What happens to the non-believer when he dies? Is he destined to spend eternity in the underworld? What about the child that dies early in life? Is there hope for him or her? These questions have perplexed the minds of believers for thousands of years. Many theories have been offered - many with the hope of bringing comfort to a woman whose husband died tragically before he was ever “saved”, or for a child who just lost a brother or sister to disease. Will they ever see them again? Has their fate been sealed?
Unfortunately, many are confused simply because they miss-understand what it means to be saved. They read scriptures that say -
ESV Romans 10:9, 13 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved . . . 13 For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
. . . and take it as a formula for eternal life instead of reading the context that shows that we are “saved” in this life for the purpose of teaching others that our God is truly an awesome God. But the scriptures are quite clear that not everyone who is “saved” earns an eternal reward. In fact, it shows that in some cases just the opposite is true -
ESV Jude 1:5 Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.
As was shown in Part 1 of this series, salvation and reward are two different things. Salvation - in a Hebraic sense - is what you receive in this life so that you can draw others to the God of Israel. Reward is what you receive in the next life for doing just that.
Since salvation is of little value if you do not use that salvation to earn reward, what is the value of someone confessing the name “Jesus” if they do so on their deathbed and are unable to earn their reward? What would happen if they simply died never knowing about Jesus? Are they lost forever, or does God have a plan by which He can fulfill His desire that -
“ . . .all people be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (ESV 1 Timothy 2:4)
I submit that there is a plan, and it’s laid out right before our eyes in the word of God. It’s found in the Biblical festivals of Leviticus 23 - the festivals that have been overlooked and labeled as “works” by so many of those who for the past 2000 years have said they believe in the God of Israel. But things are changing and many are now beginning to grab hold of what have been mistakenly called “Jewish festivals”. They are beginning to understand that the festivals are God’s blueprint for how He intends to restore His kingdom and ultimately spread His righteousness throughout all the earth.
The Biblical Festivals
God’s festivals begin with Passover - a picture of grace and redemption for the children of God. Even though the Israelites were steeped in slavery and idolatry, on this day God preserved the lives of the firstborn of as the final sign in a long series of signs that proved He alone had the power to save them. He did this not because of Israel’s righteousness, but because of His promise to Abraham.1 Then just a few days later, probably on the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, He saved them by destroying their enemy in the Red Sea.
These two festival seasons - Passover and Shavuot - picture events that have already come to pass. Messiah Yeshua became that firstborn lamb that preserved the lives of His people, and His resurrection just a few days later overthrew our enemy - haSatan. Those who call upon His name (implying a desire to follow Him and walk as He walked) have been saved from their enemy and now have the opportunity to declare His majesty and greatness. After being saved, He has led us - just as He did the ancient Israelites on Shavuot - to His Torah and has given us the opportunity to walk in a way that is pleasing to Him.
So the first two festival seasons are complete. But the fall festival season is yet to be fulfilled, and there are four individual festivals within that season. Because they are futuristic, we have to search deeper for their meaning than we do for the previous festivals.
The first of the fall festivals is Yom Teruah - the day of the Shout. This day is understood to represent the resurrection of the dead 4.
The next festival in Yom Kippur - the day of covering. It is also the day of release, when debts are released and the land is released back to its original owner. For the people of God, it pictures a new lease on life when God begins to draw them back to the land.
The third and forth festivals are Sukkot - the Feast of Tabernacles and Shemini Atzoreth. These festivals picture the messianic kingdom and the beginning of a new era. Because Shemini Atzoreth is the day after the 7-day Feast of Tabernacles has ended, it’s look upon as a new beginning. For the purpose of this study, we will focus on the Feast of Tabernacles, and specifically on the 7th day of the festival which in Jewish tradition is called “Hoshanna Rabba” or in English - “the Great Salvation”, but before we do, let’s again remember what God is doing and why He gave us the festivals.
God’s Purpose for Israel -
In order to understand how salvation will eventually be offered to all people, it’s important to again rehearse God’s purpose for Israel. This was discussed in Part One of this series -
Israel’s purpose - her calling - was to become a nation of people who walked in God’s ways and received the blessings of doing so. As such, other peoples and nations would be drawn to Israel, and as more and more people came to live like God intended mankind to live, eventually all nations and peoples would become a part of Israel. Israel would become a kingdom that would encompass the earth.
