Earth’s Great Jubilee

“Every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness.” —Jeremiah 8:10

JULY 1, 1997 was a climactic event in the history of Great Britain and China, as it marked the end of Britain’s colonial empire in Hong Kong. This was an occasion widely observed all over the world by the use of satellite television, and the New York Times reported the circumstance as follows:

“In the first moments after midnight, in a ceremony of solemn precision and martial music, China resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong today, ending 156 years of British colonial rule.

“Seconds after British soldiers lowered the Union Jack for the last time to the strains of ‘God Save the Queen’, China’s red banner was raised, marking the transfer of this free-wheeling capitalist territory to Communist control.

“It was an event awaited with trepidation as well as excitement since 1984, when Britain and China agreed on terms for the transfer of power over this territory wrested from China in the 19th century wars over the opium trade. And it ushered in a time of uncertainty concerning whether China would honor its pledge to maintain Hong Kong’s way of life largely unaltered for the next 50 years.

“For many ordinary people in the streets of Hong Kong, this was a time of celebration, not necessarily over the departure of the British or the arrival of the new masters from Beijing, but for the experience of witnessing a big moment in history.”

On other news broadcasts of the event, prominent Chinese people were interviewed as to their reactions. All expressed satisfaction at having this small island of former Chinese territory returned to China, but many were concerned that the new rulers would impose a government of constraint and loss of civil liberties. This indeed came quickly as the elected legislature was abolished, and a Beijing-appointed body of lawmakers took its place, rolling back a range of Hong Kong’s civil liberties.


What started Hong Kong on the road to prominence and worldwide attention was a black page in British history. During the years from 1839 to 1842, a conflict known as the Opium War took place between Great Britain and China. China had imposed restrictions on foreign trade which prohibited any importation of opium. Opium, as a drug, had entered China from India, where it had been brought by Muslims. The Chinese government destroyed opium in Canton belonging to British merchants, and the British responded by attacking several coastal cities. China was unable to resist modern arms, and was easily defeated. The treaty of Nanking opened several ports to British trade and residence, and Hong Kong was ceded to Britain.

The scenario of that time would be equivalent today to one where Colombian drug lords would have enough power to force the United States to accept their trade in cocaine.

In the United States people are all too well aware of the devastation caused by the use of addictive drugs. In spite of laws passed making the importation of such drugs illegal, and the efforts of customs and drug enforcement agencies to prevent the importing of cocaine and heroin, it is a losing battle, as drug lords find ingenious ways of bringing such contraband into this country undetected. This, in effect, was the battle that China was waging against opium when their government was overwhelmed by the British.

One might ask how Great Britain, a Christian nation, could do this to a heathen nation? There were at that time some in Great Britain who were interested in bringing Christianity to China. Earlier, around 1807, Robert Morrison, representing the London Missionary Society, started this work. Obviously, the London Missionary Society had little influence on the British government during the Opium War. In 1865 the China Inland Mission was founded, with funds and personnel supplied by several Christian denominations as other nations obtained access to China. During the last half of the 19th century, nations of the western world established wide interests in China, nearly subjugating the country.

Many in China resented this intrusion of the western world in their lives, and at the end of the 19th century the dowager empress, IZ’u-hsu, encouraged an anti-foreign military organization to action. Its name, in Chinese, meant ‘righteous, harmonious fists’, or in English, ‘the boxers’. In 1899 the Boxers began violent attacks on foreigners and Christians, and occupied the city of Peking. They besieged the foreign and Chinese Christians in that city until troops from Great Britain, France, Russia, the United States, Germany, and Japan were sent to Peking to put down the Boxer Rebellion. China had to pay huge indemnities to these countries because of this uprising. These historical records of ill treatment of China by western foreign powers have surfaced again as Hong Kong was returned to China.


The 19th century was an era of imperialism, when so-called Christian nations expanded their borders. Many of the poorer nations in the world—which today are called ‘third world countries’—were exploited by imperialistic countries. This expansion was motivated by covetousness, which afflicted the nation of Israel, too, as outlined in Jeremiah, Chapter 8. The judgments pronounced against Israel are applicable to the Christian nations she represents, and the Lord gives the reason for these judgments in our theme text, ‘Every one from the least even unto the greatest is given to covetousness’.

After World War I a movement began to give the lands lost in imperialism back to the original possessors. This movement was accelerated after World War II, and many new nations were formed in the world. Almost all of these have not been able to govern themselves properly, and have accumulated huge amounts of indebtedness to western nations.


As the year 1996 came to a close, the well-known opponent of apartheid in South Africa, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of Cape Town, made an appeal to American church leaders to help African nations and other third world countries find relief from crippling foreign debts. In making this appeal, Tutu recalled the Biblical principle of Israel’s jubilee, when all property sold or leased in the previous forty-nine years reverted back to the original owner every fiftieth year. He said, “It is the Biblical thing that says everything belongs to God. You acknowledge that by returning things to people to give them a chance of starting afresh. Those burdened by debt, you set free. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank celebrated their jubilee last year, and some of us said, ‘Hey, here is an opportunity for you. How about applying the jubilee principle?’”

We have not seen any response by the World Bank or IMF to Tutu’s suggestion, and the reason is simple. Everyone is governed and controlled by covetousness. Of course Archbishop Tutu is correct in saying that everything belongs to God. God has said, “Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.” (Ps. 50:10-12) Likewise, he said: “All the earth is mine.” (Exod. 19:5) Moses said, “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is.” (Deut. 10:14) God said to Job, “Whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine” (Job 41:11); and David said, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Ps. 24:1) As we know so well from the Scriptures, the Adversary usurped the authority of earth, but he will soon be bound and the reign of Christ will begin. Then it will be possible to truly restore all possessions and relieve the oppressed.


