The future looks truly hopeless, but God reveals a different vision. Four events will dramatically reverse humanity’s plunge into the abyss and provide boundless hope!
Jesus Christ hit the nail on the head in describing humanity’s accelerating slide toward self-destruction:
“And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matthew 24:22).
The prophetic end times are marked by our ability to annihilate ourselves with weapons of mass destruction—and by the growing coldness of heart and evilness of mind that make extinction seem inevitable. The situation is growing increasingly bleak.
But Jesus’ next words give a beacon of hope: “But for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (verse 22).
Due to Christ’s intervention, the nations of the world will not self-destruct but will be rescued and then taught God’s ways by Christ and the elect (Revelation 5:10).
The elect pictured by Pentecost
Who are these “elect”? They are the called and chosen and faithful followers of Jesus Christ who buck the trends of lawlessness and coldness, and instead zealously help announce the good news of the Kingdom of God “in all the world as a witness to all the nations” (verses 12-14).
These elect are the firstfruits of God’s spiritual harvest, pictured in the harvest festival of Pentecost. That is why God also used Pentecost to launch the New Testament Church (see the May/June 2014 Discern article “The Sermon That Launched the Church”).
But the meaningful festival of Pentecost is not the end of the story. God gave His people four subsequent festivals that revealed additional steps in God’s plan to save—to spiritually harvest—the whole world.
Trumpets will announce Christ’s return
Jesus said that, for the sake of the elect, God would curtail the evil days ahead. That time of tribulation will be shortened by the return of Jesus Christ to the earth.
At first, people will not recognize the source of their only hope. “All the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man [Jesus] coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds” (verses 30-31).
The seventh trumpet of Revelation also announces the coronation of Jesus Christ: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” (Revelation 11:15).
These pivotal events mark the end of human misrule and the beginning of God’s great harvest season. We see them clearly foreshadowed in the first of the four biblical fall festivals, the Feast of Trumpets. (Learn more about the Feast of Trumpets and all seven biblical festivals and their essential meanings in our free booklet From Holidays to Holy Days: God’s Plan for You.)
Removing the enemy
After Jesus Christ returns to a devastated earth, one of the first things He promises to do is to remove the spiritual enemy who has led humanity to the brink of extinction more than once.
This evil being’s destructive influence has been felt from the Garden of Eden to the time of the Flood to the times of the end—and every time in between.
But after Jesus’ second coming, God describes a momentous event that will provide hope for the future. In the apostle John’s vision, an angel sent by God “laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:2).
After Satan is locked away, the apostle John describes God’s elect servants working with Jesus Christ to bring a thousand years of peace and just government to the whole world.Satan will not be able to deceive people during this time, and the barriers between God and man will be breached. Our loving and merciful God will reconcile sinful humanity to Himself, a theme pictured in the next biblical festival, the Day of Atonement.
A Millennium of peace
After Satan is locked away, the apostle John describes God’s elect servants working with Jesus Christ to bring a thousand years of peace and just government to the whole world (Revelation 20:4).
Many of the most hope-filled and utopian prophecies of the Bible portray a vision of this wonderful world. Imagine:
“They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken” (Micah 4:3-4).
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert” (Isaiah 35:5-6).
The prosperity and peace of this thousand years is foreshadowed by the abundance and joy of God’s annual Feast of Tabernacles.
“You shall observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days, when you have gathered from your threshing floor and from your winepress. And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter. … because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice” (Deuteronomy 16:13-15).
Even today, in the midst of this troubled world, many Christians continue to obey the command to celebrate this harvest festival of hope. In doing so, they are following the example of Jesus Christ, who observed the Feast of Tabernacles even when His life was at risk (see the story in John 7). (See “What Is the Feast?” for more information.)
Hope for all
These events and the festivals associated with them give us great hope for the future. Yet the Bible reveals another step in God’s plan that few today understand. It demonstrates how God’s mercy provides real hope for all people who have ever lived.
Many people have wondered if God has been losing in a battle with Satan. So few people throughout history have even heard the name of Jesus Christ, the only name by which we can be saved (Acts 4:10-12). Are all those who haven’t been called by God lost forever? Would our loving God allow that? No!
God tells us that He “is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
But when will those who haven’t had this chance be given their opportunity to be saved?
Revelation 20 describes what will happen after the thousand years: “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. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (verse 12).
It seems the books that will be opened are the books of the Bible—books that few people through history have known and fewer still have really understood. Since we know God is fair and merciful, He will give the people in this resurrection a full chance to know His truth by opening the Bible to their understanding. They will have their first and only opportunity to repent and be forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice, to receive God’s Holy Spirit and obey Him, and to be saved.
Having the Book of Life opened implies that God will write more names in it—many more names! Then God’s great spiritual harvest will be complete.
This resurrection and judgment follows after the thousand years, just as the Eighth Day or Last Great Day follows the Feast of Tabernacles. Christians who celebrate this last harvest festival remember God’s gracious plan to offer salvation to all people. Read more about this in the Life, Hope & Truth article “The Last Great Day: The Final Harvest.”
And get an overview of all seven biblical festivals and their essential meanings by downloading our free booklet From Holidays to Holy Days: God’s Plan for You.