Copyright © 2018
The Importance of Context
Every time there is a “first” in the Scriptures, it is good to take note of it, because often the Holy Spirit is laying down a special foundation, or principle, or doctrine. I believe this is true in the case of Jesus’ first recorded sermon, which is found in Luke chapter 4.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me
because He anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free those who are oppressed,
19to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
Part of what I teach leaders when I come to Latin America is the importance of context when they are reading and studying and teaching and preaching God’s word. The two most important points are these:
- Every time we come to the Scriptures, as we are reading we must ask ourselves, “What is the context of this verse, this passage, this chapter, this book? What is the context within the text, and what are the historical, cultural, and original language contexts? What do I need to know to fully understand the passage like the first readers did?
- The greatest context is that of the entire Bible, which is why I encourage all Christian leaders – indeed, all Christians – to read through the Bible cover to cover at least once every year.
Let’s think about the context of Jesus’ message in Luke 4. In the previous chapter, Luke 3, Jesus was water-baptized by John; immediately the Spirit of the Lord came upon Him visibly as a dove. Luke then inserts a genealogy of Jesus parenthetically (no doubt the genealogy of Mary – but that’s a topic for another day) to finish off what we call chapter 3.2
Following this, Luke takes us back to the time and place of Jesus’ baptism, and we read in Luke 4:1-2—
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.…
Before proceeding, I’d like to offer an exhortation: When you lead people into the fullness of the Lord and the Holy Spirit, you would do well to warn them that almost certainly after the initial euphoria will come a time of testing, a “wilderness experience.” That’s what happened to Jesus. That almost always happens to believers. It happens for several reasons, but I’ll only point out two of them:
- Though God blesses us and makes us happy when He fills us with the Holy Spirit, He doesn’t want us dependent on euphoria and happy feelings. Part of the test is to help you walk by faith, not by feeling, to depend on God’s Word alone (as Jesus did during the Wilderness Temptation) and on God’s faithfulness. We need to see that the experience is real because it’s a gift from God, regardless of feelings, and not because it makes a person feel giddy.
- As a wise man in my house church pointed out recently, being filled with the Spirit puts you much closer to the front lines of spiritual battle. God fills you with the Holy Spirit in large part to make you an effective witness for Jesus. The enemy will try to discourage you and turn you back if he can, to neutralize you before you get started.
Jesus passed the test and you will, too, if you rely on the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. And you’ll be stronger for the experience. That’s what seems to have happened to Jesus. Look at Luke 4:1 – He goes into the time of testing “full of the Holy Spirit.” But in verse 14 He returns from the time of testing “in the POWER of the Holy Spirit.”
Now let’s look at Luke 4:15—
And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.
What was He teaching and preaching? Up until the message we’re about to read (starting in verse 17), we know from Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels only the basic outline, the overriding theme of His messages:
…Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.”
But that’s all we know about the content of Jesus' proclamation until we read the passage here in Luke 4. Let’s continue to read:
And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written…
We’ve almost come to Jesus’ message, but let me make a couple of other points. If you are a real Christian, you follow Jesus. You obey Him. You imitate Him. You do what He did. You follow His example. This verse shows us a few things we can emulate about our Master:
- “…as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath”: Is it your custom, your habit, your unfailing obedience – and your joy – to attend worship services and Bible studies every week, to support the pastors, to encourage others just by being there? I know too many who only come “when they feel like it” or “when there’s a special meeting or speaker.” If Jesus walked in obedience to God the Father by regular, faithful attendance in his local congregation, can we do less?
…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
“The day drawing near”—What day? The day of Jesus’ return!
- Jesus “stood up to read.” What is the significance? Jesus came to His local congregation to participate, to contribute, not just “to get a blessing.” He wasn’t the pastor, and before He started His ministry, He was “only” a builder,3 perhaps one of several in the congregation. Do you come to bless or to be blessed? The mark of a New Testament church is that it’s not a place where people come to “get filled up” with blessing; instead, a New Testament church is one where members come to pour out the blessing, the life, the revelation, the testimony, the answers to prayer that God has given them during the week. Are you a functioning, participating, engaged member like the Christians in New Testament times?
