The great change of course

The reformation of the 16th century started the greatest spiritual revival in the past thousand year. Why did it have such an enormous, worldwide impact?

1. The King becomes a servant

The Reformers, as we shall see below, shifted the emphasis from self determination and ego to an awareness of what God has done for us. In doing so they followed the example of the evangelists. All four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) devote at least half of their book to the Passover Week, the week of Jesus' Passion, Death, and Resurrection. A chronological detailed overview of this week is available under the [490 - Israel] tile. There you will receive an explanation of why Jesus did not die on a Friday and what this special week has to do with the symbolism of four Jewish festivals (Pesach, unleavened bread, day of the first fruits and the festival of weeks). Passover week is without a doubt the most decisive week in our history. God carried out the most important decision ever made [find information about this decision at: in the beginning]. In order to lay the foundation for His eternal covenant of love, He Himself had to bear the cost of human sin and guilt. Only then would it be possible to live forever in His holy presence. Not we, but He has secured our future.

The apostle John writes in chapter 13 about the run-up to this Passover week. Jesus shows with a symbolic act what He is going to do.

“And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded” (John 13:2-5).

God the Father had placed all things in the hands of the Son. Literally everything now depended on Him. The promises, the prophecy, the future of you and me and of all things. Yes, nothing less but the meaning of the total world history was at stake. It was as if all creation was holding its breath. Would the Son of God remain faithful, through all, to carry out the eternal counsel? Would He take upon Himself the sin of the world as a perfect sacrifice? To do it, He had to give Himself away and go the deepest way of suffering.

And He did it. He did not fight back but kept silent in His love. Jesus of Nazareth became the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. He is the seed of Eve, who bruised the serpent's head. He is the great descendant of David, who brings about everlasting righteousness. The King got down on His knees and served His own people as a servant. Once and for all He dispelled the doubt about God's good intentions, which was the gateway for the first lie [a spiritual battle behind the scenes] . He went above and beyond for us. Thus, He single-handedly laid the foundation for the eternal, perfect, and voluntary covenant of love. This insight, that our live and future is not in our control, but is God's doing, became the engine of the Reformation movement.

2. The Reformation in historical perspective

In the 16th century the Vatican was at the temporary peak of its power [see: 1260 years V-dominance]. The papal college had managed over time to make people completely dependent on their institution. People were terrified with the specter of eternal hell and purgatory. Censorship was applied to those who expressed undesirable ideas. The Bible reading and Mass were done in Latin, completely inaccessible to the majority of peoples. Whoever did not observe the sacraments and did not pay the money for the indulgences was lost. Influencing the opinion of the masses formed the dubious foundation of this stronghold of power. Under [a global pact] you will discover that the same strategy is still applied in our days. Rome was a wicked institution that grew exceptionally rich at the expense of commoners. Everything revolved around power. At the height of that power, the followers of Jesus took a stand. It couldn't go on like this. What initially started as an attempt for an institutional renewal, was forced to a split. An eventful period began.

Historically, 1517 is designated as the starting point. Luther, a converted Roman monk, boldly nailed his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg. He was banned that same year. On several occasions he defended his new position. This led to the disappointing realization that there was no room for spiritual renewal in Rome. A time of fleeing and hiding began. At that time, Luther fully invested in the translation of the Bible into the German language. In 1534 he was done with that. Many more people, known and lesser known, would follow his trail. The eyes of millions, many millions of people opened. The greatest spiritual revival of the past five hundred years became a fact.

Were the Reformers perfect? No. Of course, they knew that too. It is not without reason that they themselves emphasized the need for grace and forgiveness. But with the help of the Spirit, they got to the heart of the matter. And they had the guts to put this on the table in these troubling times. What was their motivation to do so?

3. Sola: the beating heart of the reformers

The Reformation gave a loud and clear 'no' to the incumbent religious rulers. This was captured in a number of characteristics sola mottos:

Sola scriptura

Religious ideas should be tested against the Bible. It should not be the case that there is one institution that claims to have the truth, without giving people the opportunity to think it thru for themselves. After all, God's covenant of love is voluntary, not imposed. Every person should therefore be able to read and research the Bible for themselves.

Sola gratia

We live by God's grace, not because we do it so well ourselves.