Israel never came close to fulfilling that calling. Even under the leadership of David and Solomon, Israel never reached the level of greatness whereby all the nations of the earth learned to honor and respect YHVH - the God of Israel. Yes - King Hiram of Tyre (Lebanon) did have deep respect for King David, and the Queen of Sheba was amazed at the wisdom of Solomon, Israel’s influence never reached the entire known world of that day. In fact, Israel was never able to rid itself of the scourge of the Philistines - a tiny coastal nation that was surrounded on three sides by Israel. So God’s purpose for Israel has never been fulfilled and that calling still stands, and according to Paul -
NKJ Romans 11:29 . . . the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
Therefore Israel - or let us say - the “people of God” still have this job to do, and they will do it under the leadership and direction of the Son of David - Messiah Yeshua. Messiah Yeshua will fulfill the calling given to Israel’s kings. His kingdom will grow into a worldwide kingdom, just as Isaiah prophesied -
ESV Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Yeshua will sit on the throne of his father David, and since David was the king of Israel, Yeshua’s kingdom will also be the Kingdom of Israel. David also united the Israelite tribes into one people and under his leadership Israel’s influence grew as they subdued the nations surrounding them. The messianic Kingdom of Israel, under Yeshua’s leadership, will do the same, just as He said -
NKJ Matthew 13:31-33 . . . "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32 "which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches." 33 Another parable He spoke to them: "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened."
Yeshua’s kingdom will start out as a small and in the eyes of the world - it will be a rather insignificant nation . . . just like a grain of mustard. But over the years it will grow until it eventually takes over the world. This will happen during the period of time commonly referred to as the Millennium - the time of the Messianic Kingdom which is pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles.
The Feast of Tabernacles
In the cycle of the Biblical festivals, the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) pictures the Messianic kingdom, the time when Messiah will reign on the throne of David. It is mentioned in a number of Old Testament prophecies. In many cases, it carries the theme of restoration. For instance, Solomon’s Temple was completed and dedicated during the Feast of Tabernacles, a representation of the restoration of unity between Israel and Judah which they had not shared since crossing the Jordan nearly 400 years earlier. Five hundred years later, Ezra restored the temple worship to Israel during the feast of Tabernacles.
When Messiah Yeshua returns, He will once again reign over a united Israel, and true worship will be restored within the land of Israel. Israel will enjoy the benefits of God’s way of life. Israelite families will be raising Torah observant children in Torah observant homes and children will be able to play in the streets without fear. But that’s not to say the nations, the gentiles, will all the sudden jump on the bandwagon and submit to Israel’s King5. Just as God did not turn the Promised Land over to Israel all at once but instead drove the Canaanites out “little by little” 6, He will do the same in the Messianic Kingdom. He is not going to force His will on all the nations at once. It’s going to take years . . . maybe hundreds of years to clean up the cultural mess here on earth, but eventually there will come a time when all mankind will look to YHVH and praise Him for giving us His Son. I believe this time will happen towards the end of the 1000 year Messianic kingdom, and to understand why, we need to learn a little more about the Feast of Tabernacles and the way it was celebrated in 1st century Jerusalem.
The Feast of Tabernacles is a seven-day festival which is followed the next day by a separate festival called Shemini Atzoreth or “the Eighth Day Assembly”. For seven days the Israelites were to stay in booths, but after that day, the Israelites would move out of their booths and return to their homes. They would then observe Shemini Atzoreth - an entirely different festival the next day. Thus you had a seven-day festival followed immediately by a new one-day festival.
Though it is a seven-day festival, the 1st century Jewish people gave special significance to the 7th day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Tishri 21). They attached to it the name “Hoshanna Rabba” which in English means “the great salvation”. The Bible refers to it as “the great day of the feast”. This name came as a result of a Jewish tradition that happened every day of the festival.
The Water Pouring Service
In the first century, it was a tradition for the priests to draw “living water” from the Pool of Shiloam each morning of the feast of Tabernacles. They would take that water, and along with a pitcher of wine, pour it on the Alter at the Temple. At the same time, other priests would bring long willow branches through the eastern gate of the Temple mount, waving them back and forth as they marched one time around the altar - just as Israel marched one time around Jericho after entering the Promised Land. The purpose of this was to simulate the Holy Spirit which they felt would be prevalent during the Messianic Kingdom. 7 This tradition was called the Beit haShoeva, or House of the Water Drawing.
