Valley of The Dry Bones of Ezekiel 37 rendering by Gustave Doré
Until sunset this evening (October 24, 2016) is a Holy Day often called the Last Great Day. It helps picture an important part of God’s plan of salvation.
Whether or not you profess to be a Christian, do you actually understand God’s plan of salvation?
At risk of possible gross oversimplification, there are many incomplete as well as inaccurate views of what God’s plan of salvation is that I will attempt to briefly summarize:
- Evangelicals and Certain Other Protestants: God is trying to save everyone now through the name of Jesus. But since most have not heard the message of Christ, most who ever lived will be eternally lost.
- Calvinist Protestants: God is not trying to save everyone now and never had a plan to truly offer salvation to all as all humans are sinners who deserve eternal punishment. Yet, God is so merciful He sent His son to die for a few (roughly 1-3% of the population) that were predestined to be called now and saved, and this shows that God has love. Nearly all who ever lived will be eternally lost.
- Unitarians: God does not really care what you believe or do, but if you try to lead a decent life, He will save you. Note: This is not the position of unitarian groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and some others, but the position of those generally known as Unitarians (like a group I once visited near where I live).
- Universalists: God loves everyone and will save everyone.
- The LDS (Mormons) teach that God since will not condemn those who for no fault of their own have not accepted Christ, that He will save many through baptism for the dead. Hence they try to find the names of the dead through genealogical research and have people baptized in proxy for them.
- Although the Eastern Orthodox tend to consider that God’s plan of salvation is highly sacramental, they tend to teach that God’s plan is not one terror and that somehow God may save people up through the time of the White Throne Judgment.
- Catholic: God wants to save everyone, but most will not be saved. Despite not hearing the name of Christ, God has a plan and will save some from the pagan religions who strive to live right and will give salvation to Catholics who have gone through the right sacraments at the right time.
The Evangelicals and many other Protestants are right that it is only through the name of Jesus that one can be saved (Acts 4:10-12). But they normally limit when God can do this and do not understand about the age to come (Matthew 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; Hebrews 6:5).
The Calvinists are right that all are sinners (Romans 3:23) and that God has predestined some to be called in this age. But they neglect that since God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34, KJV), that others who think that there hope is cut off will receive an opportunity (cf. Ezekiel 37:1-11).
The Unitarians are correct that God wants people to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). But that is not how one is saved. For it is “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Universalists are right that God loves everyone and that God wants all saved. However, since some will intentionally reject God’s offer of salvation, not all will be saved (cf. Revelation 20:13-15).
The Mormons are right that God has a plan of salvation that involves the dead who have not committed the unpardonable sin (see also What is the Unpardonable Sin?). Yet the idea that this will happen because of ritualistic baptism for peoples names found in genealogical records is incorrect. Plus, since God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34, KJV), one does not give the opportunity for salvation because one happens to have been part of a culture that maintained birth, marriage, death and/or other historical records.
The Eastern Orthodox are right that God’s plan is not really intended to be one of terror. And while God actually does intend the time of the White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-12) as part of His plan, since the Orthodox do not observe the Fall Holy Days they misunderstand much of the actual plan. Up until just before they adopted ‘purgatory’ (see Did the Early Church Teach Purgatory?), the Church of Rome held a similar view to the Eastern Orthodox.
The Catholics are right that God does have a plan of salvation and that plan includes reaching out to those who have never known the God of the Bible. However, since every knee will bow to Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:9-11), all who will be saved will have to accept Him as savior. Plus, salvation is not mainly a sacramental process as the Catholic tend to emphasize (though the Bible does state that believers need to repent and be baptized as the Apostle Peter taught in Acts 2:38).
The Bishop of Rome clearly does NOT understand Ezekiel 37. Notice the following report:
In the Book of Ezechiel, there is a peculiar vision that is described, impressive, but capable of instilling confidence and hope in our hearts. God shows the prophet a valley of bones, detached from each other and dry. A desolate scenario. Imagine, an entire hill full of bones. God asks him, then, to invoke the Spirit upon them. At that moment, the bones begin to draw closer and unite, first the nerves grow on them and then the flesh and thus the body is formed, complete and full of life. (Ez. 37, 1-14). This is the Church! I recommend, today when you are home, to read Ezechiel, Chapter 27. http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/on-the-body-of-christ
While Pope Francis is correct that this is an impressive vision, this is a vision of those that are not now in the true Church. This is a vision for the future.