- Jesus knew the Scriptures well enough to find a particular passage. We already deduced this when we saw Jesus repeatedly parrying the wilderness temptations of the enemy with “It is written.” Now here in the congregation we see Jesus’ familiarity with the scrolls. This scroll had no pages, no chapters, no verses, and yet He could turn to the very passage the Holy Spirit directed Him to read. Note that very few people at that time were rich enough to own the sacred scrolls of the Bible – another indication that Jesus spent much time in the synagogue.
And why was it so important that the Holy Spirit makes special mention of Jesus’ message in this inspired passage?
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me
because He anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free those who are oppressed,
19to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
20And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
This prophetic passage that Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1-2 is a glorious declaration of the Kingdom of God. But the most powerful part of the quotation is the part that is most obscure to us. Some of the lines we understand, at least in part:
- The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. I could preach several messages about how being born of the Spirit and filled with the Spirit and walking in the Spirit and being led by God’s Spirit is what New-Covenant Christian life is all about. Jesus makes heavy emphasis about this, especially in John’s Gospel. The Holy Spirit is the anointing that comes to empower the other activities and results that the passage lists.
- We could take the other items listed at face value (though, as we’ll see later, there’s another way to interpret them): ministry to the poor, healing for the sick, deliverance for the captives, etc. On whatever level you take them, they are all integral parts of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
- But what about this last line – what is “the acceptable year of the Lord”? Does your translation have a different word for “acceptable”? I’m going to note (because I’ll come back to it later) that the Greek word in the text for “acceptable” or “favorable” (or however your translation renders it) is δεκτός (dektós). Acceptable / favorable / pleasing / appropriate / welcomed – those could all be translations of dektós.
But “acceptable year of the Lord” — what, please, does that mean? What did it mean to the congregation in that assembly the day of Jesus’ first recorded sermon? Probably the phrase “acceptable year of the Lord” means little, if anything to us, because we don’t understand the context.
Here’s a basic rule of interpretation, as well as a method for getting more out of your Bible reading: When you find a New Testament passage which quotes an Old Testament passage, turn back to the Old Testament passage and read that in context. Over time, you’ll be amazed at what the Holy Spirit will open up to you. Almost always, a New Testament writer or preacher makes the assumption that his audience will know that Old Testament passage in question and know its context. For instance, you might see “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” in a completely different light if you would turn to Psalm 22, from which that word is quoted, and then read the entire psalm.
So, let’s turn from Luke 4 to Isaiah 61, and see what we can learn. Let me add a brief word about translations. By the time of Jesus, there were two translations of the Old Testament in use. The first was written in Hebrew, the original language of the Jews; this was used mainly by Palestinian Jews, those who spoke Aramaic, a derivative of Hebrew. The other Old Testament translation was a two-hundred-year-old translation from Hebrew into Greek, known as the Septuagint or the version of the Seventy (named after the number of scholars who translated it). (The normal “shorthand” for Septuagint is LXX—that is, 70 in Roman numerals.) This Greek translation was God’s provision for Gentiles and non-Aramaic-speaking Jews to be able to read God’s word in the common language of the day – Koine (“common”) Greek.
I make this observation just to establish the point that when the words of an Old Testament passage quoted in the New Testament differ from the words in the Old Testament passage itself, it’s due to the fact that New Testament writers, though most could speak Aramaic and read Hebrew, tended to quote from the Old Testament in Greek, the better to help their majority, non-Palestinian audience understand. (And let me make the point here that Luke, whose book we are reading, is the sole Gentile writer of the New Testament. Which version of the Old Testament is he going to be using? The Greek-language Septuagint, naturally!)
Jesus read the first one and a half verses of this Messianic prophecy. We will note where our Lord stopped reading, but we’ll read through verse 3, just to make a point:
1The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
Because the Lord has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
2To proclaim the favorable4 year of the Lord
[Jesus stopped reading at this point]
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
I include the remainder of verse 2 and all of verse 3 in order to make a point about where Jesus stopped reading – just before the phrase “the day of vengeance of our God.” I used to think this spoke of the coming Great Judgment Day of God, but the more I looked at it in context, the less that interpretation made sense. Right after that line about vengeance, it speaks of comforting mourners, giving gladness for mourning, praise for fainting, and so forth. That’s not what you’d expect to follow a word about the final judgment.
