What is Replacement Theology?

What is Replacement Theology?

What is replacement theologyYou may have heard the saying, “the mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.”

The implication is that the process takes time.

I want God to remedy an unpleasant situation quickly; He wants to do it completely.

In the Bible, the word ‘complete’ is also translated ‘perfect.’

When God is at work on this earth, He usually includes our participation. That means we either agree or resist His method.

Often times, a completed work involves a painful process to some degree. In the end, we see that there is nothing left to do. It could have been done no other way, if it were to be called ‘perfect.’

An Eternal and Everlasting Covenant

Long ago, God called Abraham into a relationship with Himself that would forever change the course of human history. God expressed to Abraham that he was to become someone and receive something. The overarching category of this covenant was that God was going to bless this man, but not without a purpose.

He would be a blessing to those around him. In turn, they would hear that this blessing had its origin in the God of all creation, who Abraham would later call, “the Judge of the whole earth.”

For Abraham, there were no terms in this one-sided arrangement. God was ‘making’ him a blessing. Those lives that intersected Abraham’s were open to receive God’s blessing; however, it was based on a contingency. It was very plain and simple: agree or disagree with the terms that God ratified. The choice was presented to all; God would bless those who blessed Abraham and curse those who didn’t.

In order for this blessing to be visible, God included two very obvious elements. Abraham was given the promise of descendants (a multitude) and a parcel of land with specific borders. To make it clear that this was a divine arrangement, God waited until Abraham was too old to raise a family, and his wife, Sarah, who was barren, was also past the childbearing years. They were also strangers in this new territory and hostile people now inhabited the land. The prospects appeared highly unlikely.

Jews and Christians in Old City JerusalemFrom the realm of what looked impossible, the Lord qualified His promise. Abraham’s descendants would not only be great in number, but the land would always be theirs. In fact, God used words that no other covenant since could use such as “everlasting, eternal, and forever.”

Here is where the controversy unfolds.

As time goes on, Abraham sees God’s eternal promise take shape. He begins to settle in this land of promise where his wealth and possessions vastly increase. He assumes the role of the defender of the weak in the rescue mission of his nephew, Lot, and in the process, defeats an alliance of notorious kings, bringing peace to the territory.

Yet, he is still without child.

By means of a unique scenario, God ratifies the covenant of promise in a way that is common to the people of his time, except for one element. God alone walks through the sacrifice of commitment. Before He does, a deep, dreadful darkness comes over Abraham.

In this scene, we get a peek into this lurking spiritual animosity and its thieving attempt to spoil what is about to occur. These demonic entities know that there is no turning back. The land and the people yet born will become a certain threat to their earthly domain.

They understand the meaning of “eternal.”

Then, God speaks to Abraham. He reassures him that he will have offspring and they will inherit his land and possessions, but before they take ownership, they will be taken to another land and become servants. In essence, God tells Abraham that He will use those who will be known as the Jewish people as a means of pronouncing judgment on the Egyptians and their cruel taskmasters.

Instruments of Divine Justice

During this process, Abraham’s descendants will be forged into a nation, even though they possess nothing. Not only that, but Abraham is told the time frame. They will be slaves for four centuries because: “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Genesis 15:16

Here is where I tie the knot.

You may not like this, but God laid down an unusual principle that some would say is rather abstract and perhaps even cruel.

He uses the Jews, the recipients of the Abrahamic eternal covenant, as instruments of Divine justice.

They become a plumb line and a timepiece with which He will judge other nations. It is His way of rightly judging the affairs of mankind while not manipulating their free will. For the Amorites, it was over four centuries of reckless behavior patterns that culminated with their mistreatment of the former Jewish slaves on the heels of their exodus from Egypt.

Simply put, it is God’s “kind in kind” response. He made it absolutely clear that the God of the Universe would judge equally the peoples of the earth based upon their treatment of the descendants of Abraham. They would be traced through his grandson, Jacob, and be known as Israel, or the Jews.

Why did God do it this way and why the Jewish people?

His answer is because He alone is God and can do whatever He wants. To eliminate the accusations of special treatment, He held the Jews up to an even higher standard. He gave them the law, which was universal in part, but specific to them in the bulk of it. It would become an asset to their preservation as a unique people group as they scattered across the globe.

Orthodox Jewish Child PrayingCenturies later, the Jewish people began to scatter because of disobedience and the word of God went with them. The most powerful example of that came when the Jewish disciples of Jesus took the message in its entirety to places where dispersed Jews were living amongst the Gentiles. There, they began to pen the New Covenant.

