Coming: An End to Suffering

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An End to Suffering

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An eerie silence hangs over the room. Chairs separated by curtains line the walls. Every seat is occupied. Men and women, old and middle-aged, sit quietly. Each patient is connected to a plastic tube that drips powerful chemicals into veins in his arm. Most of the people are bald. One has had a leg amputated just below the knee. An elderly man struggles to his feet, his spindly legs trembling. Another quickly takes his place.

The process is called chemotherapy. It is multiple biochemical drug therapy that doctors routinely prescribe to destroy tumor cells after cancer surgery.

Chemotherapy destroys fast-growing cells throughout the body, including cancer cells, which keep reappearing as the disease spreads. Doctors monitor each patient’s response and the growth of cancer cells to determine the details of appropriate treatment. Chemo, as it is called, is a fact of life for many cancer patients battling the disease.

Carol lives in a small town in Oregon. Her daughter drives her 150 miles for weekly treatments. The trip takes four hours one way. From 9 in the morning until 1 in the afternoon, Carol is hooked up to a device that trickles the chemicals into her system to fight her pancreatic cancer. Carol’s treatment cycle calls for two weeks of treatment, then a three-week reprieve.

As with many forms of medical treatment, side effects are a problem. They include weakness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, pain along the vein of infusion, anorexia, diarrhea, constipation, flu-like symptoms, fever, headache, inflammation of the mouth’s mucous tissue and multiple lacerations and fissures in the mouth. Anemia and dermatitis are common delayed reactions.

Chemotherapy lowers the white-cell count and calcium levels and the platelets in the blood that normally enable clotting. Other side effects are destruction of functional liver tissue and bone-marrow suppression as well as harmful pulmonary, renal and central nervous system effects.

Loss of hair is another heartbreaker. Carol’s long blond tresses are gone, replaced by short gray hair that has no chance to lengthen between chemotherapy sessions. She has good days when she feels well enough to spend time doing light work in her yard. Other times are more difficult and painful for her. The cancer, the chemotherapy and the other medications all cause discomfort and pain.

Diseases of the West

Cancer is a leading cause of death in Western nations. In the United States nearly half a million people die of cancer every year. Yet it is not the No. 1 cause of death.

Heart disease is the biggest killer, claiming 700,000 lives annually.

Worldwide, an estimated 400 million people suffer from mental or neurological disorders or from other problems such as alcohol and drug abuse. Many suffer in silence and alone. Besides physical symptoms, the emotions of fear, guilt and shame accompany these problems.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), almost 13.8 million Americans over the age of 17 have problems with drinking. Alcohol is said to contribute to 100,000 deaths annually. The NCADD estimates that 43 percent of U.S. adults (76 million people) have been exposed to alcoholism by growing up with or being married to a problem drinker or alcoholic.

Epidemics in poor nations

Other diseases affect large segments of the population in poor countries.

AIDS continues to exact a staggering toll. Since AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) was identified 20 years ago, nearly 58 million people have been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), also called the AIDS virus. Of those, almost 22 million have died and more than 36 million are still alive, according to December 2000 figures released by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

The report reveals that AIDS deaths reached a record 3 million in 2000 and that new HIV infections continued mostly unchecked, with an estimated 5.3 million adults and children becoming infected last year. UNAIDS estimates that 34.7 million adults and 1.4 million children under the age of 15 live with the AIDS virus.

The report reveals that the steepest increase in AIDS in 2000 was recorded in the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, where the number of new HIV infections, 50,000, surpassed all previous years’ HIV infections combined. In all of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the number of the HIV-infected rose by almost two thirds from 1999 to 2000, from 420,000 to an estimated 700,000. In India estimates place HIV infections in the country at around 4 million.

Other diseases take their toll

Up to a third of the world’s population is infected by soilborne diseases caused by worms and parasites, with 300 million experiencing severe adverse effects. Such maladies are invariably more prevalent in the poorest sections of the poorest countries.

At the beginning of the 21st century, epidemics ranging from cholera and meningitis to Ebola and Lassa fever continue to pose serious worldwide risks to health. In the last four years the World Health Organization (WHO) claims to have verified more than 800 internationally significant outbreaks.

Preventable problems such as respiratory disease, diarrhea, malaria, measles and malnutrition account for more than 70 percent of child mortality in Africa. Medical researchers estimate that 1.5 million of the 75 million children under age 5 in Africa die each year from pneumonia. The WHO estimates that each child in the region has five attacks of diarrhea per year and that 800,000 die annually from diarrhea and dehydration. Malnutrition and measles are often associated with these deaths.

In 1993 malaria affected some 90 countries or territories, almost half of them in Africa south of the Sahara. The world faces an estimated 300 to 500 million clinical cases annually, with tropical Africa accounting for more than 90 percent of that total. The vast majority of malarial deaths occur among young children in Africa, especially in remote rural areas with poor access to health services. About one million deaths among children under 5 years of age can be attributed to malaria alone or in combination with other diseases.