Sola Fide

You belong to God, not based on your own Christian karma, because you follow the sacraments or pay money, but because you entrust yourself with all that you are and have to Jesus. Believing is entrusting yourself in response to what God says.

Solus Christus

Not all kinds of saints, Mary, or bishops, but Jesus is central. Unfortunately, nothing has changed on this point either. The current Pope has recently placed the fate of the world in the hands of the 'pure heart of Mary' in front of everyone. That's sacrilege. No one but Jesus control’s this world.

Soli deo Gloria

Our life is not about building an attractive image. Whoever loves God wants to give Him the honor and admiration for what He has done. In a covenant of love, each member esteems the other higher than himself. So, give God the praise and praise that is due to Him alone.

These five sola’s were not only a counter to wrong ideas and practices. Above all, it was a resounding 'yes' to Jesus, the eternal Son of God. He has taken the fate of people to heart. Everything was in His hand, and He made it happen. This gospel is first and foremost good news for everyone, young and old, rich and poor, theologian or layman, man or woman, Jew or Gentile. The body text of reformer Luther therefore became Romans 1:16-17:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith”” (Romans 1 : 16-17).

The righteous live by faith. That was the core message. The words 'justice' and 'just' simply mean that you can stand 'just' before God. You are allowed to live with Him in an open way because He restored the relationship. The Symbolism of the Tabernacle and the Temple [See: God's family continues to grow] showed that this required a sacrifice. Not just any sacrifice. But God's own sacrifice. Because He Himself bore our sin, we can stand right before Him. That's what this belief is about. Being justified is covenant language. The righteous lives by faith in the Gospel, namely the knowledge that God Himself ensured that the covenant could get off the ground. Anyone who begins to understand this also understands the sola’s.  

4. The storm of the counter-Reformation

Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through...” Mary? By the priests? By paying enough money? By self-invented sacraments? No..., no one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14). That insight changed everything. For at once the entire Roman institution was pushed aside.

Rome lost the monopoly on the mediation between God and men. For centuries they had claimed that the most important good under the sun, the promise of salvation, could only be obtained through them. But the reformers showed, based on the Bible, that it is not necessary to get the approval of the pope to become a member of God's eternal family. This hit the Vatican's heart. Rome was not interested in a substantive reflection. Did the reformers have a point? Was it really time for renewal? Had they lost track of God's truth and love? None of that. It was the power that was affected. That's what it was all about. And that had to be fixed as soon as possible.

But reversing the impact of the Reformation turned out not to be so easy. Bruce Springsteen sings in the hit Dancing in the dark: '...can't start a fire without a spark'. That spark was there, and the fire went wild. Many people, millions of people recognized themselves in the analysis of the reformers. Even entire countries distanced themselves from the corrupt institution and began to go their own way. That provoked a fierce, sinister reaction. Because power had to be restored. At all costs.

4A - A military order, a spiritual warfare

In 1534, the Societas Iesu (the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuit Order) was founded in Paris. The foreman was Ignatius of Loyola. He collaborated with Francis Xavier, Peter Faber, Alfonso Salmeron, Diego Lainez, Nicholas Bobadilla and Simao Rodrigues. Shortly afterwards, in 1540, the order was approved by the Pope.

In St. Peter's Basilica is a monument to Loyola, in which he has his foot on the head of a Protestant. It doesn't take much imagination to understand the message. The purpose of the Jesuit order is also reflected in their original oath:

“I…declare and swear, that his holiness the Pope is Christ's Vicegerent and is the true and only Head of the Catholic or Universal Church throughout the earth; and that by virtue of the keys of binding and loosing, given to his Holiness by my Savior, Jesus Christ, he hath power to dispose heretical kings, princes, states, commonwealths and governments, all being illegal without his sacred confirmation and that they may safely be destroyed.”
“...I furthermore promise and declare that I will, when opportunity presents, make and wage relentless war, secretly or openly, against all heretics, Protestants and Liberals, as I am directed to do, to extirpate and exterminate them from the face of the whole earth…”

G. Kah, The New World Religion, Hope International Publishing inc. Pages 242-243. Original oath located in the Library of Congress, Washington, DC, Library of Congress Catalog Card #66-43354.

