Is Relief in Sight?
WHEN you are traveling through a tunnel or a dangerous area of heavy forest, it is a great relief to see the light of open space ahead. It makes you feel like giving a happy outcry.
More welcome than this is the kind of relief that God is going to provide for mankind, and it can be seen ahead by those who sincerely want peace, justice and right conditions for themselves and their fellowmen. Right now humanity is walking through a dangerous area, and to have relief in sight would be a cause for a joyful shout. But it takes faith to see that relief is near. This faith is not hard to gain, however, if you look into what God has said and done.
To increase our faith and comfort, God has had recorded what he did for the nation that was once governed by a special law of his. (Rom. 15:4) In fact, he dealt with this nation as a pattern, showing what kind of God he is and what his administration of all the earth will be like under his Messianic kingdom. (1 Cor. 10:11) This law had “a shadow of the good things to come.” (Heb. 10:1) “The reality [of what those shadows represented] belongs to the Christ,” that is, under Christ’s rulership these things will be permanent realities for the people of earth.—Col. 2:17.
THE JUBILEE YEAR
God gave the ancient nation of Israel a fine start when he settled them in the Promised Land. They had everything to make them prosperous and economically balanced. But selfishness and other weaknesses of imperfect humanity brought them into hardships. The nation tended to drift toward the state that we often see today—where the wealth is in the hands of a few and there are great numbers of poor people. As today, the people back there brought undesirable conditions upon themselves.
How did God check this trend toward national deterioration? How did he help those people in a way that provided a pattern for us? Did he force the rich to give their wealth to the poor? No. This would not have been just. He established what was called the Jubilee, or Jubilee year.
We all know what a jubilee is, in modern terminology. It is a happy celebration, usually at the end of a fixed number of years. The Hebrew word for jubilee had a similar usage. Basically it means “a protracted sound.” The Jubilee year’s beginning was announced by a loud sound made by the blowing of rams’ horns. So the Jubilee also connoted a joyful cry, for the Jubilee was a year of freedom.—Lev. 25:9, 10.
What took place on the Jubilee that made it such a happy occasion? Well, by reason of financial reverses, a man may have been obliged to sell his land inheritance in order to pay off debts. Or, because of indebtedness a family or some of its members may have sold themselves into slavery to a more prosperous neighbor. In Israel a Hebrew “slave” was treated as a hired laborer, yet freedom was much more desirable. So the Jubilee year was a real time of rejoicing. Each man was restored to his own inheritance. His land was returned to him free, and all Hebrew slaves were released to be reestablished in their own God-given portion of land.—Lev. 25:28, 39-41.
Was this returning of the inheritances unjust to those who were prosperous by reason of their industriousness? Was this showing partiality to the poor? Not at all. There was a scale of land values according to the number of years left until the Jubilee. One’s inheritance could not be sold in perpetuity. (Lev. 25:23) “Selling” land was actually more like our modern practice of leasing. The “buyer” was paying for the use of the land and the value of its crops until the Jubilee. (Lev. 25:15, 16) When the Jubilee came, his “lease” ran out and the land again became its original owner’s. The “buyer” had not lost anything.
Think what fine benefits the nation received from this arrangement as long as Israel kept this law. The economy might get somewhat out of balance during the fifty-year period between the Jubilees, but at the Jubilee it was restored to its original state, with every man in possession of his own land. Property values were stable. There was no inflation, nor were there extremely rich and extremely poor classes. No family could remain in perpetual poverty. Every man (and every family) was accorded proper human dignity. Certainly, then, every fifty years the Jubilee was like daylight at the end of a tunnel. But what is there in this Jubilee arrangement that is a real basis for hope for people today? What did it foreshadow?
A BETTER “JUBILEE”
When God created man on earth he gave him a good start. He had everything for a perfectly happy life, everlastingly. But by rebellion against God Adam brought trouble upon his entire family. For the selfish price of independence from God he sold his offspring into slavery to sin and death. (Rom. 7:14; 5:12) Now, God has shown that he will recover mankind and restore man to his original free state by a great “Jubilee.”
For centuries humankind has been working under tremendous hardships. The economy of many cities and nations is now ruined and they see no way out. There is oppression, and, besides all of this, sickness and death are intolerable burdens. But that God purposes good for mankind the apostle Paul showed when he spoke about being subject to sin, saying: “The creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will but through him that subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”—Rom. 8:20, 21.
Yes, God purposes a much larger and finer “Jubilee” for humankind. This “Jubilee,” symbolically, is the thousand-year reign of his kingdom under Christ. The present oppressive system, with its alliance of false religion, politics and commerce will not be there. Why not? Because God will establish his rule earth wide. He says of this time: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”—Rev. 21:3, 4.
This “Jubilee” will not accomplish just a temporary freedom, leaving mankind to slip back into trouble, or needing repetition periodically as did the Hebrew Jubilee. This is because Jesus Christ will be, not only King, but also humankind’s High Priest. His atonement sacrifice will be applied to lift men and women up to perfection of mind and body. They will be saved ‘to perfection.’ Of Christ as High Priest, it is said: “He is able also to save completely those who are approaching God through him, because he is always alive to plead for them.” (Heb. 7:25; 1 Cor. 15:26) Each person will be able to enjoy a portion of the earth to keep and to cultivate. He will not fear economic failure.
The symbolic “Jubilee” will provide a real rest for mankind. For the ancient Jubilee was a sabbath year, and “sabbath” means “rest.” (Lev. 25:11, 12) Full relief and cure will come, even a resurrection of the dead, as Christ demonstrated in a miniature way when he was on earth, by healing people of all kinds of sicknesses, also raising the dead. (Matt. 15:30, 31; Luke 5:12-16; 7:12-15; John 11:38-44) The Bible description of this feature of the “Jubilee” reads: “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and scrolls were opened. But another scroll was opened; it is the scroll of life. And the dead were judged out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds [deeds performed during the ‘Jubilee’].”—Rev. 20:12, 13.
Evidences indicate that this glorious “Jubilee” rest is very near. Jesus Christ prophetically described the conditions that would mark the nearness of that great relief-bringing period. He spoke of the time when, world wide, there would be “anguish of nations, not knowing the way out . . . while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” He said that during this time the “good news of the kingdom” would be preached in all the inhabited earth as a witness to all the nations. This would include the good news of relief by the symbolic “Jubilee” of Christ’s thousand-year reign over earth. We see these things occurring today.—Luke 21:25, 26; Matt. 24:14.
Happily, this relief is in sight! Jesus went on to say that people now hearing this good news would see the “Jubilee.” He told those listening to him: “When you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, This generation will by no means pass away until all things occur.”—Luke 21:31, 32.
Is there something that people need to do now, or is it merely a matter of ‘wait and see’? Note the strong warning with which Jesus concluded his prophecy. He spoke of the “day” or time just preceding the “Jubilee” in which he would bring transfer of mankind from this present decadent society to his full Kingdom rule. He said: “But pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.”—Luke 21:34-36.
By concentrating on the anxieties of this world and its materialistic pursuits you can become ‘fast asleep’ spiritually. But you can “keep awake” by devoting yourself to getting a close relationship with God. This you can do by getting to know what the Bible says and making changes as it directs: “Quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”—Rom. 12:2.