Replacement Theology: Disdaining God’s Character

Posted on July 4, 2013

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replace 1By David Ettinger

Introduction
For most of Church history, the place of Israel in God’s present and end-times scenario has been controversial, divisive, and egregiously flawed.

It was the Catholic theologian Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430), better known as St. Augustine, who spread the teaching that though God had chosen the Jews as a special people, their dispersion by the Roman Empire in A.D. 70 was a fulfillment of prophecy. Augustine believed that God allowed the Jewish people to survive this “scattering” as a warning to Christians regarding the consequences of disobedience to God. Subsequently, Augustine began to question those portions of the Bible relating to Israel and erroneously surmised that those passages were allegorical rather than literal.

St. Augustine of Hippo

St. Augustine of Hippo

He concluded, for instance, that the thousand-year kingdom of which Revelation 20 speaks cannot be literal, but rather spiritual. The kingdom of God, he declared, is “in the hearts” of faithful believers, but was never intended to find its fruition in actuality – a physical kingdom on the earth over which Christ will rule.

Augustine’s beliefs led to his allegorizing much of the Bible, the pro­phetic sections in particular. In Augustine’s approach, the last days were no longer the last days; Israel was no longer Israel; Jerusalem was no longer Jerusalem; the house of David was no longer the house of David; and a thousand years did not mean a thousand years. Under this allegorical system of interpretation, the Bible became largely subjective – it could mean whatever the reader wanted it to mean. This system al­lowed the Church to become a “new Israel” and, in the doing, acquire for herself all of the blessings promised to the Jewish people while at the same time assign to the Jewish people all of the divine curses. Augustine’s teachings gave rise to theological anti-Semitism; the worst kind of anti-Semitism because it attacks the soul. In other words, physical anti-Semitism causes physical wounds; but theological anti-Semitism says to the Jewish people, “You killed Christ, and therefore you must pay the penalty – both physical and spiritual – for it.”

John Calvin

John Calvin

Such a false and despicable accusations created revulsion in the heart of the Jew toward Christianity. The Catholic Church’s “anti-Semitism” that began with Augustine was among the leading contributors to the Jewish people being unreceptive toward the Gospel. Tragically, this theological anti-Semitism is still very much intact today in many churches, and continues to be a primary stumbling block which keeps Jewish people from accepting Christ. Logically speaking, why would the Jewish people want to convert to or accept a belief system that has deemed them cursed by God and deserving of destruction?

Tragically, centuries later the Reformers of the sixteenth century embraced Augustine’s allegorical views of prophecy and subsequent condemnation of the Jewish people. Yes, such men as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and their fellow reformers were instrumental in helping worshipers break free from the corruption and false doctrine of Roman Catholicism and embrace a biblical Christianity. However, they continued to staunchly hold on to Augustine’s distorted view of Israel in God’s plan for redemption and understanding of prophecy.

Luther was at first warmly disposed toward the Jewish people. However, in the 1540s, Luther’s viewpoint drastically changed as the Jewish community did not embrace him and his break with Rome. He turned on them and had a change of heart regarding how the Jewish people should be treated. Luther advocated the confiscation of Jewish writings, the destruction of Jewish homes and synagogues, prohibiting rabbis from teaching, and eventually expelling Jews from Europe.

Did all reformers share Luther’s views? Not to his extent. However, no significant figure of the Reformation came forward with a compassionate understanding of the Jewish people’s place in God’s program of history. The Reformers upheld the distorted view that although the Church had declared the Gospel to them, the Jewish people had their opportunity and rejected it.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther

Sadly, this mindset has carried on through the centuries. Subsequently, most of today’s mainline denominations trace their origins back to the Reformation, and erroneously adhere to the Augustinian / Reformist view of Israel and the Jewish people.

This brings us to what we without reservation label as the “heretical” doctrine of “Replacement Theology” with its primary tenet that the Church has “replaced” Israel and that all of God’s “good” promises to Israel have been transferred to the Church. The word “heretical” is not too strong for this growing and fraudulent belief system. For instance, how can some words, such as “God,” “sin,” “salvation,” “redemption,” “Jesus,” “justified,” and “faith” mean exactly what they are said to mean, but somehow “Israel” does not mean “Israel”? How is it that “faith” means “faith” and “sin” means “sin,” but somehow “Israel” means “the Church”?