The phrase ' I am directed to do' shows the highly hierarchical and military structure of the order. You simply carry out what you are commanded to do. The supreme boss is therefore (to this day) addressed as superior general. The image in St. Peter's Basilica and the tone of the oath shows the enormous weight of what is going on here. It is nothing less than spiritual warfare. Initially, the Jesuit order, which acquired great power in a short time, proceeded with a heavy hand. Through the Inquisition untold numbers of people were persecuted, tortured, and murdered. But when the Reformation became too extensive, this hard line no longer worked.

Under [toward unity without Jesus] you can read about the soft line that the Jesuit order started in the twentieth century. The goal remains unchanged, to bring the church and the whole world under the system of Rome, but the ways are different. Rome is working hard to bring all ecclesiastical denominations under its own authority. The Jesuits — in the form of the Papal Council for Promoting Christian Unity — are still in the lead.

An important strategic element in this soft line movement is to reduce the faith to a so-called 'core'. Anything that distracts from a substantive conversation helps. Talking about differences is put in a negative light. However, it is highly questionable whether these so-called differences are a matter of nuance, or whether the heart of the Christian faith is once again being touched here. Go to [toward unity without Jesus] for more information.

Here you find an accessible lecture about dubious dogmas.

Unbiblical stuff the Catholic Church teaches: Mary, Indulgences, Eucharist, Priests, 7 sacraments  

While you may have never heard of the Jesuit order, in reality they are the most powerful organization in our world today. Under [a global pact] you can read more about their meteoric rise, the unprecedented influence they have, and the main strategy followed.

4B - Counterattack with alternative prophetic ideas

A specific problem Rome faced was the prophetic interpretation that the Reformers linked to the Bible. In the timeline you see a bar at the bottom that starts with [a spiritual battle behind the scenes] and continues to [a renewed earth]. These tiles show the epicentre of the spiritual battle in history, from the earliest beginning until the moment when there will truly be peace on earth. A continuous historical line is visible, in which different world powers play a key role. According to the prophecy, Rome is the last of these empires. From this realm arises a new power, a little horn, which grows into the dominant global player. In [1260 years V-dominance] you will find an extensive explanation about this newcomer. Unfortunately, you will find that no other conclusion is possible but to identify the new power with the rise of the Vatican. The reformers went along with this explanation, without exception. Not only because the current events of those days pointed in this direction, but also because of the strong Biblical papers.

The identification of Rome with the antichrist power was so convincing that many people and many countries began to distance themselves from this institution. Even in 1999, when the Lutheran church signed a new treaty with the Vatican, it was agreed that Rome should no longer be identified as antichrist. In the joint Lutheran Catholic commemoration of the Reformation in 2017, this was repeated:

“While Lutherans overwhelmingly agree with Luther's critique of the papacy, today they reject Luther's identification of the pope with the antichrist.”
‍ from_conflict_to_community_3.pdf ( , pg 84

Apparently, the idea that the Vatican equals the anti-Christian power of Bible prophecy had taken root deeply. That caused headache. Could the Pope still solve this problem? You can scare people and threaten reprisals, but if there are too many people who subscribe to a belief, it will no longer have any effect in the long run. What do you do then? You can try if it is possible to introduce alternative ideas, in the hope that you can change people's minds on the subject.

Shortly after the Council of Trent (1545-1563 AD), the tightly organized Jesuit order came out with two completely opposing interpretations of Biblical prophecy. This in itself is remarkable. The two following theories were introduced on the theological marketplace.

  • Alcazar wrote a thick 900-page book in which he developed a preterist view. According to the preterist view (praeteritus means: past tense), 'the little horn' of Daniel refers to the Greek prince Antiochus IV. The beast of Revelation 13 symbolized Nero. The rest of the book of Revelation is said to have taken place in the first 6 centuries AD. Consequently, it's all a thing of the past. And so, you don't have to look for an antichrist in the here and now. It became the dominant current within the RKK, but also within Protestant mainline currents such as Lutherism and Methodism.
  • Ribera wrote a slightly less thick book, of 500 pages, in which he had developed a futuristic vision. According to this view, the last week of Daniel's [490 years] prophecy would refer to a future event (hence the name futurism). The end time would only come in the final piece of world history. Then a one-time antichrist comes on the scene who desecrates a newly built temple in Jerusalem and causes misery for seven years. Ribera does not seem to have been a gifted orator himself and died at the age of 54. His work was further promoted by Robert Bellarmine, Italian Cardinal, Jesuit, (born 1542-1621). Under [1260 Years of V-dominance] you see the cover of the books written by Alcazar and Ribera including some extra information.

