• Interview by Gertjan de Jong with Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer, president of Christians for Israel International, for the Dutch magazine “De Oogst”.

Submitting to the Israel Mystery

10 October 2013

Submitting to the Israel mystery

“Actually, I wasn’t very much involved with Israel”, Rev Willem Glashouwer said a couple of years ago. Well, the boot is on the other leg nowadays. As president of Christians for Israel International he travels all over the world to speak about the extraordinary position of the Jewish people. And he does this in a remarkably catching and impressive way! “The contempt for Israel is a serious blockade in our minds that obstructs a clear view on the Gospel.”

Rev Willem Glashouwer has a busy itinerary. When I see him in his newly built house in Amersfoort, he just returned from Scotland. Just when I came in, the telephone rings. “No, Marianne has just left the house to do some shopping”, I hear him say. “It is hectic here. We just returned from Scotland and on Thursday already Far East Russia is scheduled!” “Doesn’t it ever stop?” a voice says on the other end of the line. “Stop? No, it just gets busier all the time! But I still am in good health and I like to do it.” After he answered some emails (“This never stops, too”) Rev Willem Glashouwer sits down on the sofa, coffee and cake in hand. “The amount of requests to deliver lectures is constantly growing”, he says. “They come from all over the world. Ever since the book “Why Israel?” that I wrote has been translated into some thirty languages. We didn’t even had to look for translators. Sometimes I wake up in a hotel room thinking: “Where did I end up this time?”

That the Jewish people is not just an ordinary people, became clear to him very early in his life. He heard stories about World War Two (the time he was born, 1944) and his parents took in Jews. And quite regularly he heard his father say: “Guys, aunt Corrie is coming today.” Which meant: Corrie ten Boom was going to visit, the well-known preacher of the Gospel who would speak a lot about the Jewish people and her experiences in the concentration camps and about Christian forgiveness. Anyhow, Rev Willem Glashouwer had no eye for the unique position of Israel in those days. “I did know that the Jewish people are the people of the Bible and that in the future they will play an important role. Now, when I was nineteen years old, I became a Christian in a very radical way. From being the black sheep of the family I became a follower of Jesus. I started to study theology, was a pioneer of the EO and made many programs for the EO (Dutch Evangelical Broadcast Corporation) – both on radio and television – about the trustworthiness of the Bible and I preached Jesus passionately. At the same time I knew little about Israel. I reasoned: these people just have to convert to Jesus, become a church member and that’s it.”

The turning point came in the nineteen eighties. Rev Willem Glashouwer was recovering from severe brain surgery. And unexpectedly, Karel van Oordt, the founder of Christians for Israel came knocking on his door. He asked if Willem would like to become the chairman of “his” foundation ‘Christians for Israel’. “Why me?” was Willem’s response. “I am not so involved with Israel.” Karel van Oordt shared his vision with Willem. And he talked about Christians who love “dead Jews.” Willem looked at him, totally surprised. “Dead Jews?” Karel explained: Jews who died long ago. Jews like Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah, David, Paul, Peter, John and all the other Jews from the Bible. And there are also Christians that love Jews who still have to be born, he continued. Namely, the Jewish generation that is alive in the prophetic future, when Jerusalem is the center of the world and Israel is no longer the tail of the nations but the head of the nations. And vehemently he continued: “But who will stand by the Jews today? The whole world hates them! Who is going to love them in Jesus’ name? And above all: who will speak to Christendom, to the Church, about the terrible error of replacement theology, that is a sin before God, and caused millions of Jews to be murdered in the lands of Christianity? But don’t you worry, I will teach you!”


New software

These questions kept ringing in his ears. For a whole week Willem and Marianne thought about this unexpected request from Karel van Oordt, a man they had never heard of until a week ago. Neither did you know about an organization called ‘Christians for Israel’. “Somehow I didn’t dare to say “no””, Rev Willem Glashouwer said. “Hesitatingly I agreed. I thought: we shall see where this will lead to.” So he became chairman, including everything that came with the job. “People expected me to deliver lectures about Israel. Of course. But what should I say? I had no idea. That distress took me right back to the Bible. All kinds of traditional Christian theological concepts as a trained theologian of two State Universities on my hard disk in the top of my head had to make room for new software from the Bible.” He found out that there is a lot amiss with the traditional theology about Israel that needs setting right.

