“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” said the Apostle Peter, referring to Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). The Apostle John states the same thing in his gospel (John 3:16-17). The Apostle Paul taught the Gentiles the same truth (1 Timothy 2:5-6). All of mankind, no matter what nation or culture, must learn about Jesus Christ and believe the message He brought to Earth from God. Unless someone has faith in Christ’s gospel message and follows Jesus’s spiritual example, he cannot be saved. This is a clear doctrinal statement that is easy to understand.
Sadly, this essential Christian doctrine has been grossly misunderstood and misapplied even by most professing Christians. What some teach about these verses makes God seem unloving and unfair. God is neither! Study John 3:16-17 thoroughly. God loves the whole world and greatly desires to save the whole world. Yet today’s world is filled with religious confusion. The many different Christian denominations and all other world religions have conflicting ideas and beliefs on what and who is God, His purpose for man, and His plan of salvation. Only a very few understand the glorious truth of God’s purpose and plan for man. But you can understand.
Here are some big questions many professing Christians ask when they read Paul’s, John’s and Peter’s statements on salvation. What happens to the vast majority of people living on Earth who never learn about Christ or hear His message before they die? Are they lost forever? What about all the little children who die, not mature enough to learn anything, much less about Christ or His message? Are they left without hope of salvation? What about the vast number of people in ages past, including those before the Flood, who never heard of Christ? Has God denied them salvation?
Some professing Christians would say: “Yes, they are definitely lost—forever!” However, that is not what the Bible states.
How did modern Christianity get so off track about salvation? We can understand the heart of the problem rather quickly if we open our minds and reject our religious prejudices.
A Day of Salvation
The Roman Catholic Church’s false, non-biblical doctrines of the immortality of the soul, purgatory, eternal punishment in hell, and the belief that the reward of the saved is “going to heaven” have helped to thoroughly confuse the whole matter. Another false belief coming from Protestantism, that some professing Christians espouse, tightly binds together all the confusion. It is the belief that human beings can only be saved in the time period between Christ’s death in a.d. 31 and His imminent Second Coming. In other words, some believe our time is the only day of salvation. Is this true? Not according to the Bible.
“Today is not the only day of salvation,” wrote Herbert W. Armstrong in Pagan Holidays—or God’s Holy Days—Which? “Today is a day of salvation. Isaiah said so: chapter 49, verse 8.” This is a simple doctrinal statement based fully on what the Bible states. Simply read Isaiah 49:8, and you cannot miss the meaning. When people read the Bible today, very few understand what it actually says because their minds have been prejudiced by false teachings. And most professing Christians believe that the Old Testament is irrelevant to Christianity, so they don’t even read, study and believe this requisite foundation of the New Testament.
The translators of the King James Version share responsibility in all the confusion too. Though these translators were brilliant men, they mistranslated 2 Corinthians 6:2, which should be a direct quote of Isaiah 49:8. Here is a look at these two verses.
From 2 Corinthians 6:2: “… behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Now read Isaiah 49:8: “Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee ….” The word “the” should not be in 2 Corinthians 6:2. “In fact, the original Greek words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:2 should be translated ‘a day of salvation,’ not ‘the day of salvation,’” continued Mr. Armstrong.
Isn’t it amazing what a difference one tiny word can make? The scholarly translators surely knew the Greek word in this verse. It appears the translators inserted the word the to support their own wrong thinking.
Salvation Open Now to Just a Few
Through His incredible holy day plan outlined in Leviticus 23, God has revealed to His Church that He isn’t trying to save every human being in this age. God doesn’t want the vast sea of humanity to understand His truth, yet! That seems like a lot to swallow. However, contrary to popular belief, Christ did not attempt to save the whole world during His first appearance.
This fact somewhat confused the disciples. They knew that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the very Son of God (Matthew 16:16-17). These men also recognized that Jesus brought a message to Earth from God (John 6:68-69). However, they were puzzled by the fact that Christ mostly spoke in parables.
One day when Christ was preaching, the disciples mustered up the courage to ask why He spoke to the “great multitudes” in parables. “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given,” was His shocking answer (Matthew 13:11). Jesus Christ literally hid the meaning of His message from the masses who followed Him so they could not understand it spiritually. Why? Study verses 14-15.
Here is spiritual understanding you can count on. God planned to call only a small number of people from the time Adam and Eve rejected Him and His way of life until Jesus Christ’s Second Coming. God cut off Adam and Eve and the rest of mankind from Him when our first parents disobeyed and rejected Him (Genesis 3:22-24). Even Paul stated: “[N]ot many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Corinthians 1:26).