In Africa south of the Sahara, 70 to 90 percent of the population shows evidence of prior hepatitis-B infection. Hepatitis B is a major factor in liver cancer, which ranks either first or second among cancer deaths in males in many sub-Saharan African countries. Primary cancer of the liver is always fatal. The average age of death is 35 to 45 years, killing parents and wage earners at the most productive time of their lives.

Will medical science eliminate disease?

The world is racked with suffering. People’s pain and suffering is documented daily on TV news and the front page of your newspaper. Crime, domestic violence, wars and terrorism inflict pain and death on millions of victims. Agonizing, crippling injuries and accidental fatalities on the job, in the home and on the highways add to the toll. Famine and hunger result in widespread agony, especially in poverty-stricken countries.

We’re all too familiar with suffering, from minor ailments to chronic, life-threatening conditions. Why is life fraught with pain? Will we ever see an end to suffering?

In recent years researchers have made much progress in pain relief. But such respites are not available to everyone, especially in poor nations. Even those who can afford pain medications experience only temporary, limited relief. Living with pain remains a daily burden for millions.

Recent medical breakthroughs offer some hope for victory over debilitating diseases. The highly touted Genome Project (see “The Human Genome Project: Decoding the Mystery of Man,” The Good News, July-August 2000, http://www.gnmagazine.org/issues/gn29) offers fundamental information through genetic “mapping” that may lead to more effective treatment and even prevention of disease.

However, this prospect presumes that learning how diseases form on the genetic level of victims will lead to methods of prevention. At best this will take time. Even the most optimistic proponents admit that it will take years before any such results will be forthcoming. For the foreseeable future, the costs of such high-tech treatments will limit the benefits to a small number of patients.

Man cannot end suffering

Many residents of big cities live in fear of violent crimes—murder, rape, robbery and assault. Though crime rates fluctuate widely, neither technology nor educational programs has eliminated its scourge. The same can be said for war. In spite of the proliferation of treaties and peace talks, wars continue, and terrorism remains a constant threat.

Some 2,700 years ago the prophet Isaiah predicted a time of peace when peoples “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; [and] nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4 Isaiah 2:4And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
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).

In 1961 the United States and the Soviet Union announced a plan to achieve that goal. The Soviets introduced the idea at the United Nations General Assembly in 1959. On Sept. 20, 1961, John McCloy of the United States and Valerian Zorin representing the Soviet Union signed the Joint Statement of Agreed Principles for Disarmament Negotiations, which stated that “disarmament is general and complete and war is no longer an instrument for settling international problems.”

The United Nations headquarters in New York City displays a sculpture called “Let Us Beat Swords Into Plowshares,” donated by the Soviet Union in 1959. Made by Evgeniy Vuchetich, the bronze statue represents the figure of a man holding a hammer in one hand and, in the other, a sword that he is beating into a plowshare. The statue symbolizes man’s desire to put an end to war and convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of all mankind. Yet it stands as a mute testimony to man’s inability to accomplish these lofty goals.

Neither science nor education, nor any human agency, can end suffering. The best man can offer is limited, temporary relief. The causes of pain are too widespread and deeply rooted to yield to the efforts of human endeavor. A world free from anguish would seem to be an impossible dream.

Good news from the Bible

The bad news for the world today is but a prelude to the good news of the world tomorrow, when that impossible dream will become reality.

In a lengthy prophecy recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, Jesus Christ warned that suffering and death from wars, famines, disease epidemics and natural disasters will continue to plague mankind and reach a crescendo at “the end of the age.” The book of Revelation gives vivid, detailed descriptions of unimaginable misery and death. But beyond this time of unprecedented suffering, the Bible prophesies a utopian world.

The scenario portrayed by the UN statue depicts only one part of the prophecy recorded in Isaiah 2. This chapter reveals that universal disarmament and peace will not come through human-initiated efforts, agreements and treaties, but as a result of learning and living by the laws of God (Isaiah 2:2-5 Isaiah 2:2-5 [2] And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. [3] And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. [4] And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. [5] O house of Jacob, come you, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.
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). The prophet Micah echoes this prophecy and adds that “everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4 Micah 4:4But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken it.
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).

God also inspired Isaiah to write, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9 Isaiah 11:9They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
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). God’s people will dwell safely with no need for protection (Jeremiah 23:6 Jeremiah 23:6In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
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; 3:16, 31:8-14; Ezekiel 34:25-28 Ezekiel 34:25-28 [25] And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods. [26] And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing. [27] And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them. [28] And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and none shall make them afraid.
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).

No longer needing to fear terrorist attacks, “old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets” (Zechariah 8:4-5 Zechariah 8:4-5 [4] Thus said the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. [5] And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.
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).

