REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY (Part II)
If you read last week’s Eye of Prophecy article on Replacement Theology, you might have said, “Okay, I understand that it’s Biblically wrong to believe that the Church has replaced the people and nation of Israel including the erroneous conclusion that God has abandoned his plans for Israel and the Jews in favor of the Church; but does that really make a difference in today’s world or the future?” Or if you didn’t read the previous article or know very little about Replacement Theology, you might be thinking: So, what’s this about? Why is it such a big deal? What harm has it done or will do? In the end God will make all things right.
You got the last part right. The Bible is explicitly clear: God will conquer evil and restore justice and peace to this corrupt and crazy world we live in. But until that time, the Lord also expects his true followers to proclaim the good news of the Gospel, to defend the truth of God’s Word, to resist and expose false teachings, to fully understand that his plan for Israel is embedded in everlasting and irreplaceable Covenants that he made with Abraham and David. God will make good on these eternal promises to Israel. We’re watching these things unfold before our very eyes, in this generation.
Last week we looked briefly at one of history’s most horrendous crimes (The Holocaust) in which evil leaders—Hitler and the Third Reich—of an entire nation used Replacement Theology to, in part, justify genocide of the Jewish race. They cunningly cited Martin Luther’s misguided, misunderstood, and misapplied theology that God had forever abandoned the Jews.
To wit: The Jews were not only a forgotten people, but they fully deserved all the bad things that had happened to them or would happen to them. Moreover, the Church was the only thing that mattered to God; thus, the Church would inherit all of the blessings that had been previously promised to Israel and the Jews. Never mind that Hitler and his cronies also hated Christianity and persecuted most pastors and churches that in any way, shape, or form spoke out against the Third Reich. Those who supported or protected the Jews would suffer the same horrific fate in the concentration camps.
After all, Israel as a nation was no more, having been destroyed by the Romans some fifteen hundred years before Luther came on the scene. The Jews had been scattered to the four winds, wandering throughout the earth, settling in countries that barely tolerated their presence. Worst of all according to advocates of Replacement Theology: The vast majority of Jews in Germany and elsewhere refused to accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah and convert to Christianity. Luther considered this an affront to God and the Church; thus, in a display of appalling intolerance he turned on the Jews and hounded them in no less fashion than the Catholic Church had persecuted him and the fledgling Protestant movement.
In a strange but perverse twist of fate, Martin Luther and those who championed his departure from the Catholic Church became bedfellows with the Catholic Church in their oppression of the Jews. They endorsed the tactics of the very institution that Martin Luther defied when he proclaimed the real truth of the gospel … salvation by the grace of God apprehended by faith, and faith alone. Luther knew all about the mostly catholic Crusades against Islam which also included slaughter of thousands of Jews on the way to Jerusalem and in Jerusalem. And he certainly knew about the Spanish Inquisition in which the Catholic Church murdered thousands of Jews, before, during, and after Martin Luther’s lifetime. Yet when it came to Judaism, Catholics and Protestants set aside their differences to harass, deprive, oppress, and even eradicate God’s chosen people … in an effort to make sure the Jews got what they deserved.
The Risk of Taking on Israel
Yes, it’s true that God again withdrew his protection of the Jews that led to the Roman conquest of 70 AD. Because of the lapse of some fifteen hundred years, I suppose it was somewhat natural or humanly logical for Martin Luther to surmise that the Jews would never be restored to the land of Israel or fulfill their God-appointed destiny. This may have been even truer with the passage of another four hundred years leading to the 20th century. But there’s absolutely no excuse for anyone today to ignore the incredible Birth of a Nation as demonstrated by Israel’s rebirth in May, 1948. The Jews return to the Promised Land signaled a homecoming to the place given to them by God as an everlasting possession. Hence, they should no longer be replaced by the Church; in fact, this replacement was a grievous error to begin with.