Remember how Jesus ended the reading in Luke 4? “This day this Scripture is fulfilled in your ears.” Think about this: We know of a day of God’s vengeance upon sin. It was the day we call Good Friday, the day Jesus’ death paid the penalty for sin. All the proclamation of Good News and healing and deliverance and “the acceptable or favorable year of the Lord” (whatever that is – we still have more investigation to do!) and all of the restoration from mourning and fainting and sorrow – all of this in Isaiah 61:1-3 is balanced on either side of this “day of vengeance of our God.” So Jesus had to stop there and not read that line and what followed, because that hadn’t yet been fulfilled. That was still three years in the future. Do you see how it helps to read the text of Jesus' sermon in the context of Isaiah?
We also see an interesting juxtaposition. This Isaiah passage prophesies of a year and a day. He was to proclaim the “day of vengeance of our God” in conjunction with “the favorable year of the Lord.” We know now what the day was, and the further Jesus went along in His ministry, the more He warned His disciples that His crucifixion day was coming, that it was imminent. Everything – all the rest of the prophecy – depended on that day and the Resurrection day which followed. But how are that day and that year related?
The Acceptable Year of the Lord
Here again is another case where we have to know the context of the entire Bible, and remember that such contextual understanding only comes from reading through the Scriptures regularly throughout our lifetime. In order to understand “the acceptable year of the Lord,” we have to have read enough to ask ourselves, “What was the most important year to God? Where does He talk about that?”
And the answer to that question is found in Leviticus 25, right in the middle of the Torah, the Pentateuch, that is, the five books of Moses. Now let me ask you a question: What was the purpose of God bringing the people out of Egypt into the Promised Land? We could give a number of answers to that, but let’s focus on this one: Every tribe – and, to be more specific, every family – was to be given an inheritance by God. So we read in the book of Joshua how, after the majority of enemies had been defeated, the land was divided up among the tribes and the families within the tribes. Great care was taken to mark boundaries.
But all of this was in the context of a major rule in the Kingdom of God. Let's look at Leviticus 25:23, where the Lord says,
The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.
It is God’s land and we order our lives by God’s law. “The land is Mine” – this should be our attitude towards our lives and our possessions. They are the Lord’s. It’s a proof that we understand that He is Lord and we are His subjects when we arrive at this point. And it’s important to understand this principle of Divine ownership when we look at this chapter.
Now, Leviticus 25 talks about EIGHT special years in God’s calendar. Have you ever read the chapter and wondered about it?
In verses 1-7: First (and second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh!) there is the sabbath year. Just like the sabbath day in a week, when they were to work six days and rest on the seventh, God instituted a sabbath year. Six years the fields were to be planted and tilled and cultivated; but on the seventh year, the sabbath year, all the land was to be allowed to rest, to lie fallow, unplanted. Vines and olive trees were not to be pruned or harvested. What did they eat, then, while they waited from the harvest of the sixth year to the harvest of the eighth year? God promised that He would give His people a bumper crop, enough to last them two years.
Seven is an important number in the Scriptures. It’s the number of spiritual perfection.
- Think of how that number is associated with the Holy Spirit in the book of Revelation– seven Spirits of God (1:4; 3:1; 4:5; etc.); seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; “seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth” (5:6);
- Seven is the number of creation completed (6 + 1);
- Jesus uttered seven words from the cross;
- The early Church chose out seven deacons;
- Being the number of spiritual perfection, it is a number closely associated with forgiveness. Do I forgive my brother seven times? No, says Jesus, 70 x 7 times, which is another way of saying limitlessly. (See Matthew 18:21-22.)
Therefore it should come as no surprise that this sabbath year is associated with forgiveness as well. We read in Exodus 21:2—
If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment.