They would continue this “water pouring ceremony” for the first six days of the festival, but the seventh day was special. On this seventh, or last day of the festival, they would march around the altar seven times, again as Israel had marched around Jericho seven times on the seventh day. At the conclusion of the seventh circuit, the priests would blow the silver trumpets and the people would begin to shout as the priest poured the water and wine on the altar. Fourteen hundred years earlier at Jericho, that shout resulted in the walls of Jericho falling down thus “opening the gate” you might say, to the Promised Land. For the Jews in the first century, it signified a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Because this great outpouring of the Spirit happened toward the end of the festival of Sukkot, the message is that there would be a great outpouring of the Spirit accompanied by a great salvation (Hoshanna Rabba) at or towards the end of the Messianic Kingdom.
Where did the Jews come up with this concept of a Great Salvation towards the end of the Millennium? Did they just pull it out of thin air, or is there a Biblical basis for their belief. We know that the Jewish sages searched diligently within the scriptures for clues to what YHVH was doing. They would often link a thought in one verse with that in another in order to develop a theory. Sometimes they were right, other times they were wrong.
One passage that lead them toward an understanding of water being associated with the festivals is in Numbers 29 verses 30, 31, and 33 where it speaks of the sacrifices and libations that were to be offered during the festival of Sukkot. In these passages, the Jewish sages saw the word “necek” (libation) spelled in unusual ways. They took the unusual letters, put them together in order of occurrence and they spelled the word “mayim” which means water. Thus they saw water in the festival and tied that to prophecies in Isaiah concerning the Holy Spirit being poured out.
Another passage that may have lead them to their understanding of salvation being associated with the last day of the festival is in Deuteronomy where Moses commanded the Israelites to read the Torah every seven years at the Feast of Tabernacles. In this passage we see a somewhat strange statement -
NKJ Deuteronomy 31:10-13 And Moses commanded them, saying: "At the end of every seven years, at the appointed time in the year of release, at the Feast of Tabernacles, 11 "when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 "Gather the people together, men and women and little ones, and the stranger who is within your gates, that they may hear and that they may learn to fear the LORD your God and carefully observe all the words of this law, 13 "and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God as long as you live in the land which you cross the Jordan to possess."
Notice what Moses is saying. At the end of a seven year cycle, at the Feast of Tabernacles, teach the people, including women and children, the Torah. But did you notice that there are two different types of children spoken of here? In the first group there are men, women, children, and the stranger in your gates. These are all people of a household who, you would suppose, would have been taught the ways of YHVH during their previous 6 years in land. But Moses goes on to mention “their children, who have not known it”. Now think about it. Moses was giving these instructions to a people who were to soon enter the Promised Land – a forerunner of the Kingdom of God. They were to get on a seven year cycle and on the seventh year of that cycle, they were to read and explain the Torah during Sukkot.
Who would have not known the Torah? Is Moses speaking of the families already in the land? I don’t think so. I would assume that these are proselytes, people who were not raised in Israel but came in later. What is significant is that these “children” were to be introduced to the Torah during the Feast of Tabernacles. So, in the Promised Land (the Messianic Kingdom?) there were (are going to be?) people who had been practicing the Torah walk and would be reminded of it every seven years, and there were (are going to be?) people who are introduced to Torah every seven years, or could we say, during year seven hundredth year of the Messianic Kingdom.
Though it’s not clear whether this passage had any bearing on the development of the Jewish tradition of the Water Pouring Ceremony, it’s clear that they believed that in the later part of the Messianic Kingdom, there would be a great outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit - a Hoshanna Rabba!
Yeshua and Hoshanna Rabba
Now that we understand a little about this tradition, let’s now consider the fact that God sent His son Yeshua within the framework of the festivals. A very good case can be made that He was born during Sukkot, and we know He was killed on Passover. He was also placed on this earth at a specific place - the land of Israel - and at a specific time in Israel’s history - when his countrymen were steeped in tradition. And though Yeshua oftentimes cried out against tradition when that tradition was elevated above God’s law, it appears that Yeshua used the tradition of the water pouring as a backdrop for one of His greatest teachings, and we find it in John chapter 7 -
NKJ John 7:37-39 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." 39 But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Though we can’t say for sure, I can picture Yeshua standing in the Court of the Women, on a pedestal of some sort, waiting for the trumpets to blow as the priests finished their seventh circuit around the altar. When they did and before the people began to shout, He shouted out the message of the living waters.
