The Last Great Day: Shemini 'Azeret

By COGwriter

The seven day Feast of Tabernacles occurs in the the and is immediately followed by the eighth day. Christians normally call this the ''Last Great Day'' based on statements from Jesus (John 7:37-38). This day is not given a specific name in the Hebrew scriptures other than "the eighth day" (Leviticus 23:36,39). (A sermon on this topic is also available: Shemini Azaret: The Last Great Day.)

In later times, Jews started to call it Shemini 'Azeret. Shemini, Sh'mini, or Shmini (שְּׁמִינִי) is the Hebrew word for "eighth" and 'azeret means a time of assembly:

SHEMINI 'AZERET

Eighth day of Sukkot, "'azeret" being the name given to it in Lev. xxiii. 36; Num. xxix. 35; Neh. viii. 18; II Chron. vii. 9. The eighth day of Sukkot is not mentioned in Deut. xvi., and is found only in those parts of the Bible known as the Priestly Code. Like "'azarah" (Amos v. 21; Isa. i. 13; Joel i. 14), "'azeret" denotes "day of assembly," from "'azar" = "to hold back" or "keep in"; hence also the name "'azeret" given to the seventh day of Pesah (Deut. xvi. 8). Owing, however, to the fact that both the eighth day of Sukkot and the seventh day of Pesah are called "'azeret," the name was taken to mean "the closing festival."

During the time of the Second Temple, Shebu'ot received the specific name of "'Azarta" (Josephus, "Ant." iii. 10, § 6; Pes. 42b, 68b), said to signify "the closing feast" of Passover (see Pesik. 193a). Commenting upon this fact, the Rabbis say (ib.): "The closing feast of Sukkot ought rightly to have been, like that of Pesah, on the fiftieth day; but, in order not to force the people to make another journey to Jerusalem in the rainy season, God fixed it as early as the eighth day." Another comment upon the name "'azeret" is as follows (ib.): "Whenever the people of Israel assemble in the houses of worship and instruction, God 'keeps in' His Shekinah with them." For the meaning of "'azar" Judges xiii. 15 is referred to. This is further illustrated by the following similitude (ib.): "A king gives to a large circle of friends a banquet which lasts seven days. When these have expired he says to his son: 'During these days of feasting we have had little opportunity of enjoying each other's company. Tarry ["be kept back" = "he'azer"] a day longer, that we may rejoice while holding a simple feast together.' So God speaks to Israel thus: 'During the seven days the Sukkot feast with its seventy bullocks for sacrifice was meant for the seventy nations [see Nations and Languages] of the world. Let this eighth day be a simple feast with one bullock and one ram as a sacrifice to express thy unique relation to Me'" (comp. Num. xxix. 35-37).

The peculiarities of Shemini 'Azeret in the liturgy are the following:

"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 Joseph Meyerhoft Center for Jewish Learning. http://216.239.39.100/search?q=cache:xy-74RBIrDAJ:www.hillel.org/Hillel/NewHille.nsf/fcb8259ca861ae57852567d30043ba26/01e33713b517b64f85256c3a0057f951/%24FILE/shemini_atzeret.pdf+Explaining+Shemini+Atzeret&hl=en&ie=UTF-8, June 4 2003).

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).

Shemini 'azeret basically means the eighth day of assembly in Hebrew. Here is one thing that Jews in Germany have done on it and some other days:

HAZKARAT NESHAMOT:

Memorial service, held, according to the German ritual, after the readings of the Law and the Prophets in the morning service on the eighth day of Pesah, the second of Pentecost, the eighth of Sukkot (Shemini 'Azeret), and the Day of Atonement. In memory of a father the following is recited:

"May God remember the soul of my respected father,—, son of—, who has gone to his eternal home; on whose behalf I vow as alms—; may his soul be bound up in the bundle of life [see I Sam. xxv. 29] with the souls of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah, and all other righteous men and women that are in the Garden of Eden, and let us say, Amen."

The same prayer is recited in memory of a mother, with a change in gender; he whose father and mother are dead says both prayers. There is another formula for grandparents and for other kindred, and a special prayer for such as have died as martyrs for the faith. (Hazkarat Neshamot. Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7421-hazkarat-neshamot viewed 09/19/14)

Christians use the term 'the last great day' because of what Jesus said on it:

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. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37-38)

According to an old, but probably modified in the 4th century document, it seems that Polycarp observed the Feast of Tabernacles in the second century including the Last Great Day:

I will give the narration in order, thus coming down to the history of the blessed Polycarp...

So also he pursued the reading of the Scriptures from childhood to old age, himself reading in church; and he recommended it to others, saying that the reading of the law and the prophets was the forerunner of grace, preparing and making straight the ways of the Lord, that is the hearts, which are like tablets whereon certain harsh beliefs and conceptions that were written before perfect knowledge came, are through the inculcation of the Old Testament, and the correct interpretation following thereupon, first smoothed and levelled, that, when the Holy Spirit comes as a pen, the grace and joy of the voice of the Gospel and of the doctrine of the immortal and heavenly Christ may be inscribed on them. And he said that they could not otherwise receive the impression of the seal which is given by baptism and engrave and exhibit the form conveyed in it, unless the wax were first softened and filled the deep parts. So also he thought that the hearts of the hearers ought to be softened and yield to the impress of the Word. For he said that it unfolded and opened, like closed doors, the minds of recent comers; and accordingly the prophet was bidden by God, Cry out mightily and spare not, Raise thy voice as a trumpet. What must one say, when even He that was gentler than all men so appeals and cries out at the feast of Tabernacles? For it is written; And on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried saying, If any man thirsteth, let him come to Me and drink. (Pionius, Life of Polycarp (1889) from J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, vol. 3.2, pp.488-506.)

Although it is adjacent to the Feast of Tabernacles, this eighth day is considered a separate Feast (Leviticus 23:36, 39. This eighth day helps picture the coming "Great White Throne Judgment" at which all of humanity that had not previously been truly called will have the chance to hear the real Gospel and accept God's offer salvation (see alsoUniversal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis and Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differ from most Protestants).