How did a Hebrew become a slave in his society? One word: Debt. A debt that could not be paid back, or paid back in time. If you became sufficiently indebted and unable to pay, your land – your inheritance from God – was sold off to the creditor, and you and your family were sent to work as slaves to pay off the debt. Happily, this was not forever if you were sold to another Hebrew. Your commitment lasted seven years, or until the sabbath year. Your debt was forgiven – at least as far as the personal-service portion was concerned. However, your land – your inheritance – wasn’t restored.
This liberation, this forgiveness happened every seven years – the 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th, 35th, 42nd, and 49th years. If seven represents spiritual perfection, and this seventh year represents forgiveness, then what do we see in seven sevens of years – perfect forgiveness! In these sabbath years we have seven times seven—seven squared—forgiveness raised to the number of spiritual perfection. God not only forgives our sins, but He also forgets them. He can do that – He’s God!
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
…their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.
And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.
Yes, You will cast all their sins
Into the depths of the sea.
That reminds me of a song, a chorus that my favorite Bible teacher, Percy Gutteridge, taught us around 1970:
Gone, gone, gone, gone!
Yes, my sins are gone!
Now my soul is free
And in my heart’s a song!
“Buried in the deepest sea” —
Yes, that’s good enough for me!
I will live eternally!
Praise God — my sins are G-O-N-E gone!5
How wonderful and glorious! What wonderful years those sabbath years must have been!
None of those seventh-year sabbaths, those celebrations, are the “acceptable year of the Lord, the approved year,” “the year of Jehovah’s favor / good pleasure / delight.” No. Remember that I told you that there are eight special years in God’s calendar in Leviticus 25? What is the eighth year? What is it called? What is its spiritual significance? Why is it “the acceptable year of the Lord,” “the year of Jehovah’s delight”?
Let’s read, starting in Leviticus 25:8—
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines.
- For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field.
- On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property.
- Leviticus 25:8-13
You may already know the name of this special year – Jubilee! The Year of Jubilee!
Do you see the difference between the Year of Jubilee, this 50th year, and the previous seven sabbath years? In the sabbath years there was forgiveness of debts, deliverance from slavery. Glory to God! But the struggle to stay free from debt will continue. Why? Because the land, the inheritance from God, still hasn’t been redeemed. That land is the basis for your subsistence in an agricultural society. That land produces your crops; that land is where your fruit trees, olive trees, and grape vines grow; that land is where your sheep and oxen graze. Without that land, that inheritance from God, your existence will be from day to day. It’s a struggle to stay out of debt, and it always seems like there’s a danger of being “sold” again for more years of service.
That’s the existence of most Christians today. They hear the seventh-year-sabbath message of forgiveness of sins, so they receive it and rejoice in it. They experience the relief and joy that accompanies forgiveness of sins. They have an assurance that God loves them. They have a hope that’s in heaven. But there’s always a struggle to stay free of sins, to not love the world; there’s always a feeling that there’s something more for them spiritually, but too often they never get beyond a certain basic level spiritually.
What is so different about Jubilee, about the 50th-year experience? How is it so superior to the other sabbath-year experiences? It’s this: THE ORIGINAL INHERITANCE FROM GOD IS RESTORED, RETURNED. The property on which God always meant for you to abide, the inheritance that was supposed to be so fruitful, to provide daily sustenance and fulfillment, the gift of God’s “land,” is restored.
You are no longer a “day laborer,” working for someone else on their property. In the Jubilee, what God originally gave to your forefather, Adam, what he lost to sin and what you lost to sin, is restored. That’s the message that Jesus proclaimed that day in His first sermon – Jubilee! Your spiritual inheritance is restored.
Wonderful! But what, exactly, was lost? What is to be restored? (If you don’t know what you lost, how will you know what to expect to be restored?) When Adam lost his “inheritance” – and your inheritance – to sin in the Garden of Eden, what did he lose? What was his spiritual state?
- Before the Fall, Adam had intimate fellowship with God; such communion was a normal, daily experience. Adam and his Creator could speak as frequently and earnestly as you speak with your spouse or your best friend, or as a parent speaks to a child.
