“You must . . . proclaim liberty in the land to all its inhabitants.”—LEV. 25:10.
SONG 22 The Kingdom Is in Place—Let It Come!
IN SOME countries, special celebrations are arranged to mark the 50th year of the reign of a king or queen. That 50th year is often known as the sovereign’s jubilee year. The festivities that accompany the jubilee might go on for a day, a week, or even longer, but they eventually come to an end, and the joy they brought is soon forgotten.
2 We will examine a better jubilee, even better than the year-long festival that was proclaimed every 50 years in ancient Israel. That ancient Jubilee brought liberty to the people who observed it. Why is that of interest to us today? Because Israel’s Jubilee year reminds us of a wonderful provision for lasting liberty that Jehovah is making even now, liberty that Jesus spoke about.—Read Luke 4:16-18.
3. As outlined at Leviticus 25:8-12, how did the Israelites benefit from the Jubilee?
3 We can better understand what Jesus meant when he spoke of liberty by first considering the Jubilee that God arranged for his ancient people. Jehovah told the Israelites: “You must sanctify the 50th year and proclaim liberty in the land to all its inhabitants. It will become a Jubilee for you, and each of you will return to his property and each of you should return to his family.” (Read Leviticus 25:8-12.) In the preceding article, we considered how the Israelites benefited from the weekly Sabbath. How, though, did the Israelites benefit from the Jubilee? Well, suppose an Israelite had fallen into debt and, as a result, had been forced to sell his land to pay off the debt. During the Jubilee year, that land was to be returned to him. Therefore, the man could “return to his property,” and the future inheritance of his children would not be lost. In another case, a man who fell on hard times might have had to sell one of his children—or even himself—into slavery in order to pay a debt. During the Jubilee year, the slave was to “return to his family.” So no one would become a slave permanently with no hope! How thoughtful of Jehovah!
4-5. Why should the ancient Jubilee interest us today?
4 What was another benefit of the Jubilee? Jehovah explained: “No one among you should become poor, for Jehovah will surely bless you in the land that Jehovah your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance.” (Deut. 15:4) What a contrast to what is happening in the world today, where the rich often get richer and the poor, poorer!
5 As Christians, we are not under the Mosaic Law. This means that we are not holding to the ancient Jubilee arrangement about freeing slaves, forgiving debts, and returning inherited land. (Rom. 7:4; 10:4; Eph. 2:15) Nonetheless, we have reason to be interested in the Jubilee. Why? Because we can enjoy liberty, or freedom, that reminds us of what Jehovah set in place for the Israelites.
JESUS PROCLAIMED LIBERTY
6. From what does mankind need to be liberated?
6 All of us need to be liberated because we are slaves in one grim sense—slaves to sin. As a result of being sinners, we are subject to aging, sickness, and death. Many see evidence of that when they look into a mirror or go to a doctor for treatment. We are also discouraged when we commit sins. The apostle Paul admitted that he was led “captive to sin’s law that [was in his] body.” He added: “Miserable man that I am! Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death?”—Rom. 7:23, 24.
7. What did Isaiah foretell about liberty?
7 Happily, God arranged a way for us to be rescued, or freed from sin. Jesus is the key to that liberation. In the eighth century before our Common Era, the prophet Isaiah foretold a future grand liberation. That grand liberation would accomplish far more than did the liberation during Israel’s Jubilee year. He wrote: “The spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah is upon me, because Jehovah anointed me to declare good news to the meek. He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives.” (Isa. 61:1) To whom does that prophecy apply?
8. To whom does Isaiah’s prophecy about liberation apply?
8 That important prophecy about liberation began to be fulfilled after Jesus started his ministry. When he went to the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus read those very words of Isaiah to the Jews assembled there. Jesus applied to himself the words: “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor. He sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away free, to preach Jehovah’s acceptable year.” (Luke 4:16-19) How did Jesus fulfill that prophecy?
THE FIRST TO BE LIBERATED
9. Many in Jesus’ time hoped for what sort of liberation?
9 The liberty, or freedom, that Isaiah foretold and that Jesus read about began to be granted in the first century. Jesus confirmed this when he announced: “Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.” (Luke 4:21) Many who heard what Jesus read were probably looking for some political change, for liberation from Rome. They may have felt like the two men who said: “We were hoping that this man was the one who was going to deliver Israel.” (Luke 24:13, 21) But you know that Jesus did not urge his followers to revolt against the heavy yoke of Rome. Instead, he instructed them to pay “Caesar’s things to Caesar.” (Matt. 22:21) So how did Jesus bring freedom at that time?
