Thursday, September 26, 2013

Is “The Last Great Day” in the Bible?

The meaning of The Last Great Day as taught by Herbert W. Armstrong is not found in the Bible.

I was surprised years ago when I was first told by a pastor in United Church of God (UCG) that he believed Mr. Armstrong was mistaken in his interpretation and actually originated his own meaning for The Last Great Day.  That’s right, many in the leadership of at least one major splinter group seem to believe that the Last Great Day as taught by the Churches of God is not in the Bible.  Why do they still teach this stuff when they know it is not supported by biblical text?

Was it the seventh or eighth day?

Herbert W. Armstrong stated that John 7:37 is referring to the eighth day holy convocation that followed the Feast of Tabernacles, as instructed in Leviticus chapter 23.   The Feast of Tabernacles was a seven-day festival, with the holy convocation on the first day and the eighth day.  Here is what Mr. Armstrong taught in his own words:

The eighth day, technically a separate feast, is called “the last day, that great day of the feast.” (John 7:37)  What does this final holy day represent?  Notice what Jesus preached about on that day…”  (Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days – Which?, Herbert W. Armstrong, 1976, page 47, emphasis his)

Mr. Armstrong specifically stated two important points:

1 - John 7:37 is referring to the eighth day holy convocation described in Leviticus. 

2 – Jesus’ teaching on that day is what defines the meaning of the holy day.

Mr. Armstrong italicized the words “last day” and “great day” in order to form the title that he gave to the day, “The Last Great Day”. Of course there is no holy day in the bible called by that specific name, but most people feel comfortable overlooking that point so I will overlook it as well.   

Most commentaries agree that John 7:37 did not take place on the eighth day holy convocation nor do the words “last day” or “great day” in this verse have any connection to the eighth day.  Instead these commentaries suggest that John 7:37 took place on the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the last day of the feast.  Simply put, if this incident took place on the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles then Herbert W. Armstrong misapplied this scripture in order to create an entirely new holy day that would fit the “plan of God” that he already had in mind.    But in fairness…we cannot in good conscience state with 100% certainty that John 7:37 could not have possibly been on the eighth day; so let’s hold that thought for a moment.

I’d like to go back to something I stated earlier.  I referred to the fact that a United Church of God minister was the first to explain to me that Mr. Armstrong was wrong about this holy day when he told me that John 7:37 actually took place on the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles.    In 2002 UCG prepared a doctrinal paper on The Last Great Day that supports this viewpoint and can be found on the UCG member’s website.

Pointing to the research contained in their study paper, UCG concluded:

Although we cannot say with absolute certainty that John 7:37 is referring to the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the evidence presented above points to this conclusion.   (The Last Great Day Study Paper, United Church of God, August 2002, page 9). 

They go on in their study paper to explain that there is nothing wrong with using the title “Last Great Day” for their holy day since the holy day meaning is the “judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).  They also point to Revelation 20 “Then I saw a great white throne…” It appears that the word “great” is somehow significant.  UCG also points out that the phrase “that great day” was not an Old Testament term in the first place, so there is no problem if they borrow it to construct a name for their eighth day feast.   Continuing on page 9 of the study paper:

First of all, the phrase “that great day” as applied by the Jews at the time of Christ to the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles is not an Old Testament term, as we have seen.  (The Last Great Day Study Paper, UCG, August 2002, page 9). 

After proving that John 7:37 is referring to the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles and NOT to the eighth day holy day, the UCG makes the following pronouncement:

So there’s no need to change the Church’s traditional expression of “the Last Great Day” in association with the eighth day.  But interpreting John 7:37, scriptural and historical evidence points to the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles as “the last day, that great day of the feast” and not primarily to the eighth day.  (The Last Great Day Study Paper, UCG, August 2002, page 9). 

At the time of this study paper they did not appear to be intending to change the name of the Last Great Day.  But since that time they’ve apparently decided that a change was warranted.  Go to the UCG website and look up their holy day calendar.   You will not see the “Last Great Day” on that calendar.  Instead you will see “The Eighth Day” listed on the calendar.   Apparently that is the new name of the holy day, at least it is on their calendar.

