Replacement Theology - Right or Wrong?
For those who do not know what replacement theology is, it is the belief that the Church has replaced Israel in God's plan, that God rejects Israel and she no longer exists as a chosen people, that the Church is now the chosen people, and that Jews have no spiritual future apart from becoming Christians in the Gentile Christian church. It teaches that the promises, blessings, and covenants made to Israel now apply to the church, but the curses conveniently remain the property of Israel. Any mention of Israel in the Bible (including the Old Testament) now refers to the Church, so the prophecies about Israel (its restoration as a nation and a millennial kingdom) are spiritualized away as promises or blessings for the Church. This view requires allegorizing all of the end times prophecies about Yeshua's return. It also requires going back and allegorizing all of the promises, covenants, and blessings that God gave Israel and reinterpreting them to apply to the church. In fact it requires basically interpreting all of God's Word allegorically rather than literally, which then means that it can mean anything, which then means that it means nothing. What is amazing in all of this is that while they are more than happy to apply the blessings allegorically to themselves, they are quite clear on not accepting the curses as also applying to the church, when it wanders off in disobedience as Israel did. Do they not think that God will punish the church for its disobedience? That God only intends blessings for them? Such arrogance and pride!
God did not choose the Gentiles to be the chosen people over Israel. When Yeshua came, He came for Israel. Matthew 15:24 “But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 10: 5-6 “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” When Yeshua came, it was not to establish a new church and a new people, but rather to bring fulfillment to Judaism, to be their Messiah, to set up His kingdom, and have Israel bring the gospel to the world. Matthew 5:17-18 “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” It was only due to their rejection of Him that God went to plan B. God knew in advance that He would have to, but still it was not His desire that He have to do that. Israel was the chosen people who were supposed to bring the gospel to the world. They will finally fulfill their purpose during the millennium. Zechariah 8:22-23 “Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.” Since this has not happened, and it must or God is a liar, it will happen in the millennium.
First we'll cover the history of the theology. What was the cause for Replacement Theology to come into existence to begin with? We know historically that when the Church first started, the Christians were, for the most part, Jews. There were a few Gentile believers (for instance, the centurian of whom Yeshua said that He had not seen such faith in all of Israel as He saw in this man – Matthew Chapter 8), but they were, as the Canaanite woman said, when Yeshua told her that “it is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs,” the recipients of the crumbs which fell from the master's table, and as such were not as many as were the Jewish believers. Thus, the first Church was made up of Jewish believers who attended synagogue on the Sabbath. The few Gentiles that had accepted Yeshua, went to synagogue on the Sabbath also, as they understood that this new belief was an extension of Judaism, not a replacement of it, nor a new religion. Yeshua was the Jewish Messiah, after all. Sunday worship did not come about for a long time yet. (See my article on the Sabbath vs. Sunday worship). Before the destruction of the temple, Christianity was seen as a sect of Judaism, as their Messiah was a Jewish rabbi, who said that He came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. Separation began because of religious and social differences, and rivalry between Jew and Gentile. From the New Testament we know that first of all, Jews were having a hard time accepting that God was accepting Gentiles. Acts 11:1-2 “And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him.” Then they were upset that the Gentiles were not being required to be Judaized. They felt that the Gentiles should have to follow all the rules and regulations that they as Jews were expected to observe. Acts 15:1-2 “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.” They resented that very little was required of the Gentiles in the way of regulations. Acts 15: 10, 19-20 “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.” As a result instead of enjoying the freedoms from the legalism of the law that Yeshua had brought, the Jews became more adamant about the legalisms of the law, such as observing the rules of circumcision and kosher, insisting that the Gentiles could not be “real” Christians unless they observed all of the laws. This attitude (which has resurfaced today) caused a rift between Jews and Gentiles. Then the social aspect also played a part. Jews had national/religious traditions and festivals which were foreign to, and again not required of, the Gentiles. The widespread acceptance of Christianity by the Gentiles, while Israel rejected it, made Jewish Christianity a smaller and smaller group. Then the temple was destroyed and Israel scattered. As Christianity moved away from its headquarters of Jerusalem, the Gentiles became the church leaders, rather than the Jews who were very versed in the Torah and Tanakh. This led to more conflict between the two groups. Eventually this disconnected Christianity from its Jewish roots.
