God’s Festivals are an incredible gift to His people! From beginning to end, they give us a “map” to His plan of salvation. As we write in our Official Statement of Fundamental Beliefs, “God’s annual Festivals picture the seven vital steps in His plan of salvation.”
Beginning with Jesus Christ’s death for our sins and concluding with the hope of salvation extended to all who have ever lived and died without having a real opportunity to know their Creator, God’s plan is laid out in beautiful, comforting, and inspiring detail through the seven “feasts of the Lord” (Leviticus 23:4). Observing these days is a privilege to be treasured, and the plan God reveals through them is a truth to be cherished and protected!
But when we leave our Festival sites after observing the Last Great Day, do we consider what comes next? Once God’s plan of salvation has been successfully extended to the entirety of humanity, what awaits us?
After all, we are called to eternal life, and the purpose of the plan of salvation is to create the Family of God who will enjoy eternity together, forever! Jesus Christ says that those who truly and deeply partake of what He has to offer will live forever (John 6:51). After the first seven thousand years of human history, what will the next seven billion years be like? Is there any way to comprehend, in even a small way, what to expect from eternity?
Yes, there is. While the Bible does not go into great detail about our future eternal lives after the plan of salvation is complete, there are beautiful truths about that life to come that can be seen in Scripture.
In fact, the Festivals of God, themselves, can serve as an excellent tool for meditating on our future state. Let’s take a little time to meditate together on each of the Festivals and try to catch what glimpses they may offer on the eternity we all long to see after the Last Great Day, when God’s plan of salvation is complete.
Passover pictures the death of Jesus Christ, our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), for the removal of our sins. It teaches us that salvation begins not with us and with our own actions, but rather with God’s willingness to act on our behalf and save us from the death we had earned with our sins (Romans 6:23). “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ is also intended by God to be the ultimate tool for revealing His love to us. As the Apostle John explains, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9–10).
When we think of the eternal lives we long to inherit, the Passover season can remind us of the great and immeasurable love with which God desires to envelop us for all eternity. An unending existence awaits us where, for all time, that love, comfort and encouragement becomes our rich reality, forever—an existence in which we will never know the lack of that love or fear distance from it ever again.
Passover reminds us that our Almighty Father and His Son have gone to the ultimate length to make Their home with us. And in the eternal life to come, we will know the joy of Their intimate presence and love forever.
The Days of Unleavened Bread
The Days of Unleavened Bread picture the only rational response to the sacrifice of Christ: repenting and removing sin, pictured by leaven, from our lives while taking in righteousness, pictured by unleavened bread. Yet, these days can also remind us that there will be a time when the removal of sin from our natures has been completed forever!
How many of us read Paul’s words in the book of Romans and relate to them? “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do… For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Romans 7:15, 19). We struggle against sin in this life!
But there will come a day when our character will be complete! In another letter, Paul promises that “[He] who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV).
In our eternal lives we will be utterly filled with righteousness, just as God is! We will have “become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The perfect, sinless nature and character of God will have become our own nature and character, forever! Just as the Bible says that God will never lie (Titus 1:2), we will never lie! As God is never drawn away and tempted by the desire to sin and do evil (James 1:13), neither will we be so enticed! As God is so filled with sincere, outgoing concern for others that the Bible can truly say “God is love” (1 John 4:8), so, too, will we possess that beautiful, giving, caring nature for all time!
In a very real sense, the unleavened bread we eat in those days represents only a mere taste of what is to come. We will one day possess righteousness in full measure, and our eternity will be a time when we never know the corruption of sin ever again. What a joy!
Pentecost—or the Feast of Firstfruits
Pentecost pictures the beginning of God’s Work with His “little flock” (Luke 12:32)—His Church, the firstfruits (James 1:18)—and the giving of His Holy Spirit to that Church. We need that Spirit in this life to help us overcome and grow as God’s laws are written in our hearts (Hebrews 8:10), and we are sanctified and set apart by that Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13).
God assures us that the Spirit placed within us at our baptism through the laying on of hands is “the guarantee of our inheritance” until our redemption (Ephesians 1:13–14). The Greek word for “guarantee” means a down payment—a portion promising more to come.
When we look ahead to the eternal lives mankind will begin after the Last Great Day, we can appreciate the fullness of what it means for the Spirit we possess now to be only a “deposit.” For one day the promise implied by the down payment will be experienced in full!
As Paul highlights, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Corinthians 15:50). Those who have entered eternity are no longer flesh and blood but are spirit! We are told that “God is Spirit” (John 4:24), and His children will be, as well!
God describes our eternal lives and bodies in remarkable terms: glory, power, incorruption, spirit (1 Corinthians 15:42–45). Can you imagine a life with no physical limits—a life in which you never tire or grow weary (Psalm 121:4)?
Remembering that the Holy Spirit which God has placed within us is merely a down payment for something greater to come can remind us that in the eternity that lies ahead of us, the aches, pains and limitations of our flesh and blood bodies will one day be less than a faint memory!
The Feast of Trumpets
The Feast of Trumpets can be a very sobering time, highlighting for us the terrible things that need to happen immediately before the return of Jesus Christ—the consequences of a world addicted to sin and the measures required to shake it free.
But such things can also point us forward to that eternal time when “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Sin will be gone. Suffering will be gone. Only joy will remain, and the sound of the trumpet will nevermore signify warfare or disaster, but only celebration and rejoicing.