When the nation of Israel was given the Law through Moses, a part of that Law included the observance of the Sabbath year and the jubilee, as recorded in Leviticus 25. The Sabbath year occurred every seven years, when the land was not sown nor the vineyards pruned. It was a year of rest unto the land. When seven Sabbath years were observed, or a period of 49 years had elapsed, then the fiftieth year was the jubilee year. In the jubilee year God said, “Ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.”—Lev. 25:10

In the buying and selling of goods, advantage was not to be taken of one another, nor were they to “wrong one another.” (Lev. 25:17, RSV) If anyone, because of poverty, had to sell some of his land, there were several avenues open to him to redeem the land. If his poverty continued to make redemption impossible, in the jubilee it would return to him. If anyone became a slave because of poverty, then in the jubilee he and his family would be made free. If someone outside the nation of Israel, a stranger or sojourner, became the owner of an Israelite slave because of poverty, in the year of jubilee his brethren or kinsmen were to redeem him.

This portion of Israel’s Law had a deeply significant meaning. It foretold the times of restitution spoken of by all God’s holy prophets. (Acts 3:21) The great restoration of property and life, and the freedom from sin and Satan’s influence, was typified by the jubilee arrangement when all property and people were restored, and slaves were set free.

It might appear that the restoration of lands to the third world nations by imperialistic nations was the beginning of the fulfillment of the jubilee picture. However, we do not believe this to be so. Each of these nations has had a more difficult struggle to maintain their people above the poverty level since the restoration, than when colonial rule prevailed.

The more important part of the jubilee picture is the restoration of those who are in the prison house of death. The Apostle Paul said: “We know that the Law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14), implying by this statement that all mankind has been sold into sin, and are a race of slaves. Paul emphasizes this point very well when he says, “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the Law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”—Rom. 6:15,16


How did mankind get into this condition? It was father Adam who sold himself and all his progeny into sin, so that sin would be their new master. What price was paid for this transaction, and what did Adam get when he sold himself and all his posterity to become the servants of sin? The price paid was his own life and the lives of his posterity, favor with God, and his garden home; for which he received self-gratification and a measure of joy to be with Eve.

It was by such means that Adam and his posterity became slaves of sin and fulfilled the scripture, “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) Sin, like a great monarch, has ruled the world, enslaving the entire human family. No one can escape this bondage. Under this bondage of sin they suffer disease, sorrow, disappointment and death. “The wages of sin is death.”—Rom. 6:23

All of these experiences can be likened to two that the Israelites went through. The first was when they were slaves in Egypt, and were finally set free by the slaying of the Passover Lamb which spared their firstborn. Their deliverance was complete when they crossed the Red Sea dry shod, and Pharaoh—representing Satan and his minions—were drowned in the Red Sea.

The second experience occurred when anyone became a slave in Israel’s society. Their celebration of the jubilee, when all slaves were freed and enabled to return to their families foretold the deliverance of the slaves of sin. This experience is a type of the 50th millennial year, which follows the thousand-year reign of Christ. This is the time when the kingdom is turned over to the Father by Christ, and mankind has total restoration of all that was lost through father Adam’s disobedience.

Adam went into slavery of his own volition. But his children—all mankind—were born in slavery and sin, under the penalty of death. Christ came to earth so that he might redeem the one who sinned by giving his life as a ransom price, a corresponding price, for the life of father Adam. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”—I Cor. 15:22


All these ‘slaves’ may then be set free, receiving absolute freedom. In God’s kingdom, the legal freeing of the slaves pictures the raising of the dead, as recorded in John 5:28,29, RSV: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” In reality all will have been bought with a price permitting them to be taken from the taskmaster, sin, and put under the new Master, Christ Jesus, the great King of Glory. Sin, or the principle of evil, is sometimes used as a synonym of Satan (I John 3:8, John 8:44), under whose influence those who sin have been living. In Christ’s thousand-year kingdom, Satan will be bound.—Rev. 20:1-3

All mankind, having been ransomed, will be given the opportunity of learning righteousness, so that at the conclusion of the Millennial Age they can make an intelligent choice, the majority responding to the opportunity as God advised Israel: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” (Deut. 30:19) They will be led up the “highway … of holiness” to perfection. (Isa. 35:8-10) Which choice they make at the conclusion of this trial period will be manifested when Satan is “loosed out of his prison” at the end of the age, prior to the 50th millennium.—Rev. 20:7-10

The mediatorial throne and reign, having served their purpose, and all corrupters of the earth having been destroyed, the Son shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father—by delivering it to mankind for whom it was originally designed. It is written in I Corinthians 15:24-26: “Then cometh the end, when he [Jesus] shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he [Jesus] shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he [Jesus] must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” We read: “Then shall the King say unto them, … Come, ye blessed [approved] of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”—Matt. 25:34

This brings to an end the last 7,000-year ‘epoch day’ since God began to prepare the earth for habitation. The six ‘epoch days’ that preceded it were likely of similar duration, so that 49,000 years had elapsed. Then all mankind will be made ready to enter the 50th millennium, or the antitypical Jubilee— that grand epoch when “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:4) God’s work of Creation will then be complete for Planet Earth.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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