By introducing the ingeniously devised alternatives, the order sought to cloud the view of God's prophetic calendar. The aim was to divert attention from Rome and put the Reformation explanation out of the picture. Over time, this proved successful.

If you want more information about this fascinating topic, this is a nice lecture to start with. It is part of a series. You may have to get used a bit to the voice, but the content is easy to follow.

Prophetic Panorama - Pastor Stephen Bohr - YouTube

4C - Success achieved in the end time area

Preterism, the idea that all prophecy refers to the past, is thriving in liberal Protestantism. In fact, liberals don't believe in prophecy at all. Since the Enlightenment, new skepticism grew about anything that would fall outside the known laws of nature. The idea that it is possible to tell something about the future was rejected. Within this climate, Preterism was an obvious choice.

Futurism, the idea that end-time prophecy only pertains to the last bit of history, is rife in conservative Protestant circles. The ideas are also widespread in all kinds of Protestant denominations, from Baptists and Evangelicals to Charismatic groups. This kind of end-time theology has its origins in the 19th century. In 1825 the Plymouth Brethren were formed, eager to see a renewal within the then rigid Anglican church. John Nelson Darby was a member of this society. He wrote a book on a futuristic basis, which initially received little attention. Later, however, CA Scofield discovered Darby's book, which had been sitting on the shelf in America for some time, gathering dust. Scofield wrote a commentary on the Bible from a futuristic perspective, which has been printed over 10 million times. In fact, Hal Lindsay's popular futuristic-oriented series has sold some 80 million copies, in 14 languages. Countless films based on futuristic end-time scenarios were produced.

Perhaps the appeal of exciting end-time stories contributes to the great popularity of this view. But what plays the decisive role in the acceptance of the futuristic end-time theory is probably the explanation of Israel's role in world history. Certainly, God cannot leave the promises to 'His people' unfulfilled. So, there must be a new historical chapter ahead for this nation. Futurism provides room for such a scenario.

According to the futuristic teachings God has delayed His promise to the national people of Israel. He has inserted an intermediate phase for the church. That is why a gap appears in the 70-week prophecy. The first 69 weeks have already passed, but then, unexpectedly, the church came on the scene. Daniel hadn't seen that coming yet. That prophetic pause, which started after close of week 69, has now lasted for about two thousand years, but seems to be coming to an end. After all, the state of Israel has already been established. Soon the church will be taken off the world stage via a secret rapture and then God will pick up the thread again with His own people, the nation Israel. In that future time Israel will be saved, the Jews will become political world leaders under the leadership of the Messiah and God will still fulfill the promises to His people. After all, God cannot be unfaithful to His own promises. That's the basic idea.

That an intervening period has been inserted for the church is, according to this theology, a special mystery that the Apostle Paul was allowed to gain insight into (Romans 11:25). As said, colleague Daniel did not know anything about it yet. The reason for this drastic change in governance is that God wanted to build in time to give 'the Gentiles' a chance as well. Actually, it was a good thing that Israel rejected the gospel, and that the promises were not yet fulfilled, because now Paul had time to go on a missionary journey to the Gentiles. First a lot of Gentiles are to be saved and then God continues with His old plan.

The fact that Paul, in his conclusion on this complicated subject, does not say '... then all Israel shall be saved', but '... so all Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11:26) is apparently not considered. That Paul speaks alternately about biological Israel and theological Israel because this is the whole point, is also missed. In short, that God is faithful to 'His people' and to 'the promises' is certainly true. But whether futurism provides the right explanation for this is highly questionable. The theological inconsistencies are quickly piling up. About the role of national Israel and the significance of this special people group in our own time, you will find an in-depth explanation under the [490 - Israel] tile.

Meanwhile, the belief that the epicentre of anti-Christian power lies in Rome has become a rarity. Justly so? I would say, dig into the timeline and form your own conclusions.

