“That on the 1st day of January, A.D. 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
With those words, President Abraham Lincoln began his historic “Emancipation Proclamation.” Signed on September 22, 1862, the Emancipation Proclamation declared all slaves in the Confederate States to be free.
The proclamation had little effect on the lives of slaves in the Confederacy. The Confederate States no longer considered themselves to be a part of the Union and did not recognize President Lincoln’s authority. The over 3.5 million slaves in the South continued to live in subjugation.
On April 9, 1865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox County, Virginia, marking the end of the Civil War. News of the surrender spread slowly throughout the South. Battles and skirmishes continued for weeks. The last battle of the Civil War was fought near Brownsville, Texas on May 13, 1865.
On June 18, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government. The following morning, General Granger stood on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa and read aloud “General Order No. 3,” informing the people of Texas that all slaves had been set free by executive proclamation.
Word soon spread among the 250,000 slaves living in Texas. Celebrations were held. The following year, freed slaves in Texas began celebrating June 19 as “Jubilee Day.” Today it is known as “Juneteenth.”
Juneteenth is a vivid reminder for us that no one is completely free until they know they are free.
On a dark Friday, 2,000 years ago, our Savior Jesus made another emancipation proclamation. “It is finished,” he cried before breathing his last. The war was over. The victory was won. Jesus paid the price of our freedom.
Jesus set us free from our slavery to sin and death. He suffered our punishment in our place. Because he did, God offers full and free forgiveness to every person on this planet. Because of Jesus, God offers a home in heaven to even the dirtiest of slaves.
Jesus’ emancipation proclamation was for all people from every nation, tribe, language and race. Yet even today, many continue to live in slavery.
Sadly, there are still people in our world who do not know about Jesus and his great emancipation proclamation. That’s why God sends us, as Christians, to be General Grangers, telling them the good news that they are free. They are forgiven.
You can’t be free if you don’t know. It is only by knowing and believing in Jesus that a person can receive and enjoy the freedom he won for them. Only by knowing and believing in Jesus can a person go to heaven.
So tell everyone you can. Teach your children and grandchildren. Talk to your family and friends. Pray for and support Christian missionaries around the world.
Be General Grangers. Let the world know. Jesus has set them free.