Here is a little of what Jerold Aust taught about it:
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). (Aust J. What the Last Great Day Means for You. Good News, October-November, 1983)
Ezekiel 37 helps show that people who were dead and not in Christ will be resurrected to the flesh and have an opportunity for salvation. Notice what it actually teaches:
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)
Now will salvation be offered to all who ever lived?
Notice what the New Testament and the Old Testament plainly teach:
6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Luke 3:6)
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, this article 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.
Micah 7:18-19 teaches:
18 Who is a God like You,
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.
This is something that the Church of Rome does not understand.
The biblical reality is that while God wants all to repent (Acts 17:30), He knew that all would not. And so to reduce the number of humans who would commit the “unpardonable sin” (see What is the Unpardonable Sin? ) and thus not be eligible for future salvation, He allowed Satan to blind and deceive most in this age (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11; Revelation 12:9; 13:14).
We in the Continuing Church of God believe that the Bible teaches that God made everything and it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31) and that “this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3). And that God made humans upright (Ecclesiastes 7:29), but that humans felt that they could decide to disobey God’s commands (Genesis 3:6)–such disobedience is harmful to themselves as well as others and leads to death (Romans 6:23). Because of that disobedience, God stopped humans from having immediate access to the tree of life on their own (Genesis 3:22; John 6:44)–even though He had a plan of redemption from before “the foundation of the world” involving Jesus (Revelation 13:8, plus see the article Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis).
We in the Continuing Church of God believe that God gave humans 6,000 years to live their own way (please see the article Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism and a 6000 Year Plan?). And that humans will mess things up so bad, “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matthew 24:22).
But because God has a plan for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 13:38) and is a God of love (1 John 4:8,16; John 3:16), He will intervene and send Jesus to establish a millennial kingdom on earth (Revelation 11:15; 20:4). During this 1000-year reign the world will become beautiful again (Isaiah 35:1-10; 58:12) (see also Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism?).
After this thousand year reign, all who ever lived will be resurrected (Revelation 20:5). The judgment will begin (Revelation 20:12) and God will plead His case (Isaiah 3:13; Jeremiah 25:31). When humans see how they started out with a very good and beautiful earth and messed up and nearly completely destroyed it in their 6,000 years, it appears that they will realize that humankind that distanced itself from the true God cannot properly govern itself. However, when they see how when starting with a messed up and nearly completely destroyed earth at the end of the 6,000 years (please see the article Does God Have a 6,000 Year Plan? What Year Does the 6,000 Years End?), that it was restored to being very good again, like Eden (Isaiah 51:3), because people obeyed the King of Kings during the millennium (please see Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism?), then apparently nearly all who ever lived will repent of their ways, accept Jesus as the Christ, and will live God’s way of life.
Since God is love (1 John 4:16), we in the Continuing Church of God believe that He has a plan that takes into account how human beings would have rebelled against Him (cf. 1 Peter 1:20-21). We also believe that God is smart enough to have developed a plan that does not result in the vast majority of humanity having to suffer endless torment. Thus we believe it is logical that His plan will result in nearly everyone who ever lived, no matter what their religion or background was, to be saved. And that there are hundreds of verses in the Bible that show this—and this is God’s will (2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16-17). This plan is also consistent with writings about Christianity throughout history—though most in modern times seem to wish to overlook that fact. And a little known fact is that there are hundreds of verses in the Bible that show this (documentation is in the article Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis).
We believe that the biblical Holy Days reveal God’s loving plan of salvation (see article Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible?), yet because most who profess Christ keep non-biblical days such as Christmas and Easter, they simply do not understand that God has a plan which will result in nearly everyone who ever lived to be saved.
