Jehovah’s Jubilee—Time for Us to Rejoice
“And you must sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty in the land to all its inhabitants. It will become a Jubilee for you . . . It should become something holy to you . . . Then you will certainly dwell on the land in security.”—LEVITICUS 25:10-12, 18.
1. What inscription appears on the Liberty Bell, and from where are the words taken?
WHEREVER you live, you may have heard of the famous Liberty Bell, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. The World Book Encyclopedia says that this bell “was rung July 8, 1776, with other church bells, to announce the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Its inscription, ‘Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,’ is from the Bible (Leviticus 25:10).”
2. How do you feel about the prospect of liberty, but what problems may come up about it?
2 Liberty continues to have great appeal, does it not? Likely you would rejoice at the prospect of genuine liberty—from false concepts, from political pressure or oppression, from the debilitating effects of old age and sickness, resulting in death. If so, there is good reason for you to rejoice, and there will be greater reason soon. ‘How can that be so?’ you may ask, since no government has yet provided full freedom, and neither scientists nor doctors can prevent aging, sickness, and eventual death. But, we repeat, there is a basis for you to rejoice over true liberty. To understand how, consider important background information that can involve you—now and in the future.
3. What was the Jubilee, and what happened during that year?
3 The above-cited passage uses the word “Jubilee.” The Jubilee was a yearlong Sabbath-keeping period for the land of Israel. It followed a series of seven agricultural Sabbath years that altogether covered 49 years. The 50th year, the Jubilee, was the culmination of this series of Sabbath observances for the land that Jehovah had given his people, fulfilling the promise made to their forefather Abraham, “Jehovah’s friend.” (James 2:23; Isaiah 41:8) On the occasion of the Jubilee, liberty was proclaimed throughout the land. This meant freedom for all Israelites who had sold themselves into servitude because of debt. Another feature of the Jubilee was that all hereditary land possessions that had been sold (likely because of financial reverses) were returned.—Leviticus 25:1-54.
4. When was the Jubilee announced, and how?
4 With that background, you can appreciate why the Jubilee was a festive year of liberty. It was announced by sounding a horn on the Day of Atonement.* As Moses wrote in Leviticus 25:9, 10: “You must cause the horn of loud tone to sound in the seventh month on the tenth of the month; on the day of atonement you people should cause the horn to sound in all your land. And you must sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty in the land to all its inhabitants. It will become a Jubilee for you, and you must return each one to his possession and you should return each one to his family.” In 1473 B.C.E., Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, where they were to observe the Jubilee.
An Initial Freedom Proclaimed
5. What aspects of liberation and Jubilee will we consider?
5 The foregoing might seem to be ancient history having little bearing on our lives, especially if we are not of Jewish descent. However, Jesus Christ gave us valid reason to expect a grander Jubilee. It is this that constitutes the basis for our rejoicing over liberty, or freedom. In order to appreciate why, we need to see how Jesus in two ways provided for liberation in the first century. Then we will consider how those correspond to two liberations in our lifetime, but liberations on a much grander scale and providing us with much greater reason for rejoicing.
6, 7. (a) Isaiah 61:1-7 foretold what wonderful developments? (b) How did Jesus indicate that Isaiah’s prophecy was being fulfilled?
6 Though not speaking directly of the ancient Jubilee year, a prophetic reference to a coming type of liberation was made at Isaiah 61:1-7: “The spirit of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah is upon me, for the reason that Jehovah has anointed me to tell good news to the meek ones. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to those taken captive and the wide opening of the eyes even to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of goodwill on the part of Jehovah and the day of vengeance on the part of our God; to comfort all the mourning ones . . . Rejoicing to time indefinite is what will come to be theirs.” But how and when would that prophecy find fulfillment?
7 After the celebration of the Passover in the year 30 C.E., Jesus Christ went into a synagogue on the Sabbath day. He there read part of Isaiah’s prophecy and applied it to himself. Luke 4:16-21 says, in part: “He opened the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to preach a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away with a release, to preach Jehovah’s acceptable year’ . . . Then he started to say to them: ‘Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.’”
8. (a) What preliminary liberation did Jesus provide? (b) How is this illustrated at John 9:1-34?
