ISRAEL – SUNDAY 2017 (Dutch: ISRAËL ZONDAG 2017)

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By Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer.. A form of Christian theology, or perhaps one should rather say anti-Christian theology, has for centuries held the Jewish people collectively responsible for the death of Jesus. The Church has been less merciful than God. It cannot be repeated often enough that the Crusades, Inquisition, Pogroms, and Holocaust took place in the Christian world, and represent Christian anti-Semitism. Even today, the World Council of Churches issues one pro-Palestinian pronouncement after another.

The Roman Catholic Church, in spite of making positive statements about Christian anti-Semitism in the past, did not totally acknowledge the State of Israel for many years. The visit of Pope John Paul II to Israel in 2000 and the words of repentance he spoke there provide a good starting point for a better relationship. But words have to be followed by deeds.

 

As we have seen, Replacement Theology is the teaching that the Church has replaced Israel as God’s Chosen People. When the majority of the Jews did not accept Jesus, the Church came to be seen as the new people of God. In this view the Church received the promises of Scripture, while the curses and judgments were pushed onto the Jewish people and Israel. This theology has been preached for centuries, and has seeped deep into the veins of Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox thinking. This teaching is alive and well, and very popular among Arab and Palestinian Christians, who thus have little difficulty in sharing the hatred and condemnation directed at Israel by their Islamic Arab brothers.

 

The anti-Semitic book ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ and Hitler’s book ‘Mein Kampf’ are still bestsellers in the Islamic world of the Middle East. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion or The Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion is an anti-Semitic fabricated text purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination. The forgery was first published in Russia in 1903, translated into multiple languages, and disseminated internationally in the early part of the 20th century. According to the claims made by some of its publishers, the Protocols are the minutes of a late 19th-century meeting where Jewish leaders discussed their goal of global Jewish hegemony by subverting the morals of Gentiles, and by controlling the press and the world’s economies. Henry Ford funded printing of 500,000 copies that were distributed throughout the US in the 1920s. Adolf Hitler was a major proponent. It was studied, as if factual, in German classrooms after the Nazis came to power in 1933, despite having been exposed as fraudulent by The Times of London in 1921. It is still widely available today in numerous languages, in print and on the Internet, and continues to be presented by some proponents as a genuine document. But hatred of Israel is hatred of the God of Israel. Christian hatred of Israel, though robed in theological terms, is still hatred of God. Many people nowadays point to the change in the thinking of the Christian world toward Israel. Just how far that change will go remains to be seen, but it is possible that the best years of replacement theology are already behind us.

 

After the Second World War, there was a readiness to adopt a changed attitude, including a changed theology, towards the Jewish people and Israel. In 1949 the Synod of the Netherlands Reformed Church established a special ISRAEL-Sunday just after WWII and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. This Church had 3 motives: to show its love for the Jewish people and Israel, to promote reflection upon the relationship between the Church and Israel and to pray for Israel. At first the Synod of the Netherlands Reformed Church proposed to have this special Sunday on the Sunday right before the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, but since 1950 they decided to establish a firm date: the first Sunday in October, because In this period of the year the Jewish Feasts of the Fall take place: New Year’s Day, Yom Kippur and the Feast of Tabernacles. So the Netherlands Reformed Church in Holland (de Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk) did play a prominent role in this, but over the past few years there has been a change there too. On the international level, and as a member of the World Council of Churches, the Netherlands often stood alone in support of Israel, like a voice crying in the wilderness. But now the Palestinians are being portrayed as the underdogs, and theological thinking has turned to a Palestinian ‘liberation theology’. There is no special place for Israel in Christian theology, it seems, let alone in Biblical prophecy!

 

God sees it otherwise. He is faithful to His Covenants with Israel. And now Israel is on the way to rest for her body, soul, and spirit. The reborn Jewish State of Israel is an undeniable fact. In Israel Jews can be themselves. Spiritually many of them are rediscovering their Jewish roots. The number of synagogues in Israel is growing, as is the degree of Jewish self-esteem and self-awareness. There, in the Promised Land, God’s Spirit will be poured out on them, as foretold by the prophets Joel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah. Then Jewish souls will be totally at rest and rejoice in the salvation that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, will pour out upon them by His grace. Then Israel will live safely in the midst of the earth, and will be a blessing to the nations. For God did not choose Israel solely for Israel’s own sake, but because He wanted through Israel to bless the whole world. And He will not forsake what His hand has begun. He will come to give Israel rest.

 

The Church did not replace Israel, just as infant baptism did not replace circumcision. Israel is Israel, and the Church is the Church. God will fulfil all His promises to Israel, as He will fulfil all His promises to the Church. We need to stop mixing the two, or replacing the one with the other, as so often in the past.

 

Paul taught in Romans 11 that God hardened and blinded the Jews. Verse 25: “…Israel has experienced a hardening in part…” The phrase ‘in part’ refers to the fact that the Jews know who God is, but have a blind spot regarding Jesus. And also the phrase means that there has always been a remnant according to the election of grace, and because Jews know God and God knows them. To aggressively evangelize the Jewish people, as some do, seems to be saying: “God, you hardened and blinded them, but we will do a better job and bring them to Christ and get them saved.” Although it is quite all right to talk about Jesus when Jews ask you what you believe, thus speaking about ‘the hope that is within us’, we should respect the mystery of the plan of God. We should be earnestly praying for the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Israel, and showing the love of Jesus in our words and especially in our deeds of love. God is expecting that we show solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters who serve the same God as we do. The Church needs to confess its guilt and sin regarding Christian anti-Semitism, and repent for this almost diabolical theology which over the centuries has led to the shedding of rivers of Jewish blood. One day we will all be held responsible for what we did. Hebrews 4:13: “…And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account…” One day the Church will be held responsible before the throne of God, and we as Christians should personally look into our hearts, souls and minds, asking ourselves whether there is any hidden anti-Semitism. God will ultimately hold us responsible.

 

Maybe it would not be a bad idea now that Christianity is celebrating ‘500 Years Martin Luther and the Reformation’ to add a new part to the age-old creeds of Christianity. Because already from the beginning of Church-history a confession of faith about Israel and the Jewish people is lacking. Maybe the Church at large could adopt some articles of faith about this.

 

In my new book: ‘Israel: Covenants & Kingdom’ in the first chapter one can find such a proposal.

With a group of theological friends in Holland we 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. It goes like this:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.’
  9. 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.
  10. 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!
  11. 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.
  12. 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!

Rev. Willem J. J. Glashouwer
President Christians for Israel International
Honorary President European Coalition for Israel
www.c4israel.org
www.whyisrael.org

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