For a thousand years, mankind will experience life as it was always meant to be lived. The whole human race will operate according to the same core principles—“to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)—and the world will be transformed.
War will cease. Glaring issues like racism, poverty and inequality will be solved. The world will be just and fair and filled with people learning firsthand the difference it makes when we all obey our Creator: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
But God’s plan doesn’t end here. God is a family—a loving, all-powerful family. God the Father and Jesus Christ created us with the potential to join that family—and when Christ returns, tens of thousands of faithful Christians will be resurrected into that family.
But what about everyone else? Tens of thousands pale in comparison to the billions and billions who have lived and died throughout human history. What happens to them? Is all that potential wasted forever?
Not even close. The last holy day—what the Bible calls “the eighth day” (Leviticus 23:36) and what we’ve come to call the Last Great Day—reminds us that God’s plan is grander and more spectacular than we can really comprehend.
At the end of the thousand years, Satan “must be released for a little while” (Revelation 20:3). Mankind will have lived God’s way of life for a millennium, but when Satan is free, people will have to make a choice. It’s the same choice each of us has to grapple with today: Trust God and obey, or buy into Satan’s lies and rebel.
Sadly, a great many people will be eager to turn against God’s way of life—even after seeing firsthand the blessings that come from it. Satan will “go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth” and gather together an army “whose number is as the sand of the sea” (Revelation 20:8).
The attempted coup will end as quickly as it begins. The army will march against “the camp of the saints and the beloved city,” only to be obliterated in an instant by fire from heaven (verse 9). Satan will be removed from the picture forever, and then, at long last, the events of the Last Great Day will begin to unfold.
The Last Great Day immediately follows the Feast of Tabernacles, although the Old Testament spends very little time talking about it. Aside from setting it apart as “a holy convocation” (Leviticus 23:36) like the other holy days, we’re not given many hints about what it pictures in God’s plan.
The New Testament gives us a little more information, though. After the thousand years of Christ’s reign on earth, the final stage of God’s plan is set in motion. In the prophecies of Revelation, John tells us, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it. … And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life” (Revelation 20:11-12).
“The dead.” It’s almost mentioned in passing here, but these verses are telling us that the billions of men, women and children who have died throughout the course of human history will live again—and what’s more, they will come to know their Maker.
God’s intention is to offer everyone the chance to join His family. That includes the small flock He’s been working with in this life, but it also includes the untold billions who have died without receiving and accepting that calling.
The prophet Ezekiel was shown a vision of the bones of “the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’” (Ezekiel 37:11). But hope is not lost—not for Israel, and not for the billions of other lives that have ended without truly understanding the plan of the God who created them.
The prophecy of Revelation tells us that “the books” will be opened—which appears to be a reference to the books of the Bible. Some of these newly resurrected billions will have seen and even read the Bible before—but because God was not actively opening their minds to His truth, they won’t have truly understood it.
The Last Great Day pictures the moment that changes.
We’re not told exactly how long this segment of God’s plan will last, but we do know that the Book of Life will be opened, which means that God will be offering these billions of people the same thing He offers His people today: eternal life in His family. This Great White Throne Judgment period (see Revelation 20:11-12) will provide everyone a chance to accept God’s offer of salvation. Because these billions were not called by God in this lifetime, this will be their very first opportunity to understand and join the family of God.
That’s the goal. That has always been the goal. It’s where the plan of God has been heading since day one—since before day one, really—and it’s the crowning moment that the Last Great Day pictures. Peter meant it when he wrote that God is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). And everyone—everyone—will eventually get that opportunity.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean everyone will take it. God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but some still will. Some, with their eyes open to who God is and what He’s offering, will still reject Him. There are those who have made that choice in this life, and there will be those who will make that choice during this Great White Throne Judgment period. They’ll refuse to live by His perfect standards, insisting on a life that will bring pain and suffering to themselves and others.
Those people will be destroyed forever. God, who is love (1 John 4:8), will obliterate them from existence because the way they insist on walking can only cause suffering. God will not allow it. Not anymore. The only merciful outcome for someone so bent on evil is to simply stop existing. “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15).
It might sound harsh, but there’s no alternative. It comes down to a choice—a choice everyone must face, either in this life or the next.
God tells us, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 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 21:6-8).
Eternal life or destruction. God’s family or oblivion. That’s ultimately the decision we all have to make—the decision pictured by the Last Great Day.
And then comes the real end of the world.
As the book of Revelation draws to a close, we’re given the briefest glimpse of what comes next—and that brief glimpse is absolutely incredible:
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 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’” (Revelation 21:1-4).
The world we know is a temporary one. It was never designed to last forever. What’s coming, though, is eternal and beyond our comprehension. As physical human beings, it’s impossible to wrap our minds around what God has planned for eternity, but we do know this: The God who sculpted and designed the wonders and marvels of this physical universe is the same God who holds eternity in His hands.
Whatever’s coming is worth the wait.
“And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5).
We’ve covered a lot of ground in these three Journeys. We’ve gotten to know the God of the Bible, we’ve wrestled with the problem of evil, and now we’ve explored God’s holy day plan. You now have a framework of who God is, what He’s doing and why He’s doing it. There’s still so much to learn, but there’s really only one big question left to tackle:
Where do you fit in all of this?
This isn’t just head knowledge. These aren’t just interesting factoids we’ve been exploring. There’s a story unfolding all around you—a story that is going to change the world forever—and you have the chance to be part of it.
God is building a family, and He wants you in it. You. Not just your friends, not just your family, but you. Because He loves you. Because He cares for you. Because He created you with a purpose that is so much greater than anything you could ever accomplish on your own.
But that purpose isn’t going to just happen. All of this, everything you’ve just read, is completely worthless unless you choose to take the next step—to repent, to be baptized and to seek to become the child of God you were created to be.
You’ve completed this Journey, which means you don’t just know what God is doing—you also know that He expects something from you. Now you have to choose whether you’ll put that knowledge to use—or let it all pass you by.
Make no mistake: What’s in motion is in motion. God’s plan will come to pass, and nothing—“neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing” (Romans 8:38-39)—will be able to stand in its way.
But God created you for a purpose. He created you to be His child, and He has every intention of guiding you toward that future, if you’re willing. So yes, God’s plan will continue without you if need be—but He’d much rather have it continue with you instead.
The choice is yours.
Continue your studies with “Journey 4: The People of God,” available from the Life, Hope & Truth Learning Center.