Ultimately, what makes Replacement Theology so difficult to digest is that it nullifies God’s promises to Israel, thereby calling into question the very character of God. Can He be trusted? God promised ultimate salvation and redemption to Israel at the end of the age. Replacement proponents say, “No, He didn’t.” Yet, the Old and New Testament are filled with these promises. If Replacement adherents are correct, does this mean God has changed His mind? Is God not unchangeable? We read: “God is not a man, that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19). If God has changed His mind without telling us, how then can we trust anything He said? If Israel is no longer Israel, as Replacement Theology asserts, then what can we trust? Does “salvation” mean “salvation”? Does “redemption” mean “redemption”? Does anything in the Bible mean what it says? Do we really have an authoritative Word from God, or are we treading in quicksand?

Allow me to share a point view of Replacement Theology for the purpose of exposing its misguided teaching. To accomplish this, I will direct you to some statements attributed to well-known theologians and see how their belief that the Church has replaced Israel measures up to God’s Word, for the two (Replacement Theology and God’s Word) are light years apart.

The Amillennial / Preterist Fallacy
One of the reasons Replacement adherents believe as they do is their view of the “kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33), also known as the “kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 3:2). The question has to do with the “literalness” of the kingdom: is it a real, physical kingdom with subjects, a geographical land, and a ruler, or does it exist solely in the hearts of God’s followers?

Jesus proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:2). The term “at hand” can also be read “is here” or “has come.” The kingdom was at hand because the King – Jesus – was present. John the Baptist preached repentance from sin in order for the kingdom to be ushered in. However, the people of Israel rejected the King, and no kingdom was established. Christ’s kingdom awaits His Second Coming.

An artistic depiction of the Millennial Kingdom.

An artistic depiction of the Millennial Kingdom.

The Bible speaks clearly of this physical kingdom which will be instituted on earth, one that will exist for a thousand years. Revelation 20:1-7 refers to this very specific thousand-year kingdom six times. This is called the “Millennial Kingdom,” millennium referring to a span of a thousand years. Though Revelation 20 is the only place that speaks about the exact duration of the kingdom, the concept of the kingdom stretches throughout the Word of God. Replacement proponents, however, deny there will be a physical kingdom. This denial of a literal thousand-year kingdom is called “amillennialism,” the letter “a” offsetting what follows. Just as the word “amoral” means “no morals,” so the word “amillennial” means “no millennial.”

Most Replacement proponents also subscribe to a viewpoint called “preterism,” the belief that the vast majority of biblical prophecies have already occurred. Therefore, with the exception of Christ’s return and the rapture of the Church, preterists consider all other prophecy as fulfilled – including all promises made to Israel.

Much of preterism – especially the belief of no physical kingdom – centers on Jesus’ statement to Pontius Pilate in John 18:36: “My kingdom is not of this world.” Preterists reason: If Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, then it must be spiritual only, hence no physical millennial kingdom. However, this is not what Jesus inferred. His meaning was: I could never reign over a sin-stained, unredeemed world. I can only reign over an Earth that has been cleansed, purged, and renewed. The apostle Peter speaks of our planet’s purging (2 Peter 3:10), at which time Christ will return to rule a cleansed Earth (Revelation 19:11-16).

Replacement proponents, i.e., amillennialists / preterists, for the most part deny a millennial kingdom, and with it, any future significance regarding Israel. Since Israel has no specific role in human history, Replacement adherents do not acknowledge the biblical and prophetic significance of modern-day Israel. Reason defies such a denial of Israel’s relevance. We can only surmise that those who believe that the resurrection of the modern nation of Israel during the past 65 years has no biblical or prophetic significance are spiritually blind regarding this crucial issue.

An Actual, Literal Millennial Kingdom
Replacement doctrine to the contrary, throughout the Old Testament, God promises to Israel a literal, tangible kingdom where the children of Israel – living in faith in their Messiah – can thrive in peace and safety. Several verses speak of this kingdom:

  • Isaiah 2:2-4:
    Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares,and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation,neither shall they learn war anymore.

There is no basis whatever not to accept God’s Word for what it clearly says. Those who accept the Bible as literal need not apologize for taking the above passage at face value. This is what God said; why should we reduce it to symbolism when the rest of the book of Isaiah is literal? The passage speaks of nations streaming into the established capital of God’s kingdom, people being taught of the Lord, and the absence of war. Why should this not be read as literal? This promise to Israel has never been fulfilled, so obviously it refers to the future. It takes a forced theology to inexplicably attribute this glorious passage to metaphor, or to transfer it from literal Israel to the Church.