It may be of interest to note that the same basic Greek term for 'great' is used in both John 7:37 (for the day) and in Revelation 20:11 (for the white throne). In John 7, Jesus was quoting from the Book of Isaiah 55.

While pagans have had holidays for the dead, the Last Great Day is really the "Day of the Dead." That is those that were spiritually and physically dead will be resurrected to have their opportunity for salvation (see also Hope of Salvation: How the COGs differ from most Protestants and Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis).

Isaiah wrote:

20 No more shall an infant from there live but a few days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.
21 They shall build houses and inhabit them;
They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
22 They shall not build and another inhabit;
They shall not plant and another eat;
For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people,
And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.
23 They shall not labor in vain,
Nor bring forth children for trouble;
For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord,
And their offspring with them.

24 "It shall come to pass
That before they call, I will answer;
And while they are still speaking, I will hear.
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
The lion shall eat straw like the ox,
And dust shall be the serpent's food.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,"
Says the Lord. (Isaiah 65:20-25)

All then will have one hundred years, and all will have an opportunity for salvation.

Furthermore, the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholic saint Irenaeus in the following passage, shows that in the second century, the idea that God would resurrect people and provide an opportunity for salvation was clearly known:

Then, too, Isaiah himself has plainly declared that there shall be joy of this nature at the resurrection of the just, when he says: "The dead shall rise again; those, too, who are in the tombs shall arise, and those who are in the earth shall rejoice. For the dew from Thee is health to them." And this again Ezekiel also says: "Behold, I will open your tombs, and will bring you forth out of your graves; when I will draw my people from the sepulchres, and I will put breath in you, and ye shall live; and I will place you on your own land, and ye shall know that I am the LORD." And again the same speaks thus: "These things saith the LORD, I will gather Israel from all nations whither they have been driven, and I shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the sons of the nations: and they shall dwell in their own land, which I gave to my servant Jacob. And they shall dwell in it in peace; and they shall build houses, and plant vineyards, and dwell in hope, when I shall cause judgment to fall among all who have dishonoured them, among those who encircle them round about; and they shall know that I am the LORD their God, and the God of their fathers." Now I have shown a short time ago that the church is the seed of Abraham; and for this reason, that we may know that He who in the New Testament "raises up from the stones children unto Abraham," is He who will gather, according to the Old Testament, those that shall be saved from all the nations, Jeremiah says: "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, who led the children of Israel from the north, and from every region whither they had been driven; He will restore them to their own land which He gave to their fathers" (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 34, Verse 1. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Interestingly, when the Catholic Inquisitor Bishop Bernard Guidonis was disposing of heretics in the 1300s, he noted that some believed the following:

Again, they say that after Antichrist's death these spiritual individuals will convert the entire world to the faith of Christ; and the whole world will be so good and benign that there will be no malice or sin in people of that period, except perhaps for venial sins in a few of them; and all things will be common as far as use is concerned; and there will be no one who offends anyone else or encourages another to sin. For there will be the greatest love among them, and there will be one flock and one pastor. According to some of them this period and condition will last for one hundred years. Then, as love fails, malice will creep back in and slowly increase until Christ is, as it were, compelled to come in universal judgment because of it. (BERNARD GUI: INQUISITOR'S MANUAL, Chapter 5. Translated by David Burr, History Department, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. http://phi.kenyon.edu/Projects/Margin/inquisit.htm 04/09/07).

Here is some of what the late Herbert W. Armstrong taught about the Last Great Day:

This eighth day, technically a separate feast, is called "the last day, that great day of the feast" (John 7:37).

What does this final holy day represent?

Notice what Jesus preached about on that day: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink . . . out of his belly [innermost being] shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive . . .)" (John 7:37-39).

This was Jesus' sermon giving the meaning of the last great day!

Now turn to Revelation 20. After the Millennium, what happens? A resurrection! The dead stand before God. This couldn't include true Christians today, as they will appear before the judgment seat when Christ returns. . . Those in this resurrection must be those who died in ignorance in past ages! They are not brought to life until after the Millennium (Revelation 20:5).

This is that judgment day mentioned in Matthew 10:15. It is a time when Gentiles who died in ignorance will be given an opportunity to receive salvation. Ezekiel 16:53-55 makes this very plain. Even those in Israel who died in their sins will be given their first opportunity to understand the truth of God and His way (Ezekiel 37). The prophet wrote that God would pour out His Spirit on those resurrected (verse 14). This is precisely the salvation that Jesus mentioned in His sermon on that great day of the feast in the autumn of AD 30.

This eighth day, which immediately follows the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, pictures the completion of the plan of redemption. It is just prior to the new heaven and the new earth. All parents and children, young and old will be resurrected. Notice that the "book of life" typifying salvation is opened (Revelation 20:12). Revelation presents the final view of the "judgment day" as the present material heaven and earth are perishing and the faithful are receiving their eternal reward at the throne of Christ. The wicked those who disobey are seen perishing in the lake of fire! What a marvelous plan! All will have an equal opportunity (Armstrong HW. Pagan Holidays--or God’s Holy Days—Which?, booklet).

Isaiah prophesied how long the White Throne Judgment period would last. During this time Christ and the resurrected saints will rule. It is the time of the second resurrection. The earth will be as peaceful and productive as the Millennium itself. Children who died will live again for one hundred years, building character through the power of God's Holy Spirit. Older people who had died without knowing God's plan for them will also be resurrected to live for one hundred years. The close of the one-hundred-year White Throne Judgment is pictured by John in Revelation 20:11-12…100 years of testing…Isa. 65:20. (Bible Correspondence Course, Lesson 39. 1954, 1965 Edition).

A major reason that I became part of the old Worldwide Church of God (the group that took over WCG stopped observing biblical holy days) and remain part of the genuine Church of God is that in addition to proving all things from the Bible, I truly believe that since "God is love" (1 John 4:16) that He has a plan of salvation that will ultimately result in everyone being called and nearly every one who ever lived being saved.

