United Church of God

The Eighth Day—A Time of Restoration

You are here

The Eighth Day—A Time of Restoration

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up


Some phone calls are remembered more than others. I well remember the call that woke me from sleep to tell me my father had died. That wakeup call stays with me to this day.

My father had been fighting cancer for two years. Just a few weeks before the call I had been home to see him. He was confined to bed by then. My mother had to do everything for him. She was a constant and caring presence. When I said goodbye I thought this could well be the last time I would see him. He made a comment about my eldest son, who was in the room, I bent over to kiss him, and then he turned to the window and I left the room.

My brother called that morning and said my father had died just a few minutes earlier. I dressed and walked to a restaurant across the street from my hotel and got a cup of coffee. As I sorted through my thoughts and emotions it came to me what day this was. It was the biblical Eighth Day. The Feast of Tabernacles had ended the night before, and I would be gathering in a few hours with fellow Church members to observe the day.

The Eighth Day

Since then I have continued to observe the Eighth Day festival, one of God’s annual Holy Days. Always on every annual occasion I have thought about it as the day my father died and the time when I will again see my father live through a resurrection.

The Eighth Day pictures the time when all who have ever lived and died without knowing the one true God and His Son Jesus Christ, will return to physical life, to have their one opportunity for eternal salvation. It is the day of salvation for “the rest of the dead,” the unknown numbers of humans who never knew the “one true God” (John 17:3).

There, in one direct sentence, is the answer to so many questions people have about the meaning of life, the reason for suffering and the answer to why there is evil in the world. God the merciful, God the Creator of all life, wills that all who have lived might have a chance for salvation.

The Rest of the Dead

In the book of Revelation the apostle John was given detailed visions of events that will close this age and bring to earth the rule of Jesus Christ. Many other prophecies give various elements of this truth, including what is specifically called a “first resurrection” of a group of saints who will live and reign with Christ for a thousand years. Those saints in this resurrection will sit on thrones and make judgments (Revelation 20:4-6).

This “first” resurrection is mentioned in other places. Here it is connected to a specific length of time, a thousand years, a period also known as the Millennium, a period described elsewhere as the “times of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21) when the earth will be restored to what God intended from the beginning of creation.

In verse 5 there is the statement: “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.” Here we find reference to a specific group of people. Who are they? Where do they fit in the purpose of God? Let’s read on. Verse 7 tells us after the thousand years are expired Satan is released from the bottomless pit and is allowed to deceive people once again. This ends when fire from God devours those who do his bidding and the devil is cast into the lake of fire to be tormented forever (Revelation 20:7-10).

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works” (Revelation 20:11-13).

Here is described the most hope-filled of passages from the Bible. Here, after the thousand-year period of restoration and a final removal of the source of all evil from the earth, is described a resurrection different from that called the first. It is a resurrection to judgment for the dead. Their life is judged by what is written in books that are opened. These are the books of the Bible whose understanding is first opened to them at that time. In other words, this passage is describing the masses of the world who never had a day of salvation. They lived for however long on the earth, loving, marrying, living life as it had been dealt to them and making the best of it, seeking to live a sensible life.

This resurrection is for the pagan and the agnostic. For the atheist who cursed the idea of God. For the pagan who worshipped many gods, hoping that one would hear him or her and help make sense of life. This resurrection is for those who lived lives of alienation not only from God but from the civil society of their day. This resurrection is for those like my father who was a good man but who saw no need for religion in his life. This resurrection is for the dead, “small and great,” who will have their first chance to know the one true God and enter into life eternal.

Better for Sodom and Gomorrah

Jesus Christ spoke to the questions of those who had lived and died without knowing God in a personal worship and relationship. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah leaves questions about the eternal fate of those caught in the web of sin and unable to repent. These ancient cities experienced the judgment of God in a fiery storm of death. Yet their story is not over.

Christ’s teaching to His disciples shows they will live again in a day of judgment. Speaking of those cities who in His day would not heed the gospel He reveals the day of judgment that must mean this time spoken of in Revelation. “Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” (Matthew 10:15).

With the same thought He chided three cities in Galilee—Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum—for not responding to the works done in their midst. Tyre and Sidon, two gentile cities notorious for their obstinate sin, would receive more understanding in the day of judgment than they would. Even Sodom would have repented had they seen the miracles and preaching of Jesus. “Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!” (Matthew 11:21-23).

The time of judgment referred to in these verses coincides perfectly with what is described in Revelation 20.

What About Israel?

The understanding behind this Eighth Day festival sheds light on one of the critical questions of the New Testament. In Romans 9, Paul laments the condition of his people, Israel, with whom God had entered a special relationship and was now changed. “I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen” (Romans 9:1-5).

Paul knew the relationship between God and Israel had changed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He states that he would give up his salvation if it would heal the breach. But he knows that is not the answer. His statement is one of deep grief for Israel’s blindness.

In chapters 9, 10 and 11 of Romans he describes the depth of God’s plan. Israel’s sin and rejection of God led to the opening for the gentiles to enter a divine relationship with God. Paul was the bearer of that gospel message and he comes to conclude that Israel will be restored and have a relationship with God in a new and better covenant. In Romans 11:15 he states: “For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” He concludes on a hopeful note: “And so, all Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11:26).

The Valley of the Dry Bones

Paul’s words fill out the vision of Ezekiel where the prophet saw the bones in the valley come together and live with sinews and flesh. These bones represent the nation of Israel and the time when God restores their life in the resurrection of the Eighth Day, when all the dead small and great will live. Israel’s regathering, promised and prophesied here, is a marker from God that all nations will live and receive the hope of salvation.

“Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!” Therefore prophesy and say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it, says the LORD”” (Ezekiel 37:11-14).

You cannot understand Ezekiel’s vision and Paul’s statements in Romans without the critical key of the Eighth Day festival. Revelation 20 shows the sequence of resurrections including a time when all the dead, small and great, will stand in a time and be judged by the “books,” which means the books of the Bible. It will be their time to learn the full truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.

This understanding is the answer to so many of the questions that philosophers, theologians and even scientists have pondered through the ages. Whether it is the question of why evil and suffering, to the search for the singular explanation for the purpose of the cosmos, sincere men have sought for the grand answer to explain the purpose behind the universe. When you understand the key of the Eighth Day festival in Scripture you have the answer from the mind of the One who designed, purposed and created it all. It is the answer that unlocks the ultimate secret.

By God’s grace I understand this. As you cherish and keep this truth you will grow in grace and understanding. I wait for the day when I can explain it to my father. “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out. ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?’ ‘Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?’ For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).