelevant. UCG knows that the actual Feast of Tabernacles is seven days. The total time was fifteen days—the seven days of Solomon’s dedication feast, seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, then the last great (eighth) day (II Chronicles 7:9).
While the "Feast of Tabernacles" can be expanded to imply the eighth day, the Talmud records how the Jews literally understood this feast, "It really consists of two groups; the first seven days, Tabernacles proper; and the eighth day, 'Azereth.’ The seventh day of Tabernacles became in later times an echo of the Day of Atonement and was known as Hoshanah Rabbah..." (Shabbath, Foreword, p. viii). The Talmud gives six reasons why the eighth day was considered to be a "separate festival:"
It is already acknowledged that the Bible makes a distinction between the eighth day and the preceding seven. Yet, it is only the ‘eighth’ day in conjunction with the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles. The Jewish name for this date, Shemini Atzeret (or Sh’mini asseret), means the eighth assembly and comes from Leviticus 23:36.
The Jews during the time of Christ made a clearer distinction between the seventh and eighth day than we do today. These six points also amplify the fact that the seventh day is the literal last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Therefore, if the eighth day is called the "last day," then the combined context must imply that it is the last of two separate festivals or the last Holy Day of the year. (For additional information from the Talmud see Appendix A.)
Actually, the eighth day is not only the last of two separate festivals, it is the last of all the festivals. It is, in God’s holy day plan, the last High Holy Day. "‘Shemini Atzeret’ – meaning the Eighth Assembly. At this time a prayer for rain is first recited…Celebrated the day after Sukkot and thus sometimes considered to be an extension of that holiday" (Jewish Bulletin On-Line, May 2003—emphasis mine). It may be of interest to note that the Hebrew term ‘atzeret’ is usually used in the Old Testament to denote the last day of the days of unleavened bread or the eighth day convocation which we call the Last Great Day (once it may refer to Atonement).
Furthermore, in the COG we clearly distinguish between the seventh day, and the eighth, as no work, etc. is done on the eighth. The Jews, currently and historically, made the same distinction.
Again, if the "feast" in John 7:37 indicates the "seven days" of the Feast of Tabernacles, then the "last day, that great day of the feast" is the seventh day of that festival followed by the holy convocation on the "eighth day." But is it that simple? As with most things in the Bible, the context is often the determining factor. In the Old Testament, the only occurrence of "the last day" in association with the fall Holy Days is found in the book of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah 8:18 "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 manner."
Here the "last day" is not an official title of a Holy Day.
This official title argument is ridiculous. As stated before, there is no official title in the Old Testament calling the Day of Pentecost by that name, nor calling the Day of Atonement, ‘the Fast’. Nor for that matter, is there an official title for probably half of the holy days in the Old Testament (see, for example, Leviticus 23). Furthermore, in many places the Bible refers to the Passover time as inclusive of the Days of Unleavened Bread, thus it is not unusual to acknowledge that the Bible includes the eighth day when it mentions the Feast of Tabernacles (if not, then perhaps UCG should not collect Holy Day offerings on the eighth day—see Deuteronomy 16:16).
Given that they "kept the feast seven
days," the last day of this feast could have been the seventh day. The
public reading of the Law, before all
Deuteronomy 31:10-12 "…At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, 11when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the Lord your God and carefully observe all the words of this law."
And, even though the Bible indicates that perhaps the law only needed to be read for seven days, the fact is that Jews do read it through the eighth day, "Shemini Atzeret literally means ‘the assembly of the eighth (day)’…The annual cycle of weekly Torah readings is completed at this time. We read the last Torah portion, then proceed immediately to the first chapter of Genesis reminding us that the Torah is a circle, and never ends. This completion of the readings is a time of great celebration." (Shemini Atzeret and Simkhat Torah. Judaism 101. © Copyright 5756-5762 (1995-2001), Tracey R Rich http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday6.htm, June 4, 2003).
A holy convocation was commanded on the eighth day, the 22nd day of Tishri. Are we supposed to believe that the Jews had a convocation and the law was not read? Since, even today, the Jews read the law from the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles until the last the eighth day, it is more likely that ‘last day’ that Nehemiah 8:18 was referring to what we call the Last Great Day. Which, of course, suggests that the term ‘last day’ is not unique to John 7:37.
It is unclear whether Nehemiah 8 is a year of release; however there was something extra special about the Feast that year, a renewed enthusiasm. Nehemiah 8:18 shows the seventh day of the Feast being the "last," followed by a separate holy convocation on the eighth day. Of course, every time the Feast of Tabernacles is mentioned, the "eighth day" does not have to be noted, as if it needs repeated validation. However, when "the last day" is noted, then one must decide which last day is being discussed.
The fact that those in the Church of God (COG) today, and in the Old Testament time, recognized that the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles is the last day of that actual feast, does not prove nor disprove anything. Thus even if Nehemiah 8:18 is referring to the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles, this changes nothing.
Moreover, UCG is being misleading when it states, "Nehemiah 8:18 shows the seventh day of the Feast being the "last"". While it is true that the latter half of Nehemiah 8:18 distinguishes between the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles and the eighth day, it does not appear to directly show the seventh day as ‘the last day’. The opposite, that the ‘last day’ is the eighth day, make more sense. And as it makes more sense that the last day is the eighth day, John’s comments about the last day, in John 7:37, fit well with this.
Before taking a closer look at John 7:37, the following is a summary of some of the points noted from the Old Testament:
All of those points have been specifically addressed earlier.
John 7:37 is the only New Testament scripture that mentions "the last day" in association with the fall Holy Days. As with Nehemiah 8:18, this phrase is not an official title for that day. As we have already seen in John 7:37, either the seventh or eighth day is indicated.
The first and last statements are actually untrue. Nehemiah 8:18 clearly uses the term ‘last day’ in conjunction with the fall Holy Days. John 7:37 specifically refers to the last ‘high’ day of the Feast. Since the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles is both the first day and a high day, and because no other high day occurred during this Feast of Tabernacles (as the Last Great Day was on the Sabbath that year, see John 9:14), it makes no sense that John would be referring to the first high day as the last or to an non-holy day as a high day.
Let us look at what Herbert Armstrong wrote about high days, "Just what is a ‘high day’? Ask any Jew! He will tell you it is one of the annual holy days, or feast days. The Israelites observed seven of these every year--every one called a Sabbath! Annual Sabbaths fall on certain annual calendar dates, and on different days of the week in different years, just like the Roman holidays now observed" (Armstrong HW. The Resurrection was NOT on Sunday. Booklet. 1952, 1971, 1972 edition). In current times, Jews either call them high days or high holy days as any internet search will confirm, however it is uncertain when this practice began as it is not mentioned in the Old Testament (but then again, the term ‘Pentecost’ is only mentioned in the New Testament, though based on an Old Testament concept—Leviticus 23:16).
