Forerunner, May 1995

The 1993 Academy Awards ceremony was dominated by Schindler's List. The film is a brutally graphic look at the atrocities of the Nazi's "Final Solution" for dealing with the Jews of Europe in World War II. It is also a testimonial to one man's determination to rescue as many Jews as possible from the horrors of that Final Solution because he became absolutely compelled to do so.

Oskar Schindler was a Catholic from the Sudetenland who saw the war as a means to make his fortune. An opportunist whose outlook on life was to use every situation to his advantage, he wanted to make his mark on the world by becoming wealthy and enjoying every moment of his life. He was charming, witty and totally self-indulgent.

In the early 1940s, before the Nazis purged the ghetto, he went to Krakow, Poland, where he made all sorts of black-market deals. He accomplished this by ingratiating himself with the German High Command by his winning personality—and the ever-present bribe.

Soon realizing how desperate the Jewish situation was, he drove a hard bargain with the wealthiest of the Jews still living in the city to bankroll his plans for a factory to make pots and pans and ceramics for the war effort. In return, he made them silent partners in his business and gave them the opportunity to work in the factory. This deal protected them from being taken away by the Nazi SS.

The Nazis had hundreds of lists, and everything depended on which list one was on. The list would determine whether a person lived or died! If one were on a work list of industries vital to the war effort, he would not be sent to the concentration camps.

As Oskar Schindler's factory became more and more successful, he became very rich, giving him the opportunity to hire more workers. Quite often, his bookkeeper would bring someone to his attention who, though he might not make a very valuable employee, would be exterminated because of his health, age or condition without a job in Schindler's plant. Schindler would feel compelled to bribe an official who made up the lists to put that particular fellow on Schindler's list of workers. The Jews found safety working for Schindler.

Though he protected his employees, he still was more concerned with making money than with the plight of the Polish Jews. Then, in 1942, something happened to change his attitude: He became a first-hand witness to the Nazi terror. He watched the purge of the Jewish ghetto as Jews were rounded up like cattle and shipped off to work camps. But the old, the very young and the weak were executed on the spot! The streets ran red with blood!

Schindler protected his workers by keeping them in his factory until the purge was over. He bribed the authorities to leave his people alone. He continued to operate his Krakow factory and make more money until 1944, when the Germans decided to remove all the Jews from the city to the camps for the Final Solution. The Germans closed down Schindler's plant and told him he could relocate to his home town in the Sudetenland. There he could hire other workers and continue to make his fortune. All his employees would be shipped to Auschwitz!

Personal Sacrifice

Oskar Schindler had everything he had set out to attain: wine, women and song—and a steamer trunk full of money, enough to support his lavish lifestyle for the rest of his life. It was at this point, though, that he made the decision that would directly affect the lives of 6,500 Jews alive today. He took every bit of his personal fortune and converted it to jewels and gold, using it to bribe the Nazi officials. He convinced them to put the 1,100 Jews from his factory on his list for transfer to his new factory in the Sudetenland.

In the next year, he put his own life on the line more than once, spending every penny he had to save his workers from extermination. Even on the last day of the war, when the surrender had been drawn and the German troops were given orders to kill all remaining Jews to wipe out any living testimony, he put himself between the soldiers and the people. He reasoned with the troops to put down their weapons and go home as men, not murderers.

By the end of World War II, out of millions of Polish Jews, there were only 4,900 left alive in Poland, and 1,100 of them were Schindler's workers. He had saved almost 25 percent of the remaining Polish Jews, and had given up everything he had for them!

On the night the war ended, he told his workers that he had to flee. If he stayed, he would be arrested and tried as a Nazi and a war profiteer (even though, for the last year of the war, the munitions factory he owned never produced one usable piece of ammunition because every night he would recalibrate the machinery to produce substandard products). Schindler and his wife fled for their own lives that night.

The next morning, a lone Soviet officer rode into Schindler's factory compound and announced to the people that they were liberated by the Soviet Union. One of the survivors asked him where they should go. He responded, "Not to the East because you are as disliked there as you were here, and for that matter, it won't be much better for you going to the West either."

"But we are hungry," said the Jewish spokesman. The officer just shrugged. The Jews dispersed, wandering off to find some food. They had no idea where they could go, or if they would find any place better than where they were.

