You and I may take ordinary road maps for granted, but the history of mapmaking shows that ancient peoples carefully relied on their relatively primitive maps.
Noted author and professor John Noble Wilford wrote: "Before Europeans reached the Pacific, the Marshall Islanders were making stick charts. Sticks were lashed together with fibers to depict prevailing winds and wave patterns; shells or coral were inserted at the appropriate places to represent islands. When a Tahitian communicated his knowledge of South Pacific geography to Captain Cook by drawing a map, it was clear that he and his people were quite familiar with the map idea.
"Pre-Columbian maps in Mexico indicated roads by lines of footprints. Centuries ago Eskimos carved accurate coastal maps in ivory, the Incas built elaborate relief maps of stone and clay, and early Europeans drew sketch maps on their cave walls" (The Mapmakers, 1981, p. 7).
The map idea
According to Wilford, cartographers agree that there is something fundamental about the map idea: "It is a basic form of human communication . . . Indeed, the term map is often used metaphorically to explain other types of knowing and communicating" (p. 13).
Wilford carefully explored the symbolic values of mapmaking: "In everyday conversation, the word map is used to convey the idea of clarification: someone maps out a plan or maps out his future" (ibid.). Later in this book he wrote, "Maps embody a perspective of that which is known and a perception of that which may be worth knowing" (p. 386). He makes a very good case that maps are excellent symbolic tools, communicating that which is so far unknown by that which is known.
But if an ordinary map can communicate a desired destination, could there also be a map for Christians to use to find their ultimate destiny in this life? Is there a plan already mapped out that would determine a sense of here in relation to there? The short answer is yes.
Would Almighty God, who has created the orderly, harmonious and self-regulating universe, create human beings—the only fully cognitive processing creatures on this planet—without planning and/or mapping out an ultimate destiny for us?
Not only is there a biblical map that can assist you in arriving at your ultimate destination, but that map is also the key to your spiritual survival. The map I speak of is both real and symbolic, a great communication tool in the service of humankind.
The Bible's symbolic map
Remarkably, the Scriptures are filled with basic symbolic maps that can and will lead you to true freedom and immortality. Ironically, millions of Christians have neglected to use the very biblical map that God has so freely given to them.
In fact, many mainstream Christians have ignored the basic biblical map leading to salvation and "penciled in" traditional pagan symbols instead. When you misread a map, a miss is as good as a mile.
For example, though God has clearly mapped out our salvation by way of the Holy Days He reveals in the Bible, religionists from time immemorial have changed God's symbols and replaced them with pagan ones. For instance, they have substituted modern religious holidays like Christmas and Easter for God's revelatory Holy Days.
No wonder humankind has consistently run into biblical dead ends or taken frustrating and confusing religious detours—rather than following the road to eternal life (Daniel 7:25). Let's briefly explore God's symbols, His annual Sabbaths in the autumn that mark out and point the way to immortality in God's coming Kingdom.
Our Creator has revealed seven annual festivals starting in the spring, each one depicting some great event in the ongoing mapping of God's salvation for humankind. However, this particular article will focus on and highlight only the four festivals that occur in the late summer and autumn of the year (in the northern hemisphere).
Each represents a decisive turning point in human history. The previous three spring festivals of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost constitute personal responses to the workings of God in the people He calls and chooses during this age of man. The Bible calls them the firstfruits of God's salvation. (For a fuller discussion of all seven of these annual occasions, request or download our free booklet God's Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind.)
The Feast of Trumpets maps the arrival of Jesus Christ
The first autumn festival is the Feast of Trumpets. This biblical festival helps us understand why Jesus Christ must return and reveals how and what He will do when He arrives.
It also reveals what happens to His true followers, both those who are still alive and those who are "dead in Christ," at His coming. Both are transformed immediately to immortal children of God (1 Corinthians 15:22-23, 42-44, 50-53). Jesus gathers His elect (see 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17), who will afterward follow Christ when He descends on the Mount of Olives (Revelation 19:14; John 18:36).
Historically, the Feast of Trumpets was first given to God's nation Israel (Leviticus 23:24). In that context trumpets were, and still are, symbols that indicated an alarm for war. Israel often blew trumpets to alert its army and regular population that battle was imminent. Consider the trumpets that were blown when God instructed Israel to conquer Jericho (Joshua 6). A blowing of trumpets signaled imminent battle.
The book of Revelation likewise shows blowing of trumpets in preparation for Jesus' return. The fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets is loudly sounded in Revelation chapters 8 through 11 where the seven trumpets of God warn of major cataclysmic events. These trumpet blasts serve as the prelude to the seven last plagues of Revelation 16.
The Feast of Trumpets symbolizes the return of Christ, the most pivotal and well-mapped-out event in all of human history. When Christians celebrate the Feast of Trumpets, they are in a sense acting out in advance a great symbol of their salvation. (If you would like to understand the significance of these biblical prophecies in much greater detail, please request or download our free booklet The Book of Revelation Unveiled.)
The Day of Atonement maps Satan's removal
The Day of Atonement focuses on the future removal of the devil and his cohorts, powerful evil spirits unseen by the naked human eye, called demons. As agents of deception and baleful influence, they have been misleading mankind since the Garden of Eden (see Revelation 12:9).
The fact that many today doubt the existence of evil spirits demonstrates the success of the deception. (For the absolute biblical proof, request or download our free booklet Is There Really a Devil?)
Through the book of Job, Scripture shows that Satan is personally involved with humanity. "And the Lord said to Satan, 'From where do you come?' So Satan answered the Lord and said, 'From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it'" (Job 1:7).
From this and many other biblical passages we see that Satan is intricately involved with humanity at large. Recall that when the devil offered Jesus Christ the kingdoms of the world, Jesus did not counter his rule over mankind. "Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, 'All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me'" (Matthew 4:8-9, emphasis added throughout).