There’s no excuse to any longer support the twisted theology that Israel will be forever supplanted by the Church, with the disturbing results such as nations and even churches boycotting, sanctioning, divesting, and delegitimizing (even demonizing) Israel in today’s world. Or the new emerging spin of Replacement Theology, given the term Christian Palestinianism. In a few words, that term means (illogically and unreasonably) taking sides with the Arab Palestinians in Israel against Israel itself for two reasons: (1) Endorsement of the core tenants of Replacement Theology; (2) total ignorance of the history of Palestine and Israel since 1917, but especially since 1948. Indeed, Anti-Semitism has begun to rear its ugly head all over the world, unlike anything we’ve seen since the Holocaust.
There are some who even compare the State of Israel to Hitler’s Third Reich. That is the absolute height of hypocrisy, hatred, and ignorance, given the fact six million completely innocent Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. In past wars and in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Israelis go so far as to warn Palestinian civilians to vacate certain areas, before the IDF targets those areas to attack terrorists (who blatantly use their people as human shields). Are these the tactics of a nation bent on genocide? Hardly. Conversely, Hamas and other Muslim terrorist groups deliberately target Israeli civilians with their rockets, missiles, and suicide bombers. They even use their own people as human shields. Truly in today’s world: Evil is good and good is evil.
They have no idea what they’re doing. They have no clue as to the enormous risk taken when people, cities, and countries denounce Israel. Do they think that God’s promise that those who curse Israel will, in turn, be cursed was an idle threat? (Genesis 12:3). Or maybe they do know what they’re doing! Perhaps they like to play with fire.
The very fact of Israel’s return from the fires of Nazi death camps and the floods of dispersion precludes and refutes the notion that the Jews have no place in God’s design for the human race. So what, if it took nearly 2000 years … it could have taken 4000 years but it still would have happened. A thousand years is but a day in God’s cosmic calendar.
That was Luther’s monumental mistake, and the grave error made by so many so-called Christians today and even by true, well-meaning believers in Christ: That God has only one plan and it involves only the true Church, the body of Christ. WRONG! WRONG! Not that the Lord doesn’t have a wonderful plan for the Church, the bride of Christ … most assuredly he does. But he has an equally marvelous future for the very people he called out from the nations beginning with Abraham; the Jewish race who gave us our Messiah.
Israel’s destiny is certain. Her time of discipline by banishment to the ends of the earth is over. God has restored his protection of Israel, though there are still tough times ahead. She is being and will continue to be reestablished to her rightful place of prominence among the nations of the earth. She has a fervent hope and a glorious future guaranteed by none other than the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God who gave his name to Moses as I AM. No other god can predict the future, because there is no other god besides the true and living God … Yahweh.
We will continue to hammer this point home: God’s original purpose for Israel will be accomplished. This is not just a wish or a whim. Why? Because there are literally hundreds of Scriptural passages that dogmatically assert with absolute certainty that Israel will be reinstated as a nation and the Jews will return physically to that land and spiritually back to the God of Israel; and will one day (soon) recognize and passionately embrace their Messiah, Yeshua. There are far more Scriptural references to Israel’s future than that of the Church.
Passages such as: “See, my people will return from far away, from lands to the north and west and from as far south as Egypt. Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering. Yet Jerusalem says, ‘The Lord has deserted us; the Lord has forgotten us.’ Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:12-15).
The proponents of Replacement Theology can try as hard as they like to substitute the Church for Israel in these verses (and many other similar passages) but they will fail miserably. Just look at the passage again and try to squeeze the Church into the text. It can’t be done. There’s nothing whatsoever symbolic in this text. Just one example: the literal directions of the compass—north, west, south—in proximity to Jerusalem. From lands all around Israel, “my people will return from far away…” Nowhere (else) in Scripture do we learn that the Church will be returning to Jerusalem from distant lands or from lands surrounding Israel. Frankly, that’s absurd. The Church is not geographically centered anywhere (certainly not in Rome). It’s comprised of multiple Peoples, races, languages, and ethnic groups from every nation on the face of the earth.
Also, the last I heard, a mother’s deep love for her child is just as strong today as it was when Replacement Theology claims the Church replaced Israel … at Pentecost. Thus, the analogy with God’s immense love for Israel and guarantee that Israel will never be forgotten is just as true today and tomorrow and forever. But the Lord declares in this passage that even if a mother could forsake her child that the Lord would, “not forget you!” (Israel). Either God lied when he said this (and all the other passages that declare God’s eternal love and destiny for Israel) or the Church did not, in fact, replace Israel at Pentecost or any other time in history.
