When Slavery Will End!
FREEDOM! Few words are more appealing to the human heart. People have fought and suffered, lived and died, in pursuit of freedom. Sadly, though, many have done so without seeing much real progress toward their goal. Is there hope for freedom from slavery—a hope that will not end in frustration and disappointment? There is.
The apostle Paul was inspired to write of God’s promise: “The creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21) But how can we be sure that God will really bring about such “glorious freedom”? One way is to examine God’s dealings with mankind throughout history.
“Where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom,” says the Bible. (2 Corinthians 3:17) Yes, God’s spirit, or active force, is immensely powerful. He has been using it to provide freedom in many ways for a long time. How so? Well, we must keep in mind that there are many types of slavery. We have already discussed one of the most vicious types, wherein the strong enslave the weak by force and violence. But consider some other forms of slavery.
People can enslave themselves to various addictions that prove extremely difficult to escape. And people can be enslaved by lies and deception, fooled into a life of subjugation to false teachings. Most insidious of all, there is a type of slavery that afflicts each one of us—whether we know it or not—and its effects are lethal. However, it must be emphasized that although we are grouping together several forms of bondage in this discussion, we are in no way equating them. They differ widely. Still, there is an important common thread. In the long run, the God of freedom will see to it that the burden of all these forms of slavery will be lifted from mankind.
When Addictions Enslave
Notice how the book When Luck Runs Out describes compulsive gambling: “A disorder in which the individual is driven by an overpowering and uncontrollable impulse to gamble. The impulse persists and progresses in intensity and urgency . . . until, ultimately, it invades, undermines and often destroys everything that is meaningful in his life.” Nobody knows how many people have become slaves to gambling. The estimate for just one country, the United States, is about six million.
Alcohol dependence can be equally, if not more, destructive and in most places is more widespread. In one large country, as many as half the adult males suffer from some degree of alcoholism. Ricardo, who became an alcoholic 20 years ago, explains what this type of addiction means: “From the time you wake up, your body cries out for alcohol—to calm your nerves, to forget your problems, or just to give you sufficient self-confidence to cope with life. You become obsessed with getting a drink, and yet you try to convince yourself and others around you that your behavior is normal.”
Alcohol is not the only addictive substance that enslaves people. Worldwide, there are many millions of people abusing illicit drugs. Furthermore, some 1.1 billion use tobacco—which contains one of the most addictive of all drugs. Many people would love to quit the habit, but they feel enslaved. Has Jehovah proved to be an effective Liberator of people from such powerful forms of bondage?*
Consider the example of Ricardo. “About ten years ago, I realized that alcohol was controlling my life,” Ricardo explains. “It was undermining my marriage, my job, and my family, and I knew that I would never solve my problems unless I could escape its grasp. From a study of the Bible, I learned that poverty—both literal and spiritual—plagues the heavy drinker. (Proverbs 23:20, 21) I wanted to have a good relationship with God, and my sincere prayers imploring divine help enabled me to be honest with myself. A man studied the Bible with me and proved to be an invaluable friend. When I had a relapse, he did not give up on me, but he patiently and firmly showed me the course that God outlines for true Christians.”
Today Ricardo feels liberated from his former slavery—at least in a relative sense. He readily admits that at first he suffered occasional relapses. “But despite those setbacks,” he says, “my desire to serve Jehovah faithfully, along with the support of my wife and other fellow Christians, has helped me to control the situation. I look forward to the time that God has promised when ‘no one will say, “I am sick”’ and alcoholism will be a thing of the past. Meanwhile, I will keep up my daily battle to present my body as ‘a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God.’”—Isaiah 33:24; Romans 12:1.
Around the world many thousands of people have experienced firsthand God’s help as they worked to free themselves of various addictions. Admittedly, they played a prominent role in their own enslavement, perhaps giving in to various pressures or temptations. Nonetheless, they have found that Jehovah is a very patient Liberator. He is willing to help and strengthen all those who truly want to serve him.
“The Truth Will Set You Free”
What about enslavement to lies and deception? Jesus Christ assures us that freedom from such is possible. “If you remain in my word,” he said, “you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31, 32) At the time he spoke, many of his listeners were enslaved to a rigid code of Pharisaic tradition. In fact, Jesus said of the religious leaders of his day: “They bind up heavy loads and put them upon the shoulders of men, but they themselves are not willing to budge them with their finger.” (Matthew 23:4) Jesus’ teachings freed people from such bondage. He exposed religious lies for what they were, even identifying their source. (John 8:44) And he replaced the lies with the truth, revealing clearly God’s reasonable requirements for mankind.—Matthew 11:28-30.
