The Law of Jubilee
Even as Jesus Christ is the central Person of all history, the law of Jubilee is the most fundamental law of all creation. The law of Jubilee is the basis of forgiveness and grace. It is the purpose and goal of the law itself. It compels a climax of earth history and a full end of the dominion of darkness and sin.
The basic law of Jubilee is recorded in Leviticus 25:8-13.
8 You are also to count off seven Sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven Sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. 9 You shall then sound a ram's horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land. 10 You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. 11 You shall have the fiftieth year as a Jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. 12 For it is a Jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field. 13 On this year of Jubilee each of you shall return to his own property.
When Israel conquered the land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, he divided the land among all the families in Israel. This was their inheritance in the land, and no one (other than God Himself) could lawfully deprive them of their inheritance. However, if drought struck the land, or some other type of disaster, the families might lose their land. They would sell the land to someone else until the year of Jubilee.
The value of the land was measured in terms of its ability to produce barley, and an "omer" of barley (about eight bushels) had a fixed value of fifty shekels (about thirteen ounces) of silver (Lev. 27:16). In selling land the buyer was to pay a fair price according to the amount of barley the land could normally produce from the present time to the year of Jubilee. Of course, they could not count the Sabbath years, when the land was to rest and could not produce a crop.
When the fair price had been calculated, the sale was made, and the new owners began to farm the property. The previous owners generally found employment on another estate, unless they were hired to work their own land as laborers for the new owner. It was the right of the original land inheritor to redeem his land at any time if he was able to do so. With each passing year the redemption price of the land was decreased proportionately, because, as we said, the land was not valued as land per se but in terms of its harvests. This eliminated any land speculation.
The law of God forbade the outright sale of one's land inheritance, because the land belongs to God. All land sales were temporary. Today we would call them leases. Leviticus 25:23 says,
23 The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me. 24 Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land. 25 If a fellow countryman of yours becomes so poor he has to sell part of his property, then his nearest kinsman is to come and buy back what his relative has sold. 26 Or in case a man has no kinsman, but so recovers his means as to find sufficient for its redemption, 27 then he shall calculate the years since its sale and refund the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and so return to his property. 28 But if he has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of Jubilee; but at the Jubilee it shall revert, that he may return to his property.
No man could permanently lose his land inheritance through debt. At the Jubilee, the land would revert back to him, and any remaining debts were to be cancelled.
The Lawful Right of Redemption
Verse 25 above says also that it was the will of God that the debtor's nearest kinsman should redeem his brother when possible. In fact, the law specifically states in the NASV that "his nearest kinsman IS TO COME AND BUY BACK what his relative has sold." We know that the law is not only a moral document, but is also prophetic, because this is the law that Jesus performed perfectly. It was therefore prophesying that Jesus Christ, our Kinsman-Redeemer, would come to buy back everything that was sold when Adam sinned. The Scriptures cannot be broken. If the redeemer has the power to redeem, the law says he is commanded by the will of the Father in heaven to redeem what his brother has lost.
We are His brethren. Therefore, the law demands that Jesus Christ redeem all that was lost in Adam. The only relevant question is whether or not Jesus Christ really did this or not. I believe He did, for the blood has never lost its power, nor did Jesus fail in any point of law to do all that the Father asked of Him. The law was fully satisfied.
The law of redemption was closely tied to the law of Jubilee. Essentially, redemption of the inheritance was always possible prior to the year of Jubilee. If the debtor somehow could scrape together enough money to redeem himself, he always had the lawful right to do so. A near kinsman also had the lawful right to redeem the debtor at any time. We read in Leviticus 25:47-55.
47 Now if the means of a stranger or of a sojourner with you becomes sufficient, and a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to him as to sell himself to a stranger who is sojourning with you, or to the descendants of a stranger's family, 48 then he shall have redemption right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him, 49 or his uncle, or his uncle's son, may redeem him, or one of his blood relatives from his family may redeem him; or if he prospers, he may redeem himself. 50 He then with his purchaser shall calculate from the year when he sold himself to him up to the year of Jubilee; and the price of his sale shall correspond to the number of years. It is like the days of a hired man that he shall be with him. 51 If there are still many years, he shall refund part of his purchase price in proportion to them for his own redemption; 52 and if few years remain until the year of Jubilee, he shall so calculate with him. In proportion to his years he is to refund the amount for his redemption. 53 Like a man hired year by year he shall be with him; he shall not rule over him with severity in your sight. 54 Even if he is not redeemed by these means, he shall still go out in the year of Jubilee, he and his sons with him. 55 For the sons of Israel are My servants; they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
It is important to understand the law of redemption, because it has everything to do with God's plan for the redemption of both Israel and the world. A friend does not have the right of redemption; only a near kinsman does. This means that if a man sells himself and his family to work for another man, his friend may redeem him-but only if the master allows it. The friend does not have the RIGHT of redemption. Instead, the master has the right to keep the new bondservant in his employ. But if a near kinsman decides to redeem the debtor, the master has no choice in the matter, for the kinsman has the right of redemption.