The destruction of the temple also brought with it the idea among the Gentiles that God had abandoned the Jews, and that He was giving them permission to develop their own style of Christianity apart from Jewish traditions and theology. The idea that the temple was no longer a physical place, but the Christian himself, who was now indwelt by the Holy Spirit came to be the accepted theology. This spiritualization (which is also true, but it does not negate a literal interpretation of a future temple) was the second step toward Replacement Theology, the first being that God was choosing the Gentile over the Jew, as they had, for the most part, rejected Yeshua. With the headquarters in Jerusalem gone, the centers of Christian leadership were relocated to Alexandria, Rome, Antioch and other cities. Both Alexandria and Rome ended up being places in which heretical theologies came to be accepted. Moving away from Jerusalem and their Jewish roots proved to be not such a good idea. With the new leadership and the attitude growing that Jews were no longer the chosen people, the early Church Fathers began to make antisemitic remarks. Jealousy, power, arrogance – all of these things can make rivals of even godly people, if they allow these sins entrance into their lives, and they did allow them entrance. So within a few hundred years of the birth of Christianity, the Gentiles started to see themselves as replacing the Jews in God's plan. This also came about from a lack of studying their Scriptures, or more importantly studying them correctly. By that I mean studying them for the literal interpretation, not spiritualizing or allegorizing everything. It was a problem then, and it is still a problem today.
As Christianity spread throughout the world, its people grew more and more non-Jewish. This changed the lens through which the Scriptures were viewed. Without the Jewish mindset and understanding of God's Word and intentions, a Greek/Roman worldview began to re-interpret the Scriptures in their own image. This was the cause of some of the worst heresies which again, as mentioned before, came about in Alexandria and Rome. As a result of the difference in perspectives on the Scriptures, it further widened the chasm between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Judaism was a legal religion under Roman law, but Christianity was not. The Romans tried to suppress its growth. The fact that Jews could meet and worship (Christian Jews still met on the Sabbath at synagogue) and be left alone while Gentile Christians were persecuted led to more antagonism. Later this antagonism would find its retribution when Christianity became the state religion and laws were passed against the Jews. Following are some quotes to show the attitude of the early Church Fathers: Justin Martyr (c. AD 160) in speaking to a Jew said: "The Scriptures are not yours, but ours." Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon (c. AD 177) declared: "Jews are disinherited from the grace of God." Tertullian (AD 160-230), in his treatise, "Against the Jews," announced that God had rejected the Jews in favor of the Christians. With church leaders saying these things, it was not surprising that people began to adopt the Replacement Theology position. People have a tendency to listen to the “scholar” or leader, thinking that they must know better than themselves. I have found that not to necessarily be true. In fact I find it the opposite these days. I follow the example of the Bereans and study to see if what someone teaches is Scriptural or not.
By the 4th century Eusebius was writing that the promises of the Old Testament were meant for Christians, not Jews, but he was more than happy to leave the curses with the Jews. His argument for this reasoning was that the Church was the continuation of God's plan and therefore superseded Judaism. Then the Church declared that it was spiritual “Israel,” and therefore the heir to the promises (but not the curses). To better impress this theology upon the minds of people, it was necessary to abolish Israel's validity as an heir due to the fleshly heritage. This was helped in large part by Constantine in A.D. 321. He made Christianity the official religion of the Empire to the exclusion of all other religions. This ended persecution for Christians, but it was just the beginning of it for the Jews. Already in other parts of the world laws were being made to separate the Jews from Christians. In Spain at the Church Council of Elvira (A.D. 305) Christians were ordered not to marry Jews, have Jews bless their fields, eat meals with Jews, or (this is important) observe the Jewish Sabbath.(See my article on Sunday vs. the Sabbath)
The Edict of Milan was issued in A.D. 313. This outlawed synagogues. Then in A.D. 315 another edict allowed for the burning of Jews if they broke any laws. Then more laws were passed against them, such as the revoking of ancient privileges, rabbinical jurisdiction was abolished, proselytism to Judaism was punishable by death, and Jews were excluded from holding high office or having military careers. In A.D.321 Constantine not only decided to make Christianity the state religion, but added requirements to it. He outlawed all business on the “honored day of the sun” (the pagan sabbath or Sunday). This made Sunday the day of rest or day of worship, causing further split among the Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians. This controversy of Sabbath vs Sunday came up at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325. It concluded that Sunday would be the Christian day of rest. So in a matter of no time at all, Christianity went from persecution to being the state religion and having the power of the state behind it. The problem was, the state took over the religion and started dictating who would be its leaders (bishops and eventually the pontifex maximus,(pope) which was a Babylonian Mysteries priest's title). The relationship that these Church leaders had with God and Yeshua was irrelevant (and usually non-existent) in light of their appointment for political reasons. As a result, these leaders began to interpret Scripture in their own image, further leading it away from its Judaic roots to pagan compromise. And it became even more anti-Israel. After this time, the writings of the Church Fathers changed. They became much more venomous toward Judaism. The following are some of the comments written by some of these Church Fathers.
