Restoration of What was Lost
“Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you;and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family” (Leviticus 25:9,10).
The Sabbath System
Israel’s Sabbath system required that every seventh year no planting or harvesting be done (Leviticus 25:1-7). This season of rest extended to individuals and animals, with every seventh day one of rest (Exodus 20:8-11, Leviticus 23:3). This system allowed the land to regenerate lost nutrients, a practice modern science has come to appreciate. There was an implied expression of trust that God would provide food during the Sabbath year. The system of seven days and seven years follows the pattern of creation, as God labored six days and rested on the seventh. Thus the Sabbath recognized God’s creative labors for man’s benefit.
Allowing people and livestock a period of rest recognized that continual labor leads to exhaustion, the overburdened become unproductive. Wise management of land, resources, and renewing rest contribute to longevity. There was wisdom in this godly arrangement. The time freed from labor in this system was to be used to worship Jehovah, thus “a Sabbath unto Jehovah” (Leviticus 25:3 RVIC). It was a time of remembering that God was their source of blessing. Paul explained that Israel’s rest was symbolic of a greater rest of heart.
“Refusal to trust God … prevented these men from entering his rest. … The message proclaimed to them did them no good, because they only heard and did not believe as well. It is only as a result of our faith and trust that we experience that rest” (Hebrews 3:19, 4:2,3 Phillips). Many failed to appreciate the personal element. Believing Jehovah brings mental rest, peace, and contentment no matter any difficulties. Thus Sabbath represents a rest of faith.
Extending the Sabbath principle to the Jubilee arrangement is significant. Counting seven Sabbath-year cycles, the following year, the 50th, was a Jubilee Year. The Jubilee trumpet sounded on the Day of Atonement, declaring liberty throughout the land. Land was to be returned to the original owners and all servants were to be released. The land was to rest and the 50th year was declared holy.
When debt was incurred that could not be repaid, the individual could sell his land and make payment (Leviticus 25:23, 24). If someone had already sold his land but continued to incur debt, he could borrow funds from a neighbor, interest free (Leviticus 25:35-38).
A more serious condition arose when one was unable to repay his debt even through these arrangements. He could then become a servant to the one who was owed the debt (Leviticus 25:39-43). He was to be treated as a hired worker (Strong’s G7916, “a man at wages”), not as a bondservant. Debtors were not to be treated harshly. “Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God” (Leviticus 25:43). The word “rigour” is the same word used describing how Israelites were treated in Egypt (Exodus 1:13). From their Egyptian experience, the Israelites were to learn sympathy for one another, even for those serving.
Opportunities to redeem land, or freedom lost in debt, could be made by the individual or family members. The value of sold land or servitude was based on how many years remained to the next Sabbath year or to the Jubilee.
Personal servitude was administered differently than land ownership. An individual in servitude could not be held for more than six years (Exodus 21:2). In the seventh year he was to be released. If an individual entered service shortly before a Jubilee, his time was limited to even less than six years. Servitude was never meant to be life long. It was a method for repaying debt. How thoughtful this was. Permanent service would be slavery, taking an emotional toll not intended by God. The ongoing consequences to family members were limited so future generations would not bear the burden of distant ancestors. Every Israelite should have appreciated this when recalling their previous Egyptian bondage. Once again, the wisdom and mercy of God, spanning generations, was displayed in His Law.
Jubilee Brought Rejoicing
The word “Jubilee” used in Leviticus 25 suggests a time of rejoicing. Imagining oneself in any of the above scenarios shows how much the Jubilee system would have meant to those in debt. It was an opportunity to start over, cast off physical and emotional liabilities, and reunite families. The faithful observation of this unique system guaranteed Jehovah’s blessing. “You shall do my statutes and keep my rules and
perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely. The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely” (Leviticus 25:18, 19 ESV).
Disobedience brought punishment. God would “set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you. And if in spite of this you will not listen to me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze” (Leviticus 26:17-19 ESV). This was fulfilled in the days of Jeremiah when Israel failed to appreciate their relationship with Jehovah and even violated the command to release servants (Jeremiah 34:8-17). Wealthy owners initially released them in the seventh year but reclaimed them shortly thereafter.
“But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom ye had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids. … Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbor: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith Jehovah, to the sword, … pestilence, and … famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth” (Jeremiah 34:16,17). Israel’s refusal to free their servants resulted in its national enslavement to Gentile powers.
This example suggests how difficult the Jubilee system may have been for the wealthy. They may have reasoned that their wisdom and prudence should not be punished by returning land or releasng servants. They may have felt that those who squandered their goods were reaping just consequences. They may have viewed the system as unfair to the diligent and favoring the reckless. If so, it reveals a glaring fault of humanity — selfishness. Godly thinking would rejoice seeing the poor restored and given a new start. It would appreciate a system that they also could benefit from had a crop failed or illness sidelined a rich man. Any complaint for this loving system revealed a shortsighted, self-centered, view.
The Jubilee and Restitution
The Jubilee system is prophetic of the great work of our Lord’s Second Advent. “He [God] shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive [retain] until the times of restitution [Strong’s G605, restoration] of all things, which God hath spoken by … his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:20, 21).
Israel’s Jubilee year opened with the sounding of a trumpet. The Lord’s return is accompanied by a similar symbolic blast. “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). This antitypical trumpet blast supports Peter’s statement that times of restoration began with Jesus’ return.
