The number fifty in the Bible is a significant one. It represents the full measure of years. It does not indicate the end of life, but the end of physical labor. In the book of Numbers you find that those who are in physical service at the Tent of Meeting (because of its taxing physical labor) should be between thirty and fifty years old. After fifty, a priest becomes an elder statesman (Numbers 8:25-26).
The thought that fifty is the fullness of years is thrown in Jesus’ face in John chapter 8 when He says: “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day.” They say to Him: “You are not yet fifty years old.” Of course they, like so many church folks today, fail to see that He is the divine Son of God. At fifty, a person is afforded the respect of eldership because of his or her wisdom of years and experience. But fifty is more than just a landmark. The number fifty carries great significance in Israel’s calendar.
God instructed Moses that the timing of the Feast of Weeks was to be exactly fifty days after the Sabbath from the first fruit, or the day of the wave offerings. In fact, the Greek word Penta, from which we get “Pentecost,” means “fifty.” But there is something more important about the number fifty. It is associated with liberation and being set free. That is why God established the fiftieth year as the year of Jubilee. Every seventh year is to be a Sabbath year—from which we get the word sabbatical—which many pastor friends of mine take after each seventh year of ministry. Many people, whenever I take my three-week summer vacation, ask me: “Did you enjoy your sabbatical?” I often resist the temptation of explaining what “sabbatical” really means. But in biblical times, the seventh year is a complete year of rest. During that year the land lies fallow. (Leviticus 25:4)
But after seven cycles of Sabbath years had passed, Israel was requested to observe a second Sabbath as a year of Jubilee. That year on the Day of Atonement a trumpet would blast. At that moment, all lands that were sold in the previous forty-nine years would return to their original owners. In addition, all servants or slaves who were employed or bought during those forty-nine years were completely set free. The idea was that the Jubilee year would occur once in a lifetime for every Israelite. In fact, the most significant aspect of the Jubilee year is the concept of freedom. This was supposed to remind the Israelites that both they and their land belonged to the Lord. They were both the Lord’s possessions. And it is God who takes back His people and His land in the year of Jubilee.
That brings me to something very important. The year of Jubilee for our church would be 2037. But since my greatest hope is that when that time rolls around, I will be in a glorified body in Heaven, we will celebrate our half-Jubilee on our 25th anniversary. For two years now I have been praying, spending time with the Lord, and sensing in my spirit through His leadership that we should do something symbolic for this mid-Jubilee year, namely, that all church members have the opportunity to renew their Membership Covenants on the day of the 25th Anniversary. Let us make our 25th Anniversary celebration truly an honor unto the Lord.