- Adam was free from sin. I don’t just mean that Adam was free from sinning; I mean that he did not have the sin nature in him. I don’t care what you’ve learned to call it – the sin nature, the carnal mind, the old man, the “body of this death,” that infection from the devil. Whatever you call it, it’s that “thing” inside you that draws you toward sinning, that “thing” you can feel tugging you away from God and towards sin, towards the world, towards selfishness. That didn’t bother Adam; his heart was innocent and pure.
When Jesus read in the synagogue in Nazareth that day, His audience didn't miss the Year of Jubilee reference. But they couldn't possibly have understood what you now understand. Jesus was proclaiming God’s spiritual Jubilee, the restoration of the lost inheritance — deliverance from indwelling sin and intimacy with God restored in the Person of the indwelling Holy Spirit! Listen to the famed hymnist Isaac Watts as he sums up Jesus' sermon and exults:
Blessings abound wherever He reigns:
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains,
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blessed.
Where He displays His healing power,
Death and the curse are known no more;
In Him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.
[from Jesus Shall Reign]
What would happen to initiate the Year of Jubilee? Well, Jubilee (or “yubilee,” since there is no “J” sound in Hebrew6) comes from the Hebrew word yôbēl, literally, a ram’s horn (but a different word from shofar). It was given that name because this year of liberty and restoration was commenced on the great Day of Atonement by the priest blowing this horn. Perhaps there is an “echo” of the sound of the horn in its very name yôbēl. Then men in earshot would pick up the sound and blow their horns, onward, outward from this original trumpet blast until all Israel knew that the Year of Jubilee, the year of the blowing of trumpets of liberty and restoration, had arrived at last. Primarily the word yôbēl is found here in Leviticus 25, in three verses in chapter 27, once in Exodus and once in Numbers. Oh, yes, and five times in Joshua 6 – you recall that little incident where special trumpets were blown and the walls of Jericho fell down? Yes, that story, that kind of horn. That’s all I’ll say about the Joshua story. Ask the Lord to make the connection for you!
Each seventh year, the “forgiveness” year, the sabbath year, was a year of rest. What does that teach us? We don’t have to work to “earn” forgiveness of sins or God’s favor. He supplies for all that in the Person and sacrifice of His Son. Well, what of the Year of Jubilee? It is also a sabbath year. What truth does the Holy Spirit teach through this? That you don’t have to work to “earn” freedom from the indwelling sin nature; that inheritance is restored in Christ as well.
Seventh year – deliverance from bondage, forgiveness of debt. Fiftieth/Jubilee Year – restoration of your lost inheritance. Are you following so far?
Yet one thing is not restored. Sin and its results have so permeated Creation that God will have to make “a new heaven and a new earth” as it says in Revelation 21:1. Sin and its results have unleashed sickness, disease, weakness, and death itself. Now “it is appointed unto man once to die.” “As in Adam all die.” “But wait,” you say, “I thought God was restoring our full inheritance from Him, restoring what Adam lost!”
Sin always brings consequences. Death is the ultimate consequence of sin. But is there no “Jubilee” for this as well?
Well, there are the healing power of God and the “gifts of healing” from the Holy Spirit. They manifest God’s liberating power. These miracles of healing are foretastes of what is to come. In a way, they are like the “sabbath years” – there’s a certain level of freedom, a temporary setting free from physical bondage. But at present, the inheritance of endless life is not restored.
Does that mean God’s Jubilee doesn’t work completely? Does it not work on this physical level? Is this part of the inheritance never restored? Are you telling me that He sets us free from all of these enemies – except death?
God’s Final Jubilee
Praise the Lord, there is one more Jubilee trumpet to sound in God’s calendar! Jesus tells you about it:
“And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. 31And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”
The Apostle Paul tells you about it:
Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
1 Corinthians 15:50-54
14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:14-18
Do you see? That’s God’s trumpet of the Second, Final Jubilee in God’s calendar! Jesus has already sounded the sabbath-year trumpet for every sinner who comes to Him in humility and repentance, and submission; that trumpet declares that we have complete and perfect forgiveness. Praise God! And Jesus has already sounded the first Jubilee trumpet, freeing us from the indwelling sin nature. Hallelujah! Jesus has restored our inheritance, restored heart purity, restored intimate communion with God. In fact, we have a better inheritance than Adam ever had, because God no longer abides with us, but IN us! Glory to God, that goes way beyond “mere” salvation!