Now this is getting confusing.  Let me see if I've got this straight.  Herbert Armstrong claimed that the Last Great Day was a separate feast.  He used John 7:37 to prove the meaning of the holy day and to derive its name.   Because he called it a “great day”, based on John 7:37, he concluded that the day points to the judgment of the "great day" and the “great” White throne judgment (Jude 6, Rev 20).    But there is a very strong likelihood that John 7:37 did not take place on the eighth day and that is even supported by a UCG study paper.  If this is the case then everything Herbert Armstrong concluded about this holy day is based on a false premise.  So UCG decided that they would continue to teach the exact same meaning for that day even though the meaning was derived from a scripture that they have proven to be misapplied by Herbert Armstrong.  And now they refer to the holy day as “the Eighth Day”.    

At least let me just put to ease the more conservative COGers out there – this was UCG not the other groups such as COGwa.   Oh wait a minute…this UCG study paper was approved by the Council of Elders in August of 2002.  Try to remember, who was on the Council of Elders at that time?  

Okay, we’ve been thoroughly confused by cognitive dissonance once again.  But let me clear things up here.   There are some who believe that John 7:37 actually did take place on the eighth day holy day.  I think there is overwhelming support that this was the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles.    But since neither I nor anyone else can provide 100% conclusive proof I will be flexible if my readers choose to accept that John 7:37 took place on the eighth day holy day.  I do recommend that you do your own research.

Does it really matter which day it was?

No, it really doesn’t matter which day John 7:37 took place on.

Mr. Armstrong stated that his entire understanding of the meaning of the Last Great Day holy day is based on what Jesus taught in John 7:37.    Again, here is what Mr. Armstrong taught with regard to how he determined what the eighth day holy day represented:

What does this holy day represent?
Notice what Jesus preached about on that day: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink…out of his belly [innermost being] shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive…)”(John 7:37-39).   This was Jesus’ sermon giving the meaning of the last great day!  Now turn to Revelation 20, After the Millennium, what happens?  A Resurrection! 
(Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days – Which?, Herbert W. Armstrong, 1976, page 47)


Now wait a minute!  Did you catch that?  Mr. Armstrong writes that Jesus’ words provide the meaning of this holy day and then immediately directs the reader to Revelation chapter 20 where we find a resurrection.   Well there you have it, Jesus clearly was teaching about a second resurrection back to human life to live for a 100-year period, right?   WRONG!    Those words are not found in the text.   Even the concept is not found in the passage.

Let’s take a look at the passage again.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)


This statement was made at the Feast during which there was a daily procession of priests and worshippers from the temple court to the pool of Siloam.  The designated priest filled a golden pitcher with water, returned to the court of the priests, and poured out the water at the base of the bronze alter of burnt offering.  This act commemorated God's miraculous provision of water for Israel during the forty years of wandering in the desert.  But now Jesus cried out with a new teaching.

What does Jesus really teach here?   Remember, we cannot interpret the bible by just making things up that are not in the text.  We need to let the bible interpret the bible.  We could suggest prophecies and scriptures that Jesus may have been referencing by his statement.   But we don't need to guess because John tells us exactly what Jesus meant by his statement about the living water:  "Now, this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified".

John specifically states that by “rivers of living water” Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit who would be given to those who believe in Jesus.  And John also indicates that this gift of the Spirit would be given after Jesus was glorified.

That is what Jesus is teaching in this passage.  Jesus was glorified at his resurrection, not at the end of the millennium.  The Holy Spirit was given when the church was founded on Pentecost, not at the end of the millennium.  There is no mention in John 7:37 of a day in which all people who ever lived are resurrected to human life.  Not one statement here or even a reference to that subject.  Mr. Armstrong simply pointed to this passage in John 7:37 in order to give the holy day a name.  He was mistaken, I believe; in which day this even took place on.  But regardless, he pointed to other scriptures that would fit his desire to make this day represent events after the millennium as he interpreted them.

I have said that Mr. Armstrong’s teaching on the meaning of the Last Great Day is not in the bible.    That is because you can search from beginning to end and you will not find one biblical text that supports Herbert W. Armstrong’s interpretation of the meaning of the eighth day holy day that follows the Feast of Tabernacles. 