The Bible makes this clear. Consider Christ’s own ministry. Christ preached to multiple thousands of people for 3½ years, but only 120 truly followed Him and did what He said (Acts 1:15). Was Christ a failure? Read and believe your Bible. Thoroughly study the principle of John 6:44 and 65. Jesus Christ stated emphatically that the people of His time could not become His disciples unless God the Father opened their minds and drew them to Christ.
God is not vengeful and filled with spite. He does not want any human being to miss out on eternal life (2 Peter 3:9). He plans to exert powerful effort to reach out to every human. But He is also practical in His planning. He does everything decently and in order, without confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). To complete His awesome plan of salvation, God knew it would require much time and patience. God has allotted 7,000 years to complete His plan for man. But what is God doing right now?
In this end time, God has given His Church a message to be broadcast to this world, but only as a witness (Matthew 24:14; Revelation 10:11). To get His message to this world in our day, God is calling out a small group of people to help Him deliver it (John 6:44). Through their personal prayers, financial support and shining examples, this committed group of laborers backs the delivery of God’s message.
God names this group of true Christians the firstfruits (James 1:18). Understand, God is not favoring this group of people over all others. The firstfruits are being tested, tried and educated so they can teach true salvation when Christ returns to take over the governments of this world. The emphasis in God’s Church is not to “get” oneself saved, but to prepare to help Christ save all humanity. At Christ’s return, the firstfruits will work together with Him—as His Bride—to bring salvation to those who survive the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21-22).
This means that currently, this age of man is in a day of salvation, not the (implying only) day of salvation. There is no contest between God and Satan. God is actively doing a fantastic work on Earth. His archenemy, Satan the devil, is also working, investing major effort to stop God. He will never succeed. Yes, Satan has deceived the whole world about Jesus Christ’s gospel message, which simply describes how God plans to save humanity (Revelation 12:9). Satan has blinded the minds of most humans through false religion, doctrines and vain education (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Most people ignore God’s message today because they are satisfied with religion as they know it. Nonetheless, the truth is widely available to anyone willing to investigate and listen. Even though Satan is a powerful being, he can only do what God allows him to do. This is proved Job chapters 1 through 3. Satan could only afflict Job as God permitted.
A Plan with Guaranteed Success
For humanity’s ultimate good, God has actually allowed Satan to blind human beings to the truth at this time (Romans 11:25-26). But God plans to have mercy on all human beings at the time they can be most successful spiritually. God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). For some, to be called now is the best time for them. However, being called now is not a cakewalk. The firstfruits must conquer Satan, their own human nature and the sinfulness of this world to qualify to be in God’s Kingdom. Of course, the reward of the firstfruits will far exceed the persecutions, tests and trials they must suffer (Revelation 3:21).
Always keep in mind that God does everything in a precise and orderly way. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power,” wrote Paul, giving us a short summation of God’s plan (1 Corinthians 15:22-24).
Then comes the seventh annual holy day and seventh festival, “the last day, that great day of the feast” (John 7:37). It is the Last Great Day that truly displays God’s willingness and power to save all of humanity. When fulfilled, it will prove to be a truly great day of salvation. (For more understanding of God’s holy day plan, request our free booklet Pagan Holidays—or God’s Holy Days—Which?)
A God of Love and Justice
Be assured, God has a plan for saving all people, including little children, who died never hearing about Christ or His message. Our Creator is a God of love and justice (1 John 4:8, 16; Isaiah 11:1-5). The Last Great Day pictures an incredible time when Christ will graciously demonstrate these attributes. This unique festival, sometimes called the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:36), shows that this time of salvation begins after the Millennium.
Most professing Christians don’t know that to be saved requires a resurrection. The Bible speaks of three. The Millennium begins just after the resurrection of the “dead in Christ” to immortal life. This is called the first resurrection (Revelation 20:5, last part). But, the Last Great Day begins just after the resurrection of “the rest of the dead” (same verse, first part). This is referred to as the second resurrection.
It has been estimated that 100 billion people, both Gentiles and ancient Israelites, will be brought back to mortal life—all at the same time.
“A resurrection! The dead stand before God,” wrote Mr. Armstrong. “This couldn’t include true Christians today as they will appear before the judgment seat when Christ returns. It couldn’t refer to those converted during the Millennium. They have already inherited the Kingdom during the Millennium after living out a normal lifespan. Those in this resurrection must be those who died in ignorance in past ages!”
