A: We read in 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. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, [which] those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
We read in verse 2 that the Holy Days that were celebrated at that time evolved around “the Feast of Tabernacles.”
Several commentators feel that the reference to the “last day, that great day of the feast,” applies to the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles. For instance, Edward Chumney, “The Seven Festivals of the Messiah,” points out the following on pp. 173-174:
“‘Hoshana Rabbah (literally, the great hosanna or the numerous hosannas) is the seventh day of sukkot (Tabernacles)… It has some special rituals and customs that make the day more like a full festival day than any of the intermediate days… On the seventh day of the feast, the people circled the altar seven times… Yeshua’s [Jesus’] statement in John (Yochanan) 7:37-39 was said on Hoshana Rabbah.”
Other commentaries state that Christ spoke those words on the eighth day, the last day of the Tabernacles season. The eighth day is an annual Holy Day, a special Sabbath, and is mentioned, for instance, in Leviticus 23:36 and in Numbers 29:35. This day is also referred to as “Shemini Atzeret (the eighth day of assembly)” and was treated by the rabbis as “an independent festival” (Chumney, p. 187).
Unger’s Bible Handbook, 1967, states on page 553: “The last day of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:36) was the most solemn and climactic of the entire festival cycle. It was the eighth day of rest and holy assembly. During the seven days prefiguring their wilderness wandering, water was drawn from the pool of Siloam and then poured out, commemorating the water supplied Israel in the desert. The eighth day signified the enjoyment of the springs of the land itself and no water was poured out.”
The Ryrie Study Bible concurs: “Though it is not mentioned in the O.T., the Jews had a ceremony of carrying water from the Pool of Siloam and pouring it into a silver basin by the altar of burnt offering each day for the first seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles. On the eighth day this was not done, making Christ’s offer of the water of eternal life from Himself even more startling.”
Further insight is given by William Henry Green, “The Hebrew Feasts,” copyright 1885, pp. 281 and 292:
“… at Tabernacles they remained not only through the full term of seven days, but an eighth day was added at the end, which in later times at least was reckoned ‘the great day of the feast,’ John 7:37… This eighth day is particularly mentioned in the observance of the feast by Ezra and Nehemiah, Neh. 8:18, and from the increasing concourse of pilgrims, it had risen to great consequence in the time of our Lord, John 7:37.”
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1961, also say that the reference to the “last day, that great day of the feast,” in John 7:37, applies to the “eighth (Lev. 23:39). It was a sabbath, the last feast day of the year…”
The Worldwide Church of God under Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong taught that Christ spoke the above-quoted words on the eighth day, the Last Great Day, and not during the seventh day of the feast. The Church of the Eternal God and its affiliates in Canada and Great Britain have also concluded that Christ spoke these words on the Last Great Day of the Feast — the eighth day (compare “God’s Commanded Holy Days,” page 32). John 8:1 shows that these words were spoken in the evening — at the beginning of the eighth day.
It is important to note what Christ said. He pointed out that the time would arrive when EVERYONE who thirsts could come to Him to receive from Him the gift of living waters — the Holy Spirit. That promise will not be fulfilled until the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-12) — AFTER the Millennium (Revelation 20:4, 6). While the Feast of Tabernacles pictures the Millennium, the Great White Throne Judgment is pictured by the Last Great Day or the EIGHTH Day. When THAT time has arrived, all persons who had not been called before will be resurrected to physical life and will then be given their first real opportunity to accept God’s calling. Christ’s words in John 7:37-39 speak of a time when God’s Spirit will be offered to all, for at that time, all will be CALLED to salvation.