Please, help me here.  If you can provide a scripture that states that the eighth day holy day pictures a second resurrection to a second human life then please post it as a comment to this blog.  

I encourage you to go read the booklet by Mr. Armstrong, Pagan Holidays – or God’s Holy Days – Which?  You can find it online at a few different websites.   Pages 47 and 48 specifically address the Last Great Day.  Read it now, these many years after you first read Mr. Armstrong’s teaching in his own words.  Notice how he uses phrases like, "this couldn't include.." or "it couldn't refer to..."  That's right, it couldn't mean anything other than what Mr. Armstrong already thinks it means.   Using circular reasoning,  he starts with the assumption that his interpretation of the meaning of the day is correct and then uses his interpretation to prove what the day means and points to scriptures that appear to agree with him.  Go to the few scriptures that he references and see if you think any of them relate to John 7:37.  They do not.  No, they simply and clearly do not.   Ask yourself honestly if your interpretation is from the Bible or from Mr. Armstrong.

Herbert Armstrong could not have discovered or learned the plan of God from the Last Great Day, as he claimed, because the Holy Day as he described it does not exist in the Bible.   Rather he took a text in John 7:37, derived the name of the day and then pointed to scriptures that supported what he wanted the day to mean.  

Here is the main point:  

The sole authority for the teaching of the meaning of the Last Great Day holy day in the churches of God is Herbert W. Armstrong.  
                                                                                                       
If you are following Herbert W. Armstrong then believe what he says because the interpretation is his.  But if you are following Jesus Christ then please read the verses yourself.  Read the new testament again without preconceived interpretations.   I'm confident you will find God's grace in your sincere search for Him.

No matter what name you give the holy day, no matter which day you think John 7:37 occurred on, there is nothing in the bible that supports the meaning that Herbert W. Armstrong attributed to this holy day.  

If in a sincere desire to obey God’s law you believe that you need to observe the Old Testament holy days then that viewpoint is respected.  But please observe them according to the law that you are trying to keep and not according to the tradition of a man.  

We all hope for a day when we will once again see our loved ones who have died.   The bible does teach that there is a resurrection on the last day.  But the eighth day holy convocation that followed the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles is not identified with that resurrection anywhere in the bible.   

But there is someone who is identified with that resurrection.   

 “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She [Martha] said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”








************ It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11 ************

17 comments:

Byker Bob said...

HWA borrowed or plagiarized many of his doctrines, such as the family of God, and the supposed church eras. Is there any evidence that he could also have plagiarized his teachings on the Last Great Day? It has been suggested that he derived much of his teaching of the holy days from GG Ruppert. I find myself wondering if this, too, was lifted from some obscure source, or if it was a rare HWA original. If he did borrow it, it might also be interesting to trace back and to see what his source had to say about it.

BB

xHWA said...

Byker Bob,

You always have great comments. Thanks!

Yes, HWA did "borrow" doctrines from many areas - Mormons Jehovah's Witnesses, SDA, COG7, Gnostics, Hitler, J. H. Allen .. the list goes on.

G G Rupert was a COG7 pastor, just like HWA was. Only Rupert was not afiliated with the Stanberry branch as HWA was. We can be confident that HWA had read Rupert's material. One of Armstrong's greatest influences, A. N. Dugger, was a huge fan of Rupert. Rupert's material was reported to have been found among other things in HWA's house, when they went through it after his passing.

Many of Rupert's writings are available online now. Without a doubt Rupert taught the holy days (before HWA converted to Sabbatarianism). Rupert also regularly met in Pasadena, California, he taught the name of the "true" church had to be "Church of God", as well as seven church eras, a form of British Israelism, conscientious objectorship, and I suspect Rupert is where HWA got the term "yellow races" which he used to use early on.

But I cannot find anything yet that says he taught the LGD. Rupert's Feast of Tabernacles was 7 days. I haven't seen a reference to the LGD at all so far.

xHWA said...

OK. Well, Rupert also taught a variation of the "seven thousand year plan" as well.

Chart from "Time, Tradition, and Truth" book by Rupert

xHWA said...

