New Biblical Theology

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By Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer.. In 1948 ‘Replacement Theology’ and its variation ’Fulfilment Theology’ suddenly collapsed because of the establishment of the State of Israel. After a process of more than a 100 years of ‘Zionism’- which is not a political movement but a stirring of the Jewish hearts by the God of Israel for His people to return to Zion, a deep longing in the hearts of the Jewish people to go back to the Promised Land, to Jerusalem – many prophecies of the Bible were visibly being fulfilled. So apparently the Church had not replaced Israel. Almighty God apparently was still faithful to all the Covenants and Promises He made with Israel. Now this came as a shock for Christianity at large. Was God involved in this? But how? And what would be next on God’s agenda?

Suddenly what the Church needed – and still needs today – is a new theology, a new self-understanding, perhaps a kind of ‘Jerusalem Credo’, a ‘Declaration of Faith’, a new ‘Confession of Faith’, or a ‘Statement of Faith’, or whatever one likes to call such a shift in theological perspective. This new line of theological thinking should contain a new self-understanding of the Church in the light of God’s everlasting Covenants and Promises to Israel concerning the Promised Land, Jerusalem, and the Biblical concept of the Kingdom. It is indeed very much on my heart to urge the Church at large to come a new kind of ‘Theological Declaration of Barmen’, related to our framework of time with regard to Israel. Perhaps it could be something like the ‘Fundamentals of Chicago’, or ‘Het Getuigenis’ in Holland, that was formulated in 1971 to go against all kinds of Higher Bible-criticism and new theologies that conquered the Church after WWII and led to the rapid increase of secularization of the Church. ‘Barmen’ in the thirties of last century in Europe and Nazi-Germany took its position against all ideologies of those days firmly upon the Word of God.

Barmen Declaration

The Theological Declaration of Barmen 1934 (‘Die Barmer Theologische Erklärung’) was a document adopted by Christians in Nazi Germany who opposed the ‘German Christian’ movement at that time. It was the view of the delegates to that Synod in May 1934 that German Christians had corrupted Church government by making it subservient to the state, and had introduced Nazi ideology into the German Protestant churches, contradicting the Christian Gospel. To give some examples:

The Barmen Declaration says:

(1) “We reject the subordination of the Church to the state, and the subordination of the Word and Spirit to the Church” (8.22-3).

(2) “We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church in human arrogance could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans.” (8.27) On the contrary, the Declaration proclaims that the Church “is solely Christ’s property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from His comfort and from His direction in the expectation of His appearance” (8.17).

The Declaration points to the inalienable Lordship of Jesus Christ by the Spirit and to the external character of church unity which “can come only from the Word of God in faith through the Holy Spirit. Thus alone is the Church renewed” (8.01). It submits itself explicitly and radically to Holy Scripture as God’s gracious Word.

“Try the spirits whether they are of God! Prove also whether the words of the Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church agree with Holy Scripture and with the Confessions of the Fathers. If you find that we are speaking contrary to Scripture, then do not listen to us! But if you find that we are taking our stand upon Scripture, then let no fear or temptation keep you from treading with us the path of faith and obedience to the Word of God, in order that God’s people be of one mind upon earth and that we in faith experience what He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor forsake you’. “Therefore, ‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (8.04).

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In those days, ‘testing the spirits’ meant dealing with Nazism. People like Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood up for the Jewish community, although it ultimately cost him his life. Bonhoeffer (February 4th 1906 – April 9th 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, anti-Nazi dissident, and founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity’s role in the secular world have become widely influential, and his book The Cost of Discipleship is a modern classic. Apart from his theological writings, Bonhoeffer was known for his staunch resistance to the Nazi dictatorship, including vocal opposition to Hitler’s euthanasia program and genocidal persecution of the Jews. He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo, and imprisoned at Tegel prison for one and a half years. Later he was transferred to a Nazi concentration camp. After being allegedly associated with the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, he was briefly tried, along with other accused plotters, including former members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office). He was then executed by hanging on April 9th 1945 as the Nazi regime collapsed. This was just two weeks before Allied forces liberated the camp, and three weeks before Hitler’s suicide.

 

Today

Today the Church needs a warning against all kinds of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and anti-Israelitism. A document is needed that can be presented to the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Patriarch of Moscow, the World Council of Churches and the Assemblies of God, as a positive statement that implicitly deals with ‘Christ at the checkpoint’ and Stephen Sizer, thus counterattacking Palestinian Liberation Theology. More important is to find some parameters for the framework of a new Christian Biblical Theology, since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 basically shattered ‘Replacement Theology’ and many other concepts of Christian theology and Christian philosophy.

 

When we invited a small group of people to come to Jerusalem for such a Jerusalem Consultation, I wrote in 2013: “We are aiming for a consultation in Jerusalem to start a process of counterattacking Palestinian Liberation Theology, but even more so to find some parameters for the framework of a new Christian Biblical Theology, since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 basically shattered Replacement Theology and many other concepts. In this new self-understanding of the Church, Israel, Covenants and The Kingdom must be fully included.”

With a group of theological friends in Holland we since then tried to formulate some points of such a Declaration, which we condensed into 12 articles, and for the time being gave it the name: XII Articles regarding the place of Israel in God’s plan of salvation. The concept goes like this – but it is a work in progress:

We believe and confess that God has chosen Abraham, Isaac and Jacob because He wanted to bless all the nations of the world in and through them. In this way salvation has come through Israel to us.

It is our calling to bless Israel, for we owe our salvation to the Firstborn Son of this nation. Thanks to Jesus we too are allowed to be ‘children of Abraham’, the father of all those who believe.

