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Whereas redemption purchases a debt (and the debtor), forgiveness cancels a debt. So when a man redeems his kinsman, the debt is not actually forgiven but is transferred to a new owner. The debtor must then serve his redeemer. We read this in Lev. 25:53,
53 Like a man hired year by year, he shall be with him [his redeemer]; he shall not rule over him [the redeemed kinsman] with severity in your sight.
The main purpose of redemption is to take the slave out from the rule of those who do not love him and subject him to the rule of a kinsman who will treat him much better. In Lev. 25:50 the redeemer is told to treat his kinsman as “a hired man,” that is, as an employee, rather than as a slave. Nonetheless, this “hired man” has no right to quit the job, unless the redeemer actually forgives the debt.
Again, we read in Lev. 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.
The slave may not have a near kinsman who was able to redeem him from foreigners. Perhaps the slave was so unruly that his near kinsmen simply did not want to redeem him. Perhaps his work skills were such that his kinsmen did not want the man to work for them. In such cases, the time of redemption would be spent laboring for foreigners who did not love him and who might mistreat him. In such cases, he would still be released “in the year of Jubilee.”
This is reflected in the New Testament in Paul’s teaching in Rom. 6:1, 2,
1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sins still live in it?
Romans 6:14, 15 continues,
14 For sin shall not be master over you; for you are not under the law but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!
Paul goes on to say in Rom. 6:18,
18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Paul’s teaching is based on the law of Jubilee found in Lev. 25:53 (quoted earlier), which says that a redeemed slave must serve his redeemer. Having been freed from “sin” (the slave master), the slave is then obligated to serve “righteousness,” his new Master.
Paul treats sin as a foreign slave master to whom we have been sold by the Judge through the law (Exodus 22:3). Jesus came as our Kinsman Redeemer and purchased us with His blood, so that we may serve the One who loves us and who will treat us right. We are no longer “under the law” that the Judge had imposed upon us when we were sold for our sin.
Does this mean that we now have the right to sin again? “May it never be!” Paul shouts. Sin is lawlessness, that is, any violation of the law. Our redemption does not put away the law, nor does it give us the right to sin (transgress the law). Instead, we are to serve our new Master, who has redeemed us. Would Jesus command us to sin? Of course not.
To be under the law means to be under its sentence for sin. It was never a question of removing the law as the righteous standard. The fact that we are not “under the law” means that the debt which we incurred through sin was paid by our Redeemer. Hence, we now serve a new Master and are no longer under the original sentence mandating that we serve sin.
This is the lawful basis of Paul’s teaching in Romans 6, based largely on Lev. 25:53. Being redeemed releases us from following the dictates of Master Sin, yet it now mandates that we follow all of the commands of our new Master—Jesus Christ—who commands us to love one another.
The law establishes rights. We have seen how the law gives redemption rights to a kinsman. A kinsman also has the right to expect obedience from the redeemed slave. There is also what I call the Law of Victim’s Rights, giving a victim of injustice the right to forgive the one who sinned against him.
By this law, Joseph forgave his brothers who had kidnapped him and had sold him as a slave. When their father died, the brothers were afraid that Joseph might penalize them for their past sin (Gen. 50:17, 18). Joseph’s reply is given in Gen. 50:19-21,
19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid; for am I in God’s place? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. 21 So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
It was the death penalty to kidnap a man, as we read in Exodus 21:16,
16 He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.
So what gave Joseph the right to forgive his kidnappers? It was because Joseph was the victim, and victims are always empowered with the right to forgive. It is the duty of a judge to pass sentence precisely as the law says, but once he has done so, the victim has the right to forgive. Hence, the law in Exodus 21:16 gave Joseph the right to execute his brothers, but Joseph chose to forgive them. Did he violate the law in that case? Of course not.
Hosea’s wife committed adultery, but the prophet redeemed her (Hosea 3:1-3). Adultery was a capital offense (Lev. 20:10). Did Hosea sin by redeeming her and forgiving her? Not at all. The prophet was the victim of injustice, and so he alone had the right to forgive her. If he had taken her to court, a righteous judge could not have forgiven her, because the duty of a judge was to impose the righteous sentence of the law. But the victim is not duty-bound in the same way.