During Christ’s millennial rule on this earth the surviving descendants of ancient Israel will enjoy a relationship with God that will inspire people of all nations (Ezekiel 36:33-36 Ezekiel 36:33-36 [33] Thus said the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be built. [34] And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. [35] And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. [36] Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it.
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; 37:28), who will send representatives to Jerusalem to learn more about the laws of God that lead to such wonderful results (Isaiah 2:1-3 Isaiah 2:1-3 [1] The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. [2] And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. [3] And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
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). Then and only then will mankind “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks,” and “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4 Isaiah 2:4And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
American King James Version×
).

Universal healing and health

The many healings Jesus performed during His earthly ministry were only a forerunner of a great time of healing and health foretold in Isaiah 61. When Jesus quoted this prophecy as applying to His ministry, He stopped short of quoting the entire prophecy (Luke 4:18 Luke 4:18The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
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). The other encouraging events detailed in the prophecy are yet to take place.

After Jesus returns to earth, He will fulfill the remainder of Isaiah’s prophecy. Cities will be rebuilt (Isaiah 61:4 Isaiah 61:4And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
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). Mourning will give way to joy (verse 3). Nations will rejoice in response to God’s abundant blessings (verses 7-11). God reveals that a time of peace, prosperity and happiness for His people is coming when He will “turn their mourning into joy” (Jeremiah 31:13 Jeremiah 31:13Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.
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).

This wonderful world will not simply appear instantaneously. People will have to learn the way of peace. They will come to realize that mankind’s woes from the beginning of time are the result of ignorance of, and disobedience to, the laws of God.

From the time that Adam and Eve chose the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, man has followed a path that has led to suffering and death (Romans 5:12 Romans 5:12Why, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned:
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). Most of the problems that afflict the world are the result of sin. (To better understand this crucial truth, be sure to request our free booklet Why Does God Allow Suffering?)

The gospel and the plan of God

God has a plan that will ultimately eliminate sin, suffering and death (Daniel 9:24 Daniel 9:24Seventy weeks are determined on your people and on your holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
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; 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 1 Corinthians 15:25-26 [25] For he must reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet. [26] The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
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). That plan is an integral part of the message of good news—the gospel—that Jesus brought and taught.

Sin has long played a central role in humanity’s suffering and death. We can understand how sin will be defeated and eradicated when we properly understand Christ’s ministry and mission. He died for the sins of mankind to make possible forgiveness of sin and access to God and His promises (John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
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; Romans 5:1-2 Romans 5:1-2 [1] Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: [2] By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
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). But the message of the gospel goes beyond the death of Jesus Christ and our relationship with God in this life. As Paul said, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:19 1 Corinthians 15:19If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
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).

The scope of the gospel reaches out to encompass the good news of future events in the plan of God that Jesus will accomplish. “…Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28 Hebrews 9:28So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and to them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin to salvation.
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).

After describing the horrendous plagues destined to strike the earth at the time of the end, the book of Revelation states that Jesus will return to earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16 Revelation 19:16And he has on his clothing and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
American King James Version×
). Prophecies in Daniel 2 and 7 speak of the kingdoms and governments of man being replaced and superseded by the Kingdom of God. Under the loving rulership of Christ, the suffering of mankind will be greatly diminished as men, women and children everywhere learn to live a way of life that leads to the wonderfully hopeful and positive results described in so many biblical prophecies.

The gospel Jesus preached focused on the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:1 Mark 1:1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
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, 14-15; Matthew 4:23 Matthew 4:23And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
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; 9:35; Luke 4:43 Luke 4:43And he said to them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.
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; 8:1; Acts 1:3 Acts 1:3To whom also he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:
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). This focus has been obscured over the centuries since the early Catholic theologian Augustine (A.D. 354-430) determined that “the millennial kingdom had commenced with the appearing of Christ and was therefore an accomplished fact” (The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition, Vol. 18, “Millennium”).

The resurrection and the end of suffering

This Kingdom of God will rule our physical world in the future (Daniel 2:44 Daniel 2:44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
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; 7:13-14). But in reality it is an eternal spirit kingdom. Paul says plainly that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50 1 Corinthians 15:50Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption.
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). God is spirit (John 4:24 John 4:24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
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), and He must change us from physical flesh and blood to immortal spirit that we may “inherit” that kingdom.

The entire 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians explains that He will change us from corruptible flesh to incorruptible spirit by means of a resurrection from the dead. Paul describes the final victory over pain and death in verse 54: “So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’”

In Philippians 3:21 Philippians 3:21Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like to his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself.
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Paul writes that God “will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body…” For those who become God’s people in the present age, this momentous transformation will take place at the time of the sounding of the final “trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 [51] Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, [52] In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
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; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 [15] For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. [16] For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: [17] Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
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). John refers to this event as “the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:6 Revelation 20:6Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
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).