Replacement Theology … Back to Its Beginning
As alluded, the idea of the Church displacing Israel certainly didn’t begin in Martin Luther’s time. It was long before that, going all the way back to the first century. By the time that Paul wrote his letter to the church in Rome around 57 AD, some Gentile (and even some Jewish) believers were already entertaining the idea that the Jewish people in general and Israel in particular no longer had any meaningful place in God’s ultimate plan for the human race. That Israel’s time had come and gone; she had served her purpose as a chosen people. Accordingly, Israel must be cast-off in light of God’s unveiling of a great mystery—the synthesis of Jew and Gentile into one new creation.
In part this may have been attributed to their misunderstanding that the spiritual truth of the one new man in Christ also extended to the physical existence of Israel and the Jews … as presented in last week’s article by quoting from Galatians, which was written some seven-eight years before the book of Romans. “There is no longer Jew or Gentile… For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham….” (Galatians 3: 28-29).
And later when the gospels were written (although many alive at that time may have remembered the words of Jesus, himself … even before the gospels were written), some believers may have misunderstood and misapplied the parables of Jesus as found in Matthew 21 & 22. There are three parables: Parable of the Two Sons; (Matthew 21: 28-32); Parable of the Evil Farmers (Matthew 21: 33-46); Parable of the Wedding Dinner (Matthew 22: 1-14).
Each of these parables are addressed primarily to the Jewish religious leaders who had just tried to trap him again with a blunt confrontational question: “By what authority are you doing all these things. Who gave you the right? (Matthew 21:23). Jesus’s reply and handling of this question is remarkable … but so are all of his responses to the religious leaders. If you’re curious, go ahead and read it!
Each of the three parables contain the same theme/truth: Essentially that the Kingdom of God/Heaven will be removed from the Jews and given to the Gentiles. This is best summarized in the second parable when Jesus concludes: “I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will produce the proper fruit” (Matthew 21:43). At face value, then, it would seem feasible that 1st century Christians—especially Gentile Christians—would resolve that the new creation in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17) of each believer as individual members of the whole (the body of Christ) should supersede everything contained in the Old Covenant, including the very nation of Israel.
Note that Jesus was referring to the Kingdom of God exclusively in the context of the Jewish religious leaders (representing all of Israel) forfeiting their role and participation in accomplishing the very purpose for Israel’s existence, i.e. to be a light to all nations by sharing the Word of God and recognizing and accepting the Jewish Messiah at the appointed time of his arrival. The Jewish leaders did none of these things. More than that: In light of the overwhelming evidence (Jesus’s teaching and miracles), they still rejected their Messiah and eventually handed him over to be killed by the Romans.
Yet, the Kingdom of Heaven was not Israel itself, nor would it be confined to the Jews. That’s the pivotal point missed by those who say Israel is a nonentity … totally abandoned by God, completely cut off from all future prophecies and promises. It would not be Israel, herself, that would be forever thrown away; rather, it was the Kingdom of God—temporarily established in the hearts of individuals all over the world—that would be taken away from Israel.
Of course, Israel and the Jews would suffer the consequences, pay the penalty for once again disobeying God and his Word (specifically as applied to their Messiah); which was no less than future judgment placed on Israel by the Lord during the time of Moses … see Leviticus Chapter 26. The ultimate phase of that four-part declaration (Seven times over) entailed the destruction of Israel and exiled captivity to the Gentile nations. That’s exactly what happened in 70 AD; as well as the Babylonian Captivity in 586 BC, one that the Jews would tragically not learn their lesson.
Again, the pivotal point missed by Replacement Theology: Even the devastating loss of the Jews beloved land, Israel, and forced exile for nearly 2000 years was not a permanent consequence of their disobedience. In fact that was impossible, if for no other reason than all of the Old Testament promises of Israel’s restoration and eternal destiny as God’s chosen people, one of which was quoted earlier in this article.