Jesus is the ultimate Victim of sin, having taken upon Himself the sin of the world when He died on the cross. The Law of Victim’s Rights applied to Him on a grand scale. What did He decide to do about it? The answer is found in Luke 23:34,
34 But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing…”
Did Jesus really have the right to forgive them? Or were His words just wishful thinking? Much Christian theology claims that Christ is unable to forgive the world for its sin unless they ask. They say that He is too holy to forgive. They deny the Law of Victim’s Rights by consigning most of the world to a burning hell.
While we certainly must acknowledge Christ’s right to press charges against anyone, we must also recognize that He also had the right to forgive. Jesus was not duty-bound to press charges, except in His capacity as the Judge. But He served a dual role, being both the Judge and the Victim. Hence, as the Judge, He passed sentence on the whole world (Rom. 3:19), but then He stepped down from the bench and, as the Victim, forgave the world.
Forgiveness itself is only a portion of the story. To understand how Christ has forgiven the whole world, one must see how the Forgiveness Principle is blended with Redemption and Judgment.
“All have sinned,” Paul says in Rom. 3:23 and have become “accountable to God” (Rom. 3:19). Everyone has violated the law, and as long as they are in that condition, they are said to be “under the law.” Christ came to redeem His kinsmen, those who “share in flesh and blood” (Heb. 2:14).
The interim between the Judge’s sentence and the year of Jubilee is called the time of redemption. Not all are redeemed during those years, but all will be set free in the year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:54). Those who are redeemed serve a new Master who loves them, and they are no longer forced to observe the lawless commands of Master Sin. They now present their members (body parts) as “slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:18).
Believers are governed by the principle of Redemption. But there is another principle at work—the principle of Forgiveness. Because Christ forgave the world, everyone will ultimately be set free in the year of Jubilee. Christ’s act of forgiveness on the cross ensures the fact of universal salvation. Man’s response determines only the timing of one’s salvation.
Salvation is coming to people on three historic occasions. Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 15:22, 23,
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order [tagma, “squadron”].
A squadron is not an individual. Here Paul was speaking of three occasions where an entire group “will be made alive.” The first group (the overcomers) will be made alive at the first resurrection in Rev. 20:6. The second group (believers in general) will be given life at the general resurrection, when all of humanity is raised from the dead and summoned to the great White Throne judgment (Rev. 20:12; John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:14, 15).
This second (general) resurrection will include a mixture of believers and unbelievers. Only the believers will be given immortality in this squadron. The unbelievers at that time will be judged. However, this will also be the time when every knee bows and every tongue confesses (professes) Christ as Lord (Phil. 2:10, 11), fulfilling God’s New Covenant oath in Isaiah 45:23, 24, 25,
23 “I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. 24 They will say of Me, ‘Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.’ Men will come to Him, and all who were angry at Him will be put to shame. 25 In the Lord all the offspring of Israel will be justified and will glory.”
This New Covenant vow is consistent with the promise to Abraham, saying, “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). Acts 3:26 defines “blessed” as “turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”
Hence, at the second resurrection, the unbelievers will believe and will profess Jesus Christ as Lord. In other words, when they bow their knees and profess Christ as Lord, they will do so as believers, because 1 Cor. 12:3 says,
3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed;” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
These new believers, however, will have to experience the “lake of fire,” which is the baptism of fire that we all experience even today through the feast of Pentecost. This is the baptism that John the Baptist set forth in Matt. 3:11. The unbelievers will become believers in that day. Their confession of faith will bring justification through Passover, and their confession that “Jesus is Lord” will be spoken through the power of the Holy Spirit in Pentecost.
However, they must mature spiritually, even as all of us have had to do, in order to become an overcomer through the feast of Tabernacles.
So the final squadron (the largest of the three) will be given life a long time after the great White Throne judgment at the Creation Jubilee. This Jubilee will fulfill God’s oath to save all families of the earth by turning them from their wicked ways.