Nevertheless, it is our strong conviction that the Church has not replaced Israel. The presupposition that the promises that once were given to Israel now have been transferred to the Church is a terrible aberration, a despicable apostasy, and a sin before God.

With the Apostle Paul we acknowledge that a ‘hardening in part’ has come upon Israel. This will only be the case ‘until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in’ and then all Israel shall be saved. With great anticipation and fervent prayers we are expecting that glorious future for the people of God.

We confess that the Lord is faithful to His Covenants with Israel. God did not reject His people, nor did He temporarily put them aside. Israel remains to be the axis in in God’s plans of salvation for the world. Not all of the promises have yet been fulfilled in Christ, but have found in Him the sure guarantee for a future and final fulfilment.

In eager expectation we are looking for the moment that Jerusalem will be the praise in all the earth. Then the nations will go up to the mountain of the Lord, for Torah will go out from Zion, the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Finally peace and righteousness will cover the earth, and the nations shall train for war no more.

With our eyes fixed upon that great and glorious future we believe that the return of the Jewish people back to the Promised Land of Israel, and the establishment of the State of Israel is a sign of God’s faithfulness to the everlasting promises and Covenants that He made with Israel and the Jewish people. Together with Israel we will thank, worship and praise the Lord for the beginning of the fulfilment of Biblical prophecies leading to the ultimate redemption and salvation.

We understand and believe that before the ultimate Kingdom of Peace and Righteousness there will be a Day of Judgment upon the ungodly nations. The main question that the nations will have to answer is the question of Jesus: ‘What did you do unto one of the least of these My brethren?’ His calling for solidarity with the poor and suppressed of this world regards in the first place our attitude towards Israel and the Jewish people. The divine commandment given to us by mouth of Isaiah is: ‘Comfort ye, Comfort ye My people’, says your God.’

Understanding what has happened during the centuries gone by, we as a part of the corporate body of the Church will always be aware of our collective guilt, which will always lead to an attitude of repentance and humility towards the Jewish people. This will lead to and show itself in bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance: acts of love and solidarity with the Jewish people and with Israel. We therefore will actively go against all kinds of anti- Jewish, anti-Semitic attitudes, religious and non-religious, both within and without Christianity.

We believe and confess that Jesus has come as the Messiah of Israel to turn godlessness away from Jacob and to redeem the nations. As the body of Christ we celebrate the mystery of salvation through the crucified and risen Lord, and with great anticipation we expect His Coming in Glory and the bodily resurrection of the righteous dead. Maranatha!

We pray for the Peace of Jerusalem and are longing for the great day of the Coming of the Prince of Peace to Jerusalem. We fervently wait for the day that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, of which Jesus and the Apostles together with all the prophets of Israel have been speaking throughout the ages. Messiah will come and rule and reign from sea to sea, from shore to shore – as far as nations will exist on the face of the earth. ‘He will be our Peace.’ Then the blindness and the deafness will be taken away from the eyes and the ears and the hearts of Israel, as well as the veil that has covered the face of the nations.

We finally believe and confess that the Lord Himself will be the guarantee of the renewal of all things, of the (re)new(ed) heavens and of the (re)new(ed) earth. One day God will be all and in all. Hallelujah!

Over the years I have struggled to come to a new understanding of the Jewish people, Israel, Jerusalem, the Covenants, the Biblical concept of the Kingdom, the past, present and future from a Biblical perspective. I have published a trilogy with the titles Why Israel?, Why Jerusalem? and Why End Times? My daily devotional on the Book of Revelation, day-to-day, verse-by-verse, grew into a small commentary on the Book of Revelation! Today I am presenting this new book, ISRAEL: COVENANTS & KINGDOM. May the Lord use it as a contribution to bless the Church, comfort Israel, warn the nations and focus our eyes upon the Coming of the Lord and of His Kingdom! Thus, by a new self-understanding, the Church can meet her Lord without Jewish blood on her hands through repentance, and thereby fulfil her prophetic role to warn the nations.

His Kingdom is coming. Speaking about Israel, Jesus warns the nations: Matthew 25:31-36: “…When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in, I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me’…”

Matthew 25:40-46: “… Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me…” One can almost see Him point His finger to all the Jews that stood around Him, listening to Him. “…Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe Me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after Me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help You?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life…”

Israel is not a kind of interesting point on the agenda of the Church – and of the nations for that matter. Israel – and how we deal with her and how we think and talk about the Jewish people, how we bless them or how we curse them – is of vital importance in the eyes of God.

The reading of this new book will direct you to the following conclusions:

The Kingdom

First there were the signs of the Kingdom in Israel, performed by Jesus the King Himself, as pockets of light in a surrounding darkness.

Then emerged the signs of the Kingdom in the whole world by the power of the Holy Spirit, during the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom to all the nations of the earth (Matthew 24:14). These again were signs and wonders, as pockets of light in a surrounding darkness.

Ultimately the Kingdom of peace and justice will arrive, when the King will again be among us and will sit on the throne of His father David and rule over the House of Jacob. Peace will flow forth from Jerusalem, and the nations will train for war no more (Isaiah 2:2-4). Of His Kingdom there shall be no end, because He was resurrected from the dead and lives forever.

The Covenants

All the Covenants made with Israel will have their final fulfilment in the Kingdom to come.

  1. Then all the promises made to Abraham will be fulfilled.
  2. Then the Promised Land will have its promised borders.
  3. Then the priesthood of Levi will function again.
  4. Then the Kingship of the House of David will be established forever.
  5. Then Jerusalem and the Temple will be the center of the world.
  6. Then the New Covenant will be fully implemented for Israel.
  7. Then the Covenant of Peace will be fully operational.
  8.  Then the wisdom of Torah will be the guiding light for all nations.

Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer

Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer
President Christians for Israel International

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