Two must read articles to demonstrate the truth of those doctrines are Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differs from most Protestants and Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis.

Will Salvation Be Offered to All?

Will people who were dead and not in Christ be resurrected to the flesh with an opportunity for salvation? Yes!

1 The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. 3 And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?"

So I answered, "O Lord God, You know."

4 Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. 6 I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord."'"

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them.

9 Also He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live."'" 10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.

11 Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, 'Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!' 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God: "Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. 13 Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. 14 I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it," says the Lord.'" (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

Will salvation be offered to all who ever lived?

Absolutely!

Notice what the New Testament and the Old Testament plainly teach:

6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Luke 3:6)

20 Our God is the God of salvation. (Psalm 68:20).

10 And all the ends of the earth shall see The salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:10)

Since most who claim some version of Christianity believe that what they teach is at least partially supported by scripture, the article Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis which contains a listing of hundreds of verses in the Bible supporting apocatastasis, as well as related comments, may be helpful for those who wish to receive their doctrine from the Bible.

People will do more than seeing the salvation, such as viewing the glorified Jesus.

Jesus clearly taught that all would hear God:

45 It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' (John 6:45)

Isaiah was inspired to write:

13 All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
And great shall be the peace of your children. (Isaiah 54:13)

This has not yet happened--it is for the future. All shall be taught by God! That includes those who have long been dead.

Those Gentiles Who Have Been Subject to Condemnation Will Have an Opportunity for Salvation

Micah 7:18-19 teaches:

18 Who is a God like You,
Pardoning iniquity
And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?
He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights in mercy.
19 He will again have compassion on us,
And will subdue our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea.

Is your God going to pardon iniquity for a few or nearly all of the guilty? Does God retain His anger forever? No. Does He delight in mercy? Yes. Will He later give His truth to Jacob and mercy to Abraham? That is what the Bible teaches. Is this what your church teaches?

Ezekiel 11:16-20 and 36:24-38 both record that God is going to convert many sinners so that they will walk in His statutes:

16 Therefore say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Although I have cast them far off among the Gentiles, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet I shall be a little sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone." ' 17 "Therefore say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel." ' 18 "And they will go there, and they will take away all its detestable things and all its abominations from there. 19 Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God..."

24 For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. 28 Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. 29 I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you. 30 And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields, so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations. 32 Not for your sake do I do this," says the Lord GOD, "let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!" 33'Thus says the Lord GOD: "On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt. 34 The desolate land shall be tilled instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass by. 35 So they will say, 'This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.' 36 "Then the nations which are left all around you shall know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted what was desolate. I, the LORD, have spoken it, and I will do it." 37'Thus says the Lord GOD: "I will also let the house of Israel inquire of Me to do this for them: I will increase their men like a flock. 38 Like a flock offered as holy sacrifices, like the flock at Jerusalem on its feast days, so shall the ruined cities be filled with flocks of men. Then they shall know that I am the LORD." ' "

Notice that the above has never been fulfilled by Israelites going back to the Middle East as God has YET to give them a new heart. Surely God has a plan to offer salvation to those who many now feel are lost.

Notice Daniel 12:2-4:

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever. But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase"

The above passage shows that death is like sleep. It also refers to a resurrection to everlasting life and resurrection to shame and to everlasting contempt. Notice that those who are wise will shine and still, after they shall awake, turn many to righteousness. Since they cannot turn those who are raised to everlasting contempt to life, who are they turning to life?

Obviously, those who were dead and not dead in Christ are those that are among the many that are turned to righteousness. Thus, the Bible clearly shows that there is a future offer of salvation past this current life and many will be turned to righteousness--many are then converted.

Jesus taught in Matthew 10:15 that those in Sodom and Gomorrah will do better than those who intentionally reject the message:

14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!

If the fate of Sodom is already eternal condemnation, how could it be better for them than for others?

Matthew 11:20-26, notice what Jesus stated:

20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: 21 "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you."

25 At that time Jesus answered and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight."

Notice the Jesus clearly teaches that some, like Sodom, will still have a chance and that this knowledge is hidden to many of the wise of this world.

Ezekiel 16:55 teaches that it was known that Sodom would return:

55 When thy sisters, Sodom and her daughters, shall return to their former estate, and Samaria and her daughters shall return to their former estate, then thou and thy daughters shall return to your former estate (KJV).

What does your church teach is the fate of Sodom? Does it teach that they will have an opportunity for salvation? If not, how do they explain Ezekiel 16:55?

Matthew 12:38-42 teaches:

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." 39 But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.

Notice that contrary to the views of what passes as mainstream "Christianity," there will be a difference in judgment in the end.

Now God destroyed Sodom for its wicked works (Genesis 18:20;19:24)--wicked works, that according to Paul's writings make it impossible for them to inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21). If what most Protestants believe is correct, then all in Sodom will be destroyed and will be no better off than those in Capernaum--but that is a clear contradiction of what Jesus taught.

Luke 10:8-15, Jesus taught:

8 Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. 9 And heal the sick there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' 10 But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11 The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.' 12 But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city. 13 "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be thrust down to Hades.

Notice that Jesus is holding those to a higher standard who saw miracles and should have understood His message, than those who were idolaters, pagans, and sexually immoral (including those that lived in Sodom). Jesus makes this concept clear in many other passages.

Does your church teach you that it will be more tolerable for certain non-Christians at the judgment than for others? If not, does it really understand the Bible?

Mark 6:10-11, notice what Jesus taught:

10 Also He said to them, "In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. 11 And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!"

God completely destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins. Yet, Jesus says that it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than those who had some understanding but would not accept it.

Psalm 90:3 teaches:

3 You turn man to destruction, And say, "Return, O children of men."

God is teaching that He turned humans over to destruction--He allowed sinners to die--yet notice that He teaches that He is going to have them return. Does your church teach anything like this?

Twenty-six times in its twenty-six verses, Psalm 136 states:

For His mercy endures forever.