Was Yeshua substantiating their belief that some great outpouring of the Holy Spirit would take place toward the end of the Messianic Kingdom, and if so, why would this need to take place? I submit that He was, and the reason is that there will still be people who do not, or have not known God . . . people who never learned about or truly understood the Messiah. This might include people who were blinded by God and were simply unable to see the Messiah - even if they wanted to.
Many years ago, the prophet Isaiah was given a somewhat puzzling prophecy. God told him to -
ESV Isaiah 6:9-10 “Go, and say to this people: ' Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' 10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.’”
What God was saying is that there would be a time when Israel and Judah would be blinded to the deep ways of YHVH. They would read the words, but would not understand what they were reading. They would see Messiah, but would not understand Him. This is precisely what happened. Yeshua also made a similar statement while trying to explain to His disciple the purpose of His parables -
ESV Luke 8:9-10 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that 'seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'
Yeshua very clearly stated that He spoke in parables so that the majority of the people would not understand what He was saying. This is hard for many Christians to believe, but all four of the gospels record Him saying it, in fact John makes the statement that in spite of the prophecy, Yeshua’s signs were so overwhelming that many could see through the blindness and recognize that He was the Messiah.
ESV John 12:37-42 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them." 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it . . .
Obviously, it was not God’s intent for all to truly understand Yeshua’s words at that time, and being that many “Christians” still don’t seem to have a grasp on what He was really trying to teach; maybe many of us are blinded still today. But does that mean that the blind have no hope? Not at all!
Going back to the Deuteronomy passage, Moses predicted that there would be a time during the Feast of Tabernacles when Torah will be preached to those who had not previously heard it. And why had some not heard it? Because they had been blinded. It was all a part of God’s plan. Continuing on, we find that Isaiah predicted a time when YHVH’s spirit would be poured out like a river on a thirsty land -
ESV Isaiah 44:1 "But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen! 2 Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen. 3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams (rivers, floods) on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.
In this passage of Hebrew parallelism, God likens Israel to a dry and thirsty land. He says that he will pour water (mayim in Hebrew) on a thirsty people, and the water would be like a flood (nazal – Strong’s 5140). He then likens this flood of water to His spirit.
Thus, a time will come when YHVH will pour out His spirit as a flood. Up to this point, God’s spirit has only been given as a trickle. Even on Pentecost - the so called “birth of the church”, the spirit was given to only 3000 people, and these only receive an “earnest” of the spirit8. The world has yet to witness this “flood” of God’s spirit being poured out.
If we read on, this outpouring of the spirit will cause that person to identify himself with the God of Israel, implying a turning back to the Torah. This desire will cause the blindness of their eyes to depart.
ESV Isaiah 29:18 In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.
Not until this “flood” of God’s spirit is poured out will the vast majority of mankind be able to recognize and understand their Messiah. Only then will they recognize their savior. And only then will they see that all He wanted them to do is follow love Him and show it by following His instructions.
So when will this “flood” of the spirit be poured out? It will be poured out on Hoshanna Rabba, the later part of the Millennium as pictured by the last “great” day of the Feast of Tabernacles. After many years of restoration - writing the wrongs of 6000 years of man’s rule on this earth; after many years of cleaning up the cultural mess our nation and this world has become, God will open up the floodgates of His spirit to those who are alive on the earth, and presumably, to many who died not knowing the truth about God and His ways . . . Moses’ “children who have not known it”.
Joel’s Prophecy -
Scripture says that a matter is established at the word of two witnesses, so can we find this concept elsewhere in the scripture? Yes we can. We find in the chronology of the end-time events found in the book of Joel. Let’s tie that in so we can nail this down.
The entire second chapter of Joel speaks of end time events. Each event is attached to the various fall festivals. We can build a chronology based on the festivals in order to see what God is doing. The first festival is Yom Teruah –
NKJ Joel 2:1-14 Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! . . .