We believe that since God is a God of love that He wanted to reproduce Himself and share His joy to all that He could and that His plan of salvation accomplishes this. This concept of God “reproducing Himself” for us to be truly part of His family is not totally foreign to what passes for mainstream “Christianity” as even the Catholic and Orthodox “Saint” Athanasius (fourth century) taught of Jesus, “For He was made man that we might be made God” (Athanasius. On the Incarnation of the Word, Chapter 54, Verse 3) (for additional details on this doctrine, please see Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God?).
Jesus was clear that only a few will find this way in this age:
23 Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” And He said to them, 24 Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able (Luke 13:23-24).
14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:14).
32 “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)
So only some few will be called in this age. And there is an “age to come” (Matthew 12:32) where even infamous sinners will have an opportunity (cf. Matthew 10:15;11:22).
Jesus said His True Church would be a “Little Flock” that would be around until He returns. As mentioned before, the Continuing Church of God is such a little flock that traces its history from the Book of Acts, throughout the ages, and into the 21st century, and we are proclaiming His return.
The Bible clearly teaches:
6 …all flesh shall see the salvation of God (Luke 3:6).
Those who did not truly see and understand this plan of salvation will have it explained to them. And that is what the Last Great Day pictures.
Notice what Jesus taught:
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)
The Last Great Day helps demonstrate that all who ever lived will have an opportunity for salvation–an opportunity most will accept (John 7:37-39; Romans 11:25-26; Ezekiel 37:11-14; Hebrews 9:27-28). Those who do not observe the same Holy Days that Jesus and His disciples did, normally do not truly understand God’s plan of salvation.
A major reason that I originally became part of the 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.
That is part of what Ezekiel 37 is all about.
A sermon for this Holy Day is available:
The eighth day after the start of the Feast of Tabernacles is normally called the ‘Last Great Day’ in the Continuing Church of God. Does God only plan to save a few or many? Did Jesus come to die for a few or many? Will most people who ever lived be saved? What does the Bible really teach about this? Dr. Thiel goes over scriptures that the bulk of those who profess Christianity often do not understand about God’s loving plan of salvation.
Again here is a link to the sermon Last Great Day shows God’s loving plan.
Some items of related interest may include:
The Last Great Day: Shemini ‘Azeret What is the ‘eighth day’ of the Feast? What does it help picture? A sermon on this topic is also available: Shemini Azaret: The Last Great Day.
Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differ from most Protestants How the real Church of God differs from mainstream/traditional Protestants, is perhaps the question I am asked most by those without a Church of God background.
John Calvin, Calvinism, TULIP, and What is Predestination? Who was John Calvin? Did he believe in sola Scriptura or did he hold to unbiblical doctrines? TULIP analyzed.
What is the Meaning of Life? Who does God say is happy? What is your ultimate destiny? Do you really know? Does God actually have a plan for YOU personally? If you would like to watch videos covering subjects of this article, you can click on the following links: Why YOU? Why Do YOU Suffer? and What is the meaning of your life?
Some Dissimilarities Between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) and the Continuing Church of God The Continuing Church of God is not related to the Mormons and this article explains some differences and a couple of similarities.
Some Similarities and Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Continuing Church of God Both groups claim to be the original church, but both groups have differing ways to claim it. Both groups have some amazing similarities and some major differences. Do you know what they are?
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions.
Did the Early Church Teach Purgatory? Is there a place called purgatory? Does God have a plan to help those who did not become saints in this life?
What is Limbo? Is There Such a Place as Limbo? What Happens to Babies When They Die? When did Limbo start being taught? What is the truth about dead babies?
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?
What is the Unpardonable Sin? What is it? Can you repent of it? Do you know what it is and how to avoid it?
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.
Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis Do you believe what the Bible actually teaches on this? Will all good things be restored? Will God call everyone? Will everyone have an opportunity for salvation? Does God’s plan of salvation take rebellion and spiritual blindness into account? 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.
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? Here is a link to a sermon about Last Great Day.
Holy Day Calendar This is a listing of the biblical holy days through 2024, with their Roman calendar dates. They are really hard to observe if you do not know when they occur In the Spanish/Español/Castellano language: Calendario de los Días Santos. In Mandarin Chinese: 何日是神的圣日？ 这里是一份神的圣日日历从2013年至2024年。.