Rescue From the Kidnapper
How the Day of Atonement celebrates the imminent release of kidnap victims

To this day I still recall two vicious kidnapping cases dominating the evening news in the relatively sober nation of the Netherlands when I was a youngster.

The first case was that of Alfred Heineken, the beer tycoon, and his driver, Ab Doderer, in 1983. The second case was the 1987 kidnapping of Gerrit Jan Heijn, a top executive at Ahold and the brother of Albert Heijn, founder of the nation’s largest retailer.

Night after night, the media reports on these crimes gripped the nation. Both cases gained international notoriety and were later turned into movies featuring high-profile Hollywood actors.

The Heineken Case

In the Heineken case, the abductors communicated via mail, audio tapes and short classified ads with coded messages to the family. Mr. Heineken and Mr. Doderer were held in a double-walled Quonset hut located on an industrial estate in the western grounds of the Port of Amsterdam. From the outside, one could not detect anything unusual about this industrial building which housed a carpentry shop, but on the inside, a 13-foot section had been soundproofed to hold the kidnapped victims.

The kidnappers demanded a 35 million-guilder ransom (more than $46 million in today’s money), in four different currencies and in small denominations. The 200,000 bank notes had to be split into five bags, weighing a total of 400 kilograms (881 pounds).

These bags had to be loaded into a vehicle carrying only one driver. The driver had to proceed to different locations, picking up notes at each stop with further instructions. The driver would eventually be ordered to drop the bags from an overpass through a storm drain, where the kidnappers would be waiting in a vehicle and would drive off without being seen or followed.

The call for the exchange came on November 15.

But it didn’t work out as planned. Because of the intense media coverage, no vehicle could leave without being followed. The kidnappers had to think hard and come up with an alternative plan.

Two weeks later, the kidnappers successfully received the ransom and deposited most of it in five plastic drums they had buried in a forest.

The intrigue of it all had every boy putting on his detective hat in an attempt to solve the mystery.

Heineken and Doderer were not released once the ransom was paid. Instead, thanks to an anonymous tip, they were found two days later in the unheated concrete cells that had been built inside the Quonset hut where they had been chained for 21 days. But the kidnappers had fled before the police could catch them. They fled abroad, but they were later tracked down, captured, extradited and convicted for their crime.

The Heijn Case

Several years later, another kidnapper was watching another victim: Gerrit Jan Heijn. The man observed Heijn’s routine for about three months. He even posed as a sales representative for a foreign company and scheduled a meeting with the retail executive. In this way, the kidnapper knew Mr. Heijn’s routine and that he would be home on the day of the planned abduction.

As Heijn stepped into his car to make his first appointment of the day, the kidnapper suddenly appeared and pointed a gun at him. He forced him to drive to a nearby car that he had stolen. The kidnapper chained Heijn to the car seat, and the two drove for a couple of hours. Then the kidnapper forced him into a forest and shot him. Before he buried him, the kidnapper cut off a digit of Heijn’s little finger, putting it into a thermos filled with ice cubes. He also kept Heijn’s glasses.

The kidnapper used a similar manner of communication via mail and classified ads to try to extort a 7.7 million-guilder ransom, payable in cash and jewels, despite having already murdered Mr. Heijn.

Through letters and newspaper communications, the kidnapper gave the impression that Heijn was alive and well. In his sinister plot, the kidnapper even mailed the glasses and finger as proof that Mr. Heijn was in his custody, with a macabre note stating, “For the time being, Gerrit Jan Heijn will find it difficult to play the piano.”

After multiple failed attempts, half of the ransom was delivered two months after the kidnapping. But the exchange of the other half again fell through.

Not long after, the serial number of one of the notes was flagged by a bank after the kidnapper used some of the ransom money to buy a bottle of alcohol. A major undercover surveillance began. After about seven months, detectives finally located and arrested the kidnapper in his home. He later confessed to the kidnapping and murder.

Of all the kidnappers, detectives or even the millions who watched the reports on either of these incidents or read the newspaper headlines, few realized that they themselves had been victims of a kidnapping.

They are victims of the worst kidnapper of all: Satan the devil.

Kidnapping On a Global Scale

Usually, criminals are not aware of the odds of getting caught. They do not realize the overwhelming resources and power on the side of law enforcement. They tend to believe they can outwit the police.