Jesus said that ultimately all mankind will live again—most in the resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29 John 5:28-29 [28] Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, [29] And shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.
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, Young’s Literal Translation). This will be the time when their future for all eternity will be decided. Those who repent will enter into God’s Kingdom. Those who hold fast to an obstinate heart will perish.

Ezekiel 37 graphically describes the resurrection to physical life of the house of Israel during that time. Jesus later explained that people of all ethnic origins will rise from their graves in the same resurrection (Matthew 12:41-42 Matthew 12:41-42 [41] The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. [42] The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
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). God, in His mercy (Matthew 11:22-24 Matthew 11:22-24 [22] But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. [23] And you, Capernaum, which are exalted to heaven, shall be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in you, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. [24] But I say to you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.
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), has built into His plan an opportunity for everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
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).

God’s feast days outline His plan

The exciting story of God’s plan to end pain and death is outlined in seven annual festivals that He first revealed to ancient Israel (Leviticus 23). Jesus and the apostles observed these days, as did the early New Testament Church (Matthew 26:17-19 Matthew 26:17-19 [17] Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to him, Where will you that we prepare for you to eat the passover? [18] And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say to him, The Master said, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples. [19] And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.
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; Luke 2:41-42 Luke 2:41-42 [41] Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. [42] And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.
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; John 2:23 John 2:23Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.
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; 7:2, 8-10; Acts 18:21 Acts 18:21But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that comes in Jerusalem: but I will return again to you, if God will. And he sailed from Ephesus.
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; 20:16; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 [7] Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: [8] Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
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). These days offer “a shadow of things to come” in the plan of God (Colossians 2:16-17 Colossians 2:16-17 [16] Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: [17] Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
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).

The months corresponding roughly to September and October feature four of these seven annual feasts. The Feast of Trumpets anticipates the return of Christ at the last trumpet. The Day of Atonement pictures the putting away of Satan shortly after Christ’s return so the world, which is deceived by the devil, can understand the plan of God and be reconciled to Him (Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
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; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 [3] But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: [4] In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
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).

The seven-day Feast of Tabernacles pictures “the powers of the age to come” (Hebrews 6:5 Hebrews 6:5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
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), when peace and prosperity, health and happiness will prevail throughout the world. The Last Great Day, immediately after the Feast of Tabernacles, looks forward to the time when all who have lived and died will live again and be given the opportunity to become vessels of the “living water” of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39 John 7:37-39 [37] In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. [38] He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. [39] (But this spoke he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
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).

Members of the United Church of God, publisher of Virtual Christian Magazine, observe these days, including the Feast of Tabernacles, in many locations around the world. We invite you to enjoy with us this coming foretaste of the world God is planning and preparing for us.

Of the future world God tells us: “I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy. I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in My people; the voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, nor the voice of crying…

“They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, and My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth children for trouble; for they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them” (Isaiah 65:17-23 Isaiah 65:17-23 [17] For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. [18] But be you glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. [19] And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. [20] There shall be no more there an infant of days, nor an old man that has not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. [21] And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. [22] They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and my elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. [23] They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them.
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The end of suffering

Carol, the cancer patient we met earlier, lives one day at a time in eager anticipation of this exciting future. She describes her disease as “a temporary thing, like this is a temporary world.”

“God has a plan,” she says, “and whatever it is I wouldn’t want to be in any other situation.”

Paul compares the suffering of this world to the pain of childbirth (Romans 8:22-23 Romans 8:22-23 [22] For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. [23] And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
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), and even God’s people must endure some suffering (2 Thessalonians 1:5 2 Thessalonians 1:5Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer:
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; 1 Peter 4:19 1 Peter 4:19Why let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as to a faithful Creator.
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). This servant of God who experienced so much abuse and pain in his life (2 Corinthians 11:23-28 2 Corinthians 11:23-28 [23] Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. [24] Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. [25] Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; [26] In journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brothers; [27] In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. [28] Beside those things that are without, that which comes on me daily, the care of all the churches.
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) concludes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 Romans 8:18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
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Just as the joy of childbirth follows the pain of delivery, “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (verses 21-22).

Our temporary physical existence is but a shadow of the real life to come, like “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14 James 4:14Whereas you know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.
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) and grass that withers or a flower that flourishes for a while then fades (Isaiah 40:6-8 Isaiah 40:6-8 [6] The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: [7] The grass wither, the flower fades: because the spirit of the LORD blows on it: surely the people is grass. [8] The grass wither, the flower fades: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
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; 1 Peter 1:24 1 Peter 1:24For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass wither, and the flower thereof falls away:
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Revelation 21-22 describes a transformed world in which every trace of sin and suffering, disability and death will be gone forever. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 Revelation 21:4And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
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May God speed that day!

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