Think deeply about this event. These people will likely be shocked! They didn’t go to heaven or hell at death. They will know for sure there is an afterlife. All their false beliefs about salvation will be exposed. They will mercifully be given the opportunity to hear Christ’s true gospel message, understand it and be converted. There will be millions of resurrected saints to teach God’s truth to this vast sea of humanity.
Ezekiel 16:53-55 (discussing the Gentiles) and Ezekiel 37 (discussing ancient Israel) describe this momentous event. Read, study and believe these passages. This is prophecy for the fulfillment of the Last Great Day.
Can you imagine the stupendous scene? It will be an incredible display of Christ’s limitless power! The Earth today could never sustain a population of 100 billion people. Only an environmentally stable, abundantly prosperous Earth brought about by the glorious rule of Christ and His saints can sustain such a large population. What a glorious time of salvation!
A Great White Throne
“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works,” wrote John after witnessing the vision God gave him of this time period (Revelation 20:11-12). The Last Great Day is often called the Great White Throne Judgment. The book of Daniel shows that Christ will be the chief judge sitting on this spectacular throne (Daniel 7:9-10). Also study Psalm 9:7, John 5:21-22 and Acts 10:42. The saints will also be assisting Christ (1 Corinthians 6:2).
We should not be surprised that Jesus Christ personally taught about the second resurrection. He referred to this time period as the day of judgment. When Christ upbraided the cities that rejected His message, He stated: “Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, 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.But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you” (Matthew 11:21-22). Christ said that the people of Tyre and Sidon would have repented had God sent Christ to them. But God did not send Christ in their time. However, God still punished these people for their sinful lives as a witness and warning for our people today.
Essentially, God will give all these people the opportunity to live again—only this time with the full knowledge of His truth. All the mystery locked into the Bible, which is the only collection of God-inspired holy books, will be made plain to them. The book of life will also be opened to them (Revelation 20:12). This will be their opportunity to qualify for the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). God’s Holy Spirit will be made available to those resurrected (Ezekiel 37:14; John 7:38‑39). All people will be invited to come unto Christ (John 7:37).
God has not forgotten nor neglected these people. He looks forward to the time when He can express His love and justice toward them by opening their minds to the truth. This will be an incredible time of reeducation. However, since the Last Great Day is a day of judgment, all those brought back to life will need to face and deal with the sins, problems and wrong thinking they developed in their first life. This will be a time period of great repentance. Those who lived arrogant, vain and sin-soaked lives will have a more difficult struggle to conquer their problems.
God’s Final Harvest
Two important questions to ask at this point are: How long will this time of judgment last? and How will the people be judged?
The Prophet Isaiah answers the first question for us. “There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed” (Isaiah 65:20). God has allotted 100 years for this final harvest period. All those resurrected at this time will have a century to qualify to inherit eternal life, no matter what their age was when they died. This is a great gift from God: One hundred years is plenty of time to prove they are willing to learn and live God’s way of life.
Many religious people today believe the word judgment means a sentence pronounced because of bad behavior. Thus, many assume that these people are doomed even if they want to repent. This is not so. People at that time will be judged in the same manner that true Christians are judged at this time (1 Peter 4:17). God judges His people today by how well we live by the Bible. The people living during the Great White Throne Judgment will be judged in the same manner. God will give them His Holy Spirit so they will be able to fully understand the Bible. When we think about the Last Great Day, we should recognize God’s great power to save humanity. It will take only 100 years to save 100 billion people.
The Last Great Day will be, for many, a time of great repentance and building of godly character. Sadly, as Isaiah indicates, some will remain sinners and be accursed. This means that after the 100-year period, they will suffer eternal destruction in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15). God will also resurrect those people who were called but rejected the call or fell away from the truth. The lake of fire is the destiny for those raised up in the tragic third and final resurrection.
God’s people should highly regard the Last Great Day when attending the Feast of Tabernacles. “Can we qualify as a son of God—a king and priest—ruling with Christ on His throne, assisting Christ at that time, if we refuse to keep these festivals?” asked Mr. Armstrong (ibid). We should all be excited to properly celebrate this stupendous festival of God—the Last Great Day.
We must realize that, as Christ’s Bride, we will play a major part in that momentous century. Imagine our part adding multiple billions of children to the Family of God!
What a time that will be! Let’s be sure we don’t miss the wonder, excitement and power of the last day, that great day of the Feast.