"In May, June and July of 1913, issues of the Bible Advocate carried articles supporting the observance of feast days. They were written by G.G. Rupert, later the publisher of the paper, The Remnant of Israel (1915-?), a former Seventh-Day Adventist."

"In 1916, G.W. Sarber from Knox, Indiana wrote in the [Bible] Advocate [the publication of the COG7] supporting the annual holydays. He mentioned that Pentecost is 50 days from Nisan 16, the Feast of Tabernacles is the 15th day of the seventh month, and the eighth day of Tabernacles is also a sabbath rest. ..."

Note that this G.W. Sarber does include the eighth day of the FOT.

Quotes from:
http://www.giveshare.org/churchhistory/historysdcog/history9.html

xHWA said...

It would appear that Rupert believed the holy days even back when he was an SDA minister.
Here's a quote:

"The Church of God (Seventh-day) reports a visit to some of the churches Elder Rupert had overseen in South America: "An S.D.A. minister, G.G. Rupert brought with him the belief that the annual Sabbaths, in addition to the weekly Sabbath, are important for Christians to understand and to observe. This impacted upon sections of the Church of God, a few were already observing those days. During his time with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the late nineteenth century, he performed missionary work in parts of South America. Years later, in the 1960's, Worldwide Church of God ministers stumbled across many of these scattered remnants of Rupert's missionary work. They never associated with any other Sabbatarian group, but continued to faithfully observe Sabbath, and in many cases, the annual Sabbaths. The Churches of God today have a Seventh-day Adventist elder to thank for bringing the annual Sabbaths." From an article entitled, "Sabbatarian Groups - "A Scattered and Little Flock". [Subtitle "The Historical Links Between Adventists and Churches of God"]"


http://www.thecreatorscalendar.com/Articles/Exposing_The_Skeleton/Exposing_The_Skeleton_Part_1_03.html#sthash.503nLrIv.dpuf

I believe the author there is Kerry French.

xHWA said...

Correction. I said, "Only Rupert was not afiliated with the Stanberry branch as HWA was." But I got that wrong. HWA was associated with the Salem branch.

Byker Bob said...

Wow! Thanks for all of those nuggets xHWA! I enjoy research also, but would not have known where to look for the detailed materials which you just shared.

BB

Anonymous said...

As a child, I didn't think the "last great day" was all that great. It just meant double services, which was something I always dreaded.

Bill said...

It's amazing to me now, looking back, how arbitrary HWA was on understanding the organization of days with a Jewish calendar. The whole fiasco that revolved around Pentecost should have been a red flag in this regard. The church though used it as a means of determining who was loyal to HWA when some continued to keep it on Monday. I remember "superdeacon" Owens taking pictures of people from within a van for evidence. I want to plead the ignorance of youth in regard to all this; a "youth" that lasted about, say, 25 years?

xHWA said...

It just occurred to me...

HWA associated the John 7 with the Great White Throne in Revelation 20 because of the word "great" [Greek word "megas"].

Well, John also uses this same Greek word "megas" in reference to the first day of Unleavened Bread in John 19: 31 (many translations render the word as "high" rather than "great" in this verse).

So, using the same logic, is Passover also associated with the Great White Throne?

Jonathan said...

Another excellent post!

Re Jn 7:37 it's my view that this was the 7th day of FOT. For me what proves this is that in v. 53 "every man went unto his own house." It doesn't say they went to their tents or booths. I believe that it was on this 7th day that the Judeans took down their booths seeing the original command in Lv. 23:42 was to dwell in booths for 7 days not 8 (which is another inconsistency of Armstrongism since they hire hotel rooms for 8 days not 7!--I know I might be being picky here, but it's still true!) Also, I believe the healing of the blind man (besides the episode of the woman caught in adultery) happened on the 8th day--an annual sabbath day--& it's possible that it was also a weekly sabbath, which is why John mentions that it was the sabbath day in Jn 9:14.

xHWA said: "...HWA associated the John 7 with the Great White Throne in Revelation 20 because of the word 'great' [Greek word 'megas']. Well, John also uses this same Greek word 'megas' in reference to the first day of Unleavened Bread in John 19:31 (many translations render the word as 'high' rather than 'great' in this verse)...