The Feast of Trumpets includes the last trumpet, declaring the beginning of Christ’s return and the resurrection of His saints to glory (1 Corinthians 15:52)! And that resurrection will be the beginning of our existence for all eternity as glorified spirit beings in the Family of God!
When we consider what our eternal lives will be like after our resurrection and transformation, we can reflect on what Jesus Christ was able to do and experience after His own resurrection. That life He began to live after His resurrection—and knows now—is the life He intends for us (Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2)! And that life is wondrously different from the life we know now.
Consider some of the things Jesus Christ did in His resurrected state. We are told that He appeared suddenly to His disciples in the middle of a closed room (John 20:19) and could just as suddenly disappear (Luke 24:30–31). Scriptures seem to describe Jesus as varying His appearance at different times to serve specific purposes in working with His followers (e.g., Mark 16:12; John 20:26–27; Revelation 1:12–20). He apparently traveled from this physical realm to heaven to appear before His Father and then returned in barely a moment of time (compare John 20:14-17 with Matthew 28:9-10).
In our post-resurrection bodies, what will our eternity be like when the limitations of physical space and time are no longer the concern to us that they are now? Where will we go when we can go anywhere? What will we do when our existence is defined by power and possibility instead of lack and limitation?
The Day of Atonement
Even as we fast on that day, we celebrate on the Day of Atonement knowing that it signifies the binding of the devil for 1,000 years at the start of Jesus Christ’s reign with His saints—after which he is “released for a little while” (Revelation 20:3) before the Great White Throne Judgment.
Yet, the temporary, thousand-year binding of the devil celebrated on the Day of Atonement can remind us that in the eternity that follows God’s plan of salvation, his removal will be permanent!
A time is coming before the Great White Throne Judgment when Satan the devil will be removed forever and will play no part in God’s Creation ever again (Jude 13)! Jesus was manifested “that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). When eternity arrives at the end of God’s plan of salvation, His mission will have been completed! Indeed, the entirety of creation itself will have been purified with fire (2 Peter 3:10–12), leaving “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (v. 13).
The Day of Atonement is also the day in which Israel began its years of jubilee (Leviticus 25:8–12). Those in debt were freed, and those who had lost lands saw them returned. It was a time of freedom and rejoicing. And it is a wonderful picture of the freedom the world will enjoy in the Millennium when the devil is removed.
And we can be mindful that God intends the entire universe to one day enjoy such freedom, and that our eternal lives are a big part of that cosmic freedom! Paul tells us that “the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:19–21).
What will that eternal, “glorious liberty” mean for creation? Perhaps we can take a cue from the next of God’s Festivals.
The Feast of Tabernacles
God’s Feast of Tabernacles is a time of joy for His people—indeed, a time of commanded rejoicing and abundance for all (Deuteronomy 14:26–27)! It is a beautiful picture of the Millennium to come, when the saints are glorified and will be serving the nations of the world alongside Jesus Christ (Revelation 20:4).
And yet, if the Millennium is a time when joy and plenty are brought by God’s Family to the world, what greater joy and plenty will be brought to the entire universe in the eternity that follows?
As noted earlier, our Father promises the fullness of all creation as the eternal inheritance of His children, and we’re told that creation awaits their revealing! God tells us, “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son” (Revelation 21:7). “All things” means “all things”! The entirety of Creation, seen and unseen (Hebrews 2:8), will be our inheritance—to beautify, cultivate, and perhaps to extend through our own work of creating, reflecting the work of our own Creator.
Just as our Father once renewed the face of the earth, bringing life and beauty where there had been none (cf. Psalm 104:30), so, too, might the Family of God embrace its inheritance and take up the “family business” of renewing creation?
When we look out into the cosmos now, we see desolations such as that of the planet Mars—a universe begging to be freed from its futility. During the joyful abundance of the Feast of Tabernacles, can we imagine how the entire universe might one day blossom and bloom in abundance and joy under the loving hands of the Family of God? How might we seek to please our Father with what we create, just as our own children seek to please us with their creations?
During the Feast, as we picture the beauty and abundance of the Millennium when the saints serve the nations as kings and priests, we can remember that such splendor is only a foretaste of what the Sons of God may one day bring to the whole universe for eternity!
The Last Great Day
Finally, comes the Last Great Day. What might this day bring to mind concerning our eternity?
This day pictures the Second Resurrection, when God reaches through the gates of death—of which Jesus Christ has the keys (Revelation 1:18)—and brings forth all who have never had their opportunity to truly know Him, so that they may finally have their chance. It teaches us that God’s plan is for everyone, and that He longs to fellowship with all who will accept His invitation (cf. John 7:37–38).
So, too, can the day remind us of the more “personal” side of our eternity: That it will not be spent alone. And, perhaps, that will bring us the greatest joy. The reason there is a plan of salvation at all is because it brings God joy to share life in His eternal Family with others. Might the greatest joy of our eternity be the same for us—knowing that we will share it with those we love?
How much more will our eternity of creation, play and joy in our inheritance mean to us when we look around and see the faces of those we have loved and lost in this life enjoying that eternity with us?
The Last Great Day reminds us that God looks forward to seeing many fulfill their eternal destiny. And our endless future will be the richer for it.
God’s Festivals are designed by our loving Father in heaven to help us understand His plan of salvation—the means by which He is “bringing many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10). And, with a little thought, they can also offer us glimpses, however small, of the eternity that lies beyond—an eternity in which that plan has been completed, when it is finally true that God is “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
Let us rejoice that this eternity is sure, guaranteed by the One who says, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).