I was there! Someone describes some great or significant event to you and you could say, yes I know, “I was there!” Watching some of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee pageantry on Television sent me down memory lane. I was there! I was there at her coronation in June 1953. I slept on The Mall overnight and secured my place near the Victoria Monument. After 60 years the memory of the coronation has never left me. I was there!
O the wonder of it all to a young 16-year-old, alone – and yet enjoying the occasion with so many people, even although I hadn’t met the people before with whom I was sharing the enjoyment! It seemed that every nation was represented among the crowds that thronged from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey – and much of the time the day before stopping at the joyful groups from different countries – celebrating with their singing as they camped out in the nearby parks.
Where do we get the word, jubilee? ‘Jubilee’ has biblical origins. In the Old Testament, people or families who had forfeited their property due to the reverses of life or for any other reason, or had to give themselves over to servitude for similar reasons, their property would revert back to the original owners and those who had given themselves over to servant hood, could go free. If they were struck with good fortune then the reversion of land or release from servant hood could take place before the year of Jubilee. The Jubilee year was obviously a time of rejoicing. People who had been disadvantaged in life were able to return to their property once owned by family or clan, or if they chose to, recover their independence to the laws surrounding the year of Jubilee. It says in Leviticus 25:10, “Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.”
In Scripture, we are told God made the earth to be inhabited. The land belongs to God. In Psalm 24:1 we read, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” Some people may not like that idea but the Bible makes clear that God is the Landlord and we are the tenants! He expects us to treat each other fairly and justly and mercifully. The golden rule comes from the Bible, do unto others, as you would have them do unto you. We see many things gone wrong in our world with most of the world’s wealth in the hands of the few while most of the world’s inhabitants struggle to eek out a living.
In Hebrews 11 we read that God’s people in Old Testament times looked forward to that day when everything will be put right. Hebrews 11: 13-16 tells us God’s people had not settled down in this world but were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. The earth made new will never be marred by sin and death again (Revelation 21:1-4).
That is the one celebration all loyal followers of Jesus Christ can look forward to. The invitation to that great jubilee to come is a universal invitation. It’s an invitation to all people; no one need miss out (John 3:16).
In Hebrews 11 we read of all those people of faith from Old Testament times who are listed there. When the author closed off that representative list of believers from the past he did so with the words expressed in verses 39-40: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
As far as the Old Testament believers were concerned they had an abiding confidence in God who would one day raise them from the dead, just as Abraham believed God would do with Isaac if Abraham had sacrificed Isaac had God required him to do so (Hebrews 11:17-19, cf Genesis 22:1-19).
Considered the earliest book of the Old Testament, Job knew that his Redeemer lived and that in the end he would see God with his own eyes, for which he yearned for in his heart (Job 19:25-27).
Jesus echoed those words of Daniel in John 5: 28-29. In John 6:40 we read of Jesus saying, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
The resurrection is the basis of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). That will be the Jubilee of all jubilees! A time when we will be free from servitude to others? A time when we will be forever free from the pain and toil and sickness of this world? (Revelation 21:1-5). If we are well heeled we may not appreciate that. But for the two thirds of this world who are without or starving, I think these promises in Scripture would be very meaningful!
In the New Testament we see the authors expanding on the subject of the resurrection. They talk about that day when Jesus comes to claim his own. In Titus 2:13 the Apostle Paul reminded his colleague Titus, and all who down through history, would read his letter to Titus: “we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
2000 years have gone since those promises were made, can we still believe in those promises? Some people want to reinterpret the Second Advent promises, and some have indeed reinterpreted the Bible so that these messages no longer mean what they appear to say. There is too long a time gap between when they were written to our present age. There has to be some other interpretation different from the traditional reading of these texts.
But let’s stop there for a moment. When Jesus came the first time, there was a much greater time gap between the time from when the promises of his first Advent were given and when he actually came. As expounded by that renowned 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, Genesis 3:15 is referred to as the “First Gospel.” It goes back to the Fall. Jude tells us in verse 14 that “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied . . . ‘See, the Lord is coming with thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone . . .” And so we come to Abraham who lived about 1800 –2000 years before Jesus, but believed, not only in the first coming of Jesus but also in the Second Coming of Jesus as the author writes in Hebrews 11.
And when Jesus met the disciples on the Emmaus Road he pointed to the Old Testament as evidence for who he was and the inevitability of his sufferings on behalf of human kind. So the distance in time since Jesus’ first and second coming is no reason for doubting the promises of the second coming as being literal. In Galatians 4:4 we are told that, “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive the full rights as sons.”
Whatever the distance in time between the promises and the actual coming the first time puts the time of the second coming in perspective. In verse 9 of chapter 3 of his Second Epistle, the Apostle Peter pleads with his readers not to forget that, “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” And if death is a sleep as the Bible describes it, then there is no time in sleep – the next moment is to awake at the Coming of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).
Coming back to Hebrews 11:39, 40, the author speaks of God’s chosen people down through history, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews encourages his readers, and every generation of believers down to our day to keep our focus on the Person of Jesus and his promises. Having recounted a representation of the people of faith of the past, he follows on in chapter 12:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
I think what we saw last weekend put the ‘Great’ back into Great Britain. The Queen deserved the thanks given to her by the nation. Who else stands out in our nation showing such commitment and loyalty and fidelity to her family and to her nation and the Commonwealth?
Yet there was a picture taken of her with bowed head in St Paul’s Cathedral where she was thought to be thinking and praying for her husband who was not alongside her. He was in hospital. As great as we think our Queen is, she unashamedly recognises Someone greater than herself to whom she is accountable.
Our Queen deserved the Jubilee, but how much more does the Saviour of mankind deserve our praise and adoration for what he has done for us.
The time is coming when we will celebrate that great Jubilee – when the Lord Jesus Christ will return to claim all those who have put their trust in him. The hymn writer catches the atmosphere of that great Jubilee when we are given back our lost inheritance that has been taken away from us in this fallen world of ours when she writes, http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh701.sht
“When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus, We’ll sing and shout the victory”
We are all invited to celebrate this great Jubilee! The invitation is still open!