God means for us to be enjoying all that’s restored in the first Jubilee while we await the second yôbēl blast, the second Jubilee trumpet which announces the restoration of the final piece of the inheritance. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” “Death is swallowed up in victory!” That’s God’s final Jubilee, the resurrection of the imperishable, deathless body. That’s the restoration of the final original portion from God. That heralds not only the new body, but the New Heavens and New Earth.
Have you noticed something else about trumpets in the New Testament? In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John shares this:
I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet…
He turns around and sees that the Speaker with the trumpet voice is none other than the glorified Lord Jesus Himself. That word trumpet – σάλπιγξ (sálpigx [pronounced SAL-pinx]) – is the same word used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 — the last trumpet [sálpigx]; the trumpet [sálpigx] will sound! It’s the same word Paul uses in 1 Thessalonians 4 — the Lord Himself shall descend…with the trumpet [sálpigx] of God.
This is the same word Matthew’s Gospel uses in chapter 24 when Jesus says that at His return, He will send forth His angels with a GREAT sálpigx, a GREAT TRUMPET. Did you notice that it’s a GREAT trumpet? It’s greater than the shofar. That’s because it’s the Jubilee trumpet! How do we know that? Because sálpigx (σάλπιγξ) is also the word that the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, uses in Leviticus 25:9 to describe the blowing of the Jubilee trumpet!
That final part of the lost inheritance will be restored when the last Jubilee trumpet is sounded, when our blessed Lord Jesus, God’s Christ, the One with the Jubilee-trumpet voice “descends with a shout”! Oh, blessed final redemption! Praise God that He’s going to make the last wrong right, to restore that last, missing, vital piece of our original inheritance – a new body that is deathless, uncorrupted, incorruptibly alive, free from sickness, disease, weakness, and fatigue, a body that will never again know death, a body just like that of our resurrected and glorified Lord. God is perfect. Jesus, said the people, “has done all things well” (Mark 7:37).7 This will be what Peter, while preaching under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, called “the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:21).
“But,” you say, “that’s in the future.” Yes, it is. You say, “It doesn’t do me any good right now.” I understand. In English we have an almost-poetic complaint about such matters; we say, “It's pie in the sky when we die by and by.” Nevertheless, don’t be discouraged, but revisit God’s calendar with me. Do the math. How many Jubilee years are there in a century? Two! Year 50 and Year 100. Yes, we’re looking forward to the Second Jubilee, to the Second Return of the Lord.
Your Spiritual Inheritance Restored — Today
Very well. But what about the First Return of the Lord? You say, “Brother Jim, you mean the First Coming of Jesus, His miraculous Incarnation, His life and ministry on earth.” No, I mean the first Return of the Lord. What’s that? That is the coming of the Holy Spirit. That is Pentecost. That’s the baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire. That is the Lord OF the Church – Jesus – sending the Lord IN the Church – the Holy Spirit – to impart God’s life, eternal life, into us and make us partaker of it; to lead us and guide us into all truth; to teach us how to commune intimately with God; to purify our hearts. It’s the Holy Spirit, the Lord IN the Church, who makes us Christians – that is to say, like Christ – by purifying our hearts from inbred sin, by extirpating8 that evil infection, by imparting His nature, His holiness to us. After all, He is the HOLY Spirit, is He not?
Am I off the topic of Jubilee? Have I departed from the subject of “Jesus’ First Sermon”? Absolutely not! Declaring the work of the Holy Spirit is where Jesus started His message:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because He has anointed me to proclaim!”
What does Jesus proclaim to you? The acceptable year of the Lord! The year of Jubilee. The year of the restoration of your spiritual inheritance, the year when you receive back what you lost to sin and Satan.