10. Jesus opened the way to liberty from what?
10 God’s Son came to help people gain liberty, or freedom, in two ways. First, Jesus opened the way to liberty from the oppressive doctrines taught by the religious leaders. Many Jews back then were enslaved to traditions and mistaken beliefs. (Matt. 5:31-37; 15:1-11) Those who presumed to be spiritual guides were in a sense blind. In rejecting the Messiah and the spiritual enlightenment he offered, they remained in darkness and in sin. (John 9:1, 14-16, 35-41) By his correct teachings and good example, Jesus made known to meek ones a spiritual liberation.—Mark 1:22; 2:23–3:5.
11. What was the second way in which Jesus provided liberation?
11 The second way in which Jesus provided liberation involved freeing mankind from enslavement to inherited sin. On the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, God could forgive the sins of those who show faith and who accept the ransom He provided. (Heb. 10:12-18) Jesus said: “If the Son sets you free, you will be truly free.” (John 8:36) That freedom was certainly greater than what could be gained during Israel’s Jubilee year! For instance, a man set free during the Jubilee might again become a slave, and in any case, he would eventually die.
12. Who were the first to benefit from the liberty announced by Jesus?
12 On the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., Jehovah anointed with holy spirit the apostles and other faithful men and women. He adopted them as his sons so that in time they would be resurrected to heaven to reign with Jesus. (Rom. 8:2, 15-17) These were the first to benefit from the liberty that Jesus announced in the synagogue of Nazareth. Those men and women were no longer enslaved to false teachings and unscriptural practices of the Jewish religious leaders. God also considered them liberated from the deadly effects of sin. The symbolic Jubilee that began with the anointing of Christ’s followers in 33 C.E. will end at the conclusion of Jesus’ Thousand Year Reign. What will have been accomplished by that time?
MILLIONS MORE TO BE LIBERATED
13-14. Besides anointed Christians, who can receive the liberty that Jesus announced?
13 In modern times, millions of sincere people out of all nations are of the “other sheep.” (John 10:16) They have not been called by God to reign in heaven with Jesus. Rather, they have the Bible-based prospect of living forever on earth. Is that your hope?
14 Even now you are receiving some benefits enjoyed by those who will be part of God’s heavenly Kingdom. By your faith in Jesus’ shed blood, you can ask for forgiveness of your sins. That results in a right standing with God and a good conscience before him. (Eph. 1:7; Rev. 7:14, 15) Think, too, of the blessings you enjoy because you have been liberated from long-held unscriptural beliefs. Jesus said: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) What a joy to have such freedom!
15. What freedom and blessings can we expect in the future?
15 You can expect greater freedom to come. In the near future, Jesus will act decisively to eliminate false religion and corrupt human rulership. God will protect “a great crowd” who serve him, and then he will allow them to enjoy blessings in an earthly paradise. (Rev. 7:9, 14) A vast number will be resurrected and will have the opportunity to be liberated from all the effects of Adam’s sin.—Acts 24:15.
16. What grand liberation awaits mankind?
16 During the Thousand Year Reign, Jesus and his corulers will help to raise mankind to perfect physical and spiritual health. This time of restoration and liberation will be like the Jubilee in Israel. The result for all on earth who serve Jehovah loyally will be human perfection, free from sin.
17. Isaiah 65:21-23 foretells what for God’s people? (See cover picture.)
17 A prophetic description of life on earth is found at Isaiah 65:21-23. (Read.) That life will not be a life of idleness. Rather, the Bible indicates that God’s people at that time will be doing useful, satisfying work. At the end of that period, we can be sure that “the creation itself will also be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Rom. 8:21.
18. Why can we trust that a bright future awaits us?
18 Just as Jehovah arranged for the Israelites to balance work and rest, so it will be for his people in the coming Thousand Year Rule of Christ. There will certainly be time for spiritual activities. Worship of God is essential to happiness today, and it will be so in the new world. Yes, we have good reason to rejoice over the good work and spiritual activity that we can expect when believing mankind enjoys life during Christ’s Millennial Reign.
SONG 142 Holding Fast to Our Hope
^ par. 5 Jehovah made a special arrangement for liberty, or freedom, to be declared in ancient Israel. It was the Jubilee. Christians are not under the Mosaic Law; yet, the Jubilee has meaning for us. In this article, we will see how the ancient Jubilee reminds us of a provision Jehovah has made for us and how we can benefit from it.
^ par. 61 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: During the Jubilee, men who had been slaves were freed and could return to their family and their land.