The term "the eighth day of the feast" appears nowhere in Scripture. Had this been stated in Leviticus 23, then the answer to this question might be simple.
Leviticus 23:36 specifically calls it the eighth day—since it is only the eighth day in relationship to the seven day Feast of Tabernacles, perhaps the answer to this question should have been simple to UCG. Since UCG seems to often focus on how they feel the Jews view this date, the following quote is instructive, "The festival that immediately follows the sukkot festival is referred to in the talmudic tradition as ‘yom tob ahharon shel hhag’ (the concluding holiday of the festival) or ‘shemini shel hhag’ (the eight day of the festival) all this while asserting that "shemini, regel bifne 'assmo hu" (‘the eighth day as a pilgrimage festival unto itself’)" (Shemini 'Asseret in the Tenakh. Judaic Seminar Volume 6 Number 60. http://shamash.org/tanach/tanach/commentary/j-seminar/volume6/v6n60 ;5/20/03). Hence, even Jewish tradition calls it the eighth day of the Feast (and does so in too many references to list). And that is the point—the point of most of UCG’s argument is UCG’s interpretation of selected Jewish tradition.
However, the qualifier "of the feast" may help us to understand John 7:37.
Yes, it may.
It’s easy to assume that the "great day" is synonymous with "a high day."
Yes, and that is how UCG and Herbert W. Armstrong have always taught that for John 7:37 and 19:31, until this study paper from UCG changed UCG’s position on John 7:37.
The Greek word for "great" is megale, from megas, which means "great," much in the same way that we use it in English. This same word is used in John 19:31 in reference to the First Day of Unleavened Bread—an annual Sabbath day.
Correct. So we see the same word used by John, twice in his Gospel account, to refer to a holy day. And even UCG admits that megale/megas is referring to a holy day in John 19:31.
However, megas is not limited to things that are holy. It is used dozens of times in the New Testament. It describes evil things as well as good things. See Revelation 12:3; 17:5; 18:10; 18:23; 19:2; 20:12. It is also used in Revelation 16:14 in reference to the "great day of God Almighty." While this refers to a special time of great importance, it does not indicate that it is holy time. In other words, megas indicates that the day in John 7:37 is special and it may indicate that it is a Holy Day, but the use of the word does not prove conclusively that this reference is to a Holy Day and therefore the eighth day.
The use of the word English word ‘holy’ is
not always limited to things that are holy (it can mean "very much of
a", Webster’s New World Dictionary,
But if the day referred to in John 7:37 is the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles, what’s so "great" about the seventh day of the Feast in comparison to the other days? To the Jews, the seventh day of the Feast depicts the time when all gentile nations will be granted salvation, thereby joining the Jews in God’s Kingdom. During the seven days of this festival, a total of 70 bulls were sacrificed (Numbers 29:12-34), which the rabbis associated with gentile nations. On the eighth day an additional bull was sacrificed but the Jews did not include this in the total number of 70 bulls that were sacrificed during the seven-day Feast. The Jewish New Testament Commentary states, "Rabbi El’azar said, ‘To what do these seventy bulls correspond? To the seventy nations’ (Sukkah 55b). In rabbinical tradition, the traditional number of Gentile nations is seventy; the seventy bulls are to make atonement for them." Alfred Edersheim explains, "But, whereas the number of the rams and lambs remained the same on each day of the festival, that of the bullocks decreased every day by one—from thirteen on the first to seven bullocks on the last day, ‘that great day of the feast."’
The Jews taught a plan of salvation in accordance with their understanding of the Holy Days, where the seventh day of the Feast (called Hoshanah Rabbah) represents a final opportunity for salvation—"Hoshanah Rabbah was understood to be the absolutely final chance to have one’s sins for the year forgiven…in Jewish tradition there remained opportunity for forgiveness up to Hoshanah Rabbah." However, the eighth day (called Sh’mini Atzeret) was more simple in its significance—"Whereas the other holidays celebrate specific events, Shmini Atzeret is a day when God in effect says to the Jewish people, ‘Stay with Me just one day more so that we can enjoy being together just for the sake of being together.’"
These sources show that for the Jews the
seventh day of the Feast had a special significance in terms of salvation.
That last statement is correct, and it basically shows that the other statements about what many Jews might think about the seventh day of the Feast is not necessarily relevant. Thus to conclude that one or two Jewish opinions represents God’s truth on this matter is improper—furthermore has UCG left out a lot of possibly relevant Jewish teachings about the eighth day (please see my comments in Appendix A and C). There is no biblical evidence that anything is ‘great’ about the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles, unless one assumes that Jesus was for sure talking on that day--what it is 'great' is the great white throne judgment that the eighth, last great, day pictures.
Other religious practices of Christ’s time reflect that the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles was a special day to the Jews. The Jewish New Testament Commentary notes that the Greek word for "great" corresponds to the Hebrew word rabbah and that the significance of the activities on the seventh day led to it being called "Hoshanah Rabbah, the Great Hosanna."
"The seventh day, last day of Sukkoth was
its climax. Throughout the seven days of the feast a special Cohen
(priest) had carried water in a golden pitcher from the Pool of Shiloach
(Siloam) to be poured into a basin at the foot of the altar.... It symbolized
prayer for rain, which begins the next day...and it also pointed toward the
outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) on the people of
"The words, ‘Please save us!’ (Ps. 118:25-27) led to the day’s being called Hoshanah Rabbah, the Great Hosanna.... Hoshanah Rabbah was understood to be the absolutely final chance to have one’s sins for the year forgiven...in Jewish tradition there remained opportunity for forgiveness up to Hoshanah Rabbah."
"A connection between the possession of religious
joy is found in the ceremony of water drawing...(‘feast of water-drawing’)
on the festival of Sukkoth. The Mishna said that he who has never seen
this ceremony, which was accompanied by dancing, singing, and music
(Sukkoth 5:4), had never seen true joy (
The term ‘Rabbah’ is not used in any Old Testament scriptures that mention the Feast of Tabernacles. The six times that ‘hosanna’ is used in the New Testament, it used is in the Spring and has no apparent connection with the Feast of Tabernacles.
It is unclear whether Christ spoke during or after the water-pouring ceremony in John’s account. It is also unclear whether the timing was at the end of the seventh day or after sunset and the beginning of the eighth day. Therefore, while it appears that the term "last day of the feast, that great day" refers to the seventh day, it is also possible that by the time Christ spoke, the eighth day had arrived. Stern describes below the water-pouring ceremony:
What bizarre reasoning! UCG again acknowledges that Jesus may have spoken after sunset at the beginning of the eighth day, but still wants to believe that the expression "last day of the feast, that great day" refers to the seventh day. Furthermore, the above admission shows that UCG really had not need to advocate the changes that are in this paper.