When will you experience Jubilee in your heart and spirit? When will you be free from your sin nature to serve God and to love Him with ALL your heart, mind, soul, and strength? When will you feel “the love of God shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit?” Well, how soon do you want it? Jesus says, “TODAY this scripture is fulfilled in your ears.” Today this scripture can be fulfilled in your heart! Remember that the Isaiah 61 passage speaks about a YEAR and a DAY. The day is “the day of vengeance of our God.” Three years after that synagogue sermon, Jesus suffered the penalty for sin – your sin. That’s Calvary. That’s Jesus’ atoning death for you. That’s Jesus taking your place. That’s your Redeemer buying you back.
When is the day in which you can experience the year, the year of Jubilee, the restoration of your inheritance? That’s TODAY!
Listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through King David:
TODAY, if you will hear His voice,
do not harden your hearts…
How do I know that’s the Holy Spirit speaking through David? Because the Holy-Spirit-inspired writer to the Hebrews tells me so:
Therefore just as the Holy Spirit says, “TODAY if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…
And the inspired writer echoes it twice more:
“TODAY if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”
[God] again fixes a certain DAY, “TODAY,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Listen to a word from Isaiah which we are going to hear the Apostle Paul quote in just a moment. Here is God speaking through Isaiah:
Thus says the Lord,
“In a favorable time I have answered You,
And in a day of salvation I have helped You;
And I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people,
To restore the land,
To make them inherit the desolate heritages…
“A favorable time”? Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Now here is Paul quoting that verse and interpreting it:
…we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain, 2for He says,
At the acceptable time I listened to you,
and on the day of salvation I helped you.”
Behold, now is the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation.”
2 Corinthians 6:1-2
Here’s the Greek – “at the dektós (δεκτός) time I listened to you” — at the acceptable / favorable / pleasing / appropriate / welcomed time I listened to you — “on the day of salvation I helped you.” When is that dektós time? Paul tells you:
NOW is the dektós time! Behold, NOW is the day of salvation.
In fact, Paul doesn’t just call it “δεκτός time”; he supercharges the word δεκτός. He says,
NOW is the euprós-dektos [εὐπρόσδεκτος] time.
There’s not time to unpack the word as it deserves. Suffice it to say it means something like:
NOW is the
“quite pleasing / truly favorable / especially acceptable” time.
NOW is the day of salvation!
The Scriptures demand that I encourage you and exhort you to make a decision about this great gift from God – full salvation. The devil will try to talk you out of it – “Oh, ‘the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.’ You’re stuck with it until you die.”9 But God’s New Covenant promise is that He gives you a NEW heart. You can’t have two hearts. You either have the old one or the new one. And the Sin Nature will agree with the devil, giving you a “double witness.” But listen to the warning given in Hebrews 3:12-13—
Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “TODAY,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
What is “the deceitfulness of sin”? It’s Sin telling you, “You lost the land, you lost the inheritance. It’s mine now and only Death will free you from me.” That’s a LIE! That’s the “deceitfulness of sin.” What is “an evil, unbelieving heart”? It's the heart that agrees with Sin's lie, rather than with the Jubilee proclamation by Jesus. Remember what God said about the land?—
The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.
God says to Satan and to Sin, “When I blow the yôbēl, when I declare Jubilee, the land, the inheritance goes back to the original recipients BECAUSE THE LAND IS MINE — AND BECAUSE I SAY SO!”
“This day this scripture has been fulfilled in your ears,” says Jesus, “this day of proclamation of the year of Jubilee, the acceptable year of restoration.” God says through Isaiah and Paul, “Behold NOW is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
Now you understand the heart, the dynamic proclamation of Jesus’ first recorded sermon. Now you see why the Holy Spirit included it specifically for us to read. Now it’s up to you to respond to God so that you can say, “This day – TODAY – this scripture is fulfilled in my life, this Jubilee proclamation, this restoration of a heart free from sin, a heart intimately communing with God.”
Blow ye the trumpet! Blow
The gladly solemn sound!
Let all the nations know,
To earth’s remotest bound—
The year of jubilee is come!