The apostle Paul tells us that Satan is the god of this world and that he has blinded the minds of all humanity (1 Corinthians 4:4). He began his deception with our first parents, Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-6; Romans 5:14-15).
Thankfully Satan's destructive work on humankind will cease. Christ will remove the devil from the human realm for a thousand years at His return (Revelation 20:1-3; compare Romans 16:20). This major event is mapped out or symbolized by the Day of Atonement. Christians observe this unique biblical festival by fasting, drawing close to God and acknowledging their total reliance on Him (Leviticus 23:26-32; Acts 27:9).
The reason God is going to remove Satan and the demonic realm from the human sphere is very clear: They are at the heart of all human troubles, pain, suffering, war and death. Without the destroyer, peace can break out on the earth (Isaiah 14:4-7). Only then can humanity continue on the road to God's peace and prosperity.
The Day of Atonement keeps the path open for all humankind to experience the wonderful world tomorrow, the coming Kingdom of God! That time is symbolized by the joyous Feast of Tabernacles, the next stop on the road map to eternal life.
Feast of Tabernacles maps universal peace and prosperity
The Feast of Tabernacles is strongly symbolic of the great destination for humanity on the road to universal peace and prosperity. Yet that destination cannot be reached before the previous ones. There is a specific and orderly sequence of benchmark events that must take place for humankind to arrive safely at its ultimate destination. There are no shortcuts.
By way of a brief review, the Feast of Trumpets heralds the return of Jesus Christ, where He resurrects the dead in Christ and changes those Christians who are still alive (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15), and begins to remove all tyrannical governments (Revelation 11:15-18).
The next destination in God's master plan of salvation is the Day of Atonement, where Christ removes Satan and incarcerates him (Revelation 20:1-3). Only then can peace break out on earth (Isaiah 14:7; 11). This leads to the next step as represented by the Feast of Tabernacles, when Jesus will rule as the great Sovereign for 1,000 years.
Today Christ's disciples who understand the meaning of the symbols of God's step-by-step map of salvation keep the annual Feast of Tabernacles in anticipation of mankind's great future.
Throughout the earth, humanity will rejoice in unparalleled peace and prosperity. War, violence, deception, famines and all the other insoluble problems that plague mankind today will disappear from the earth (Isaiah 11:1-9; Micah 4:1-7). This war-weary earth will become a new Garden of Eden, beginning at Jerusalem and then spreading to all nations (Ezekiel 36:35; Zechariah 14:16).
Last Great Day maps salvation for mankind
During the autumn festival season, yet one major event follows the Feast of Tabernacles.
This destination on the biblical map that Christ has revealed to His saints has stupendous meaning. It figuratively shows the destination of all human beings who have ever lived from Adam's time to Christ's second coming.
It's called the Last Great Day, or the eighth day of the Feast. "On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation . . . It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it" (Leviticus 23:36).
Keep in mind that as an ordinary road map has the appropriate symbols to depict the reality of destinations, so has God given symbols to show the reality of His major goals for humanity.
God's people are instructed to observe the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days, with the first day being a Holy Day (verse 34). Following is a final festival that represents the opportunity for salvation for all human beings who have ever lived not knowing nor really understanding God's truth. This involves a general resurrection to physical life, at which time Jesus Christ and His reigning saints will reveal the true path to salvation.
Let's notice two significant passages that help us understand this symbolic festival. "But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished . . . Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away . . . 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" (Revelation 20:5, 11-12).
The great white throne judgment described here has several symbolically significant meanings. It's great because of the billions of human beings who will be raised from the dead for their day of salvation. White refers to holiness and righteousness. Throne infers Christ's righteous rule. It's a time of judgment because these human beings are then judged or evaluated by Jesus Christ in mercy and compassion over a period of time (1 Corinthians 11:31-32).
Another notable passage is found in the oft-misunderstood prophecy of Ezekiel 37. The valley of dry bones represents the whole house of Israel, all 12 tribes (not just the Jewish people although they are prominently included), who lived and died with no apparent hope. At this time, Christ will resurrect all human beings, Israelites and gentiles alike, all those who have ever lived and who never really knew God. They will be resurrected to physical life but offered His Spirit and the hope of salvation they never had (Ezekiel 37:11-14).
Though some will ultimately reject God and be lost—destroyed in a lake of fire (Revelation 21:8)—most will embrace Him and His ways, joining the saints in eternal salvation.
Jesus' return symbolized by the fall festivals
John Noble Wilford's quotes about maps certainly ring true when it comes to mapping Christ's return: "Maps embody a perspective of that which is known and a perception of that which may be worth knowing" (The Mapmakers, p. 386). Maps "communicate a sense of place, some sense of here in relation to there" (p. 7).
The four autumn festivals can rightly be compared to great milestones for all of mankind, mapped out in advance by God in His Holy Bible. Each one comes in its own order and proper sequence, just as following an ordinary road map from town to town leads to a physical destination. But with God's map, the end result is the salvation of all humankind.
Most human beings today do not know or understand how to read and study the Bible. During this age of man, God's people are given the understanding to follow His map of the future leading to the coming Kingdom of God and beyond.
The grand ultimate destiny of humanity is to become immortal children of God the Father, younger brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, living and serving in the New Jerusalem and throughout the universe forever and ever (Revelation 21–22; Hebrews 2:8; Deuteronomy 4:19).
Understanding God's plan and purpose revealed in the pages of the Bible constitutes the map that the people of God now follow in earnest. However, responsibility comes with the God-given ability to read His map of salvation. Those who have the knowledge of God, sprinkled throughout a darkened global society, should rejoice in these festivals and help show the world God's way and His path to salvation for mankind. GN