Let’s again look at John 7:37, "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out". UCG’s position defies logic as it would no sense for John to be referring to the seventh day in John 7:37, while referring to having Jesus speak on the eighth.
"It was in the midst of this water pouring, trumpet blasting, palm waving, psalm chanting and ecstatic joy…that Yeshua cried out in the temple courts, ‘If anyone is thirsty. Let him keep coming to me and drinking!"
"…there were four golden menorahs with
four golden bowls at the top of each.… Four young cohanim (priests)
would climb up with pitchers of 9 liters of oil...and there was not a courtyard
So what was so great about the seventh day of the Feast? Everything, according to the Jewish festival practices during the time of Christ. To them, the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles was Hoshanah Rabbah—the Great Hosanna—portraying salvation for Jews and gentiles.
As UCG earlier acknowledged, UCG claims that the eighth day represents the portraying of salvation, thus emphasizing the Jewish position about that for the seventh day seems to be rather odd. Furthermore, having this quote from Stern is totally improper as Stern could not possibly know if it was in the midst of this water pouring that Jesus cried out. It would make more sense that Jesus was speaking after sunset and on the eighth day in order to convey that perhaps the Jewish interpretation needed some correction.
Alfred Edersheim writes the following in his book regarding John 7:37:
"It was ‘the last, the great day of the
Feast,’ and Jesus was once more in the
"…Only during the first two, and on the last festive day (as also on the Octave of the Feast), was strict Sabbatic rest enjoined…. But ‘the last, the Great Day of the Feast,’ was marked by special observances….
"…on ‘the last, the Great Day of the Feast,’ this procession of Priests made the circuit of the altar, not only once, but seven times…. Hence the seventh or last day of the Feast was also called that of ‘the Great Hosannah.’ As the people left the Temple, they saluted the altar with words of thanks (g Sukk 4:5) and on the last day of the Feast they shook off the leaves on the willow-branches round the altar, and beat their palm-branches to pieces (au.s.1 and 6). On the same afternoon the ‘booths’ were dismantled, and the Feast ended (bu.s.8).
"We can have little difficulty in
determining at what part of the services of ‘the last, the Great Day of the
Feast,’ Jesus stood and cried, ‘If any one thirst let Him come unto Me and
drink!’ It must have been with special reference to the ceremony of the
outpouring of the water, which, as we have seen, was considered the
central part of the service…. The forthpouring of the water was immediately
followed by the chanting of the Hallel. But after that there must have been a
short pause to prepare for the festive sacrifices (the Musaph). It was then,
immediately after the symbolic rite of water-pouring, immediately after the
people had responded by repeating those lines from Ps. 118…that there rose,
so loud as to be heard throughout the
There is circular reasoning here as Edersheim has written into John 7:37, Jewish practices that are not mentioned in the book of John. UCG seems to be suggesting that since the Jews had a water-pouring ceremony on the seventh day and that Jesus mentioned water in John 7:37, that this means that this connection reinforces UCG’s position that Jesus may have spoke on the seventh instead of eighth day.
However, UCG fails to report what the Jews do on the eighth day regarding water. Which is what? They pray for it! (See also The Last Great Day: 'Shemini Azeret.)
"The present-day celebration of Shemini 'Asseret includes a prayer for abundant rains" (Shemini 'Asseret in the Tenakh. Judaic Seminar Volume 6 Number 60. http://shamash.org/tanach/tanach/commentary/j-seminar/volume6/v6n60 ;5/20/03).
The Jews also teach "azeret is used
in Numbers 29:35. It’s a time for judgment. Its judged for water"
(Explaining Shemini Azeret. Hillel’s
When is this prayer (or phrase of praise) recited? It is always done on Shmini Atzeret
"Mashiv HaRuach U'Morid HaGeshem" is inserted into the blessing "describing" His indescribable Might, as the Source of life-giving rain. You are eternally mighty, my Lord, the Resuscitator of the dead are You; abundantly able to save" ("Mashiv HaRuach U'Morid HaGeshem" The Jewish Prayer for Wind and Rain (scanned material from ArtScroll Sukkot Machzor) http://www.ou.org/chagim/shmini-simchat/windnrain.htm#1, June 10, 2003).
"The Mishnah explains that rain during Sukkot would drench the lattice-roofed sukkah, and so would feel to those who were living there like a curse rather than a blessing. So the prayer for rain should wait till the sukkah dwelling was complete" (SEED FOR WINTER — SH'MINI ATZERET, CHAPTER IV: From Seasons of Our Joy (Beacon, 1990) By Arthur Waskow. http://www.shalomctr.org/html/seas45.html, June 13, 2003).
Hence, assuming that the Jewish practices
were some of what moved Jesus to discuss water, this in no way necessitates
that Jesus was not referring to an eighth day prayer, nor that His comments
were not after sunset. Furthermore, since the
It’s significant to note that the Jews did not live in booths during the eighth day: "On the afternoon of the seventh day of the feast the people began to remove from the ‘booths.’ For at the Octave, on the 22nd of Tishri, they lived no longer in booths…. But it was observed as ‘a holy convocation’" (Edersheim, The Temple, Its Ministry and Services, 1999, Chapter 14, "The Six Minor Days"). The afternoon of the seventh day was a significant time period. The Talmudic "twilight" was defined as 3 p.m. in the afternoon at which time the "evening sacrifice" occurred. The moving out of their booths during the afternoon heightens the view of the seventh day as the last day of the Feast: "You shall dwell in booths for seven days" (Leviticus 23:42). The booths were commonly built on rooftops, or near housing that was be used on the eighth day. For additional information on whether Jews can eat in their sukkah on the eighth day, see Appendix B.
There are actually two issues with the above from UCG. The first is, according to Josephus, that the Jews did sometimes stay in the sukkahs on the eighth day, "they began to Feast: and when they had done so for eight days, in their tabernacles, they departed to their own homes" (Josephus, F. Antiquities of the Jews, XI, IV, 5).
The second is that it is not particularly relevant to the discussion.
When we read beyond John 7:37, the scriptures shed light on the distinction between the seventh and eighth day. After Christ finished speaking, the people expressed their opinions (verses 40-44). Then the Pharisees expressed their opinions and Nicodemus reasoned with them, "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?" (verses 45-52). The last verse in this chapter says, "And everyone went to his own house" (verse 53). This return to their homes is consistent with what is noted by Edersheim and the Talmud regarding the activities during the late afternoon of the seventh day of the Feast.
Yes, it is true that the Jews normally did not spend the eighth day in a sukkah-- but to state that they probably went home before sunset is not proven by any of this.
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. On the next day everyone returned to the temple for the holy convocation on the eighth day. John 8:1 says, "…early in the morning He came again into the temple…." Under this scenario, the story of the woman caught in adultery would have occurred on the eighth day (verses 3-11).
