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The Spread of Freedom: Foretaste for the Entire World?

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The Spread of Freedom

Foretaste for the Entire World?

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Braveheart is the 1995 movie based on the legendary life of William Wallace (1272-1305), still regarded as Scotland's greatest hero, patriot and warrior. He inherited a family motto, Pro Libertate ("For Freedom"), which turned out to be prophetic. He grew up while the cruel king of England, Edward I "Longshanks," was scheming to rule Scotland.

At the time many Scottish nobles were not so noble. In their greedy rivalries for titles and lands, they sought to appease Longshanks for favor and security, frequently at the expense of their Scottish countrymen. Their example was pride over principles, lust over liberty. Freedom is rarely free, and they were unwilling to risk anything.

But Wallace, a mere commoner but a "braveheart," outraged at English oppression and fired with a vision for freedom, led a revolution that, after his death, resulted in the liberation of Scotland.

In 1305 he was betrayed, captured, sentenced and tortured to death. In the movie, Wallace (portrayed by Mel Gibson) is repeatedly offered a more merciful quick death if he will pledge allegiance to the king of England or beg for mercy. As the torturer begins to disembowel him, Wallace in agony indicates he wants to speak. But instead of muttering "mercy," he shouts out his last word with all the strength he can muster—"Freedom!"

Freedom. Human beings in all places and all times have hungered for it. Yearning to breathe free. To feel free. To live free. To see their children born free. To be free physically, financially, mentally and spiritually. Many of history's most inspiring true stories are of people struggling for liberation from bondage, captivity, tyranny or enslavement—and often achieving it.

History has been a roller coaster of subjugation and liberation of nations and peoples. We have witnessed encouraging achievements toward liberation in the last few years: Afghanistan, Ukraine, Iraq and perhaps progress in the Palestinian Authority—controlled territories. Now there are signs that Lebanon may throw off the yoke of its Syrian overlords who have occupied the country since 1976.

But even so, millions of people in dozens of countries are being oppressed, persecuted, terrorized and enslaved. Imagine every person in every country being free! Our world has a long way to go before it
is truly civilized.

Many people have never experienced liberty and cannot even envision it. They have been deceived with false freedoms and empty promises and propaganda. Instead of a spirit of freedom, they feel hopeless and helpless to achieve what they cannot even conceive. They are resigned
to their servitude.

A book about freedom

But in this dark world the light of understanding can be found. Many great books have been written and many great speeches given about freedom. But one book is more enlightening than all others. It has had a greater impact for liberation than all other books combined. It is the set of Holy Scriptures that we know as the Bible.

Indeed, one of the themes of this Book of books is true freedom and liberty!

It is no coincidence that many of the freedom-loving founding fathers of the United States of America were strongly influenced by their respect for the Bible. The Bible emphasizes that God loves all people and takes great joy in liberating them from all types of bondage. And it foretells the thrilling time when Jesus Christ will return to earth and bring true freedom to all the world!

But for now, "the whole world is under the control of the evil one"—Satan the devil (1 John 5:19, New International Version). Satan "deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9), and one of the greatest bondages is deception and ignorance.

Satan infects people with lust for power and control. He is the driving influence behind human beings oppressing and enslaving one another. But individuals do have an option. By submitting to God's rule over their lives, they can escape the bondage of Satan's influence.

Both the Bible and logic make it clear, however, that freedom for human beings cannot be absolute independence. According to our Creator, we have responsibilities to God and our fellow man. "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome [not oppressive, not a yoke of bondage]" (1 John 5:2-3).

In fact, the Bible continually emphasizes that it is disobedience to God's laws that brings curses and penalties (lack of true freedom), and obedience that brings blessings and benefits (freedom from penalties!).

True freedom—the best freedom—is not an absence of all authority. In fact, it is through submission to God's authority that we can achieve maximum liberty. Righteous laws and God's laws in particular, together with their enforcement, preserve and protect freedom. James speaks of the Ten Commandments as the "perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25; 2:12).