No Vision

Oskar Schindler was a man who found himself compelled to do what was honorable. He used everything he had to redeem as many people as he possibly could from absolute terror and sure death. But that was as far as he could take it. Schindler was a mere man with many shortcomings. He left his redeemed people with no clear vision of their future, no plan and no place to go. They were on their own!

Like those Polish Jews, we have been redeemed from absolute terror and sure death! We, too, live in a perilous world (II Timothy 3:1). But our immortal, almighty Redeemer is not limited by His own failings and powers. He has given us a clear and explicit vision of our future. He has told us where we are going and how we may get there. He has the complete power and authority to ensure that we arrive in our Promised Land. That is what the Days of Unleavened Bread are all about—how we will get there!

When the war ended, Schindler told the people he had saved, "I must flee." He left them alone and without any idea of what to do next. He had done as much as he could, but he was unable to take them any farther. We, on the other hand, have been given all that we need to complete our journey into true freedom under a Redeemer who will never leave or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5).

On the night before He was to lay down everything He had to redeem the people on His Father's list, Christ did not tell His followers, "I must flee, and there is no more I can do for you." Rather, He said:

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. (John 14:1-4)

Unlike Schindler, Christ told the people on His list that they should know exactly where He was going, what He would be doing and how to follow Him.

Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (verses 5-6)

Christ gave all that He had for us, but it did not end there. There was and is a work that He would continue to do on our behalf to get us all the way to freedom and the Kingdom of God. He is now preparing a place for us, and He is preparing us for that place.

Herbert Armstrong wrote in the March 1979 issue of The Good News:

The picture—the meaning—the symbolism, is not complete with Passover alone. Passover pictures the acceptance of Christ's blood for the REMISSION of past sins. It pictures the CRUCIFIED—the DEAD—Christ.

Shall we leave Christ hanging on the cross? The seven days of UNLEAVENED BREAD, following Passover, picture to us the COMPLETE putting away of sin, the KEEPING of the commandments—after past sins are forgiven. They picture the life and the work of the RISEN CHRIST—who ascended to the throne of God where He is actively at work in our behalf as our HIGH PRIEST, cleansing us of sin—delivering us completely from its POWER! (pp.25-26)

The days of Unleavened Bread picture the work that Christ is doing on our behalf—delivering us from sin's power to real freedom! Not only did He redeem us originally, He is continuing to free us, and now we must work with Him by learning how to stay free. We can remain free by keeping the commandments of God (see John 8:31-47; I John 5:3).

Commuted Sentences

Were Schindler's Jews really free? Or had they merely had their death sentences commuted to a later time?

Schindler paid the ransom, but he failed to finish the job to get them out of harm's way. He left them in a world that is worse now than it was then, and their lot will soon be more dire than it has ever been! This evil world continues as it always has, and it is prophesied to get worse (Matthew 24:12, 21-22; II Timothy 3:1, 13). It is a world where no real freedom has ever existed!

Christ's sacrifice of all He had for us does not give us the right to continue the life we lived before our redemption. If we do, then there is no real freedom in that sacrifice, and we make it of little consequence. We, like Schindler's Jews, have then only had our death sentences temporarily commuted. And our end, as Peter says in II Peter 2:20-21, is worse than the beginning.

John 6 gives strong clues that the miracles and teachings of Jesus that the apostle recounts took place during the days of Unleavened Bread. Christ had multiplied loaves of barley (verse 9). Barley was the winter harvest that could not be eaten until after the wavesheaf was offered during the days of Unleavened Bread. Another verse indicates it was around the time of the Passover (verse 4).

Thus, what Christ teaches here has to do with His finishing the job He started with His supreme sacrifice. He says,

This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent. . . . Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. . . . I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (verses 29, 32-33, 35-40)

Only Christ—of all humanity—could be compared to unleavened bread because His life was perfectly sinless and totally unleavened. He gave His sinless life for our salvation, and we are to eat of Him (verses 48-51)—that is, learning His way of life—so we can be raised at the last day. This is our part in preparing for the place He is preparing for us.

The Jews on Schindler's list escaped only temporarily. Jesus says, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (verse 44). Only "God's list" procures real and lasting freedom! Those whom God has put on His list will forever be free because He is guiding them all the way to freedom in His Family through the work that His Son, Jesus Christ, has done and is continuing to do to this day!

As Oskar Schindler had his list, God has His. Schindler, after heroically rescuing his 1,100 Jews, went his way, leaving his redeemed to go theirs. God, though, stays with and guides those on His list to complete and total freedom as His sons and daughters.