The Pharisees evidently heeded the advice of Nicodemus as they strategically confronted Christ on the eighth day. The record of the eighth day continues in John 8:12, "Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’"
The scenario above is consistent with our understanding that the eighth day fell on a weekly Sabbath in A.D. 30 (the last fall festival season prior to the crucifixion, which apparently occurred in the spring of A.D. 31), during which Jesus healed a blind man (John 9:14-16). This healing of one who was "blind from birth" ties in with the message of the second resurrection when Christ will suddenly offer "light" (verse 5) and give "sight" to the majority of mankind. These will have been spiritually blind from birth, unlike those who were "once enlightened" and then fell away (Hebrews 6:4-6). They will suddenly be transmitted from the darkness of death to the light of life, physically and spiritually.
Yes, we know that the eighth day appeared to fall on the weekly Sabbath that year. Which of course means that the seventh day did not. Thus, the seventh day of the Feast was not a ‘great’ or ‘high’ day.
The distinct observance of the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles and the "eighth day" is well documented, and is not affected by one’s view of the day on which Christ was speaking in John 7:37. Additionally, the spiritual significance of the fall Holy Days in God’s plan of salvation for all mankind remains unchanged. The Feast of Tabernacles represents the millennial reign of Jesus Christ on this earth, and the eighth day represents the period of the Great White Throne Judgment.
In other words, UCG is saying that the eighth day may be what Jesus was talking about, but even if He was not, this does not change that the eighth day represents the period of the Great White Throne Judgment.
Really? Then what is UCG basing this on?
Perhaps UCG should do a study paper explaining why it believes the Bible teaches that the eighth day represents the period of Great White Throne Judgment without referring to John 7:37 or using the expression ‘last great day’. The fact that Jesus restored sight to one blind person on the eighth day seems, without John 7:37, to be an insufficient basis to conclude that this holy day represents the Great White Throne Judgement, but to some degree this appears to be UCG’s public rationale.
Although we cannot say with absolute certainty that John 7:37 is referring to the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the evidence presented above points to this conclusion.
I believe the biblical evidence points to a different conclusion. The biblical evidence supports the concept that Jesus was speaking about the eighth day in John 7:37 (please also see Appendix C).
That being the case, is it wrong to continue to call the eighth day the Last Great Day? First of all, the phrase "that great day" as applied by the Jews in the time of Christ to the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles is not an Old Testament term, as we have seen. It is a term which they used to denote the last day of that festival. There is nothing wrong in doing this as they also used the Greek word Pentecost to denote the festival called in the Old Testament the Feast of Weeks. The Church’s decision to use the term "last great day" to denote the eighth day festival is certainly not wrong given the precedent we see in Scripture.
I disagree. Pentecost means 50th, which is directly relevant to that holy day (see Leviticus 23:16). If UCG believes that John 7:37 is not referring to the eighth day as the last great day, then it is disingenuous of it to call it something that it believes it is not. By the same logic, UCG is saying that to call the eighth day Passover would be fine as UCG’s position is that it is okay to call the eighth day festival a name that it believes refers to another date (i.e., the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles).
Furthermore, the term "last great day" can appropriately be applied to the eighth day when one understands its meaning in the plan of salvation. Jude 6 states, "And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day." The eighth day represents the last Day of Judgment for mankind and angels. Certainly, some of the prophecies concerning the "last days" apply to the eighth day. After the Millennium the last judgment period for mankind will begin: "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away…. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books" (Revelation 20:11-12).
UCG should probably have mentioned that the term translated as ‘great’ in Jude 6 and Revelation 20:11 is also megas/megale. Thus in these two verses, UCG seems to be stating that the term ‘great day’ is referring to the meaning of the eighth day. This seems to contradict its basic premise. It appears that now UCG is saying that megas/megale refers to a holy day in John 19:31 and to the fulfillment of the eighth day (which it considers to be a holy day) in Jude 6 and Revelation 20:11, but not to a holy day in John 7:37.
So there’s no need to change the Church’s traditional expression of "the Last Great Day," in association with the eighth day. But in interpreting John 7:37, scriptural and historical evidence points to the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles as "the last day, that great day of the feast" and not primarily to the eighth day.
UCG’s last several paragraphs suggest hypocrisy. UCG states that the Last Great Day is not a term in the Bible, that Jesus was not referring to the eighth day of the Feast when He spoke in John 7:37, that the last and greatest day of the Feast is the seventh day, and that Jewish interpretations back up UCG’s positions. UCG, then, appears to be totally disingenuous to teach that it is still appropriate to refer to the eighth day is the last great day. This must lead to confusion and false doctrine.
It sort of reminds me of Catholicism. Catholics, as a group, seem to accept that only the ministry (its priesthood) can understand many of the doctrines of God. Catholic leadership, historically, has allowed lay members to participate in certain practices and hold certain beliefs, which contradict Catholic doctrine, when it has believed that to hold to ‘true’ doctrine (which would require a change) would be too hard (especially on new converts). I believe that UCG is afraid to be up front with its membership about this.
UCG printed the following in its Festival Planning Brochure Feast of Tabernacles 2003:
The Last Great Day—the eighth day of the Feast (Leviticus 23:36, 39)—symbolizes the Great White Throne Judgement in significant ways. Last shows the conclusion to God’s salvation. Great portrays the magnitude of numbers…Day suggests a shorter time period of salvation.
It also printed the following in the September-October 2007 edition of its United News, p.10:
Yes, God has called you and me to help others become sons of God. Our positive examples today are seeds that will take root and blossom at the Last Great Day. And on that day of visitation, many will understand the truth, remember us and glorify God. What a day it will be! UN
The author is a member of the Jefferson, Georgia, congregation.
Since UCG does not believe that the expression ‘last great day’ is in the Bible, teaches that John 7:37 is referring to the seventh day, and teaches that the seventh day is great because the Jews say so, how could it honestly have printed the previous statements about the eighth day?
The Talmud includes the Mishnah (the first writing of the oral law) and the Gemara (rabbinical discussion of the Mishnah). The traditions of the Talmud are not required for Christians. Therefore we are not commanded to Tabernacles" (or Judean Feast of Tabernacles), which included the Talmudic traditions. Therefore the Talmud can help us to understand which day the Jews viewed as the "last day, that great day of the feast" (John 7:37).