Why would God have to repeat that so much if He did not have a plan involving His mercy for more than this age? The expression "His mercy endures forever" is found 41 times in the NKJV and the version "his mercy endureth for ever" is found 33 times in the Douay-Rheims Bible. God wants ALL to realize that He really is merciful. Many who profess Christianity do not understand God's mercy.

Notice that Psalm 107:1-3 teaches:

1 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
2 Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,
3 And gathered out of the lands,
From the east and from the west,
From the north and from the south.

Thus, God is going to have mercy to those turned over to the enemy (the devil) because God's mercy endures forever--Ambrose of Milan referred to this verse--and stated "this is the privilege not only of a few" (see article Hope of Salvation). When scripture refers to those gathered from all over in this manner, it often is referring to those who have died. Jesus also alluded to this verse in Matthew and Luke:

10 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! 11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:10-11)

29 They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last. (Luke 13:29-30)

Jesus was teaching that Gentiles will be part of the kingdom. And, I and others believe this means more than just a few.

Psalm 145:14 teaches:

14 The LORD upholds all who fall, And raises up all who are bowed down.

It should be clear that is God intending to raise up more than a few who fall.

Psalm 25:8 reveals:

8 Good and upright is the LORD; Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.

Is He only intending to teach a few sinners or all sinners? God is not a respector of persons (Acts 10:34 KJV).

Hebrews 8:11-12, states:

11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."

Notice that the time is coming when all shall know the LORD. And notice that God is saying that He will forgive their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Does your church understand this?

Isaiah 46:12-13 teaches:

12 "Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, Who are far from righteousness: 13 I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, For Israel My glory.

Note, according to the marginal reference in the Nelson Study Bible, page 640, the word linger is perhaps better translated as "delayed." Hence, God is teaching that those who were "far from righteousness" will have a time when God will not delay salvation, but bring it. This is not just a reference for Gentiles who will come to accept Christ in this age, this is a reference to an age to come.

One of the psalms, Psalm 66:3-4, teaches:

3 Say to God, "How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You. 4 All the earth shall worship You And sing praises to You; They shall sing praises to Your name.

Notice that this is a prophecy. All the earth has not yet worshipped God. All the enemies who would have been alive when that verse was written thousands of years ago have long since died. But this passage shows that they will submit to God. This is considered to be an awesome work through God's great power. Does the God you worship have the power to offer salvation to all so that even His enemies will submit to Him?

Isaiah 29:13-14, teaches:

13 Therefore the LORD said:

"Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men,
14 Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work
Among this people,
A marvelous work and a wonder;
For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden."

Thus, those who have been deceived by human traditions of false worship can be saved. And many have been! (See Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings).

Also notice the following from Jeremiah 30:9-10:

9. But they shall serve the LORD their God, And David their king, Whom I will raise up for them. 10 'Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,' says the LORD,
'Nor be dismayed, O Israel; For behold, I will save you from afar...

In John 7:37-38, Jesus is referring to Isaiah 55. Isaiah 55:1-5 teaches:

1 "Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
3 Incline your ear, and come to Me.
Hear, and your soul shall live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you--
The sure mercies of David.
4 Indeed I have given him as a witness to the people,
A leader and commander for the people.
5 Surely you shall call a nation you do not know,
And nations who do not know you shall run to you,
Because of the LORD your God,
And the Holy One of Israel;
For He has glorified you."

The above is not simply a reference to Gentiles becoming Christians as most Protestant commentators think. It is David that is the witness to the people. This is the same David that is prophecied to rule over the nations of Israel in the future (Ezekiel 37:24; Jeremiah 30:9). Thus, this is a prophecy for a later time. The simple truth is that even after Jesus came, the statement "nations who do not know you shall run to you" has simply not been fulfilled. I know of not one nation, let alone nations, that have run to become true Christians. What has happened is that after Greco-Roman "Christianity" became the religion of the empire, many were forced to become "Christians" and those that have followed them have almost never followed the Christianity of the Bible.

If some of that confuses you, recall that in Isaiah 55:8-11 God teaches that even though we think different than God that His word will not return void:

8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.
9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
10 "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Furthermore, notice what Isaiah 56:1-2 teaches:

1. Thus says the LORD:

"Keep justice, and do righteousness,
For My salvation is about to come,
And My righteousness to be revealed.
2 Blessed is the man who does this,
And the son of man who lays hold on it;
Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath,
And keeps his hand from doing any evil."

If the salvation to come is simply the first coming of Jesus, then should not all Christians keep the Sabbath as both salvation and the Sabbath are part of the same quote? Does your church teach that one is "blessed" who does not defile the Sabbath? (You may also wish to read the verses that follow it, like Isaiah 56:3-8 as it makes it clear that foreigners-Gentiles-also are to keep the Sabbath.)

Also, notice the following from Isaiah 66:23:

23 And it shall come to pass
That from one New Moon to another,
And from one Sabbath to another,
All flesh shall come to worship before Me," says the LORD.

Notice that all flesh will worship God on the Sabbath. This has not yet happened.

In Isaiah 57:16-18 it teaches that God will not always be angry and that He will heal the souls He has made:

16 For I will not contend forever, Nor will I always be angry; For the spirit would fail before Me, And the souls which I have made.
17 For the iniquity of his covetousness I was angry and struck him; I hid and was angry, And he went on backsliding in the way of his heart.
18 I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will also lead him, And restore comforts to him
And to his mourners.

Thus, even those who sinned that God punished (struck) and hid from, God will lead them back! Does your minister proclaim this?

Isaiah 62:1-5 shows:

1 For Zion's sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, And her salvation as a lamp that burns.
2 The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the LORD will name.
3 You shall also be a crown of glory In the hand of the LORD, And a royal diadem In the hand of your God.
4 You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; For the LORD delights in you, And your land shall be married.
5 For as a young man marries a virgin, So shall your sons marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.