5. Law & Gospel

To make their point clear, the Reformation emphasized the importance of faith over good works. The idea that you can build a Christian karma that earns you a ticket to heaven, or shorten the (supposed) purgatory, was radically rejected. You can only come into God's presence because He has taken our sin upon Himself. In this way He set the matter straight. Luther called it the happy exchange.

But is it possible to completely separate salvation from your actual lifestyle? That misconception seems to have gained widespread support within the Protestant Evangelical world. What does the Bible teach us about this? We will reflect on this in a number of steps. We do this on the basis of a number of Bible passages, so that you can test the reasoning yourself.

5A - The law says do this and you will live

The law of God, which Moses gave to the people around 1400 BC, was concluded with a ceremony. The people were located on two mountains, Gerizim and Ebal. There was a blessing and a curse pronounced. If the people would keep the law, God could bless the society of Israel. But should they break the covenant by denying God in their doings, the curse would follow. Recently, a small 'curse tablet' was found on Mount Ebal, dated to this period and bearing the name of God (Yahweh) [God's Covenant at the crossroads of superpowers]. So, the people themselves were given the choice between blessing and curse:

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgements, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess” (Deuteronomy 30:15-16).

5B - The covenant could not function on the basis of the law

The covenant agreement was simple. The people kept the rules of the covenant and God would bless them. In practice, not much came of this. What does the Jewish apostle Paul say about this?

“...and the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death” (Romans 7:10).

The covenant with the law was meant to lead to a good and righteous life. If they deviated from this, there was a temple service to set things right again. The law had all kinds of provisions to regulate the covenant between God and people. Yet it never fully worked. Paul indicates that the law made clear what lives in the hearts of people. Just as a level shows if something is skewed, the law showed that the people were constantly deviating from God's moral character. You can never stand completely pure before God by yourself. The ceremonial laws surrounding the temple service were also unable to really change that. You could sacrifice as much as you wanted, but the relationship with God would never be perfect. The once fanatical Pharisee came to the startling realization that the covenant could never succeed, based on the old covenant regulations.

5C - God has set things right Himself

Does it mean there is no way to see Gods promises fulfilled? On the contrary. The core of the gospel is that God Himself has resolved this issue. He has done this by undergoing and bearing all the consequences of sin in person. In this miraculous way the covenant was set right:

“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin; He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4).

Thanks to this sacrifice, we can live in God's presence forever. With the coming of the Messiah, a renewed covenant was thus made. A better and stronger alliance:

“But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second” (Hebrews 8:6-7).

What could be better about this new covenant?

“For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14).

The sacrifice that God Himself made, by giving up His Son, really set things straight. The rulings of the earlier temple service functioned as a kind of credit card. Man's guilt could not be solved by human actions. It would only really be paid at a later time. Based on that promise, 'the card' was valid. Jesus paid the full price with His own life.

5D - No more rules?

If God Himself has resolved the issue, does it still matter what we do on 'our side' of the covenant? Can youseparate your lifestyle from your salvation? Unfortunately, it is sometimes interpreted that way, with an appeal to Paul.

"For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace" (Romans 6:14).

Aha, we are no longer under the law. Since Jesus, the era of grace and love has come. The law is something from the past, from the Old Testament. John seems to say it too.

“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

In short, it is said, that whoever believes is no longer under any law. There are no more rules in God's Kingdom. The commandments of God are outdated. It is replaced by the era of love.

5E - He who loves God keeps the commandments

But as is so often the case, the Bible is used as it suits best. The fact that there are no more rules appeals to our sinful hearts. But upon closer inspection it appears to be different. You only need to read one sentence further to find out the nuance:

“For sin shall not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? Not at all!” (Romans 6: 14-15).

That same John who just said that the law came through Moses and the grace and truth through Jesus also speaks highly of God's commandments.

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (I John 5:2-3).
“He who says, “I know Him”, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4).

This is completely in line with all biblical authors living and writing under the new covenant. Jesus re-emphasizes the commandments Himself in the Sermon on the Mount, by contrasting outer rules with what lives in people's hearts. James states that faith without fruit is dead and worthless. Paul says, as is clear from the quote above, that he does not mean to say that faith is a license to ignore the rules of the covenant. Peter warns those who ignore Gods law should not count on salvation:

“For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (II Peter 2 : 21).

The commandments of the covenant — we'll go into that a little more detail in a moment — are still important to God. Apparently, the belief of the righteous does not change anything about that. But how do things go together?