That too was the case when Satan violently tried to seize the entire universe from his own Creator. He believed, and still believes, that his way of life represents a superior plan. He thinks his way of competition and strife is better than God’s way of cooperation and love.

Satan’s rebellion against God as the lawgiver and law-enforcer has made him God’s adversary. Ever since his rebellion, Satan has been seducing angels and then human beings to live by his reasoning. Herbert W. Armstrong called it the colossal kidnapping of all time. And, even worse than the Heineken and Heijn kidnappings, mankind has been deluded into not only accepting but loving its captor and its captivity. Human beings have become willing victims, blinded to what is really happening.

Some kidnappers actually manipulate the minds of their victims to the point that the victims bond with their kidnappers. Roughly 8 percent of kidnap victims show some signs of this kind of bonding, which is known as the Stockholm syndrome, so named after four hostages in a 1973 Stockholm bank robbery sympathized with their captors.

How did humans reach the point where we no longer want the ransom to be paid and we want the way of our kidnapper?

Free Moral Agents

After creating and instructing the first man, Adam, God commanded: “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

Satan was quick to challenge that instruction when he found Eve lingering around the tree. “[H]ath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” he asked. Eve responded, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” (Genesis 3:1-3).

Adam and Eve understood the commandment of God. Yet God had given them free moral agency (free choice) to obey or disobey.

In his subtlety, Satan appealed to the human intellect and twisted the concept of free moral agency from one of obedience to one of human reasoning (verses 4-5). He sold free choice as the right to make your own decisions on what is good and what is evil, when God had already defined what is good and what is evil. He had simply given Adam and Eve the responsibility of choosing between them.

Eve, deceived by Satan’s cunning, took and ate of the fruit and then handed some to Adam. Adam relinquished his male leadership role and succumbed to the temptation. He exercised his prerogative as a free moral agent to disobey God (verse 6; see also 1 Timothy 2:14).

With the transgression came inevitably the curse. This is how God later explained it to the Israelites: “But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land …” (Deuteronomy 30:17-18).

“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing,” God continued. There is a way that leads to life and a way that leads to death. The way to life is called obedience; the way to death, disobedience. God counsels, “[T]herefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (verse 19).

Exercising our free moral agency to obey leads to freedom and eternal life: “That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days …” (verse 20). Life results from loving God and choosing to obey Him. Death hangs over us when we make the opposite choice.

Bonding Through Disobedience

Man’s kidnapper isn’t interested in a ransom. He wants to murder us! This is why he is so interested in our disobedience, because it leads to death—eternal death. He wants total control over those he has abducted. He does not want us to have free choice. His control over us is dependent on our disobedience to God. He intends to destroy the Family that man is destined to become a part of. He knows that Family is ordained to overthrow his rule. Satan clings to his power like a desperate politician who knows his lies are about to be uncovered publicly.

Satan holds us captive by influencing our minds through his continual broadcast of negative attitudes, moods and emotions (Ephesians 2:2). Our carnal minds are automatically tuned to his wavelength. He thus inflicts a Stockholm syndrome in his captive victims. He palms off disobedience as freedom. Yet it is the worst kind of captivity.

Satan’s premeditated strategy has a nearly 100 percent success rate. He is intimidating, abusive, manipulative, deceptive and ruthless. He never shows his true colors, and he never directly speaks the truth. His lies and half-truths are all for achieving his sole ambition: total control of mankind. Man believes he is free to choose as he pleases, rejecting any authority over him. Sadly, by rejecting the authority of God, he fails to see he is both succumbing and submitting to the authority of the adversary.

Strong When Weak

However, soon man will be set free! This release is symbolized by the annual festival known as the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27-32).

Satan hates the Day of Atonement, perhaps like no other holy day. It is the annual festival God’s people observe by afflicting their souls through fasting, going without all food and drink from sunset to sunset (Leviticus 16:29). This helps us realize how weak and helpless we are. It reminds us that only God can set us free from this supernatural force that holds mankind in its captive grip.

Mr. Heineken and Mr. Heijn were among some of the wealthiest individuals at the time, but their wealth and human power could not deliver them.

Heijn attempted to flee his kidnapper shortly after he was taken hostage, but he was unsuccessful. Perhaps the attempt led to his murder. His own endeavors could not set him free. Neither can mankind escape from captivity unless a superior, divine force sets us free.