“For the church it has been quite simple for centuries: Israel was the chosen people of God, until they said “no” to Jesus. And subsequently the church said: we said “yes” to Jesus. And therefore we are now the new Israel, the newly chosen people of God. We replace Israel as the chosen people of God, the church said. And for the Jews all that remains is God’s judgment. Israel’s suffering is a warning to us all, the church said. Because that is what is going to happen if you say “no” to the Lord and “no” to His Anointed One, the church said. We are the new spiritual Israel. And of course, there is no doubt in my mind that the Christian church is a chosen people of God, gathered in from the nations, from the Gentile world, together with some of the first fruits from Israel. But we have never replaced Israel. God has made many everlasting covenants and promises with Israel, and gave many promises to Israel. With such a replacement-theology you make God into a liar, someone who can break His oath, a God who can change His mind, who cannot be trusted and Who’s Word you cannot trust, a kind of Allah. This is not just bad theology, but a sin against God.

The consequences can be seen in history. Crusades, slaughters, pogroms, the inquisition, the systematic destruction of Jews by the Nazis. And the worst of it is that the church often actively participated in the persecution of the Jews or stood by silently watching what was happening – with only some individual Christians who did what they could, like my parents and Corrie ten Boom and many others. But the Church at large was silent or even cooperated. Martin Luther summoned Christians to burn Jewish synagogues, burn their books, chase them off your lands, never give them a decent job, and give them a good beating – the only thing he did not say was: kill them. So the Nazi’s could quote Luther and they did. This is really true, I saw and read it in Luther’s original handwritings. John Calvin was different. He taught a lot about election, that God elects people, which is a mystery. Like Luther he could not understand why Jews did believe in Jesus, but still he maintained: “They are God’s chosen people, and don’t you touch them!” “In English I sometimes say: “we cut the root and stole the fruit.” But when you chop off the roots then the grafted branches will also wither and ultimately die. We cut the root and stole the fruit. And so Christianity in Europe is now almost dead.

If there is not going to be thorough repentance of all the sins and crimes committed towards Israel and true repentance – not just say so once or twice, but show in your deeds by bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance in acts of love and solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people – then the church of Europe will diminish ever further and further. And by that I mean not just a few pious words and some crocodile tears on a fixed memorial day of the year, commemorating the Holocaust and the Second World War – and the next day turn around and continue to blame Israel and the Jews for all that is wrong in the Middle East – and in the rest of the world with the new anti-Semitism on the rise. True repentance and a complete change of attitude: that is what we need. Show compassion and true love! Comfort the Jewish people, like Isaiah 40 tells us to do. “Comfort, comfort ye My people, says God. Israel cannot comfort herself anymore. She is bleeding from many wounds. So we all have to do it.”


Small stream

“Fortunately there has always been a small stream of Christians in the history of the church that continued to believe in the special place for Israel. For instance “the Réveil” in the Netherlands, with men like Isaac da Costa, Willem Bilderdijk en Jan de Liefde, the founder of “Tot Heil des Volks”. The same awareness can be found among Puritans in the Netherlands. They wanted to read the Bible in the way that God had revealed his plans and purposes with Israel and the Jewish people. I just returned from Scotland where the Presbyterian minister and missionary Robert Murray McCheyne comes from. This man had a wonderful vision for Israel already in the 19th century and actually visited the land of Israel himself. Like him there were others, especially among the Puritans and the Christian Zionists in the UK. But unfortunately it is a tiny stream in church history.”

“The contempt of Israel has done a lot of damage to the church and seriously obstructed our clear view on the Gospel. The Gospel has been narrowed to preserving your soul for heaven. Everything in the Bible has to be read and understood ‘spiritually’, the theologians said. You didn’t hear anything about the earth, in fact a disapproving of the human body and of God’s creation of matter, earth and the Universe at large. As if God had made a mistake by creating our four-dimensional space-time continuum! We people were supposed become like angels in heaven someday, as if God hadn’t created enough angels by creating millions and millions of angels in heaven already, and needed some more: human souls to become like angels in heaven! Once I organized a Bible study evening in my church with the theme: “Why resurrection of the body if my soul goes to heaven anyway?” It looks more like Hinduism than the message of the Bible. Hindus believe that after an endless series of re-births you end up in the nirvana, as bodiless floating souls united in the world of the gods. And also the Greeks said that the soul is captured inside the body – like a prisoner in a cell – and has to be liberated from it in order to enter the world of the gods.”