Notice that salvation is being discussed and that includes Gentiles and lands that were desolate and that God will delight in them. This is not simply a reference to Gentiles who accept Christ in this age, as they were not referred to in the Hebrew scriptures as "Forsaken." Versions of the Hebrew term "azuwbah" translated as "Forsaken" are used many times in the Old Testament to refer to Israelites (NOT Gentiles)--God is apparently using that term because most seem to feel that the Gentiles prior to Jesus' first coming were forsaken--which, however, they were not. Most also seem to feel that most people dwelling in lands that basically do not accept any version of Christ today are in that forsaken category. But again, recall that God states that they are not forsaken. Which means, according to Isaiah 62, that God has a plan of salvation for them.

Also notice that in Isaiah 65:1-5, God declares that even those who eat unclean meat and did not seek God will be called:

1"I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, 'Here I am, here I am,' To a nation that was not called by My name.
2 I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in a way that is not good, According to their own thoughts;
3 A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face; Who sacrifice in gardens, And burn incense on altars of brick; 4 Who sit among the graves, And spend the night in the tombs; Who eat swine's flesh, And the broth of abominable things is in their vessels;
5 Who say, 'Keep to yourself, Do not come near me, For I am holier than you!' These are smoke in My nostrils, A fire that burns all the day.

Notice that these people were not originally called. They even provoked God to anger by eating swine (a biblically unclean animal), but notice that they will find God even though they did not seek Him!

Isaiah 66:17-19 teaches:

17 "Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves,
To go to the gardens
After an idol in the midst,
Eating swine's flesh and the abomination and the mouse,
Shall be consumed together," says the LORD.
18 "For I know their works and their thoughts. It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory.
19 I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles.

Even though He will punish those who eat unclean meat, notice that they will be gathered and declared God's glory among the Gentiles. God's glory among the Gentiles is when He calls them all and offers them salvation. Those who believe in the elitist approach that God is only going to save "good" Roman Catholics and/or Protestants and condemn the vast majority of eaters of unclean meats to fry in torment forever are in clear error.

Romans 8:19-21, Paul states:

19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Notice that the creation was not subjected to futility willingly. And that the creation is waiting to be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. The entirety of creation is awaiting apocatastasis.

Hosea 2:23. Here is what a Protestant author wrote on this verse:

God had said that he would name these children as a sign to his people, but there would come a day of restoration:

"And I will have pity on Not-Pitied,
and I will say to Not-My-People,
'You are my people;'
and he shall say, 'Thou art my God.'" {Hos 2:23 RSV}

So that even in this time when God was announcing judgment, his grace also was being shown. (Stedman Ray. O.T. Prophetical Books).

That author is correct on that point. God specifically has foretold a time of restoration through the prophets. And those that were not His people, will become His people.

Romans 11:32-33, Paul states:

32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. 33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

Notice that God's plan has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. Also notice that Paul is teaching that God's mercy and judgment is apparently not easy for most to figure out.

Is it someone's fault that they were born in an area that no one knew or taught Christ?

Notice that God knew that most would not at first obey, but that He has a plan to have mercy on them.

Romans 11:13-15, Paul states:

13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

Notice that Paul is teaching that those being cast away can have acceptance after they are given life from the dead (see also vss 26-27). Paul is clearly teaching what is consisting with the CCOG view of apocatastasis.

God desires that all will be saved:

3... God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

Those not called in this age, those who never really had an opportunity for salvation, will realize their guilt in the judgment.  Many do not seem to realize that the Bible teaches:

13 Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13)

Those willing during the Last Great Day will be called into a covenant with God. Those who refuse by rebelling will not become part of spiritual Israel (cf. Romans 2:29). During this time of judgment, God will plead with people, who by then should realize that they have sinned and need salvation through Jesus Christ--the only name under heaven whereby men can be saved (Acts 4:10-12).

God will be able to contrast His ways with the ways of humankind. When those resurrected see how humans started out with a very good and beautiful Earth, then messed up and nearly completely destroyed it (Revelation 11:18) in their 6,000 years, they will realize that it was not wise for humankind to distance itself from the true God. He will apparently point out Satan’s role in deceiving humankind (Revelation 12:9) as well as show how insignificant Satan really is (Isaiah 14:12-16). He will apparently point out the dangers of individual sin and lust (James 1:14-15) and point out how well humanity did during the millennium.

God will apprently point out that He had to intervene to stop the destruction of all flesh (Matthew 24:22). He will mention that He will have implemented His kingdom for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4-5). God may also to point out how well humans did during this millennium (Isaiah 35:1-10; 41:20; 51:3). And He will apparently explain that to all that since each individual is unique and can give love in a unique way, that He has a special purpose of each individually (John 14:2-3) to complete God’s plan (cf.1 Corinthians 12:12-27), an eternity so great that is now beyond their comprehension (1 Corinthians 2:9). Nearly all who ever lived will accept God’s offer of salvation—and part of the reason why will be because they will how well humanity did following God’s ways during the utopia known as the millennium.

Some Few Will Willfully Reject God's Generous Offer But Their End Will Be Swift

Jesus taught a parable which shows that the time will come when those on the outside will hear the message:

21 Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.' 22 And the servant said, 'Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.' 23 Then the master said to the servant, 'Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. (Luke 14:21-23)

God will plead with humankind. Isaiah 3:13 shows:

13 The LORD stands up to plead, And stands to judge the people.

Ezekiel 20:33-38 states:

33 "As I live," says the Lord GOD, "surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you. 34 I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out. 35 And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face. 36 Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you," says the Lord GOD. 37 I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; 38 I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

Jeremiah 25:31-33 teaches:

31 A noise will come to the ends of the earth--For the LORD has a controversy with the nations; He will plead His case with all flesh. He will give those who are wicked to the sword,' says the LORD." 32 Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Behold, disaster shall go forth From nation to nation, And a great whirlwind shall be raised up From the farthest parts of the earth. 33 "And at that day the slain of the LORD shall be from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall become refuse on the ground..."

Thus while God will plead His case with all flesh and most will listen, those that are wicked will be eliminated and refuse on the ground (see also Malachy 4:3).

Although "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23), eternal death is not the penalty for most sins. Most sins, but not all, will be forgiven as there is only one sin that truly leads to death, per 1 John 5:16-17:

16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.