Not any more, and possibly less, than the Talmudic practices around the eighth day would, yet UCG has avoided mentioning most of them. The following quote may be of interest to note: "The greatness of Shemini Atzeres 2. [The Talmud teaches] 'the day of rain is greater then the day that heaven and earth were created.' There is a remez in this teaching to an idea which has been explained [in many seforim] that we need to join together the last days of the Yomim Tovim to Rosh HaShanah*. This is to fulfil the verse, 'to rejoice with fear.' [The rejoicing should be with fear and one should] not make the rejoicing one of foolishness. This teaching of the Talmud, 'the day of rain' is a remez for Shemini Atzeres. This is the day that we make a blessing for rain. [This is a prayer that we make asking HaShem to send rain when it is needed.]' The day that heaven and earth were created' refers to Rosh HaShanah the day on which heaven and earth were created. The day of Rosh HaShanah is also called 'the day of blowing.' The gematria* of the words 'heaven' [Heb. Shemayim] 'earth' [Heb. Aretz] are the same as'blowing.' [Heb teruah] This means that the day of Shemini Atzeres is as great as the day of Rosh HaShanah. (p. 60b sefer Ateres Yehoshua.Teachings of Rebbe Yehoshua of Dzikov.)" [CHASSIDUS BS'D DERECH HaBAAL SHEM TOV Ahavas HaShem, Ahavas Yisroel, Ahavas HaTorah THE WAY OF THE BAAL SHEM TOV, http://www.chassidus.net/hoshana.htm, June 4, 2003]. So some think the Talmud says that this holy day is as great or greater than the day God created the heavens and the earth. Thus, perhaps Jewish writings suggest that the eighth day is perhaps the greatest day! Recall that the NIV uses the expression "the last and greatest day" in John 7:37.
Why might the ‘day of rain,’ the last high day, be the greatest of all days? Although I am not certain why the Talmud indicates that, the Bible states, "The end of a thing is better than its beginning" (Ecclesiastes 7:8). Could it be that some Jewish leaders, those who are supposed to have understood more than they often did (c.f. John 3:10), had some clue into the meaning of this date?
From a physical perspective, it makes no sense that the ‘day of rain’ would possibly be more important than the creation of heaven and earth. However, from a spiritual perspective, it would seem that the opportunity for the Holy Spirit would be more important than the physical creation. Hence the Church’s understanding that Jesus spoke on the eighth day and cried, " ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:37-39) is consistent with why the ‘day of rain’ would be greater than any day of physical creation.
But there are other interesting statements in the Jewish literature about the eighth day:
"R. Joshua declared: The whole universe drinks from the water above the firmament.... The clouds swell and ascend to the firmament, where they open their mouths like a bottle and receive the rain water.... The clouds are perforated like a sieve and distill water to the earth. Between each drop of rain there is no more space than the breadth of a hair, which is to teach us that a day of rain is as great before the Holy One, blessed be He, as the day on which heaven and earth were created." (Taanit 9b http://www.jhom.com/topics/rain/talmud.html /6/03).
The statement above is similar to the one previously quoted, though it suggests that, ‘a day of rain’ is only equal in greatness to the day of physical creation.
But there are other Jewish quotes ascribing massive greatness to the ‘day of rain’:
The sage Rabbi
Abahu said: The day of rain is greater than the resurrection of the dead,
because the resurrection of the dead benefits only the righteous, but rain
benefits both the righteous and the unrighteous. (Babylonian Talmud, Ta'anit
Rabbi Tanchum Bar Chiyah said: A day of rain is greater than the day on which the Torah was given. For the giving of the Torah brought joy to the Israelites, whereas a day of rain brings joy to all nations and to the entire world, including the animals and beasts (Midrash Shocher Tov on Tehillim 117). http://www.jewishveg.com/DStalmudmidrashzohar.html 6/6/03)
These quotes from the Jewish literature suggest, that at least from a Jewish perspective, that the eighth day, it truly the great, and possibly greatest, of all days.
What could be greater to Jews than the day the Torah was given, the time of the first resurrection, and the day the heavens and earth were created?
quoting Bar Kapara learns from the fact that 'Atzirah' is mentioned both in
connection with a woman ("Ki Atzor Atzar Be'ad Kol Rechem - in Vayeira),
and in connection with the rain ("ve'Atzar es ha'Shamayim ... ") -
that just as a woman suffers pains when she needs to give birth but cannot, so
too, when the heaven ought to give rain but cannot, there is suffering (because
it is the result of sin) (ANSWERS TO REVIEW QUESTIONS prepared by Rabbi Eliezer
Kollel Iyun Hadaf, Jerusalem, Ta’anis 8, http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/dafyomi2/taanis/reviewa/tn-ra-08.htm , June 10, 2003).
The concept that rain cannot be provided due to sin, appears similar to that which is mentioned in Zechariah (14:16-19) and that the tree of life needed to be guarded from humans that sinned (Genesis 3:24). It is also consistent with this New Testament quote, "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now" (Romans 8:20-23).
Anyway, nothing that I have seen in the Jewish literature or the Bible ever suggests that the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles is in the same category of greatness. Furthermore, these Talmudic quotes are at least somewhat consistent with the Church’s position that the Last Great Day pictures salvation to all (as well as to and other parts of the Bible, please see appendix C).
The festival rejoicing began during the daytime on each of the seven days of the Feast. This was done according to Leviticus 23:40, "…you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days." The daytime rejoicing spilled over into the evening. Consequently, the rejoicing on the seventh day continued into the evening of the eighth day, or "last night" (Sukkah 48a, Gemara). Though the eighth night is called the "last night," this section also refers to the seventh day as, "the concluding day" (footnote b1). The seventh day was the literal "concluding 30 seventh day of the Feast.
Even if the seventh day water ceremony has any link to John 7:37, this does not point to John 7:37 as being the seventh day (all it would do would be to have ‘set the stage’ for the statements in John 7:37).
UCG admits that the eighth day is called the last night, which is good. Perhaps I should repeat another one of the titles the Jews have for the eighth day, "The festival that immediately follows the sukkot festival is referred to in the talmudic tradition as ‘yom tob ahharon shel hhag’ (the concluding holiday of the festival)" (Shemini 'Asseret in the Tenakh. Judaic Seminar Volume 6 Number 60. http://shamash.org/tanach/tanach/commentary/j-seminar/volume6/v6n60 ;5/20/03). Thus, Jewish literature suggests that either the seventh or the eighth day is the conclusion of the Feast.
The Talmud says, "When a man has finished his [last] meal, he may not dismantle his Sukkah. He may, however, remove its furniture from the afternoon onwards in honor of the last day of the Festival" (Sukkah 48a, Mishnah). This last meal was eaten, "on the seventh day" (Gemara, footnote b2). Obviously, they didn’t fast on the eighth day. However, the meal on the seventh day was his last meal in that it was literally his last meal of the Feast of Tabernacles. Therefore, we should not assume that "last" always refers to the eighth day. On the seventh day a man was to move his furniture "from the Sukkah into the house where he is to have his meals in the evening and the following day" (footnote b4). But by the time the eighth day had arrived, the booth had been altered in some way (e.g., "four handbreadths" of the roof were removed) to indicate "it is no longer in use as a Sukkah but as an ordinary hut" (footnotes b8-11).