Their first major roadblock was unexpected. The Gentiles were hearing the gospel and responding. They wanted in. The disciples should have expected the unexpected. After all, the Master Carpenter said He would build His church. As attentive followers, they should have known Jesus had no limitations.

So, they accepted the Gentile converts to the faith and did not yoke them with the practices and customs that were common to the Jews. As a visible sign of a new birth, the Gentile Believers were told they had to refrain from the eating of blood, food sacrificed to idols, and sexual immorality. These practices were common in the pagan Gentile world, but the new Believers readily agreed and the church grew in numbers and spread in influence.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Ahh, if only it were so.

What is Replacement Theology?

As time went on, the Gentile population outgrew the Jewish one within the church. It appears that outward behavior is more manageable than inward. The enmity that was broken at the cross to make ‘one new man out of the two’ began to resurface.

Within a century of the resurrection of Jesus, the Jewish element began to dwindle. First, it was Jewish customs. Then, the identification with the Land through the celebration of the Feasts. And finally, it was the people.

The church doors became closed to Jews. If they wanted in, they had to leave behind their Jewish identity and ethnicity. The Jews, who were once known as “Chosen,” were gradually rejected and labeled “accursed.” The word was that God had assigned them to banishment. Many of the Gentiles were eager to assist Him.

The Jews wandered from nation to nation, most of those known as Christianized. In each country, they were accused of many things, most notoriously, Deicide. And in each one, they were given the choice of forced conversion, exile, or death. The “oneness” that Jesus died for had itself died and there was no one left to mourn.

Martin Luther SupersessionismIn order to justify the missing Jews from the pews, a theology that had its roots in Augustine and Justin Martyr became further developed and widely embraced through the teachings of Martin Luther and John Calvin.

All the promises given by God to the Jews were now transferred to the Church. The Land of Israel vanished from the Biblical discussion as a literal geographical piece of real estate.

Israel became a literary concept that depicted the hope of a promised return of the church to a Garden of Eden-like future.

The church took every thing the Jews once hoped for.

According to this new theology, most commonly referred to as Replacement Theology, or Supersessionism, the church had replaced Israel. The only eternal hope was now the Gentiles. For the Jew, there remained no hope.

The Problem with Replacement Theology

A couple of things remain troublesome for the idea of replacement theology, mainly the teachings of Jesus.

When the disciples questioned Jesus about when He would return and what would be the signs preceding it, He told His Jewish audience that they would be scattered among the nations.

Listen to His warning in Luke 21:24:

“They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”

Until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled?

Talk about a pregnant expression.

Now, if you are an adherent of Replacement Theology, you may get upset about what I am about to say. Before I do, you should know that most Reform theologians are Supersessionists, which is another name for Replacement Theology. Reformists have a tendency to see the Old Testament prophecies as already fulfilled, or they speak in the futuristic language of allegory and symbolism. The prophetic word is assigned a spiritual, rather than literal interpretation.

Why is that so?

Here’s the part that may anger you. To take away every shred of Jewishness in the New Covenant, along with the promises of God proclaimed in the Old Covenant, tells me (and the Jews for 19 centuries) that Replacement Theology is anti-Judaic at its root.

I might as well add this: if you oppose the reality of a future plan for a Jewish Israel, you also believe a historically anti-semitic doctrine. This doctrine has fueled great hardship for the Jewish people for centuries, which has left a bitter taste for the Christian faith. Ironically, it is anything but Christian, or Biblical, for that matter. Any clear understanding of Scripture demands a redemptive end to the torturous history of the Jews, not a “final solution.”

Now, back to the meaning of Jesus’ warning. Obviously, it does not look positive for the Jews or Jerusalem. There will be a scattering and a trampling under the control of the Gentile powers that be. The good news is the word “until.” There is a hope that as bad as it will get, it will end when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled?

Another problem arises. What does “fulfilled” mean in the context of “when the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled?” Are the Gentiles going to disappear like the Amorites or does this have an additional meaning?

Here is another New Covenant text that will shed more light found in Romans 11:25:

“Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”

The book of Romans has been labeled as the most comprehensive treatise on the Christian faith ever written. Untold volumes have been written by Reformist theologians to bolster their doctrine of predestination and the transfer of Old Testament promises to the church.

It’s too bad they missed a few points. That may sound arrogant, but I say it with tears. First of all, the hardening that the Jews experienced was “partial” at the time of Paul’s writing. Sadly, it became harder through the mistreatment of the Gentile Christians over the centuries.