For that matter, if God could renege on his promises to Israel, then couldn’t he conceivably do the same with promises made to New Covenant believers (the Church)? For example: What if the Lord decided not to Rapture the Church after all (I Thessalonians 4 and I Corinthians 15), because the Church had in the last days strayed so far from God that it was hardly recognizable?
Yes, how unfortunate that millions of people in today’s world prefer to ignore or even reject God’s magnificent plan for Israel and the Jews (remnant), because they simply cannot and will not grasp the fact that God’s discipline of Israel was only temporary. But already in the Apostle Paul’s time, this sinister half-truth had stealthily crept into the Church. Which is why the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write Chapters 9, 10, and 11 of Romans. Why Martin Luther and so many others have arbitrarily chosen to ignore these chapters found in the same book that Luther used as valid evidence against the practices of the Catholic Church, will be forever beyond my comprehension of such things. Except to say that even giants of the faith can be misled and deceived if they don’t study and compare all of Scripture … to all of Scripture.
Any passage/topic in the Bible can be interpreted and understood by using two criteria: (1) The Bible itself … either by context or by allowing one or more other passages to support, magnify or clarify a certain passage; (2) by historical events that verify the accuracy of Biblical prophecy and/or the validity of the existence of people, places, and events recorded in Scripture.
Time/space doesn’t permit an in-depth examination of these three marvelous chapters in Romans concerning Israel and how the Jewish people continue to fit into God’s timeless plan of the ages. Please read them for yourself and/or read the Eye of Prophecy article entitled, The Heart and Soul of Israel, published on 1-4-14, under the category of Current Events … for a more comprehensive understanding that God will never abandon what he calls his Special Possession.
Romans 9-11: The Enduring Legacy of the Jews and Israel
Paul had not yet been to Rome, thus he wasn’t personally involved or responsible for establishing the fellowship (church) of believers in Rome. His letter to the church in Rome was written from Corinth near the end of his third missionary journey throughout many provinces of the Roman Empire. Sometime before the letter was written Paul had significantly reduced his evangelistic efforts to the Jews. For two reasons: (1) Jesus had specifically selected Paul to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles; (2) Frequently, in his early preaching to the Jews, he had been severely persecuted by the Jewish religious leaders, some of whom were undoubtedly the very ones who took part in handing over Jesus to the Romans for crucifixion.
Nearly all of the early Christians were Jews; but in no small part attributed to Paul’s efforts, many Gentiles were accepting the Jewish Messiah as their Savior. And, as indicated: by the time that Paul wrote Romans, it’s evident that many believers were questioning whether God had or would eliminate Israel from her original prophetic inheritance; a birthright graphically depicted by Jewish prophets long before, particularly Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah.
Yet, Paul was still utterly passionate for and compassionate to his Jewish brethren. So much so, that he begins these three chapters with the most incomprehensible, unfathomable statement ever made by a human being (in my opinion). I say that in the context of how knowledgeable Paul already was about so great a salvation that Christ had made possible through his sacrificial death.
“My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned…” (Romans 9: 2-5)
After making this astounding statement, Paul then explains that Israel and the Jews are here to stay. And keep in mind, this was only some thirteen years before the tragic devastation of Jerusalem and total destruction of the Temple, as predicted by Jesus some twenty-five years earlier. Paul was fully aware of Jesus’s prediction.
“Well, then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people!” (Romans 9:6). Paul goes on to explain that the authentic children of Abraham would be those Jews who recognized that Isaac was the true Son, “…through whom your descendants will be counted, though Abraham had other children, too. This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children” (Verses 7-8).
By the end of Chapter 9, Paul had already gotten to the heart of the matter; by synthesizing and reconciling the dilemma of the New Covenant (that both Jew and Gentile are redeemed alike by faith in Messiah Jesus) with the Abrahamic covenant that the Jews would forever possess the land of Israel. This is possible because, “only a remnant (of the Jewish people) will be saved” (Verse 27). He goes on at the end of this Chapter and much of Chapter 10 to explain that both Jews and Gentiles are made right with God the same way, because, “…all who believe in him (Jesus) are made right with God” (Romans 10:4).