For a nation to preserve liberty, the rule of just, equitable law is actually more important than being a democracy. A free country must have a constitution that promotes freedom through the rule of law—law that is applied equally to all citizens, including the leaders.

A truly free country may have democratic processes, but the laws take precedence over what the majority of citizens might want to vote for at any moment. Strangely, even in free countries, greedy people voting unwisely usually chip away at their laws and their freedoms.

When a society has a breakdown of moral character and people increasingly violate God's commandments, the nation almost always passes more and more civil statutes to protect the society. But the laws passed to restrict criminals restrict everyone. Less and less godly character results in less and less freedom (see 1 Timothy 1:5-11).

God spells out the only true and lasting solution: Someday worldwide freedom will be protected by God's Word being the "constitution" and His laws being "the law of the land."

Captivity and liberation

Our Creator is a God of justice and mercy. Biblical history and prophecy show how God frequently punishes the people of a nation by causing them to be taken into captivity by their enemies, and then, when they deeply repent of their sins, He blesses them by liberating them from captivity.

Many Bible prophecies reveal that at the end of this age, because of the increasing sinfulness of mankind, God will bring about an enormous captivity. Jesus Christ referred to this time as one of "great tribulation" (Matthew 24:9, 21-22).

But Christ also offers safety during that time to His true followers. "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world . . ." (Revelation 3:10). And after that time of punishment is finished, Jesus will liberate all people from their captivity.

Israel's great story of liberation

The Exodus—the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt—ranks as one of the greatest examples of liberation and emancipation in history. It is described in great detail and referred to many times in the Bible.

This awesome sequence of events was made possible by a series of spectacular miracles plus 40 years of ongoing daily miracles. God extracted an entire nation from slavery in what at the time was the world's superpower. This stands as supreme dramatic proof of God's mercy, love and power!

At Mount Sinai, God spoke the Ten Commandments in the hearing of all the people. And how did God introduce Himself? How did He want to be known then and throughout history? "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exodus 20:2). And God's Fourth Commandment states that every weekly Sabbath day is a reminder of His monumental intervention in history (Deuteronomy 5:15).

Where was God taking the Israelites? To the Promised Land—"a land flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus 3:8)—a land of freedom, peace and prosperity. God promised to give them houses, water wells, vineyards and olive trees, which meant private property and opportunity for every family (Deuteronomy 6:10-11).

The Bible relates many spiritual lessons to events of the Exodus. For one thing, the Exodus is a thorough illustration of God's process of spiritual redemption and salvation. It is a sequence of events symbolizing how God calls His followers and how they should respond, how they must escape from the "Egypt" of enslavement to their sinful life, how the crossing of the Red Sea pictures the need for water baptism, how they must go wherever and whenever God leads them, how God's people must rely on Him daily for all their physical and spiritual needs while living in a spiritual "wilderness," how God will bless them with answered prayer and miracles, and many other profound lessons.

The "Promised Land" of Canaan is a representation of life on earth after Jesus Christ returns and establishes the Kingdom of God. This wonderful age to come is described in Micah 4. All the world will be taught to obey God's laws (verse 2). "They shall beat their swords into plowshares" and the world will be at peace (verse 3). And "everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree . . ." (verse 4).

As mentioned before, this signifies private ownership of property, the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of one's own labor and free enterprise. It will not be an economy of socialism with its accompanying heavy taxation and oppressive government.

Verse 4 continues, ". . . and no one shall make them afraid." There will be no dictators, secret police, terrorists, criminals or enemies to frighten or hurt them! What freedom and tranquility!

God's love of liberty is illustrated by His law concerning the "year of Jubilee"—every 50th year—a time when properties that had been bought and sold reverted to their original family owners (Leviticus 25:9-17). This prevented the long-term concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few to the detriment of the many. Every family was essentially given the opportunity for a fresh start every few generations.