8 The good news that Jesus declared provided spiritual liberation for Jews accepting it. By having their eyes opened to what true worship really meant and required, they were freed from many mistaken notions. (Matthew 5:21-48) This freedom had greater value than physical cures that Jesus performed. Hence, though Jesus opened the eyes of a man born blind, more lasting good resulted to the man from his recognizing Jesus as a prophet from God. That man’s new freedom contrasted with the condition of religious leaders who were enslaved to their traditions and mistaken beliefs. (John 9:1-34; Deuteronomy 18:18; Matthew 15:1-20) Yet this was just an initial or preliminary freedom. Even in the first century, Jesus was to assist with another sort of liberation that paralleled the Jubilee in ancient Israel. Why is it reasonable to conclude that?
9. Even for those spiritually liberated, what form of enslavement remained?
9 Jesus said to the formerly blind man: “For this judgment I came into this world: that those not seeing might see and those seeing might become blind.” Then he told the Pharisees: “If you were blind, you would have no sin. But now you say, ‘We see.’ Your sin remains.” (John 9:35-41) Yes, sin leading to death was still a major problem, even as it is now. (Romans 5:12) The Jews, including the apostles, who benefited from the initial liberation, the spiritual liberation that Jesus provided, remained imperfect humans. They continued enslaved to sin and resulting death. Could Jesus change that? Would he? And if so, when?
10. Jesus promised that he would provide what additional freedom?
10 Earlier, Jesus had said: “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” His Jewish listeners replied: “We are Abraham’s offspring and never have we been slaves to anybody. How is it you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered: “Most truly I say to you, Every doer of sin is a slave of sin. Moreover, the slave does not remain in the household forever; the son remains forever.” (John 8:31-36) Therefore, fleshly descent from Abraham could not liberate the Jews from slavery to sin. Jesus made this historical declaration regarding freedom to call attention to something that was coming and that would be greater than what Israelites experienced in any Jubilee.
The Christian Jubilee Begins
11. Why does our interest in the Christian Jubilee focus on the year 33 C.E.?
11 The Jews did not see that the Jubilee of the Mosaic Law covenant was typical of a greater Jubilee. (Colossians 2:17; Ephesians 2:14, 15) This Jubilee for Christians involves “the truth” that can set humans free—that truth centering on the Son, Jesus Christ. (John 1:17) When did this greater Jubilee that could bring freedom even from sin and its effects begin to be celebrated? It was in the spring of 33 C.E., on the day of Pentecost. This was ten days after Jesus’ ascension to heaven to present the merit of his sacrifice to Jehovah God.—Hebrews 9:24-28.
12, 13. What happened after Jesus’ death that soon brought a unique experience to his disciples?
12 Before Jesus, no human creature had been resurrected from the dead to continue living forever. (Romans 6:9-11) Rather, all fell asleep in death and would continue sleeping until the time was due for the resurrection of the human family. By his resurrection through the power of God, Jesus Christ became what the inspired Scriptures call him, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death.”—1 Corinthians 15:20.
13 Fifty days after his resurrection, there was evidence that the resurrected Jesus Christ had ascended into the heavens and had entered into the presence of Jehovah God with the value of his perfect human sacrifice and had applied it in behalf of mankind. This was on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E. In obedience to instructions from Jesus, about 120 disciples met together in Jerusalem. Then Christ poured out holy spirit on these disciples, in fulfillment of Joel 2:28, 29. Tongues as if of fire hovered above their heads, and they began to speak in languages foreign to them. (Acts 2:16-21, 33) This was proof that the resurrected Jesus Christ had ascended into the heavens and had entered into the presence of God with the value of a perfect human sacrifice to apply in behalf of mankind.
14. (a) What was the situation of Christ’s disciples as regards covenants? (b) The new covenant involved what outstanding blessing?