Hebrews 10:26-27 teaches:

26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries...

Notice that there are some who will be devoured by fiery indignation because they intentionally are rejecting the sacrifice of Christ. This punishment is the Gehenna fire that Jesus referred to. Thus, while all will be offered salvation, some will not accept it.

Deuteronomy 7:10-11, Moses explains that God will destroy those that will not keep His commandments:

10 and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. 11 Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them.

Do you observe His commandments, statutes, and judgments?

Matthew 10:28, Jesus taught:

28. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell {Gehenna}.

There would be no need for Jesus to say the above, unless there would be some who refuse salvation. But again, this is a very small amount. And notice that they are destroyed. We in the CCOG do not teach that human souls will be tortured throughout eternity. Notice that Jesus taught that in Gehenna souls are destroyed.

While the punishment is permanent, and in that sense everlasting, it is short--the actual punishment is NOT continual torment throughout eternity.

The wicked who will not repent will be totally destroyed:

1 Do not fret because of evildoers,Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. 2 For they shall soon be cut down like the grass,And wither as the green herb. ...
9 For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord,They shall inherit the earth. 10 For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more. ...
20 But the wicked shall perish; And the enemies of the Lord,Like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish.Into smoke they shall vanish away. ...
28 For the Lord loves justice, And does not forsake His saints They are preserved forever, But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off. ...
38 But the transgressors shall be destroyed together; The future of the wicked shall be cut off. (Psalm 37:1-2,9-10,20,28,38)

2 As smoke is driven away,
So drive them away;
As wax melts before the fire,
So let the wicked perish at the presence of God. (Psalm 68:2)

1 "For behold, the day is coming,
Burning like an oven,
And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble.
And the day which is coming shall burn them up,"
Says the Lord of hosts,
"That will leave them neither root nor branch.
2 But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings;
And you shall go out
And grow fat like stall-fed calves.
3 You shall trample the wicked,
For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet
On the day that I do this,"
Says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 4:1-3)

The Bible calls this the 'second death':

11... He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death. (Revelation 2:11)

6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:6)

14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (Revelation 20:14)

8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)

Thus, it is a type of death, but permanent. It is not eternal torturing like many claim. Jesus came so we would not have to PERISH, but have eternal life:

6 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

(Some have asked about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. For details, please check out the article The Rich Man and Lazarus.) Since it is appointed to people to die (Romans 3:23), the PERISHING has to do with what happens after the resurrections.

James 5:11 states:

11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord--that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.

Permanent torment is not merciful nor very compassionate--but putting the wicked permanently out of their misery is.

Nahum 1:12 teaches:

12 Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more;

Thus, this prophetic book is teachings that there is not a permanent torturing affliction.

Revelation 21:4 teaches:

4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." 5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."

There will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain. Thus there will not be an ever burning torment and torture of sinners throughout eternity. All things will become new.

Tthe wicked (those who will not repent) will be burned up and will be ashes (Malachi 4:1-3). This is not an everlasting torment, but a destruction of those that refuse God.

Recall that Jesus taught that the souls of people can be destroyed in gehenna. Here is a different translation of Matthew 10:28:

28 And be not afraid of those killing the body, and are not able to kill the soul, but fear rather Him who is able both soul and body to destroy in gehenna (Young's Literal Translation).

Thus, the wicked (including their soul) can, and will, be destroyed.

Psalm 68:2 teaches:

2 As smoke is driven away, So drive them away; As wax melts before the fire, So let the wicked perish at the presence of God.

Notice that the wicked are to perish.

Matthew 12:31-32 and Mark 3:28, Jesus teaches about what is commonly referred to as "the unpardonable sin" (see also What is the Unpardonable Sin?):

31 "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

28 "Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29 but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation"

Notice two very important points:

  1. Jesus taught with one exception every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven in this age or in the age to come. Thus, contrary to those who claim that God has passed final judgment upon everyone who died before the white throne judgement mentioned in the Bible (Revelation 20:11-12), God has not already condemned all non-believers. This is also consistent with 1 John 5:16-17, to cite another example.
  2. There is one sin, and one sin only, that will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Therefore, although almost everyone will be forgiven/pardoned and have the opportunity for salvation, there will be some small amount--those who blaspheme against the Spirit--who have been condemned.

And who are those that have blasphemed against the Spirit?

Those who clearly knew the plan of God, but would not humble themselves enough to accept and live it. These are the incorrigibly wicked (to learn what happens to the incorrigibly wicked, please see the article Are The Wicked Tormented Forever or Burned Up?). This is part of why very few really understand now. God is only calling few now so that more will not blaspheme the Holy Spirit and not ultimately be saved.

Yet notice, that the Psalms and Proverbs do show that God will save those He considers to be the humble:

4 He will beautify the humble with salvation (Psalm 149:4).

Apparently all of those who will humble themselves and accept God's offer are able to be saved. But this will not happen until after the seeds of the gospel are laid and come to fruition in harvest in the age to come. Notice Mark 4:26-29:

26 And He said, "The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come."

Romans 11:23 makes it clear that some who did not originally believe will be saved:

23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

Notice that the above says that "God is able to graft them in again." God is making it clear that a future time of salvation is coming.

Isaiah 29:24 shows that those of the house of Jacob who have erred will learn:

22 Therefore thus says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:

"Jacob shall not now be ashamed, Nor shall his face now grow pale; 23 But when he sees his children, The work of My hands, in his midst, They will hallow My name, And hallow the Holy One of Jacob, And fear the God of Israel.

24 These also who erred in spirit will come to understanding, And those who complained will learn doctrine.

This has not yet happened and is for the future!

If you are a Protestant, please ask yourself when and how the above prophecy is going to be fulfilled unless God has a plan to offer salvation after the resurrection?

Paul was even prevented from preaching the gospel in certain areas as Acts 16:6-7 shows:

6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.

Those people were denied an opportunity then, but will get this opportunity later!