“Jews are a perverse people accursed by God forever. “Hilary of Poitiers (A.D.291-371)
“The Jews are a brood of vipers, haters of goodness...” Gregory of Nyssa (d. A.C.394)
Jews are described as “....serpents, wearing the image of Judas, their psalms and prayers are the braying of donkeys.” St. Jerome (A.D. 347-407)
“The synagogue is not only a brothel and a theater, it is also a den of robbers and a lodging for wild beasts. No Jew adores God... Jews are inveterate murderers, possessed by the devil, their debauchery and drunkenness gives them the manners of the pig. They kill and maim one another...I have said enough against those who say they are on our side, but are eager to follow Jewish rites...it is against the Jews that I wish to draw up my battle...Jews are abandoned by God and for the crime of deicide, there is no expiation possible.” John Chrysostom, Bishop of Antioch (4th century). Chrysostom also was vocal in holding the Jewish people responsible for killing Yeshua. (We are all guilty of putting Him on the cross. He died for everyone's sins.)
By the time the fifth century rolled around, the big question was: if Jews (and Judaism) were cursed by God, then how was it that they continued to exist? Augustine came up with an answer to that problem. He theorized that although for killing Yeshua they were deserving of the worst possible punishment, that God had allowed them to continue as an example and witness to the truth of Christianity (by virtue of the persecution they would continue to undergo for the rest of history). It was a display of the triumph of the Church over the Synagogue. The Jews would be the slaves/servants of the new “chosen people.”
This attitude of antisemitism continued throughout Church history, manifesting itself in things such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, the forcing of wearing identifying marks to ostracize them, the displacement of whole communities, ghettos, pogroms, the destruction of synagogues and Jewish books, and physical persecution and execution. The culmination of this was the Holocaust by “Christian” Europe.
All of this hatred. And all of it could have been avoided had people been able to read their Bibles, or had they had leaders who were true men of God, who did not try to allegorize the Scriptures, but understood them literally and therefore understood what God's plan for Israel was. They would have understood that Gentiles are grafted into the tree or vine, and that while the natural vines or branches may have been cut off for a while, God is going to graft them in again, and they, being natural branches will graft in far more easily than we who are not of the same rootstock.
Now that the history has been covered, let us look at the theology and “proofs” behind it and what Scripture really says. The following are the arguments used to “prove” Replacement Theology.
- Galatians 3:29 “And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” They say that to be a son of Abraham, you have to have faith in Christ. That son-ship is a spiritual thing, not a national or fleshly thing. The problem with their take on this Scripture is that they are making it exclusive when it is inclusive. This says that if you accept Christ, you too become a seed of Abraham and can be an heir according to the promise. Nowhere in this verse does it exclude those that are already the heirs to Abraham due to an irrevocable covenant. It is merely adding in heirs to the promise, not subtracting them. God does not break His covenants, so they are on false ground here.
- Romans 4:13 “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” Replacement theologians say that Canaan or the Promised Land was only the first small step toward the real promise or Promised Land, which was to give the world to the Church. The problem here is that they did not read the next few verses. Romans 4:14-16 “For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.” The law was never given to save people, it was given to show people their sins. Salvation has always been by faith through grace, even to the antediluvian patriarchs. And it is by faith through grace that the promise will be given to all the seed, both that which is of the law (the Jews) and also to those which are of the faith of Abraham (Christians). Abraham is the Father of both, and the promise is to both. This verse does not exclude the Jews, but in fact not only includes them, it says that it is to them first and we are also heirs to the promise.
- Malachi 1:11 is quoted to show that Israel was only a seed for the future Church. “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts.” This verse merely shows that God's name would proceed out of Israel (it has to mean that as Yeshua came out of Israel) and become great among the Gentiles. It says nothing about Israel becoming a non-entity. Nothing is said about Israel at all. To imply anything further is mere wish fulfillment on the part of the person implying it
- Matthew 21:43 “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” This verse is used to say that Israel would have the kingdom taken from them and it would be given to the Gentiles. The problem with this “proof” is that Yeshua was not speaking to Israel the nation. He was speaking specifically to the Pharisees, who were the corrupt religious leaders of their day, not to the nation as a whole. Matthew 21:45 “And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.” They would lose their leadership over God's people. It does not mean however that God was abandoning the entire nation. The kingdom is for believers, and that will also include Israel as shown in the passages in Romans later on in #6.
- The argument is used that true Jew is one who is a spiritual Jew, no matter what his race or ethnicity. Romans 2:28-29 “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” This does not say that the Church is replacing Israel as “spiritual Israel”. It says that individually, whether Jew or Gentile, one must have a personal relationship with Yeshua to be saved. God looks upon the heart, not upon the outward appearance for salvation. A true believer does not have to be born a Jew to qualify. It has nothing to do with the covenants that God gave Israel as a nation.
