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Everyone who has ever lived, including those who have died without ever knowing the true God of the Bible, will eventually be offered God’s gift of eternal life. This great event is marked by the observance of the eighth annual Holy Day festival which takes place on September 28 this year.
Have you ever wondered why God allows some people to die without giving them lifesaving understanding? The following verses from the book of Revelation give us the answer to this question: “...Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God...And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished….” (Revelation 20:4-6).
The first resurrection is the resurrection of the saints (the true followers of Christ) that takes place at Christ’s second coming. Verse 5 then mentions “the rest of the dead,” referring to everyone else who has lived and died since Adam and Eve. We are told they will “live again,” after “the thousand years,” so they can have their chance to learn about God and make the decision to obey Him.
A minister relates his experience “I grew up attending a Protestant church so, as a young adult, I assumed I had heard every major Bible subject at least mentioned ...But at age 21... I heard about ‘the second resurrection’... When I think of all my family members and friends who have died without really understanding the Bible, my greatest comfort comes from understanding the reality of the second resurrection...”
Many are aware of a second resurrection, sometimes called the general resurrection, but it is typically viewed as an immediate sentencing of all non-Christians to final condemnation. In the Bible, however, judgment does not just mean a final sentencing, and it does not always mean condemnation. It can include an evaluation period—a time to demonstrate whether, on learning God’s truth, a person is willing to act on that truth, turn to God and follow His ways. This takes a period of time.
Consider also what Peter said, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God.” (1 Peter 4:17). True Christians are being evaluated, or judged, now in this lifetime. In the second resurrection, people who have not yet had such an opportunity will also be evaluated or judged over a period of time once they are made aware of the truths of the Bible. Because of the reference in Revelation 20:11, this time of judgment for those who are raised in the second resurrection is often referred to as the Great White Throne Judgment.
Jesus spoke of this future “day of judgment” for most of humanity, when making the point that ancient Sodom, Gomorrah, Nineveh and Tyre (pagan cities that God caused to be destroyed) were not as guilty as the people who heard Jesus and saw His miracles, but still rejected Him. It will be “more tolerable” for these pagans, because they will not have rejected the mighty works and preaching of Jesus Christ Himself. (Matthew 12:41-42; 11:20-24; 10:15).
The prophet, Ezekiel, described this second resurrection (Ezekiel 37:1-14). This vision of the valley of dry bones portrays people resurrected to a physical life. Verse 11 refers to these bones as “the whole house of Israel,” but as we saw in the verses quoted from the book of Matthew, Jesus expanded this understanding of the second resurrection and showed all nations will be given the opportunity to understand and obey the teachings of the Bible. God loves all people and longs to see everyone choose to live His way so He can give them eternal life.
Christians who celebrate God’s biblically commanded festivals including the Eighth Day festival, just after the Feast of Tabernacles are privileged to annually rehearse the wonderful significance of the second resurrection (Leviticus 23:36) and gain a deeper understanding of God’s great plan of salvation for all humanity.