It is already acknowledged that last does not always have to refer to the eighth day.
Regarding the festival offerings, "the time for offerings is the day-time" (footnote a8). The "water-libation and wine-libation, and the burnt-offering" occurred during the daytime (Sukkah 48b, Gemara). Therefore when John 7:37 is associated with the water ceremony, then this emphasizes the "day-time" of the seventh day.
In a repeat of its circular, non-biblical reasoning, UCG is stating that when it associates the water ceremony with John 7:37, that this means that John 7:37 has to do with the daylight portion of the seventh day. Again, no real proof is offered.
On the first day 13 bulls were sacrificed and, each day, one less bull was sacrificed ending with seven bulls on the seventh day. Regarding the lone sacrificial bull on the eighth day, Sukkah 48a states, "The number of bullocks offered is not six as might have been expected if the sixth (eighth) day had been regarded as the eighth of the days of Tabernacles on each of which the number of bullocks was reduced by one" (footnote a4).
The Jews in
Yes, it is acknowledged that the seventh day is the last day of the literal Feast of Tabernacles (although the Jews, the COG, and even the Bible tend to include the eighth day). Repeating this does not change anything.
This extra day led to questions regarding how the booth should be used on the eighth day. The Jews decided that one could sit or eat in the booth, just in case it was really the seventh day. But one could not mention the "Feast of Tabernacles" ("Sukkot") in his benediction (berakha), just in case it was really the eighth day. Therefore, despite the added day, they maintain that the seventh day is the literal last day of the Feast.
This subject is discussed in an article titled, "Eating in the Sukka on Shemini Atzeret." Here the interpretations of the Talmud are derived from some of the most reputable Jewish authorities in their history, e.g. the "Rif" (born A.D. 1013, author of an abridged version of the Talmud), the "Rambam" (born A.D. 1135, considered to be one of the greatest Jewish scholars in history), the "Chazal" (meaning "our sages of blessed memory," an authoritative opinion of the Talmud), the Book of the Chinukh (Sefer Ha-chinukh) and the "Bach" (a major Jewish commentary written in the 17th-century). Below are excerpts from this article written by Rabbi Elyakim Krumbein:
"The explanation of the
"Chazal commanded us to sit in the sukka to
fulfill the obligation [of Jews outside Israel] to add one day to every
holiday; hence, we add a day to Sukkot and make it eight days, but we don’t
make a berakha on the sukka on that day because it is really a different
holiday altogether. Since nowadays we know the calculation of the calendar
and hence the true date, it is more appropriate to make berakhot relating to
the true character of the day rather than to the aspect of the day instituted
by Chazal. Although one may ask: why do we not mention both Sukkot and
Shemini Atzeret in our blessings, as we do with regard to Shabbat and Yom
Tov when they coincide? [The answer is] we find that it is possible for Shabbat
and Yom Tov to occur on the same day, but TWO DIFFERENT HOLIDAYS CANNOT
OCCUR AT THE SAME TIME, and hence we should not recite such a berakha. But
it is perfectly appropriate to sit in the sukka on Shemini Atzeret, SINCE THIS DOES
NOT DETRACT FROM THE
There does not appear to have been anything particularly relevant in the above quotes other than to demonstrate that there is confusion within Judaism.
Likewise, the Jews’ "great day of the feast" on the seventh day (John 7:37) doesn’t change the Church’s understanding of the Last Great Day on the eighth day (Revelation 20:11-12).
This is faulty on at least three points. The first is that it is improper to claim that the Jews’ great day of the Feast in John 7:37 is the seventh day for all the reasons given earlier (including UCG’s admission that John 7:37 may be referring to the eighth day), though some Jews feel otherwise.
The second problem is that the Jews, themselves, actually do not seem to have any single holy day titled the ‘great day of the feast’. That term is used in John and by Christians, but I have seen no specific reference to it in any Jewish literature (the closest I have seen is that Jewish literature suggests that the eighth day of the Feast may be the greatest of all days).
The third problem is that if the eighth day is not the Last Great Day, then it would appear biblically improper to state that Revelation 20:11-12 is referring to the ‘Last Great Day on the eighth day’ as that statement is not in Revelation 20:11-12.
As is typical with UCG study papers, this paper contains data which simply does not need to be here, which makes it harder to understand what UCG is actually teaching.
So, what do I feel that UCG is actually teaching?
The part I do not understand is why.
My best guess is that its leadership wants to consider itself ‘scholarly’. Of course, many in the world accept evolution for the same reason. I am simply disappointed and surprised that UCG moved away from the Bible so much in this study paper. Of course, UCG has changed many doctrines (see my article at Differences between the Living Church of God and United Church of God, though its membership does not seem to realize it. It is my hope and prayer that whatever ‘Philadelphians’ that may be left in UCG will have eyes to see and ears to hear. Perhaps I Corinthians 3:19 is applicable here and should be meditated on, "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their own craftiness.""
Let me add that the July-August 2013 edition of the United Church News had a front page article titled The Eighth Day: The Ultimate Focus of God's Plan. The article by Mark Mickelson did not use the expression Last Great Day nor cite John 7:37, and seems to be a confirmation, to a degree, of what UCG adopted in 2002.
Thiel’s Appendix C
While UCG had two appendices essentially about Jewish practices outside the Bible, I would like to discuss more of the Bible, and to a lessor extent Jewish practices based on the Bible.
John 7:37-39, states, "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified".
Jesus mentioned Scripture. WHAT SCRIPTURE? Well, there is no direct single verse He was apparently referring too—but UCG missed this area completely. Some Jesus may have been referring to are below:
"Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; 'For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.' Therefore with joy you will draw water, From the wells of salvation" (Isaiah 12:2-3).
"Because I give waters in the wilderness, And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My people, My chosen. This people I have formed for Myself; They shall declare My praise" (Isaiah 43:20-21).
"'Fear not, O Jacob My servant; And you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring’" (Isaiah 44:2-3).
"Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters…Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear and you will live…Surely you will call a nation that you did not know, And nations who did not know you shall run to you " (Isaiah 55:1,3,5).
"The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail" (Isaiah 58:11).
"And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days" (Joel 2:28-29).
"Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, But a man of understanding will draw it out" (Proverbs 20:5).
"They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters" (Jeremiah 2:13).
"Because they have forsaken the LORD, The fountain of living waters" (Jeremiah 17:13).
"And in that day it shall be, That
living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, Half of them toward the eastern sea,
And half of them toward the western sea; In both summer and winter it shall
occur. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall
be--"The LORD is one," And His name one…And it shall come to pass
that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall
go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the
Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth
do not come up to
"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."" (Jeremiah 31:33-34).