Israel’s Jubilee system undoubtedly saw different degrees of appreciation. Those in servitude would have rejoiced, but the wealthy, not so much. A similar response is seen in our day. Though there are notable exceptions, most of the wealthy are unwilling to share their wealth or assist the poor. The underprivileged are often angry at a system that favors those in power. It is evident that human nature has not changed and is the reason the work of restitution will never be accomplished by this world.
Bro. Russell described the commotion opening the antitypical Jubilee. “The Trumpet of Jubilee was to be sounded … to proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof (Leviticus 25:10). The antitype is ushered in with the sounding of the (symbolic) ‘Seventh Trumpet,’ the ‘Trump of God,’ the ‘Last Trump.’ … The great trumpet … announces liberty to every captive; and while at first it means the surrender of many expired claims and privileges, and a general time of disturbance … its full import … is ‘good tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people.’
“In the early commotion, each … is forcibly struck by some one … feature and heeds no other. One sees the propriety of … governmental reforms, the abolition of standing armies, and their burdensome tax. Another calls for the abolition of titled aristocracy … others call for the abolition of landlordism and demand that landholding shall be as at first, according to necessity, and ability, and willingness to use.
Others call for temperance reform, and by prohibitory and other laws … seek to chain this great evil, and begin to restrain men who for the love of money would ensnare, enslave, and destroy fellowmen. …“All these things are parts of the reform commotion ushering in Earth’s Great Jubilee; and though much has been demanded, and much has been gradually conceded, yet kings, and emperors, and queens — political, social, ecclesiastical, and financial — will not submit to the great leveling process of this Jubilee or Restitution age without a great and severe struggle, such as the scriptures point out as just before us, and which, though severe, is unavoidable, and will work out ultimate good” (The Time is at Hand, pages 197-199).
Some crucial features of restoration work cannot occur until the merit of Christ has been applied for the world. That is why the Jubilee began on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29,30). Man and his heart cannot be restored until the curse is lifted by applying the blood of Christ and sealing the New Covenant. Then the Christ will lift the bondage of sin from mankind.
Human rights were essentially lost in the fall, and man was required to work by “the sweat of the face” (Genesis 3:19). Granting legitimate rights, lifting the burden on the oppressed, and removing the systems of man, are part of the process of restoring what was lost.
“The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). When the Church is complete and the blood of Christ applied, the general resurrection can begin. Man’s restoration will be grander than his most earnest expectations.
Today we see what Bro. Russell described. Various organizations are fighting for specific rights. We rejoice to see that legitimate rights once denied are freely given. We also see the demand for imagined rights, for demands taken to sinful extremes, and those who wish to retain old systems profitable for them. As ambassadors of the incoming Kingdom, our task is to preach the message that only Jesus can bring in
the noblest desires of man in a way that will be equitable and blessed to all.
It is a privilege to proclaim the sentiments of Isaiah 61:1-2. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me … to preach good tidings unto the meek … to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.” The Jubilee is not man’s doing. Only God’s kingdom will do all of this. No organization of man can offer such sweeping blessings. Believing this will bring peace and allow us to fully enter God’s rest (Hebrews 4:4-10).
Jubilee Trumpet Blown on Atonement Day
The announcement of Jubilee was made at the close of the Day of Atonement. “It is a part of the divine plan that the sounding forth of the joyful sound, the message of the Jubilee of divine love and favor and blessing should be given at the present time … in the closing days of the Gospel age … the closing hours … of the great Day of Atonement, and at the dawning … of the Millennial age of Jubilee” (R2569).
On the Day of Atonement, the people were to “afflict their souls” (Leviticus 23:27). This meant that each Israelite should fast, humbly recognize their sinful condition, and appreciate the value of the atoning sacrifices. But the Jubilee brought a time for rejoicing. By connecting the Jubilee with the Day of Atonement, two major features of the divine plan are illustrated. The atonement sacrifices of the Gospel Age are followed by mankind’s eventual release from sin, a significant reason to rejoice. At the Lord’s return the battle for human rights, and the gradual release from servitude, began to change the world. Blowing the Jubilee trumpet on the Day of Atonement shows that the Times of Restitution would not be possible without the blood of atonement.
Bond of the Covenant
“I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. … And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant” (Ezekiel 20:34-37).
A significant feature of the Times of Restitution is the regathering of Israel. The passage above shows the process would be difficult. Persecution drove many Jews back to Israel. But the regathered ones must “pass under the rod.” They will experience a purging process before they are ready for their role in the Kingdom.
Regathering Israel has been under way for over a century. There is still much unbelief in Israel. However, through continued strife, Israel will be prepared for the resurrection of the Ancient Worthies, and be brought into the bond of the New Covenant through faith.
Though the Jubilee trumpet proclaims liberty, the blessing of God will come through being bound to a covenant. True freedom comes from obeying the principles of God. “In that day … I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bond, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him: But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them. Therefore, fear thou not, O my servant Jacob … I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest … and none shall make him afraid” (Jeremiah 30:8-10).
Blow ye the Trumpet, blow
The gladly solemn sound;
Let all the nations know,
To earth’s remotest bound.
Ye who were sold for naught,
Whose heritage was lost,
May have all back unbought,
A gift at Jesus’ cost.
The Seventh Trumpet hear,
The news of heavenly grace;
The Jubilee of Earth is come,
Returning ransomed sinners home.