Jesus came to earth to redeem His people (Luke 1:68). He did not come in the form of an angel, but was born a man, specifically of the seed of Abraham. He did this in order to have the lawful right of redemption. If He had come as an angel, the divine law would have ruled that He was only a FRIEND of sinners, whose sin had given them a debt they could not pay, men who had lost their inheritance through Adam's sin.
Jesus was indeed a friend of sinners, but He had to be more than that. In order to have the RIGHT of redemption for Israel, He had to be more than a mere friend. He had to be born of the seed of Abraham. In order to have the RIGHT of redemption for all mankind, He had to be more than an angelic friend. He had to be born of flesh and blood. He qualified on both counts, as we read in Hebrews 2:11-17.
11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying [in Psalm 22:22], "I will proclaim Thy name to My brethren, In the midst of the congregation I will sing Thy praise." 13 And again [in 2 Samuel 22:3], "I will put My trust in Him." And again [in Isaiah 8:18], "Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me." 14 Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. 16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
We conclude, then, that Jesus Christ was born of flesh and blood in order to have the lawful right of redemption of the whole world. He was likewise born specifically of the seed of Abraham in order to have the lawful right of redemption for the House of Israel. These are separate promises, but they are based upon the same law of redemption. Israel was to be redeemed from the hand of her enemies (Assyria) and would ultimately return to God. The world of flesh and blood, by the same law, will also be redeemed from the final and ultimate enemy-death-for death does not hold the right of redemption and has no choice but to turn every captive loose at Jesus Christ's demand.
The Redeemed Serve a New Master
In the law of redemption, the redeemed bondservant does not have the lawful right to be his own boss or the master of his own destiny. As we quoted earlier in Leviticus 25:53,
53 Like a man hired year by year he shall be with him; he shall not rule over him with severity in your sight.
A redeemer is one who pays the price of redemption for the bondservant. In essence, he buys the bondservant from the master, who is a "stranger," or foreigner, and who is likely to abuse the man and oppress him. The near kinsman is commanded to redeem his brother on the grounds that he will treat the bondservant in a lawful manner with kindness and consideration. This means that the bondservant merely changes masters. Redemption does NOT mean the bondservant is now free to do his own will. The Apostle Paul discusses this point of law in Romans 6, the chapter where he discusses the supposed right of the redeemed Christian to continue in sin that grace may increase.
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? . . . . 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.
Paul's discussion here is based upon the law of redemption. The redeemed bondservant is bound by the divine law to serve the redeemer. Jesus is the Redeemer, who bought us with His blood, and for this reason, as Paul says, we have been "freed from sin and enslaved to God" (vs. 22). That is, sin is no longer our master, but we now have God as our Master. That means we are now accountable to His law and are expected to be obedient to Him. John says that "sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4). John also says in 1 John 2:3 and 4,
3 And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
John is not saying that the law is the basis of our salvation. He is saying that our obedience is the outward EVIDENCE that we are saved, for if we claim to be redeemed, but refuse to be a bondservant of Jesus Christ, we do not really know Him. "By this we know." The lawless Christian is violating the law of redemption. For this reason, Jesus says of such people in Matthew 7:23, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness."
Lawless Christians will not lose their salvation ultimately. They will be "saved, yet so as through fire," as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:15. And, of course, if a man merely professes to be a believer but is not really a Christian at all-God judges the heart-then such a man will be thrown into the lake of fire for a longer and more extensive kind of purification. Those unbelievers, however, will finally be set free at the great Jubilee at the end of time, for we read in Leviticus 25:54,
54 Even if he is not redeemed by these means, he shall still go out in the year of Jubilee, he and his sons with him.
What a glorious promise! The Jubilee is the law of grace. No matter how far a man goes into debt, the Jubilee will set him free. Even if no kinsman redeems him, there is a day coming when he will be set free into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. This is why all of creation is awaiting this day. Romans 8:19-25 says,
19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
The law of Jubilee mandates the setting free of all creation at some point in history. Personally, I believe this will come after 49,000 years of history. The lowest level of Jubilee came after 49 years (Lev. 25:8). The trumpet for the Jubilee was blown on the Day of Atonement, which was ten days into the fiftieth year (Lev. 25:9).
In prophetic history we see higher-level Jubilees, such as Daniel's seventy weeks (of years), which is actually ten Jubilee cycles, or 490 years. Jesus set us free on the Cross at the end of Daniel's seventy weeks in 33 AD. (See our book, Secrets of Time, chapter 9.)
The forty-Jubilee cycle of 1,960 years is also important, as is the fifty-Jubilee cycle of 2,450 years. These subjects are covered extensively in Secrets of Time, but are beyond the scope of this book. Yet the final Creation's Jubilee, I believe, is 49,000 years. I cannot prove this, of course, nor is it critical to do so. It is sufficient to know that the law of God demands limits on how long a debtor can be enslaved, or how long a sinner can be in bondage to his sin.
All creation waits in anticipation of this Jubilee. It is the goal of history and the ultimate purpose of God. The law of Jubilee on every level obtains its power by the blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross, as we read in 1 John 2:1 and 2,
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.