Even though our world has deteriorated terribly, we human beings still fail to recognize that we are captives in need of release. In the time of Jesus Christ, the Jews responded to His message about being offered freedom from bondage by saying, “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?” (John 8:33). These Jews couldn’t see their bondage to sin. Have you recognized your own spiritual bondage? Do you see how you have been in bondage to your own reasoning, to your human nature, which is hostile toward God and cannot obey Him? (Romans 8:7-8). Notice Christ’s response to those who believed they were free: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:34-36).

Through Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, we are ransomed from the spiritual kidnapper. When God applies that sacrifice to the individual who has repented of his sins and been baptized, Satan loses his claim of ownership over that person.

On the Day of Atonement, we intentionally weaken our bodies by foregoing food and drink. This should help us draw near to God. When we experience trial and test, we see how those situations remind us of the need for God in our life. As the Apostle Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “when I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10; see also Psalm 119:67, 71, 75-76).

Obeying God’s command to fast means reminding ourselves of our own physical weakness. And remembering our own physical weakness reminds us of our need to rely on God. Fasting on Atonement is a vivid reminder of the state of mind we need in order to be saved from our kidnapper: one of humility, godly sorrow and earnestly seeking God.

Satan Deposed

Most don’t understand the Day of Atonement today. Their time is not yet. But one day soon, Jesus Christ will set all mankind free, and that freedom means not just a release from Satan’s oppression but also sonship in God’s Family!

When Christ returns to Earth, He will establish His Father’s Kingdom, and the God Family will rule the world. But before man can experience the true joys that that rule will bring, Satan must be deposed.

To this day, Satan and his demons rule the Earth as princes and rulers (John 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; 6:12). That will soon change.

“And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season” (Revelation 20:1-3).

This is an event to celebrate! God will seize the adversary and shut him up. The deceptive manipulation of the kidnapper will cease for 1,000 years.

Jesus Christ will resume His rightful rule and replace Satan as ruler of the Earth (Matthew 28:18; Revelation 5:12; 19:11-16).

The events pictured by the Day of Atonement also carry a deep personal meaning for God’s people. The firstfruits will become the qualified leaders who will step into the positions of authority as rulers over all nations (1 Corinthians 6:2-3; Revelation 2:26-27). At that time, Satan will be under the feet of the saints! (Romans 16:20). How he hates the thought. This is why God’s spiritual Jews are his number one target today.

Guilt on Satan’s Head

The Apostle John describes how Satan will be cast into the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1-3). This abyss was anciently pictured by the wilderness. In Old Testament Israel, the Azazel goat was led into the wilderness. (The English word “scapegoat,” over time, has come to indicate innocence, but the Azazel pictures a guilty Satan the devil.) Azazel’s exile is depicted in one of the Atonement rituals (Leviticus 16:10, 21). Similarly, in the bottomless pit, Satan will no longer be able to deceive the nations. His broadcast of foul attitudes, sour moods, selfish gain, and evil, uncontrolled emotions will cease.

Satan is no innocent scapegoat. He is the instigator of all sin. Christ’s blood does not atone for his guilt. Satan will bear his own sins—forever—when he is completely removed from the presence of God and His redeemed children (verses 20-26).

God is a God of justice and mercy. Jesus Christ bore our guilt for our sins—but God does not require Him to also bear Satan’s guilt for instigating and inspiring those sins! As the author of our sins, Satan must reap what he has sown. In the Atonement ceremony described in Leviticus 16, the goat symbolizing Christ is sacrificed—this represents His payment of the penalty for our sins. But then those same sins are laid on the live goat, which is then removed completely from the congregation!

What a difference that will make! Before the kidnapped victims can be saved and then be taught the truth of God, Satan’s static noise that has drowned out God’s message will be fully silenced. Man will at last be made one with his Maker! Shutting up Satan makes it possible for human beings to have at-ONE-ment with God.

Revelation 12:10 names Satan as the accuser of the brethren. When all the sins are placed back on his head, Satan will have no power over mankind, except for the short time he must be released (Revelation 20:3). He will be unable to accuse us any longer.

Man will be released from sin and its bondage. God will seize the kidnapper and make him pay for his sins. Satan’s imprisonment in the bottomless pit symbolizes deliverance from the power of the adversary. The complete removal of sin from the presence of God and His children is represented by the Day of Atonement.

For all these reasons, the Day of Atonement is a day of liberation: liberation from our guilt for our sins; liberation from sinful influences and spiritual instigations, and rescue from the archkidnapper.