Like Jesus’ disciples, thousands of people today are finding that with God’s help they can break free from the religious lies and false traditions that have enslaved them. After learning the refreshing truths of the Bible, they find themselves free from oppressive fear of the dead, free from terror of eternal torment in a fiery hell, and free from pressure to pay hard-earned money for religious services performed by clerics who claim to represent Christ—the one who said: “You received free, give free.” (Matthew 10:8) Moreover, an even greater freedom is near at hand.
The Most Insidious Slavery
Notice how Jesus described an insidious form of slavery, mentioned earlier, that affects every man, woman, and child on earth: “Most truly I say to you, Every doer of sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34) Who can claim that he does not sin? Even the apostle Paul admitted: “The good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice.” (Romans 7:19) Although no one can free himself from the fetters of sin, our situation is not hopeless.
Jesus assured his disciples: “If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free.” (John 8:36, Today’s English Version) The fulfillment of this promise will mean nothing less than freedom from the most damaging of all forms of slavery. To understand how we can escape from it, we must first see how we were enslaved to begin with.
The Bible reveals that God created man as a free moral agent, with no tendency to sin. But a selfish, invisible spirit son of God wanted to wield power over mankind, regardless of the cost in human suffering. To achieve that goal, this rebellious angel, who was later called Satan the Devil, turned our first human parents, Adam and Eve, away from God. After Adam deliberately disobeyed God’s specific instructions, he not only became a sinner himself but passed imperfection and death on to all his descendants. (Romans 5:12) Eventually, Satan became ‘the ruler of the world,’ and ‘sin has ruled over mankind as king with death.’—John 12:31; Romans 5:21; Revelation 12:9.
How can we be freed? By becoming Jesus’ disciples, we can benefit from Christ’s sacrificial death, which has the power to “bring to nothing the one having the means to cause death, that is, the Devil” and to “emancipate all those who for fear of death were subject to slavery all through their lives.” (Hebrews 2:14, 15) Imagine that—freedom from slavery to sin and death! Isn’t the thought of such freedom appealing?
What, though, about the type of slavery we discussed at the outset? Will there ever be an end to the forcible enslavement of people against their will?
A Sure Basis for Hope
Surely, we can be confident that such a repulsive form of slavery will be eliminated. Why so? Well, consider this: Jehovah God was directly responsible for the greatest march to freedom in all human history. You may be familiar with the historical record.
The nation of Israel was enslaved by Egypt, set to hard manual labor and subjected to brutal treatment. They cried out to God for help, and he, in his great mercy, heard them and acted. Using Moses and Aaron as his spokesmen, Jehovah issued a demand that the Egyptian Pharaoh let the Israelites go free. That proud monarch refused repeatedly, even after Jehovah brought a series of devastating plagues upon the land. Finally, God brought Pharaoh to his knees. The Israelites were free at last!—Exodus 12:29-32.
It is a thrilling account, isn’t it? You may wonder, though, why God has not done something similar in modern times. Why has he not intervened in human affairs and put an end to slavery? Remember, Jehovah is not ‘the ruler of the world’—Satan is. Because of the challenges raised back in Eden, Jehovah has allowed this wicked Adversary to rule for a limited time. Slavery, oppression, and cruelty are simply hallmarks of Satan’s rulership. Under such influence, human rulership has built up a miserable record. The Bible summarizes that record succinctly: “Man has dominated man to his injury.”—Ecclesiastes 8:9.
But for how long? The Bible explains that we are living in “the last days,” a time when selfishness and greed would be rampant. (2 Timothy 3:1, 2) This means that soon God’s Kingdom, for which Jesus taught us to pray, will establish a righteous society in which slavery will be outlawed. (Matthew 6:9, 10) Jesus Christ, God’s appointed King, will take action to crush every vestige of slavery until the last enemy, death, is brought to nothing.—1 Corinthians 15:25, 26.
When that day finally dawns, faithful mankind will see that the freeing of God’s people from slavery in Egypt was just a small foregleam of this far greater liberation. Yes, in time, “the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption.” At last, all will be able to enjoy to the full “the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Romans 8:21.
In the first century, gluttony was common at large Roman banquets. Hence, Christians were warned against allowing food or anything else of a similar nature to enslave them.—Romans 6:16; 1 Corinthians 6:12, 13; Titus 2:3.
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An estimated six million people are enslaved to gambling in the United States alone
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Hundreds of millions are enslaved to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco
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Like Ricardo, thousands have experienced God’s help to break free from addictions
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As Israelites of old were freed from slavery, soon true worshipers of God will enjoy a far greater liberation