Which is followed by Yom Kippur -
NKJ Joel 2:15-17 Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly . . .
The next festival is Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles -
NKJ Joel 2:18-27 Then the LORD will be zealous for His land . . . 21 Fear not, O land; Be glad and rejoice; For the LORD has done marvelous things! . . . 26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied . . .
Joel ends his discussion of Sukkot by showing the state of the people that are alive at that time in the Messianic kingdom. He says –
NKJ Joel 2:27 27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the LORD your God and there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.
At that time, Israel will know her God. The people will no longer turn to idolatry, and will no longer turn in shame in regards to her walk in God’s ways. They will be walking in Torah, and the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31 will have been fully implemented. But immediately after this Sukkot passage, the prophecy continues -
NKJ Joel 2:28-32 28 " And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh . . . 29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
Sometime after Sukkot is well underway, when all mankind who are alive during the millennium have found the value in submitting to the God of Israel, He will again pour out His spirit. Why would there need to be another outpouring of God’s spirit if all mankind is already following God? Will there be some event that will take place sometime during the millennium by which people will come on the scene and need His spirit to see things they previously could not see?
Yes! There will be another resurrection - a resurrection of those who could not believe because they were blinded or were simply unaware of the God of Israel and His Messiah9. This would include practically everyone who ever lived as well as the untold millions or maybe even billions of children who were stillborn or aborted before they even had the opportunity to breath their first breath. When the graves begin to open and these people see the full implementation of God’s majestic Kingdom on this earth, and are given access to God’s spirit that will help them see Him and His ways, they too will have their FIRST and only opportunity for salvation.
In a letter of encouragement to his friend Timothy, Paul tells Timothy to pray and make intercession for the civil leaders in the places he goes to evangelize. In all likelihood these leaders would be considered heathen - worshippers of the pagan gods - yet it is within this context that Paul says that it is God’s desire for all men to be saved.
ESV 1 Timothy 2:3-4 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
The word desire in this passage is somewhat misleading. YHVH does more than just desire, He intends for it to happen – both believers and non-believers to be saved. The Greek word for desire is thelo (Strong’s 2309) and means to will or to be determined. God is determined to make this happen - He intends for all mankind to have the opportunity for salvation. But if knowledge and faith in Messiah Yeshua is a prerequisite, then up to this point, God has not been doing a very good job; and if God and HaSatan are in a race for souls, HaSatan is winning . . . that is unless there’s a part of God’s plan that allows for those who are blind to the ways of God to have an opportunity for the blindness to be lifted.
Hoshanna Rabba, the Great Salvation, is that way. The Jewish people in the first century knew it; they just didn’t understand that Messiah Yeshua was the vehicle by which the Great Salvation would come about.
NKJ John 7:37-39 "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of His heart will flow rivers of living water.”
Yeshua stood up and made this proclamation on Hoshanna Rabba, the “Great Day” of the Feast of Tabernacles. It was the appropriate thing to do and on the appropriate day within the framework of God’s holy days.
God’s festivals were given to show us His plan of redemption, salvation and reward. Without the festivals, we cannot understand it, but with them, we no longer have to create ways in our minds to get people saved. God has it all figured out and He has laid it all out before us in the pages of His Word.
Most of the Bible believing world has missed it because there are scales on their eyes that keep them from understanding His festivals. But YHVH has revealed it to us, and He’s beginning to reveal it to many others. Those who are blinded will someday see. They will be raised up during the feast of Tabernacles and will learn of His ways.
So are the non-believers lost? Will they have the opportunity to find salvation in Messiah Yeshua and earn their reward? If the un-evangelized have an opportunity for salvation, how is it made available to them?” The answer is found in the festivals of YHVH and in the Jewish tradition of Hoshanna Rabba – the Great Salvation.
1 Exodus 2:24; 6:4-5
2 Sometimes referred to as Pentecost because of the count to 50
3 Jeremiah 2:2; Hosea 2:19
4 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
5 Zech 14:18 shows that not all nations will willfully submit to the God of Israel
6 Deut. 7:22
7 The Hebrew word for wind is the same as for spirit – “ruach”
8 2 Corinthians 5:5
9 Hebrews 11:35; Rev.20:5-6
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