5F - Test of authenticity

If you have a beautiful glittering stone, you can go to a goldsmith to see if it is real. Sometimes such a stoneseems valuable at first glance, but after closer examination it turns out to be counterfeit. What do you think, which diamond is real?

There is a similar test when it comes to faith. You can say you believe, but is it real? Consider the following quotes.

“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless” (James 1:26).
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14).
“And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him” (I John 2:28-29).
“In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest; Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God….” (1 John 3:10).
“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:18-23).

There is a connection between faith and your lifestyle according to God's covenant. That makes sense. If people say they have committed their life to God and love Him, while they do not try to live by the rules of the covenant, then something is wrong. In that case the stone is fake.

But didn’t the reformers say that you are saved "only" by faith? It is grace from God and not a result of what you make of it yourself. Sola fide. Sola gratia. Is that compatible with this test of authenticity? It seems anevangelical law is being introduced through the back door. You have to meet this and here, to make sure that your faith is genuine enough. Does it ultimately depend on you again, whether you will be allowed to live in God's presence?

In order to better understand the relationship between law and gospel, some historical awareness is needed. Specifically, what does Paul's expression "under the law" refer to? We zoom in on the period in which Israel was assigned to be a light for the nations (1400 BC until the coming of Jesus). Could it be possible that some rules were in force for this period only while others are permanent?  

5G - The Role of the law for Israel

Paul was a fervent champion of keeping the law of Moses scrupulously. He himself says the following about this:

“(...) though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the sock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:4-6).

In the timeline you see that since [God's covenant at the crossroads of superpowers] a special period started. The people of Israel entered the Promised Land and were given a special role there. They should be a light to the surrounding nations. God had promised special blessing through the covenant. But there was a condition attached to it. The people had to keep God's law. Before his encounter with Jesus, Paul, like many contemporaries, did his utmost to live according to the laws of God. Perhaps then the covenant would flourish, and God would bless Israel.

When Paul talks about 'being under the law' he is referring to the period from 1400 BC until the coming of the Messiah Jesus. That was a time when the covenant was regulated by various regulations, such as the temple service, the feasts, and social laws. They were designed to shape the covenant and bring life and peace to the people. That period is now definitely over, he explains to the Galatians:

“Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was out tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:21-25).

Since this period has passed, all the rules and regulations that came with it are no longer necessary or valid. Anyone who knows Paul's letters knows that he was keen on this. Whoever went back to the 'old' ordinances had apparently not understood the meaning of Jesus. He addresses both the Christians in Colossae and Galatia about this:

“You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain” (Galatians 4:10-11).
“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace”(Galatians 5:4).
“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).

Why does Paul say that these rules and institutions are a thing of the past? Because they were meant to settle the covenant between God and His people. The law was designed to stand right before God and to be able to live in His presence. God would give His blessing and Israel would keep the covenant rules. But in the course of time, it became clear that a covenant between God and people based on these conditions is not going to work. Sincere Jewish people felt that too. That is why Paul even calls it 'a prison'.

As we saw earlier, God has resolved the situation. He took upon Himself the consequences of human sin through the sacrifice of Jesus. That is the core message of the gospel. This is why Paul finds it so important to emphasize that the law is no longer the basis of the covenant. He has discovered that these settings were temporary, foreshadowing the real solution. The phrase 'no longer under the law' thus points to the change in God's government with the coming of Jesus. His sacrifice saved and confirmed the everlasting covenant.

5H - Is the law a thing of the past?

The expression being no longer under the law is sometimes interpreted as if there are no more rules for God. We are no longer under any law. With the coming of Jesus, the era of 'love' has arrived. But would Paul really mean that we no longer live under the moral law of God? As if it is suddenly no longer important and you can steal and lie to your heart's content and go your own way? That would be absurd. The covenant rules are the rules of the eternal Kingdom. They will not change.  

Therefore, in the book of Revelation, clearly in the context of the new covenant, Jesus praises those who keep the commandments of God.

“Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on’. “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them” (Revelation 14:12-13).

So, what changed in the law during the shift from the old to the new covenant? And what remained? To gain insight into this, we need a clear distinction. It turns out that part of the rules is no longer in force, but apparently the commandments of God remain. What to make of this?

