What Was the Year of Jubilee?

Does This Ancient Festival Predict the Second Coming?

Year of Jubilee
Yobel (translated Jubilee in English), means "ram's horn," the Jewish shofar. Dan Porges / Getty Images

Will an Old Testament Jewish festival called the Year of Jubilee predict the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?

Many books and web sites are saying Christ will return to Earth in 2017, despite Jesus' own warning in Matthew 24:36-39 that no one knows when he will return except God the Father.

These predictions generally include complicated charts and theories, based on the Year of Jubilee, described in Leviticus 25:8-55.

God established that year-long festival in ancient Israel for three reasons.

The Year of Jubilee Meant Restoration

First, Israelites who had sold their homestead because of a debt had it restored to them during a Year of Jubilee. Because every 50th year was declared a Jubilee Year, a sale or lease could last a maximum of 49 years. Second, slaves and indentured servants were set free. Third, the land was to lie fallow or untilled, and the people were to rest. God promised to bless the land so abundantly the year before the Jubilee that it would yield enough crops for three years.

The Year of Jubilee or Year of Liberty occurred after seven cycles of seven years, in the 50th year. It was heralded throughout the land by the blowing of a trumpet on the Day of Atonement. Yobel, in Hebrew, translated Jubilee in English, means "ram's horn," the Jewish shofar used in religious festivals.

Recent predictions of the Rapture or Christ's Second Coming stem from the prophecies of Judah ben Samuel, a German rabbi who died in 1217.

He supposedly predicted events in 20th century Israel based on Year of Jubilee cycles. Some Bible students come up with the year 2017 using ben Samuel's numbers, but one web site referencing him said in 2010: "I am 99.9% sure that the Rapture will take place between NOW and April 11, 2012!"

Jubilees Ended in 722 BC

The respected Christian site, gotquestions.org, dismisses the Jubilee Year/Second Coming predictions: "Jewish interpretation of this command has always been that the Jubilee is only observed when the twelve tribes of Israel are in their land and dwelling in their allotted territories.

After the northern tribes were deported by Assyria in 722 BC, the observance of the Jubilee law ceased, and it has never been resumed."

A Catholic Jubilee Year of Mercy

In a similar act in 2015, Pope Francis declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy for Roman Catholics, starting December 8 and ending November 20, 2016, marked by widespread absolution of sins, including abortion. The Pope provided special indulgences for Catholics and their deceased family members.

For ancient Israel, the Year of Jubilee symbolized the mercy of God upon his people. Several times in the Leviticus passage, God reminded that the Israelites were his servants, whom he brought out of Egypt. With the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus, God the Father extended that offer of forgiveness of sins to the entire world. 

(Sources: The New Compact Bible Dictionary, T. Alton Bryant, editor; The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, Merrill F. Unger; Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Trent C. Butler, general editor; International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, general editor; ncronline.org,heavenawaits.wordpress.com, gotquestions.org)

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