“God has created us as human beings. Not like angels. With a body! We are a citizen of two worlds, with a spiritual side and a physical side. After the resurrection, on the (re)new(ed) earth, we will get a renewed body, our resurrection body. In the forty days between Jesus’ resurrection and His Ascension one can see how that body functions. Fascinating! Our Lord Jesus can suddenly appear at the Lake of Galilee and doesn’t have to go by foot the entire distance all the way from Jerusalem to the Lake of Galilee in the North of Israel. He appears and disappears as it pleases him. Apparently He can travel between the dimensions back and forth, because who knows whether or not there are many more dimensions than the four dimensions in our universe of which scientists today speak? Jesus was no apparition. He says: “Touch me.” And in front of their very eyes He eats fish. He has a body, only the death-principle has vanished. A fantastic resurrection body, everlasting! With properties that enable Him to cross-over between there and here. And when He comes in glory we shall not just see Him as He is, but we will be like Him! Incredible!


Blind spot for Jesus

“The Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus speaks of punishment, judgment and eternal hellfire. Jesus addresses people who didn’t feed His brothers (the Jews!) when they were hungry, didn’t give them a drink when they were thirsty, didn’t take them in when they were strangers, or in prison or in a concentration camp. He says: “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Horrible. Everything will ultimately not be alright, as many people seem to think. But as a human being I am far too limited to determine who will be judged and who will not. The final judgement is God’s and His alone. And talking about these things, I also cannot say how things will turn out for Jews that do not know Jesus. That is up to God. Paul says in Romans 11:8 that “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.” Does this mean that He by blinding their eyes for who Jesus is and deafening their ears for the words of the Gospel, He also condemned them to go straight away to hell? I think that we should leave this to Him. Some say that this means that I am preaching salvation without Jesus and that I support a dual covenant theology. I do not. Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. Nobody comes to the Father but by Me.” Beginning at creation, everything was created by God through the eternal Word – the eternal Thora – that ultimately became flesh and lived among us. Everything that comes from the Father comes through the Word. En everything that goes back to the Father goes through the Word, our heavenly High Priest. God works exclusively through that channel, whether you know it or believe it or not.” Observant Jews know God and God knows them. But they have a blind spot for Who Jesus is. How God will be the judge of that, I don’t know. Rabbis read Psalm 23 at the beds of the dying. Just as Christian pastors do. Are Jews who went into the gas-chambers of the Nazi’s or died being burned at the stake during the time of the Inquisition with the ‘Shema Yisrael’ – Hear o Israel, Deuteronomy 6 – on their lips and in their hearts, are they lost forever? We should leave these things to the Most High. But He is Israel’s God, full of mercy. Stop this human reasoning! With the logic of your brain you may get these chains of reasoning, and they may look sound and logically true. But a logical truth is not necessarily a revealed truth. Logic has a limited scope of truth in natural science and mathematics but even in these areas everything is not always logical.”

“There is something truly remarkable about the history of the people of Israel. God is using them. He reveals Himself in the Bible through the Jews to the nations and the world, but they themselves hardly seem to be aware of this (e.g. read what Moses observes in Deuteronomy 29:2-4: God has not given you ears to hear or eyes to see or a heart that understands…) In their history over and over again Israel wanted to be just like all the other nations. In Romans 11:11, 12 and 15 you read that God uses Israel’s blindness and deafness for Jesus as a negative instrument to bless the nations. You even find in the book of Acts that Paul, with all his passion and intellect and zeal preaching the Gospel to the Jews in the synagogues finally cannot break through this wall of Israel’s deafness and blindness. He has to accept the mystery that is going on, and that apparently has to do with the bringing in of the Gentiles. But Paul also knows about the promise: one-day all Israel will be saved.”


Malicious undertone

Are organizations like Christians for Israel not too uncritical towards Israel? “Israel doesn’t need our criticisms. Go and listen to what is being said in the Knesset. All political opinions are present, from extreme left to extreme right. It is unbelievable how politicians take each other to task and attack each other in these democratic debates. Compared to them our politicians are more like a bunch of lambs. “We should leave the occupied territories!” you hear them shout. “Look at what these soldiers do!” they say.