5I - Temporary rules, permanent rules

In [the climax of an ancient conflict] you will find an extensive explanation of the distinction between the part of the law that is no longer in force and the part that always remains. In the final battle keeping God's commandments will play an important role. Jesus said that in the last days lawlessness will increase and love will grow cold. In many ways God's creative order is distorted and the rules of the covenant are trampled underfoot. That is why it is important as a Christian to have a clear view of the value of the law and not to dismiss it on the basis of a misconception. Here you get a summary.

There is an essential difference between the ten covenant words (the ten commandments) and the rest of all the statutes and rules found in the law of Moses. Here you can see the main differences.

The part of the law that is no longer in force since Jesus, is the temporary part in the right column. Those rules were meant to manage the covenant. They cover the organization of Israel, the temple service and deal with the neighbour and the stranger in the (religious) context of the Middle East. Yet it has never been possible to make the covenant a success on this basis. Humans did not come into a straight relationship with the Creatorby following these rules. The sacrifices of the temple service were symbols, and the sin in the human heart continually disturbed and clouded the matter. The law as such could not change that. It would never get off the ground. It’s our fortune that God has resolved it Himself by bearing the consequence of His own law. Therefore, all temporary provisions, that were to steer the covenant in the right direction, are no longer necessary. Jesus' sacrifice set it right once and for all. That is what we call justification. That is appropriated on our side with faith, recognition, trust, and gratitude.

But the ten covenant words - the left column - always remain in effect. These are the commandments that Jesus, Paul, John, Peter, and James refer to. The Ten Commandments are not outdated. That would also be very strange. After all, these are the rules of God's eternal Kingdom. Two more points help to clarify this.

The Commandment of Love.

The great commandment of love does not replace the ten commandments, but it summarizes them. Look under [God's Covenant at the crossroads of superpowers] to see how the commandment to love God and your neighbor as yourself, is reflected in the structure of the Ten Commandments.

The Sabbath Commandment.

The fourth commandment is the command to remember and keep the Sabbath. But didn’t Paul say this particular rule is part of the old covenant (“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come…” Colossians 2:16)? Can't you reason that if one of the Ten Commandments has expired, the others have probably become less important as well?

Unfortunately, this view is based on a misunderstanding. Paul speaks of a plural of Sabbaths. That does not refer to the weekly Sabbath, but to the special Sabbath days instituted along with the Jewish feasts (such as "unleavened bread" and "the Feast of Weeks"). You will come across them in the explanation of the Passover week in the [490 - Israel] period. These particular Jewish Sabbath days are associated with the institutions of the Jewish nation in the period from 1400 BC to Christ. This is outdated since the coming of the Messiah. But when was the weekly Sabbath instituted? Not during the formation of Israel as a nation, but already at creation:

“And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:2-3).

Therefore, the weekly Sabbath, in contrast to the other ones, is not a particular Jewish thing. It was not instituted by Moses, as was the case for all other Jewish holidays and special sabbaths, but it was to be remembered.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy….For in six days the LORD make the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8-11).

Consequently, the weekly Sabbath, which has been in effect since the creation, is not specific related to the time of the old covenant with Israel. That is why the Sabbath was not abolished with the coming of Jesus. Jesus acknowledged the day itself when He referred to Himself as the "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28). Jesus, in his talk about the consummation of world history, also assumed the Sabbath day would still be honored (Matthew 24 : 20). The early church has observed this weekly restday, only much later was it changed to the Sun-day, merging Christianity with pagan religion.

The Sabbath is and remains part of the Ten Commandments and, just like the other nine, will be in effect until the end of times. In the final battle, the fourth commandment even takes on a decisive role. Read more about it under [the climax of an ancient conflict].

5J - The gospel and the ten covenant rules go hand in hand

You cannot separate faith and kingdom rules, as if they do not belong together. The temporary provisions, which shaped the role of historical Israel on the world stage, are no longer in force. It was a foreshadowing, a symbolism of something much greater to come. The law of God's eternal kingdom however, as expressed in the ten words of the covenant, are forever. They were written in stone. The moment Jesus gives the great commission to share the gospel with all nations, He therefore also recalls His commandments [see: Jesus:good news for all nations!].

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19).