Those verses are either directly supportive of what Jesus taught in John 7:37-39 or supportive of other concepts the COG holds regarding the Last Great Day. This, although perhaps not absolute proof, suggests that Jesus was speaking on the eighth day as these verses appear to have little, if anything, to do with the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles.
Furthermore, the quote from Zechariah helps explain why the Jews refer to the eighth day as the ‘day of rain’. Since Zechariah is warning a lack of rain for those who do not keep the Feast of Tabernacles, this appears to one of the reasons that the Jews began to pray for rain at the end of the Feast—not the seventh day end, but the eighth day end. This practice, and not the seventh day water-pouring ceremony, is apparently based on the scriptural admonition that those who will not keep the entire Feast will not have rain.
Combining the prayer for rain with the likely scriptures that Jesus was referring too is much more supportive of the eighth day being the Last Great Day, than the seventh day of the Feast. Although UCG supporters may wish to pick at some minor points in my comments, I simply do not see justification within the Bible for the seventh day being the ‘last greatest day’ (NIV) of John 7:37. And it is to the Bible (II Timothy 3:16), and not to Protestant interpretation of Jewish practices, that we are to acquire doctrine.
Furthermore, it is also in John that Jesus earlier uses the expression, ‘living water’:
"Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." The woman said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?" Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life"" (John 4:10-14).
Those statements are suggestive that salvation will be offered to others, like Gentiles (as the woman was a Samaritan), which is consistent with what the Church of God teaches about the eighth day as opposed to the seventh day of the Feast. This position is also consistent with what is written in Revelation, "They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters" (7:16-17).
Thus if we look to the Bible to attempt to understand John 7:37-39 (as Jesus indicated that we should), all indications are that it was the eighth day that John was referring to as the last and greatest day.
Postscript: Biblical Timeline of Jesus’ Comments
On June 22, 2003, I visited the
The Bible provide a lot of information which provides a timeline that supports the traditional COG position that when Jesus spoke on the Last Great Day, that he spoke on the 22rd day of Tishri, which is referred to both in the Bible and our tradition as the eighth day.
A timeline can be constructed starting in John 7:
"After these things Jesus walked
in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in
Verse two is the main part of the timeline that UCG used. It does make clear that the general time of Jesus’ comments was near the Feast of Tabernacles as well as makes it clear that Jesus was facing danger.
"His brothers therefore said to
Him, "Depart from here and go into
Twice in verse eight, Jesus emphasizes that He has specific timing needs. This shows that whatever Jesus’ plans were for this Feast of Tabernacles, specific times were important. The UCG paper hints that the precise time Jesus stood up in John 7:37 is of little consequence.
"When He had said these things to
them, He remained in
Whether Jesus attended the Feast in
The middle of the Feast would be the fourth day. It is possible, and this is speculation, that since Jesus was born towards the end of the third day of God’s 6,000/7,000 year plan, and that His preaching ministry began some time towards the start of the fourth day, that Jesus arrived at Jerusalem late on the third day and began preaching on the fourth day.
It is also possible that Jewish religious teachers had some of the truth which supported having an illumination ceremony. However, just as Jesus by His example showed that the Jewish religious leaders erred on when to keep the Passover (John 13:1-2; 18:39; 19:31), He by His teachings on the eighth day indicated that perhaps the illumination ceremony should have been during the eighth day. For example in John 9:4, Jesus declared that He was the light of the world. He then restored the sight of a blind man. These facts alone are proof that the Jews water-pouring ceremony on the seventh day is irrelevant to the time that Jesus spoke on John 7:37. Jesus made it clear that Jewish traditions were of no importance to Him (Mark 7:9,13).
The Jewish water-pouring ceremony on the seventh day actually suggests, when combined with the rest of John 7, that Jesus’ comments in John 7:37 had to be on the eighth day: "The Pharisees heard the crowd murmuring these things concerning Him, and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him." (John 7:32). The fact that the Pharisees and the chief priests had the time to hear the crowd murmuring and to send officers to take Jesus, who was at the temple, shows that they were not officiating at the water-pouring ceremony anymore and that it must have been over. This makes it impossible for Jesus to have spoke verse 37 during or immediately after the water-pouring ceremony. We know Jesus was at the temple in verse 37, because He was in John 7:28. And also because John 8:2 states, "Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them" –the people knew were to find Jesus teaching—in the temple—the same place He was teaching in John 7:37!
Furthermore, let’s look at John 7:45-51, "Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, "Why have you not brought Him?" The officers answered, "No man ever spoke like this Man!" Then the Pharisees answered them, "Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed." Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, "Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?" ". These are the same officers that left the Pharisees and chief priests in verse 32. These verses also show that the Pharisees and chief priests were also not at the temple when Jesus taught in verse 37 because as Nicodemous points out, none of them actually heard what Jesus said.
It also makes no sense that these officers would have left on the sixth day of the Feast and returned on the seventh or eighth (especially since Jesus left the evening of the eighth, went to the Mount of Olives-John 7:53, and returned early the morning of the eighth-John 8:1, thus the officers had plenty of time to leave and return).
Why is that important to state?
Because after the officers left the Pharisees and chief priests, John 7:37 states, "On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink". There is no reason for John to state "the last day, that great day of the Feast" unless this is referring to a time other than when the officers had left. If the officers left the seventh day of the Feast, and that was (as UCG suggests) the last great day of the Feast, then John would not have repeated it. Actually, if John had wanted to convey the seventh day of the Feast, he should have done so in verse 25 or possibly 32. Doing so in verse 37 is illogical.
The logical reason to do so in vs. 37 is to introduce the fact that the sun had set and a new day, the last high day, had begun. It was Jesus who emphasized the importance of His timing during this Feast season (vss. 6,8). So what is the first thing that Jesus did after sunset?
He stood. He normally taught sitting down
in the temple. He did that originally as a boy, "When they had finished
the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in
That is not the only reason that He stood. And standing is the first thing it is recorded that He did. The message that the COGs teach about the Last Great Day is that many of its future events are prophesied in Ezekial chapter 37. Let’s see verse 10:, "So I prophesied as He commanded, and breath came into them and they stood upon their feet, and exceedingly great army". The COGs teach that this resurrection is the first thing that happens that day. Jesus, the resurrection of life (John 11:25), the firstborn of many brethren (Romans 8:29), stood. Even though the Jews, as UCG admits, taught the resurrection was on the seventh day, Jesus’ direct action showed that this resurrection was on the eighth day. And His message, as even UCG somewhat admits, is applicable for the eighth day. Timing was important to Jesus (John 7:6,8). UCG suggests His timing was most likely incidental.