Isaiah 44:17-18 reveals that God has prohibited idolaters to have proper understanding, but in verse 22 He indicates they will be forgiven:

17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, His carved image. He falls down before it and worships it, Prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god!" 18 They do not know nor understand; For He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, And their hearts, so that they cannot understand...22 I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, And like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.

Thus, is God going to permanently condemn those who worship idols for what He has not let them understand?

Protestant theology tends to say yes.

Those in the Church of God say no. Unless the idolater has committed the unpardonable sin (which is unlikely; see also What is the Unpardonable Sin?) they will be judged as other uncalled people are.

Romans 11:26-27, Paul quotes the Hebrew Bible and states:

26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
"The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins."

Notice that Paul is teaching that all Israel will be saved. And that the Deliverer (Jesus) will take away their sins. Yet most Jews have never professed Christ. Certainly God has a plan that involves all the Jews and the rest of Israel.

Who is all Israel? It is all who will become spiritual Israel--but this does include most who were Jewish.

Romans 9:6-8,22-24 teaches us:

6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, "In Isaac your seed shall be called." 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed...
22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

Thus, it is not physical Israel, but spiritual Israel who will be saved.

Notice that Romans 2:11 teaches:

11 For there is no partiality with God.

Acts 10:34-35,45 also teaches something of this:

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him..."And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

Since all Israel is to be saved and God shows no partiality, does not this mean that Gentiles should be part of spiritual Israel?

As Matthew 24:14 and 28:19-20 points out, the gospel is to preached ALL nations. And Revelation 7:9-10 teaches that people will be saved from "all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues."

Romans 2:28-29, Paul notes:

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

Thus, most of the promises in the New Testament (and many in the Old) are NOT referring to physical Jews, but for those that God will call to be Christians.

All will have an opportunity for salvation, Israelite and Gentile, and nearly all will accept it. For more information check out: Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis Related sermon videos include Universal Offer of Salvation I: God is love  and Universal Offer of Salvation II: The Age to Come and the 'Little Flock' and Universal Offer of Salvation III: All Are to Know Jesus, But When? and Universal Offer of Salvation IV: Will the Guilty be Pardoned? and Universal Offer of Salvation V: All Israel Will be Saved? A version of the main article was also translated in the Spanish language: Oferta universal de salvación: Hay cientos de versículos en la Biblia que apoyan la verdadera doctrina de la Apocatastasis.

Did the Jews Have a Clue?

Did the Jewish sages of old have any idea about this day and the Gentiles?

This eighth day was considered to be the day of rain. The Jewish Talmud includes the Mishnah (the first writing of the claimed oral law) and the Gemara (rabbinical discussion of the Mishnah). The traditions of the Talmud are not required for Christians, but sometimes can provide insights on at least certain Jewish understandings of some matters..

Notice some comments from Jewish sources:

"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! 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.

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 7a) http://www.jerusalemperspective.com/articles/DisplayArticle.asp?ID=1451 6/6/03)

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. '

Now the New Testament teaches that there will be the first resurrection for the saints (Revelation 20:4-5) and the rest later (Revelation 20:5,12-13). Jewish writings seem to realize that something will happen to those not part of the first resurrection, that it will involve basically all others, and that something is good about it. Why else would they consider the eighth day the greatest of all days if it were not somehow very good?

White Throne Judgment

This day helps picture the Great White Throne Judgment.

During this Last Great Day — during the Great White Throne Judgment — free access to God will be open to all mankind for the first time. Revelation 19 and 20 describe the events leading up to and occurring during this period after the Millennium.

The White Throne Judgment

Back away about arm's length, for a moment, from Revelation 19 and 20. You will notice increments of signal events and times take shape before your eyes. Revelation 19 introduces us to the glorious and astounding return of Jesus Christ to a war-torn, shell-shocked world — to save humanity from itself! And Revelation 20 covers not less than five colossal events in God's salvation of most of humanity:

1) Christ incarcerates Satan and the demons (Rev. 20:1-3).

2) Christ establishes His 1,000-year reign (verses 4-6).

3) Satan is released after this Millennium and deceives the willing wicked, who are then destroyed (verses 7-10).

4) Christ judges the people, now resurrected, who lived during the first 6,000 years of human history on earth. This is the Great White Throne Judgment (verses 11-13).

5) The lake of fire, fueled by God, provides a merciful death for those who refuse to live God's way (verses 14-15).

Let's concentrate on the Great White Throne Judgment. This will be a time unprecedented in the annals of human salvation. At no time before or after will so many be resurrected and judged in such a short period of time! An estimate of the number of people to be resurrected might be about 50 billion!

Can we imagine the breathtaking scene when Christ will, by divine fiat, raise from the dead these untold billions to a vibrant physical existence? This judgment will require a period of time.

Where, in Scripture, is such a period discussed?

A 100-year period

Isaiah 65:20 mentions a 100-year life span that lends itself to the Great White Throne Judgment period. The context does paint a setting identical to that of the 1,000- year period (Isa. 11:6-10, 65:25), yet it appears postmillennial, too.

No other scriptural reference to a millennial setting of peace and prosperity hints of a 100-year life span. We know Jesus Christ will be the great Judge seated upon this Great White Throne (Acts 10:42, Rev. 20:11, 6:14-17). The very existence of the Last Great Day, following the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles, indicates a distinct period for judging billions of human beings.

We know the "books" mentioned in Revelation 20:12 are the books of God's Word, the Holy Bible (John 12:47-48). And we know that the names of the faithful saints, those being mercifully judged during the White Throne Judgment, will be recorded and preserved in the book of life (Rev. 21:27). Since Christ will be the great Judge then, and since that same Christ will have ruled and judged for 1,000 years previous to this period, it should not seem surprising that the White Throne setting will be a continuation of the conditions to prevail during the Millennium.

Whether this 100-year life span is the time segment for the Great White Throne Judgment, it is sure that this special judgment does follow the Millennium, just as the eighth day or Last Great Day Festival follows the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles.