Not only did the Reformists misinterpret the Scripture, they added to it.

I believe the centuries of wandering and loss of lives and property was in direct correlation to this corruption of God’s eternal purpose, that is, that the Jews and the Gentiles were to become One.

It could only happen through the blood of the Messiah and the promise of a new and living way through His resurrection. Instead, the Jews became almost completely hardened and the Church that Jesus said He would build almost came to a halt. That is because He had far fewer building materials with which to build.

It is not only the Jews who suffered. The historical record of what was called the Christian church has little resemblance to the early church. During that time, the Catholic Church grew into an empire, Islam became an empire, and to this day, still controls almost all the cities that were named in the New Testament.

The entire world suffered as God painfully waited.

The only happy player was Satan. He knew that the Oneness of the Jew and Gentile would signal his demise. Every year of separation of the Jews from the Gospel message was another notch in his pistol.

But his day is coming to an end.

An Awakening Among the Gentiles and Jewish People

There is an awakening amongst the Gentile Believers that is so refreshing and alive. With it, comes recognition of God’s plan for the Jews and Israel in the Bible.

There seems to be a new reformation accompanied by an untarnished reading of the Scriptures and believing it as they read.

At the same time, there is an awakening amongst the Jews to spiritual realities and an openness to hear about the Man from Galilee, of where it was said, “nothing good could come out of.”

What a privilege it is to live in this hour of history. The fullness of the Gentiles is not a mathematical concept.

It is the measure of calling and capability.

The Gentile is as much a part of the plan of God as the Jew. They are opposite sides of the same coin. Each possesses the same value.

The Gentile has a very clear call that God ordained, which is to provoke the Jew to jealousy. This is the ‘completeness’ or ‘fulfillment’ of his calling.

It is for the purpose of enormous eternal benefit. When a Jewish person recognizes the genuine love of God in a Gentile, it opens the door for conversation. When a Jew realizes that Jesus is Jewish and He is the Messiah, it is an overwhelming discovery. When that revelation leads to salvation, it is like life from the dead, just as the book of Romans predicted.

Together, believing Jews and Gentiles display a oneness that leads to the most positive, attractive, and meaningful life the world has ever known. It is genuine and the peoples of the world have longed to see it. In fact, the great book of Romans says “all of creation groans in travail” as it awaits the appearing of the true nature and purpose for humanity.

As this takes place in growing numbers, it will be the clearest sign of the most genuine revival the world has ever seen and it will usher in the return of the Lord.

It is no wonder the enemy has worked so feverishly for millennia to prevent this from happening.

There will come a day when God will judge all the nations. One of His measuring tools will determine how each one treated the Jews, the brothers of Jesus. The point is, their actions will reveal what was in their heart.

That day is coming and God alone knows which one it is.

Remember His timepiece. Jerusalem is back in the hands of the Jews after being trodden down by the Gentiles for over 2,200 years.

If the Amorites could speak, I know what they would say, for their time is already up.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Paul,
    This is beautifully written–though you rightfully describe it as an ugly topic. You so comprehensively clarify the issue, beginning at the beginning, and giving the history as it unfolds. I have never seen this subject presented so completely. And you do it without rancor–humbly presenting God’s plan according to Scripture. You honestly recognize the “hard to hear” portions, and gently soften your words, ultimately celebrating both “sides” becoming one! I pray people will take the time to thoughtfully read it.

  2. I really enjoyed what you wrote. It is the piece of the puzzle that is regretfully missing for the most part in the church and it needs to be heard everywhere. I believe firmly that God’s heart is that the “One New Man” that Jesus died for would be fully restored! Thank you for daring to speak the Truth! And you did it firmly and yet in the kindness (chessed) of Yeshua!

  3. Truly I believe it is the fulness of time for Gentile believers to acknowledge our arrogance, our “Gentile triumphalism”, that vile root of despising the physical brethren of our Jewish Messiah, Yeshua. It is time to humble ourselves and admit that we and our Christian ancestors, even the heroes of our faith were just plain WRONG , ie, sinned, in their attitudes and actions regarding the Jewish people. It is time to examine our hearts and truly listen to what the Spirit of the Living God is saying. about this. In the Bible, God spoke Hear, oh Israel. Hear in Hebrew is shma, not only to hear with our ears but there is an action of doing, obeying is implied. He is saying that to us, too, to shma. I believe the action implied for us needs to begin with repentance. Let’s actually ask the Father to wash us of any attitude towards His beloved Jewish people that does not bring Him delight. B’shem Yeshua, In Jesus’ Name –

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