So in conclusion, the Bible shows that the timing of Jewish customs was of no importance to Jesus. And, yet, that timing was important to Jesus. The timeline set forth in John 7 (supported in chapters 8 and 9) clearly supports that Jesus spoke the words of John 7:37-38 on the eighth day. There simply is no scriptural justification to teach that the Last Great Day should be the seventh day, the 21st day, of Tishri.
UCG Withdraws Paper
The United Church of God announced that it was withdrawing this paper as it did not know what the Bible teaches on this subject:
Doctrine Committee Presentations—John Elliott
The Doctrine Committee (DC) presentation began in executive session, but then came into open session to discuss the topic of “The Last Great Day / Eighth Day” study paper. The DC and the Council as a whole has been reviewing and discussing this paper for over two years. It emerged that in the DC there were different strengths of belief concerning whether John:7:37 referred to the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles or not, but all agreed that the current paper contained no conclusive proof either way. Consequently, it is the recommendation of the DC that the current study paper, “Last Great Day / Eighth Day” be withdrawn and replaced by a doctrinal statement by the Council. The teaching regarding this specific festival remains the same.
Mr. Webber emphasized that this is not a sudden decision, but something the DC has been reviewing for two years, and the meaning of this day remains the same. There was discussion back and forth among the Council on the doctrinal statement.
Mr. Holladay asked how the conclusion of this doctrinal statement differs from the study paper. Mr. Elliott replied that the current study paper favored the timing of John:7:37 as happening on the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles. However, the paper could not fully substantiate that position and it consequently advocates utilizing both terms, which is our current practice. The newly drafted doctrinal statement explains the situation more succinctly while giving equal weight to discussions concerning the timing of John:7:37 .
Mr. Webber commented that there is no conclusive proof either way in the scripture regarding John:7:37 . He stated, “Well intentioned people on both sides of this issue with strong viewpoints regarding the setting of John:7:37 and the accompanying terminology have at the end of the day agreed among themselves there is no rock solid proof one way on this issue.”
Mr. Kubik was impressed that we admit that there is no clear statement in the scriptures. (United Church of God, an International Association Council of Elders Quarterly Meeting Report Milford, Ohio Wednesday, August 12, 2015)
While I agree that there is more clarity than UCG does, at least they no longer endorse the paper.
July 25, 2003 Updated 9/18/07 and 2012 0915 and 2014 0919 and 2015 1215
Several items of possibly related interest may include:
Differences between the Living Church of God and United Church of God This article provides quotes information from the two largest groups which had their origins in WCG as well as commentary.
Is There "An Annual Worship Calendar" In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by the Tkach WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days. (Here is a related link in Spanish/español: Calendario Anual de Adoración –Una crítica basada en la Biblia y en la Historia: ¿Hay un Calendario Anual de Adoración en la Biblia?
What are Postponements? This is by the late evangelist Raymond McNair and explains a lot about postponements and calculations.
Hebrew Calendar and "Postponements" This late evangelist John Ogywn writing explains why the most faithful in the Church of God use the calendar that we do and answers such questions as "Did Jesus Observe the Postponements?"
How often should we partake of THE LORD'S SUPPER? Herbert Armstrong answers that question.
Keeping Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread How should Christians keep Passover, especially if they are by themselves. Why does the Church of God not require lambs for Passover? How does one keep the Days of Unleavened Bread? For a step-by-step video for Christians to keep it, check out CCOG Passover Service. Here is a link to a related article in the Spanish language: Guardando la Pascua y los Días de los Panes sin Levadura.
Preparing for Passover The Apostle Paul taught that Christians should examine themselves prior to taking Passover. This YouTube video sermon gives suggestions on how to prepare.
Passover and the Early Church Did the early Christians observe Passover? What did Jesus and Paul teach? Why did Jesus die for our sins? There is also a detailed YouTube video available titled History of the Christian Passover.
The Passover Plot What was the first Passover plot? Which plots have Islam and the Greco-Roman faiths perpetuated about Passover? A sermon video of related interest is The Passover Plots, Including Easter.
Melito's Homily on the Passover This is one of the earliest Christian writings about the Passover. This also includes what Apollinaris wrote on the Passover as well. Here is a related sermon, also titled Melito's Homily on the Passover.
TPM: Passover on the 14th or 15th? While the real COG observes Passover on the 14th, some observe it on the 15th. Why is the 14th correct?
The Night to Be Observed What is the night to be much observed? When is it? Why do Jews keep Passover twice and emphasize the wrong date? Here is a link to a YouTube video titled The Night to Be Observed.
Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread? Do they have any use or meaning now? What is leaven? This article supplies some biblical answers. Here is a YouTube video intended to be viewed for the first day of unleavened bread: Christians and the Days of Unleavened Bread.
UCG and Its Unleavened Bread Study Paper What does the Bible say about eating unleavened bread for seven days? What has UCG officially said about it?
Pentecost: Is it more than Acts 2? Many "Christians" somewhat observe Pentecost. Do they know what it means? It is also called the Feast of Harvest, the Feast of Weeks, and the day of firstfruits. What about "speaking in tongues" and led by the Holy Spirit? (Here is a related link in Spanish/español: Pentecostés: ¿Es más que Hechos 2? plus one by Herbert Armstrong HWA sobre Pentecostés). Here is a YouTube sermon titled Pentecost: Feast of Firstfruits.
Should You Observe God’s Holy Days or Demonic Holidays? This is a draft that is planned to be expanded and made into a booklet.
Should you keep God's Holy Days or pagan holidays? A brief summary article about God's Holy Days and holidays that others keep.
Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days? The 'Fall' Holy Days come every year in September and/or October on the Roman calendar. Some call them Jewish holidays, but they were kept by Jesus, the apostles, and their early faithful followers. Should you keep them? What does the Bible teach? What do records of church history teach? What does the Bible teach about the Feasts of Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day? Here is a link to a related sermon: Should you keep the Fall Holy Days?
The Book of Life and the Feast of Trumpets? Are they related? Is so how? If not, where not? What does the Feast of Trumpets, which the Jews call Rosh Hashanah, help teach? A related sermon video would be The Trumpet Release.
The Day of Atonement--Its Christian Significance The Jews call it Yom Kippur, Christians "The Day of Atonement." Does it have any relevance for Christians today? What is the Jubilee? A sermon of related interest may be Day of Atonement: How Jesus fulfilled His part for the Atonement.
The Feast of Tabernacles: A Time for Christians? Is this pilgrimage holy day still valid? Does it teach anything relevant for today's Christians? What is the Last Great Day? What do these days teach?
Continuing Church of God The group striving to be most faithful amongst all real Christian groups to the word of God. To see how CCOG has done so far, here is a sermon Continuing Church of God (CCOG) first year anniversary: What has been accomplished? Here is a written link to a version of that sermon in the Spanish language: Aniversario del primer año de la Continuación de la Iglesia de Dios: ¿Qué se ha cumplido?