Democracy functions very well in Israel. Where else can you find that in the Middle East? Or in the rest of the world, for that matter? In Israel they bring down a president because of a sex scandal and a prime minister because of supposed financial fraud.” Israel is a highly moral nation. They ‘invented’ morality when God gave them the 10 commandments. “But Jews are people, human beings, just like all of us. Some people are good, some are less good. Some are strong and some are weak, just like all of us. People make mistakes. People do wrong things. We all stem from Adam, so sin is in our blood. And let’s face it: right is right and wrong is wrong – whoever does it. Criminal acts should be brought to justice. Whoever commits those wrong acts. But criticisms on Israel soon become tainted with a malicious undertone. Something like: “it’s those Jews again.” The Jewish people are chosen by God as an instrument to bless the nations. And a blessing they have been, wherever in the world they went. And whoever blessed them (like tiny Holland) was blessed by God. But being the chosen one, means that you will suffer. The chosen one suffers. Israel suffers, the chosen one out of Israel Jesus suffers and the chosen one, the church out of the nations suffers. Many die as martyrs.  Because the darkness hates the light. Ishmael, the forefather of the Arabs received God’s blessings, Genesis 17:20-21, and Isaac received the Covenant. A Jew once told me: “I wish it was the other way around. That the Arabs had been given the Covenant and we had received the blessings!”


Preaching the Gospel amongst the Jews

Karel van Oordt stated in the Dutch newspaper “Reformatorisch Dagblad”: “I am convinced that preaching the Gospel to Jews has little or no effect. Paul expects us to provoke them to jealousy by unconditional loving them. Let our hands speak. Jews know our words, they finally want to see our deeds.”” Rev. Willem Glashouwer: “I would rather say: speak if asked. But for now we should indeed let our hands do the talking. They know our words by now. When they get to know you as a true friend, who is not trying to proselytize them, then sometimes they become curious about what your motivation is, about your faith. Sometimes you have really intense discussions. I have discovered that especially the Trinity is a stumbling block for Jews. They sometimes ask me: “Are you trying to convert us?” And then I say: “I would very much like to do that, but I can’t. Only God can do that and one-day He will!” “Well, we will see about that, they sometimes say! But when the Messiah comes and it proves to be Jesus, I will be the first one to congratulate you, another Jew once told me! But whoever He is, let Him come soon, because we need Him. And the world needs Him!”

“When it comes to Israel some Christians tend to lose their sobriety. For example they become an Israel fanatic defending everything that Israel does or are full of all kinds of eschatological science fiction. Many defend Israel no matter what and gloss over everything Israel does. But right is right and wrong is wrong, whoever does it. In this way you can harm the public opinion about the Jewish people and Israel. You create an unrealistic image, because Jewish people are just like you and me. Holy means: set apart, separated from the rest, for a purpose, to be an instrument in God’s hand, to reveal Him to the world and to be a blessing for the nations of the world. Holy does not mean: without faults or sins with impeccable lives in the sense of the use of the word ‘holy’ for Roman Catholic or other saints. Because these kind of well-meaning Israel-friends many churches and congregations are reluctant to have anything to do with Israel. They think: “Before you know it, we have to keep Shabbat, celebrate the Jewish Feasts and start waving Israeli flags.” But these totally dedicated friends of Israel are in a sense harmless, compared to those people who think just the other way around. They see Israel as the evil-doer. They hate Israel and the Jewish people. One finds these people inside the Church and Christianity as well as outside. Why is it so difficult to hold a sober position, simply looking at Israel and the Jewish people from God’s perspective, from the perspective of the Bible? The thing that is most important is that we have a clear understanding of God’s heart and His promises and Covenants for Israel, for the Church and for the world.”

And I know so many dear people with a heart for Israel! People that want to mean something for the Jewish people in a practical way. People who get involved with Jews, step into the gap in cases of anti-Semitism. People who understand, just like my parents did, that the Jews are the chosen people of God. My parents had very young children in those days of WWII. And still they took in Jews without making a big fuss about it, while it could be very dangerous to have strangers in your house. And my parents were not naïve, they knew very well what the consequences could be. Sometimes I think: “How many Christians would be prepared to risk their lives, and the lives of their young children today, in order to save a Jew?”

Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer, born in 1944, was raised in a Dutch Reformed family. During WWII his parents were hiding Jews. His father was a well-known Dutch Reformed minister, who was captivated several times by the German oppressor, amongst others because of suspicions that he was actively involved in hiding Jews. Rev Willem Glashouwer studied theology and was one of the pioneers of the Evangelical Broadcast Corporation. He worked many years as a television producer, radio and television host and finally as head of the television department. Rev Willem Glashouwer has been chairman of Christians for Israel – Holland. In July 1999 he became the fulltime president of Christians for Israel International. His book “WhyIsrael?” was translated into 30 languages or more. Rev Willem Glashouwer is married to Marianne, has four children and they have six grandchildren. 



This interview was held by Gertjan de Jong with Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer, president of Christians for Israel International, for the Dutch magazine “De Oogst”, a monthly magazine that aims at deepening and strengthening the spiritual life in the Netherlands from a Biblical perspective.