Not until Chapter 11 does Paul answer the final million dollar question of whether Israel itself would be utterly and inevitably disowned by God.
“I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel! Of course not! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin. No, God has not rejected his own people, whom he chose from the very beginning….” (Romans 11: 1-2).
Then, “Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves. Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it” (Romans 11:11-12, italics for emphasis).
This is nothing short of an astounding statement. Think about what’s being said here. Not only will individual Jews and Israel as a nation be restored to God, but the whole world (what’s left of it after the Great Tribulation) will receive God’s blessings beyond belief, i.e. global justice, prosperity, true brotherhood, unity, safety, peace … without wars and corruption and greed. The beginning of this great revival of the Jewish people is already beginning all over the world. More Jews have come to Christ in the last seventy years than in all of history. And it will culminate at the end of the Great Tribulation when, as a Nation, the Jews will cry out as one voice for Messiah Jesus to save them—both physically and spiritually. When they do so the entire world will receive a blessing of unrivaled and unheard of proportions.
“I will strengthen Judah and save Israel; I will restore them because of my compassion. It will be as though I had never rejected them, for I am the Lord their God, who will hear their cries” (Zechariah 10:6).
That my friend, is what the Second Coming of Christ—his physical return to Jerusalem at the end of the Great Tribulation—is all about, to be followed by the magnificent rule and reign of Jesus during the Millennium. Until and unless the Jews (which they certainly will) look up to see that redemption is near and, thereby, reach out and embrace Jesus as their Messiah, the Great Tribulation would continue until no one on the earth would be left alive. Jesus says as much during the Mount of Olives discussion with his disciples. “For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive. But it will be shortened for the sake of God’s chosen ones” (Matthew 24:21-22).
The chosen ones are the Jews, NOT the tribulation saints. Chosen ones is exactly the same terminology in Romans that Paul used for the Jews. There are other Bible passages to support application as the Jews (Jewish nation of Israel and Jews all over the world) not the least of which is a companion verse in Matthew 24. “And he will send out his angels with the mighty blast of a trumpet, and they will gather his chosen ones (some translations say “elect”) from all over the world….” (Verse 31). This verse clearly follows/succeeds Jesus’s physical return to the earth … read the preceding verses for confirmation. And this verse echoes numerous Old Testament passages that talk about the gathering of Jews from all over the earth, such as Isaiah Chapter 49, cited earlier in this article.
What is it, then, that will cause Christ to shorten the greatest calamity of all time … the Great Tribulation? None other than when the Jews shout their acknowledgment of Yeshua as Savior and King. When they say, Baruch, haba, beshem Adonai. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” In that very day, the King of all kings will personally put a stop to the world-wide carnage reaching such a terrible crescendo that would destroy civilization as we know it. Were it not for Messiah’s compassionate love for his people and his hearken to their desperate plea for help, and cry for salvation; the entire earth would be destroyed.
“And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say, ‘The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness’” (Romans 11:26).
Because God does, indeed, make all things work together for good to them that love him (Romans 8:28), he will turn the sadness and badness of Israel’s rejection of Messiah and rejection of Israel by the nations into a glorious victorious rescue of his people from utter annihilation at the hands of the Antichrist. And then pour out blessings of monumental proportions to those Gentiles who supported and sustained the Jews.
Things to Ponder
Most people who actively or tacitly support Replacement Theology don’t even know that’s what they’re doing; in fact, many have never even heard the term. They don’t know enough about the Bible to understand the significant difference between the Church and Israel, and even less about God’s two distinctly separate plans for these two groups of God’s people(s). Instead, they see through the eyes of misguided church leaders and listen to equally misguided and misinformed secular politicians and journalists who themselves ignore the true history of the Middle East concerning Israel and its Arab neighbors. Just look at the dozens of United Nations sanctions against Israel, while at the same time minimizing and virtually ignoring the brutality of what Muslims are doing against fellow Muslims (and Christians) in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Egypt and other countries.
When will they ever learn?