14 What were the consequences for those disciples? For one thing, they were set free from the Mosaic Law covenant, which God had made with the nation of natural Israel but which he had now canceled, nailing it to Jesus’ torture stake. (Colossians 2:13, 14; Galatians 3:13) That covenant was superseded by a new covenant made, not with the nation of natural Israel, but with the new “nation” of spiritual Israel. (Hebrews 8:6-13; Galatians 6:16) This new covenant, foretold at Jeremiah 31:31-34, was arranged through a mediator greater than the ancient prophet Moses. Out of interest in liberation, we should especially note one feature of the new covenant. The apostle Paul called attention to this, writing: “‘This is the covenant that I shall covenant toward them after those days, . . . I shall by no means call their sins and their lawless deeds to mind anymore.’ Now where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.”—Hebrews 10:16-18.
15 Jesus was pointing to this liberation from sin when he said: “If the Son sets you free, you will be actually free.” (John 8:36) Imagine—freedom from sin made possible on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice! Starting on the day of Pentecost, God declared believing ones righteous and then adopted them as spiritual sons having the prospect of reigning with Christ in heaven. Paul explains: “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery causing fear again, but you received a spirit of adoption as sons . . . If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:15-17) Unquestionably, the Christian Jubilee had begun for anointed Christians.
16. What additional blessings and prospects were involved for those celebrating the Christian Jubilee?
16 So on that day of Pentecost in the year 33 C.E., the new nation of spiritual Israel came into existence. It was made up of humans whose sins had been forgiven on the basis of Christ’s sacrificial blood. (Romans 5:1, 2; Ephesians 1:7) Who of us could deny that those first members of spiritual Israel taken into the new covenant experienced a marvelous liberation by having their sins forgiven? They were made by God into “‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that [they] should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called [them] out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) True, their fleshly bodies were still imperfect and they would die in time. Yet, now that God had declared them righteous and had adopted them as spiritual sons, their fleshly death was just a “releasing” that allowed for their resurrection to Christ’s “heavenly kingdom.”—2 Timothy 4:6, 18.
17, 18. Why was the liberation of the Christian Jubilee more valuable than the preliminary freedom that Jesus proclaimed?
17 The initial or preliminary step of freeing believing Jews from mistaken notions and practices had much value. However, we have seen that Jesus went beyond that spiritual liberation. From Pentecost 33 C.E. onward, he liberated believing humans from “the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8:1, 2) Thus began the Christian Jubilee for anointed Christians. This truly was a much more valuable liberation, for it included the prospect of life in heaven as joint heirs with Christ.
18 We have so far considered two aspects of Christian freedom in the first century, which undeniably were a basis for rejoicing. And the first-century believers did rejoice. (Acts 13:44-52; 16:34; 1 Corinthians 13:6; Philippians 4:4) That was especially true regarding their share in the Christian Jubilee, which opened the way for them to receive everlasting blessings in the heavens.—1 Peter 1:3-6; 4:13, 14.
19. What questions remain for Christians who are not spirit begotten, and what indicates that they will have a part in divinely provided liberation?
19 Where, though, do most true Christians today fit into this picture, since they have not been declared righteous for life and anointed with holy spirit? There is Scriptural reason to look for a large-scale liberation in their behalf as part of the Christian Jubilee. Call to mind Acts 3:20, 21: “Jesus, whom heaven, indeed, must hold within itself until the times of restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.” (Compare Acts 17:31.) In the same vein, John, an anointed apostle who was already enjoying the Christian Jubilee, wrote about Jesus Christ: “He is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” (1 John 2:2) Does that mean that the many loyal Christians today who do not have the heavenly hope can rejoice in Christian freedom? Is that just in the future, or do we already have reason to rejoice? We can find that out by examining the aspects of Christian liberation and the Jubilee that have special meaning for true worshipers today.
The annual Day of Atonement was held on the 10th of Tishri, a month in the Hebrew calendar, corresponding to our September-October period.
What Are Your Thoughts?
□ What were the benefits of the Jubilee in ancient Israel?
□ How did Jesus proclaim an initial liberation, and what did it involve?
□ When did the Christian Jubilee begin, and what is the basis for concluding that?
□ Why do we have reason to look forward to liberation involving the millions of Christians who are not spirit anointed?
[Blurb on page 18]
“The path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established.” (Proverbs 4:18) In line with that principle, this article and the following one present an updated and amplified explanation of the Jubilee.
[Picture on page 20]
Jesus proclaims liberty in 30 C.E.
[Picture on page 23]
The Christian Jubilee begins in 33 C.E.