The basis for the covenant is no longer the collection of legal provisions and rules concerning the temple service and the organization of the Jewish people. The sacrifice of Jesus set everything straight at once. Belonging to God's family is a matter of grace and His inexhaustible love and goodness. It all starts with the Creator who shows that He will go to great lengths to build His community. That makes one stand in awe. What else do you need to add to that?

But actually, looking back, God's worldwide family has never relied on temple rituals, holidays, or strict adherence to rules. It has been faith from the very beginning, faith in the promise that God Himself would provide salvation. You can already see this reflected in the very first promise (Genesis 3:15). Also, it is assumed in the core text of the Reformation. Paul says about the good news:

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, “The just shall live by faith””(Romans 1:17).

Paul is referring here to a quote from the prophet Habakkuk, who lived hundreds of years earlier, in the time of the old covenant. He already knew that faith in God's promise is the real basis of the covenant.

Habakkuk was not alone in this conviction. Hebrews 11 describes a long hall of fame of people who lived during the time of the old covenant and even before that. They are all called witnesses of faith. Own merit has never been the basis of God's community. It has always been faith, trust in the goodness of the Creator. In [God's family continues to grow] you discover that this has been the case in all places, even for all nations outside of Israel.

Not only has the temporary legislation become obsolete, but the definition of who belongs to God's people has also been elucidated. Being a member of the Jewish people offers no guarantees. Strict adherence to Jewish law or biological descent (in Paul's terminology 'the flesh') is not decisive. In fact, that has never been the case. All the prophets of old have stressed this. The real Israel of God consists of all people, Jews and Gentiles, who have entrusted their lives to God. Together they are heirs of the promise. A promise which is stretched to a global scale. Learn more about this grand upgrade under [490 - Israel].

5K - Trust and effort, out of love

Finally, the question needs to be answered whether this revaluation of Gods law will not create great tension in the relationship between God and people. We have seen that salvation cannot be completely separated from lifestyle. It is unthinkable that you live as if God's covenant rules do not exist and yet think that you are part of this covenant just because on one fine church evening you once said that you believe. If the fruit of God's Spirit does not become visible in your life, then your faith is dead. And therefore worthless. You can put a glittering stone to the test – is it really a diamond? Faith can also be tested by looking at your way of life. Butthen, when is it good enough?

The answer is simple. Anyone who starts calculating here will get stuck. If you are looking for minimal requirements something is not right. If that’s the main question you worry about, it reveals what lives in your heart. It is not love, but self-interest to get what you want for a minimal price. But there simply is no suchdilemma for those who truly love God. Such a person lives out of trust in God's goodness and is motivated to grow in truth, authenticity, and love. Why? Of course, you know that your own efforts in no way forms the basis for the covenant. It is grace from God from start to end. God’s love and grace do not change when you struggle with certain sin, addictions, or patterns in your life. There is no reason to become insecure about your salvation based on such struggles. It's exactly the other way around. If it would leave you indifferent, then there is a serious problem.

If you are struggling with your own character, it is a sign that the Spirit is on its way with you and that you are a child of God. Every believer has that experience. The ultimate redemption still lies in the future. Paul describes this struggle in Romans 7 and 8. Who will deliver me, he asks? Note the future tense. But if you notice that the Spirit is working in you, then that is your warranty for the future. If you love God, you will be both relaxed and willing to live according to the laws of His kingdom.

Elsewhere, the beautiful image of a bride is used. A bride makes herself beautiful and attractive for the wedding day. Not because she has to, but because she wants to. Likewise, God's community is made attractive, not so much in a physical sense, but in a moral sense. If you know that the great wedding feast is coming, you would like to be prepared for it, right?

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 19:7-8. See also Ephesians 5:25-27).
“Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:13-14).

The basis of the christian faith is always relaxation, but those who learn to love God and their neighbour also want to exert themselves. Not because you have to, but because you want to be as morally pure and attractive as possible for the great day. That is the sign of true faith. How that works in your own life, you can only determine yourself with God's help.  

If God is working in your life and you have said yes to it, He will finish it. You can fully rely on that. Even if your own heart is stiff, you are confronted with yourself so often and it all takes a long time. Once you are known and called, He will make a diamond out of you, who can live in His eternal presence and forever reflect His glory.

“Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom he foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:27-29).


“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2).