Return, ye ransomed sinners, home!
Return, ye ransomed sinners, home!
Jesus, our great High Priest,
Has full atonement made.
Ye weary spirits, rest;
Ye mournful souls, be glad!
Extol the Lamb of God,
The sacrificial Lamb!
Redemption through His blood
Throughout the world proclaim!
Ye slaves of sin and hell,
Your liberty receive,
And safe in Jesus dwell,
And blest in Jesus live—
Ye who have sold for naught
Your heritage above,
Receive it back unbought,
The gift of Jesus’ love!
The gospel trumpet hear,
The news of heav’nly grace;
And, saved from earth, appear
Before your Savior’s face!10
- Image used under license from photografier / 123RF Stock Photo. ↩
- I say “what we call chapter 3” because most of the Bible wasn't written in chapters. (The Book of Psalms is one notable exception.) Bible chapters, as we know them, were introduced to the text about 1200 a.d. ↩
- I use the word builder, rather than carpenter, because the Greek word téktōn (τέκτων, pronounced TEK-tone) is more all inclusive. Yes, it could mean carpenter, but it could also be rendered as woodworker, craftsman, smith, or mason. It was not unusual to have to specify what type of téktōn was meant. For instance, in the Greek OT, 2 Samuel 5:11 says that Tyre's King Hiram sent to King David “carpenters (τέκτονας ξύλων / téktonas xúlon / lit. wood builders) and stonemasons (τέκτονας λίθων / téktonas líthōn / lit. stone builders); and they built a house for David.” Hence, builder probably better encompasses the idea of téktōn when applied to Jesus and his adoptive father. Téktōn is at the root of our English words tectonic and architect. In fact, Paul uses the latter word in 1 Corinthians 3:10, describing his foundation-laying role as that of a ἀρχι-τέκτων / archi-téktōn / “architech,” probably best rendered as “expert builder” or “master builder.” You only get one guess about the identity of the téktōn who is building the “spiritual house” with “living stones” (mentioned in 1 Peter 2:4-5)! ↩
- favorable: δεκτός/dektós in the Greek Old Testament ↩
- This chorus was written by Helen Griggs back in the 1930s. Her name is probably not familiar to you, but many would recognize the name of the musician she mentored, her nephew, the man who was Billy Graham's music director and Crusade song leader for decades — Cliff Barrows. ↩
- Koine Greek and Latin also lack the “J” sound. For instance, Jesus’ name in Greek is Ἰησοῦς / Iēsoús. Julius Caesar’s name in Latin would have been rendered Iulius Caesar. In each case, the initial “I” is pronounced as a “Y”. ↩
- This phrase finds glorious expression in public worship through Samuel Medley's hymn, Now in a Song of Grateful Praise, where the final line of every verse is “My Jesus hath done all things well!” ↩
- Extirpating: pulling up by the roots; destroying totally; exterminating ↩
- As one can see reading the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness, Satan is no slouch when it comes to memorizing and quoting scripture. Read in Matthew 4:6 (and parallel accounts) how he challenged Jesus in the wilderness, using Psalm 91:11-12. Of course, he always quotes out of context — he avoided verse 13 like the proverbial “hot potato”! (No, I’m not going to do your homework by quoting it here. You can look it up for yourself!)
The enemy does the same thing in quoting Jeremiah 17:9 to you. Have you ever noticed how he carefully omits verse 10: “I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind…”? That’s because with the addition of that much of verse 10, it’s too easy to see Peter’s declaration of how God’s New Covenant overrides the chief defect of the Old, an unchanged, deceitful, desperately wicked heart. But not under the fullness of the New Covenant! “And God, who knows the heart,” (there’s Peter’s reference to Jeremiah 17:10) “testified to (the Gentiles) giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us (i.e. the Jewish believers on the Day of Pentecost); and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith (Acts 15:8-9). The “God who knows the heart” gives us new, pure hearts. ↩
- This Charles Wesley hymn can printed in stand-alone form at Blow Ye the Trumpet, Blow! (also known as The Year of Jubilee Has Come!) ↩