Notice that to officially begin that year, the Israelites were to "proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants" (verse 10). Someday when God's government is established on the earth, there truly will be liberty throughout all the land.

The greatest story of liberation

What is the all-time greatest act of liberation—a feat that far surpasses even the mighty Exodus? It is the series of events that was climaxed by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! This magnanimous and magnificent self-sacrifice is the miracle that opens the door for the ultimate rescue and saving of all human beings.

The steps God took are almost too profound to put into words. God the Father and God the Son made the awesome decision that the Son would temporarily give up the freedom of His power and glory, become incarnated as a human being, experience all the usual limitations and sufferings of human life, be tormented and tortured, and die a humiliating and horrible death.

God's plan depended on the Son, while in the flesh, to live a perfectly sinless life to be a perfect sacrifice. Because He was God, His life would be worth more than all human beings combined. His one sacrifice would pay the death penalty for all human beings who have ever lived.

He would be resurrected from the dead to be once again glorified as God (John 17:5). He would then be the Savior (Redeemer, Liberator, Emancipator) for all mankind (Jesus means "God is salvation" or "God saves"!). All this happened! It is miraculous beyond words. It is love beyond words (John 3:16; John 15:13).

When God calls an individual to be His disciple, he or she receives all the benefits of Christ's sacrifice, including numerous freedoms, all summed up as God's grace (which is gratis—a free gift!). Grace is the full package of God's good and generous gifts, but chief among those benefits is the forgiveness of all past sins. That in turn paves the way for the gift of God's Holy Spirit, which make possible a Father-child relationship with God.

The freedoms God offers are seemingly limitless. God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" so they can receive glorious eternal life with Him (1 Timothy 2:4).

But God loves us so much He desires to answer our prayers and to help us with all our needs even while we are yet in this human life. When Jesus was on earth, He not only preached to the people, He spent much time listening, comforting, encouraging, helping and healing. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). He desires to give all the same blessings to those who follow Him.

The greatest freedom

God offers us many freedoms (see "Some of the Freedoms God Offers Us"). But He also offers us the ultimate freedom —the liberation from this human flesh into a glorious spirit existence! The resurrection and change from death to life—the transformation from mortality to immortality (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:50-57; Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:1-2)!

All who have ever lived and died will be brought to life to have their opportunity to learn God's truth and to have eternal life! (To learn how and when this will take place, request your free copy of the booklet What Happens After Death?)

Then all of our problems will be solved. No frail and fragile human bodies. No ills of society when the tyrannical Satan is replaced by Jesus Christ as the ruler of the world. Lives that were cut short will have new life and the freedom to live forever. We'll have the freedom and time to explore every inch of the earth, and every inch of the universe. We'll have the freedom to enjoy God's paradise forever!

Note these inspiring words in Romans 8:18-21: "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God . . . because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Revised Standard Version).

But what must we do to attain this freedom?

It sounds ironic, but to become truly free we must surrender to God and become servants to Him. He is all-wise and all-benevolent. He knows what is best for us and will always do what is best for us.

And He will give us lives not just of joyous freedom, but of awesome variety. Consider how God gave Adam and Eve a park in which to use and enjoy the wonderful variety of flora and fauna. God restricted them from only one tree, but they gave in to the temptation to take the forbidden fruit. God offers us the freedom to choose from a wonderful variety of wholesome options. To be truly free, we must be willing to deny ourselves the forbidden trees. We must never choose to be independent from God.

Free at last!

On Aug. 28, 1963, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. He began his speech by repeatedly saying, "I have a dream"—mentioning various hopes such as for racial equality, peace and freedom for all people.

In one part he said: "This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning: ÔMy country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!'"

He concluded by referring to a time when all people will be able to join hands and sing in the words of an old spiritual song, "Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we're free at last!"

Someday the visions of freedom-loving people will come to reality. When Jesus Christ returns to earth and liberates all mankind, there will be great celebration. All people will be free at last! Free at last! GN