Vol. 12 No. 4 April 2010
D. Gene West
One reason many people become confused, even to the point of teaching false doctrine, is because they fail to understand the language of the Bible. For example, Dispensational Premillennialists misunderstand the Sermon Jesus preached to His disciples on Mount Olive because they do not understand that words can be used in different ways. For example, after giving many signs of the fall of Jerusalem in Luke 21, he told His disciples, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Because they always think of “redemption” in terms of being bought back to God spiritually through the sacrifice of Christ, they mistakenly believe that is what the word redemption refers to in Luke 21:28. However, a moment’s reflection will demonstrate that this is not what Jesus was speaking about when He made the statement recorded above. Why? Because the spiritual redemption of these disciples had already taken place when the Lord made this statement to them. One of them would later “fall” from his state of redemption by selling the Lord for thirty pieces of silver, but these men were the servants of Christ and were cleansed by the same blood by which all the rest of the Old Testament faithful were cleansed, according to the statement made by the Hebrews author in 9:15 of his book. The redemption that was to come to these disciples at the fall of Jerusalem was not spiritual redemption, for they already had that! They had accompanied Jesus all the time He had gone in and out among them from the beginning of the baptism of John to the day Jesus ascended. They belonged to Him.
If the word does not refer to spiritual redemption, then to what does it refer? The word redemption here simply means that when they saw the Son of man coming in the days of vengeance, they would be delivered from some kind of oppression. Oppression comes in many forms. It is true that to bear the burden of sin, from which Christ redeemed us by his blood, is one kind of oppression. However, it is not the only kind. Since the 4th chapter of the Book of Acts, the disciples of our Lord bore the terrible burden of persecution. They were oppressed by persecution on every hand. The Jews did it alone when they could, and when they could not, they garnered the power of the Roman authorities to aid them. Hence, the redemption of which the Lord here spoke was not spiritual redemption from sin, but physical redemption from persecution inspired by those who had crucified Jesus.
When Titus marched his more than 80,000 legionaries against the city of Jerusalem, the Christians had already taken the advice of our Lord and fled to other places. Most of them seem to have gone to Pella in Decapolis, some to Alexandria in Egypt, and others simply fled into the wilderness areas on the east side of the Jordan River. Like their counterparts in the Old Testament, “they wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.” Though they found themselves in foreign areas, and sometimes in difficult circumstances, they were delivered from the persecution, pain and death that had been inflicted on them for the past forty years by the Jews. This deliverance, they would surely look upon as a “redemption.” While others were falling on their swords, being led away captive, and while Jerusalem was being trampled by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled, these brethren were being redeemed from the persecution that had been heaped on them for the greater part of forty years. They had spent forty years in the wilderness of persecution, and they were about to pass over into the promised land of freedom from that persecution; hence, they were about to experience “redemption.”
If people understood that the meaning of words always depends on the context in which they are used, they would know that “redemption” does not always mean spiritual deliverance, but sometimes it means physical deliverance.