The very existence of this final annual festival indicates a separate and distinct period for judging billions of human beings. But how does judgment work?

Judgment misunderstood

Just as the time for humanity's salvation is misunderstood, so is the truth about judgment. Many professing Christians believe that judgment consists of Christ lining up humanity (this would require a very long line!), and pronouncing them either "sheep" or "goats" — deciding their eternal fate. But this is not Christ's judgment process.

Isaiah 65:20 explains how "the sinner... one hundred years old shall be accursed." What else but a judgment time period could account for the possibility that a sinner could live for 100. years under Christ's rule?

Judgment requires a judge, laws, a group ruled by the laws, knowledge of the laws, time to be judged, a verdict and execution of the verdict. Once one understands that godly judgment is not demagogic caprice, but a deliberate evaluation based on love for the participant's benefit, one can see the profound mercy of God (Rom. 5:6-9).

Judgment is a necessary blessing!

Why a white throne?

In Scripture, white can refer either to light or righteousness, which, spiritually, are one and the same (Rev. 19:8, 14). It's fairly plain, then, that the white throne in Revelation 20:11 implies a judgment effected in righteousness. The word throne in Revelation 20:11 means a stately seat or a potentate's seat or throne. It indicates a monarch who rules alone, with uncontested and unequaled power. This truly fits with Scripture, for before the Great White Throne Judgment begins, Satan and the demons will be cast into outer darkness, beyond the reaches of God's whole universe. They will be "wandering stars [fallen angels] for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever" (Jude 13).

In Isaiah 50:3, God says, "I clothe the heavens with blackness." Satan will not be around to contest Christ's righteous judgment of humanity during the White Throne Judgment! How great a judgment! Why is this particular judgment called a great one?

For two major reasons:

1) Jesus Christ, the Judge, is astonishingly great in all His makeup, purpose, mercy, power and love.

2) This particular judgment is great because of the untold billions upon billions of physical human beings who will be mercifully and lovingly judged at one time. Jesus personally observed the Last Great Day, for it was He who instituted the day to symbolize this very White Throne Judgment (John 1:1-3, 14). What Jesus knew, you can know.

That last and great day of the annual festival days foreshadows the greatest time of salvation for the greatest number of people at one time. How wonderful it is to know the truth! The prophet Ezekiel sheds light on those incredible numbers. The setting in Ezekiel 37 is postmillennial. Remember that the first resurrection, to occur as the Millennium begins, is to spirit essence (Rev. 20:4-6). The resurrection at the beginning of the White Throne Judgment, however, is to a physical state.

Here God resurrects the whole house of Israel, which had lived and died during mankind's first six millennia (Ezek. 37:1-2, 11). Israel may number into the billions themselves. But what of all the greater numbers of gentiles who also lived and died during that same period of time and who, too, will be awaiting their one and only opportunity to be judged and saved (I Tim. 2:4)? They will also be resurrected at that precise time.

The opportunities extended to Israel will also be offered to the gentiles (Rom. 2:9-10, Isa. 19:24-25).

Thank God this is not the only day of salvation (Isa. 49:8, Revised Standard Version).

The eighth day

Numbers in Scripture often carry special significance. The number 7, for instance, symbolizes completion or perfection, while the number 40 indicates trial or testing. The same is true in the case of the Last Great Day, which is referred to as the eighth day of the Feast (Lev. 23:36).

The word for the number 8 is related to a Hebrew word meaning "fatness," and can imply abundance, fertility, resurrection or regeneration. This last and great day of the annual festival days foreshadows the greatest time of salvation for the greatest number of people at one time.

Listen now to God's words of warning and encouragement concerning these latter days: "Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, for you do not know what evil will be on the earth" (Eccl. 11:2).

We are told, "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days" (verse 1).

This exhortation should ring loud and clear to us in the context of the Last Great Day, for God sets the example, follows His own instructions and inspires us to do the same. God Himself will cast His spiritual bread upon the waters or nations of this earth both during the 1,000-year period, portrayed by the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles, and during the Great White Throne Judgment, symbolized by the Last Great Day Festival or the eighth day of the Feast.

Following this White Throne Judgment comes a purging of this earth (II Pet. 3:10-11) and an end to human procreation and existence. But don't be sad — be happy and grateful! Your future spiritual body will be everlasting, while your physical one now is temporary. "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (verse 13). What a glorious time! "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Rev. 21:4).

Will you be there?

Will you be waiting and anticipating throughout the millennial rule of Christ, while helping refurbish this earth for those billions to be resurrected at the beginning of the White Throne Judgment? Someone will! And those who will be there at the dawning of that Last Great Day will be waiting as spirit beings — already literally born as spirit-composed children of almighty God and younger brothers of our Savior, Jesus Christ (Dan. 12:3). At Jesus Christ's Second Coming, humanity will be saved from extinction because of a tiny group of "elect" people (Matt. 24:22). A similar lopsided ratio will be apparent at the raising of multiple billions of people at the beginning of the White Throne Judgment. By comparison, the number of those who will already have been born into God's Family, though numbering in the hundreds of millions or billions, will be small.

But those children of God — you among them — will have the tremendous opportunity to help the rest of humanity fulfill its awesome potential and also be born into God's Family. Never will so many owe so much to so few. And they, even now, are waiting for you! Please — be there! (Aust J. What the Last Great Day Means for You. Good News, October-November, 1983)

In its Statement of Beliefs , the Continuing Church of God states:

The Last Great Day helps picture that all who ever lived will have a real opportunity for salvation (John 7:37-38; Isaiah 52:10,13-15; 65:20; Luke 3:6)–an opportunity most will accept (John 7:37-39; Romans 11:25-26; Ezekiel 37:11-14; Hebrews 9:27-28). The New Testament name comes from the Apostle John who wrote, “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.” (John 7:37-38).

A sermon on this topic is also available: Shemini Azaret: The Last Great Day.

Thiel B. The Last Great Day: Shemini 'Azeret. http://www.cogwriter.com/last-great-day.htm COGwriter (c) 2014/2015/2016 1103

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