I noticed this too recently in my re-study of the 3 days & 3 nights. I'm of the view that John describes that Sabbath day as "great" because 2 sabbaths (weekly & annual) fell on the same day i.e. weekly Sabbath & 15th Nisan Sabbath.

Byker Bob said: "HWA borrowed or plagiarized many of his doctrines, such as the family of God..."

Re the family of God concept I just finished reading Doudna's "Showdown at Big Sandy" & his chapter on the subject has confirmed to me that this Armstrongist teaching is actually far more Biblical than the Trinity doctrine. For instance, many early Church fathers taught the doctrine of divinization or deification. So it's ironic, as Doudna stated, that Catholics & Protestants criticized HWA/WCG for its teaching in this regard & yet the patristics taught likewise. So in condemning this teaching as "Armstrongism" they were condemning the early Church fathers too imo!

xHWA said...

"I'm of the view that John describes that Sabbath day as "great" because 2 sabbaths (weekly & annual) fell on the same day i.e. weekly Sabbath & 15th Nisan Sabbath." -Jonathan

I'm of the same opinion.

xHWA said...

"...confirmed to me that this Armstrongist teaching is actually far more Biblical than the Trinity doctrine. For instance, many early Church fathers taught the doctrine of divinization or deification" -Jonathan

We here don't make a huge deal about whether or not people accept the Trinity. We just try to explain it correctly so that the correct explanation will wash away the years of strawmen, and then people will be able to decide for themselves.

That said, by "deification" I assume you mean "Theosis" (men become gods in union with God)?
I ask you to consider that Theosis is not mutually exclusive to the Trinity.
The Orthodox Church believes in both the Trinity and Theosis.

One thing that Armstrong taught was that the Trinity is a closed system, but God is a family and people will join this. Literally, Armstrongism taught polytheism, and they admitted to that in a booklet.

Herbert Armstrong failed to consider that the Trinity is not any more closed a system than the God Family is. People, whether or not they become "god" will never become "God the Father" nor will they become "God the Son" nor will they become "God the Holy Spirit". God the Father is a closed system; God the Son is a closed system, and God the Holy Spirit is a closed system - no matter how the Godhead is configured.

Therefore, God is nether more nor less a closed system either way; Trinity or no. Therefore the Trinity is not at all more exclusive to Theosis than Armstrong's polytheism is.

Just a thought. But this really is for a different post.

Anonymous said...

Great discussion on Ruppert and the feast days. However, I have never seen evidence that the feast keeping churches in Chile that the WWCG "discovered" about 1969 were started by GG Ruppert. True, he was a SDA minister in South America. But no proof that he was the founder of those sabbatarian feast keepers. The founder was identified by the Chilean people as a man with the name "Shagersay." Although the spelling is only phonetic, that is how it sounds. I personally spoke with Dr. Charles Dorothy and some of these people when they visited Texas about 1970. Who Shagersay was remains a mystery. Hopefully, some day a connection with someone will be made.

jpa

Anonymous said...

Well,I agree,we were wrong.But I still learned alot from the church and I don't regret that.By the way,'trumpets,unlevened bread" words don't belong in those feast's.

Ren Core said...

If we consider Mr. HWA to be wrong, and that the "last day of the Feast of Tabernacles" represent the giving of the Holy Spirit to everyone who believes, wouldn't that imply that the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles would "represent" therefore Pentecost, the day on which many started receiving the Holy Spirit (though what we are specificaly told is that the disciples were given the power to speak in multiple languages)?

On the other hand, if the whole Feast of Tabernacles represents the harvest of men-the giving of the holy spirit, why would Jesus do wait until the last day? Why not deliver the message from the first day?

we know that there is definitely another day of salvation of those who had lived and died since Adam, and THEY WILL NOT BE PART OF The Millennium period (because they are already dead) but AFTER that (after a resurrection), thus when Jesus asked 'everyone' to come to Him and there will be rivers of living water flowing out of Him, would not he be implying that there will be a time that "ALL" who had lived and died would be given their chance to 'drink' from the source of the living water which would "DEFINITELY" be a time period OTHER THAN the 'Feast of Tabernacles-Millenium'?

Ren Core said...

we can always call it "The 7th Annual Sabbath"...