- Replacement Theology says that the Church is now the “olive tree” and that Jews will have to be grafted into the Church. They quote Romans 11:17-23 as their “proof.” “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.” How anyone can read this and get that interpretation is beyond me. It takes some imagination. Clearly this passage says that if the original branches (the Jews) were broken off, and if “thou,” (here Paul is speaking to Romans) being the wild olive tree were grafted in with the original branches, and got sustenance from the root, that we should not be arrogant and boastful against the natural branches (the Jews). That we do not support the root (Christ), He supports us. We should not be saying that God broke off the natural branches (the Jews) so that He could replace them with us. They were only broken off, because they did not choose to believe at that time, but we have. However, if we get too proud and arrogant, we should be afraid, for if God did not tolerate their sin when they were the natural branches, how much less might He be inclined to spare us, the wild branches, and keep us grafted in. It is only through God's mercy that we have been grafted in at all, and if we don't continue in humbleness and obedience in gratitude for this mercy, we will find ourselves in the same situation as Israel. If they turn around and believe, God will graft them back in again. And we are clearly told in Scripture that they will believe and He will graft them back in,, because He made a covenant with them, and God's covenants stand. Romans 11:24-32 “For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.”
- Replacement Theology teaches that unless a promise was already fulfilled historically before the Church came on the scene, they now belong to the Church. The promises are not to be interpreted literally and of the flesh, but symbolically and spiritually. Therefore all references to Israel, Jerusalem, Zion, and the Temple when spoken of prophetically, really refer to the Church. The verse they use to substantiate this claim is 2 Corinthians 1:20 “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” This does not say that the promises have been re-assigned to the Church. It says that the promises can also be ours. The covenants and promises are inviolate. God does not renege on promises, and He does not break covenants. To teach that He does is blasphemous. It makes Him a liar.
One of the embarrassing problems for this theology is the fact that the Jews have continued to exist as a people for the past 2,000 years. And now in the last sixty-three years, they have existed as the reborn nation of Israel. Never in all of history has a people survived so many attempts to destroy them, and never has a destroyed nation every come back as a nation, especially after 2,000 years of being dispersed from their land. There is simply no explanation except that God has brought them back. Their survival was supernatural. How do we know this? Jeremiah 31:35-37 “Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.” God has clearly told us that as long as the sun shines and the moon and the stars appear at night, Israel will never cease to be. Until heaven can be measured and all the foundations of the earth searched out, Israel will never cease to be. God could not be more clear. He is not speaking of the Church. He is speaking of Israel. This is the continual problem. People allegorize the Scriptures and miss the truth in the process. It is the same old lie Satan used right at the beginning. “Has God really said?” He continues to make people doubt that God means what He says. As long as people question that God actually means what He says, they will always be deceived and believe the lies Satan is spewing forth. Did not Eve's example teach us anything?
What has come of taking this theology to its natural conclusion? Let us take a look at the results. First, the Church does not take God's Word literally. What is the danger in this? The danger lies in not understanding the Word of God in its overall concept, not understanding the importance of the laws and festivals in the Torah in regard to the endtimes prophecies,not understanding the endtimes prophecies in the rest of the Bible, and not understanding Israel is a sign to watch for the return of Yeshua, and what lies ahead. Without this knowledge, people will be totally unprepared both spiritually and physically/materially for what is coming. It leaves people open for deception from people such as Harold Camping, who is a Replacement Theology proponent and a date setter for the rapture. At best people may lose their lives believing lies, but at worst they may lose their very salvation in that when they do not understand what is happening, they may believe God really does not exist and abandon their faith. This is probably the most eternal consequences of this lie. Then we have the effects on people's behaviors and attitudes. People have become antisemitic and arrogant against the Jews. One person who is extremely guilty of this sin is an “endtimes” preacher/writer named Texe Marrs. While I will not dispute that the Illuminati may come from Jewish bloodlines, his complete hatred of the Jews as a people, and Israel as a nation is so virulent that it is Nazi-istic. This theology also makes Israel's existence of no importance, which is the exact opposite of what is true. Israel is crucial to the endtimes and the millennium. The Bible simply does not make sense when you try to replace Israel with the Church.
Without Israel and a millennium, you have to throw out multiple chapters of books of the Bible. They simply have no relevance or meaning without this understanding, for instance the Book of Ezekiel from Chapter 37 through Chapter 48. These chapters are all about Israel coming back as a nation after the 2,000 years of not being a nation, and the wars that will be fought at Armageddon and then at the end of the millennium, and then the dimensions and instructions for the Third (actually Fourth if you count the tribulation temple) Temple that God says Yeshua will build. It also lays out the boundaries of the land for the tribes of Israel. All of this is completely nonsensical without a literal interpretation of a reborn nation of Israel and a millennium.