  • Isaiah 11:6-9:
    The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

This wondrous passage speaks of the peaceful nature of God’s millennial kingdom that will be ruled by Jesus. This is what the Garden of Eden was like until sin led to the earth’s corruption. Following this era of history, there will be a new, thousand-year era which will bring a reinstitution of God’s original design for the earth. Why is this so difficult to accept as literal? Why attribute it to metaphor? If God can create the universe and all it contains and design it for perfection, why can’t He return the universe to its original state of perfection? In fact, the apostle Paul tells us that “the whole creation” is longing for such a time (Romans 8:22).

  • Isaiah 65:20-25: Space prohibits the printing of this entire passage, but as you read it, note the mention of literal long life, houses, vineyards, fruit, children, descendants, and animals. Why would the reader have any compulsion to not construe this passage literally? The answer is simple: if not prompted by skewed theology, the reader would have absolutely no reason to convert this very literal passage into metaphoric speculation.

“Okay,” you may be thinking, “that was the Old Testament; what about the New? What does the New Testament have to say about Israel?” Let’s see.

  • In Luke 1:32, the angel Gabriel, while appearing to a startled young virgin named Mary, says, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.” The verse, of course, speaks of the Child Mary would bear, Jesus, and His future destiny. Gabriel promises Mary that Jesus will be the King of Israel, assuming His rightful place as a descendant of David. Gabriel doesn’t qualify this promise by saying, “By the way, Mary, I meant this in a figurative way. Your Son is not really going to reign over Israel as a descendant of David.” Gabriel spoke literally, and what he said was to be construed as literal.
  • In Matthew 16:28, Jesus says, “ Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” Shortly following, Jesus is “transfigured” before three of his disciples, a “sneak preview” of how He will appear when He returns to earth to rule for a thousand years. Again, where do we read Jesus saying to Peter, James, and John that this kingdom was anything but literal? He knew the Jewish people were expecting a literal kingdom, and Jesus speaks precisely in these terms.
  • A painting of Jesus and His disciples at the last supper.

    A painting of Jesus and His disciples at the last supper.

    In Matthew 19:28, Jesus tells His disciples, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Where is the metaphor? There is no context for it. In very real terms and to very real men, Jesus spoke of a very real throne of His own, twelve very real thrones for His disciples, and twelve very real tribes of a very real Israel. There is absolutely no allowance here for attributing this promise to metaphor – or to the Church.

  • In Matthew 20:21, James and John’s mother requests of Jesus, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.” Jesus replies that it is not for Him to determine who does what in the kingdom to come; rather, He is more concerned that James and John are willing to die for Him (Matthew 20:22-23). Again, it is important to note that Jesus does not “correct” the dear woman’s thinking concerning the kingdom; He fully takes what she says at face value and replies in like manner. They both share the same understanding regarding Christ’s future kingdom under which Israel will have a prime place of distinction (see also Luke 22:28-29).
  • In Luke 23:42, the thief on the cross asks Jesus to remember him when He comes into His kingdom. With death imminent, it’s senseless to attribute the thief’s meaning to metaphor. Only a literal kingdom – and citizenship there via resurrection – makes sense.
  • Acts 1:6: When the disciples ask Jesus if He will restore the kingdom, He does not “correct” their thinking, telling them the kingdom is spiritual. He says, “It is not for you to know times or seasons …” indicating the kingdom is indeed literal. In essence, Jesus is saying, “Yes, the kingdom is coming, but not yet.” He never hints at a metaphorical kingdom. The disciples are thinking in terms of a tangible kingdom, and Jesus replies similarly.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:24, the apostle Paul writes: “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.” The words “kingdom,” “rule,” “authority,” and “power” are all literal and reflective of Jesus’ reign during the thousand-year kingdom. Following that golden era, Jesus will deliver a literal kingdom to God the Father.

The main point to remember concerning the previous verses is their “literalness.” Make no mistake about it: Whenever Jesus either initiated discussion of a kingdom or responded to an issue regarding the kingdom brought up by someone else, Jesus had in mind a very real kingdom. In view was Jesus – a real descendant of the real Jewish people – returning as “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5) to a real world, a real people living in a real geographical region, to rightfully claim the real throne of Israel.

Replacement Theologians and Israel
According to most Replacement proponents, there is no literal physical kingdom. The “thousand years” – mentioned six times in Revelation 20:1-7 – is merely figurative. Israel had her opportunity, rejected Christ, and as a result is out of God’s plan and purpose for the earth. Therefore, the modern state of Israel has no place in God’s end-times scenario and her return to the land in 1948 was merely the working of humanity, not God. As such, none of the biblical promises made to Israel are in effect. Instead, those promises have transferred to the Church.

Ironically, over its long history, the “Church” – “Church” being used in its broadest terms, not including every blood-brought, Bible-believing Christian – which has been blessed with the clear light of the Gospel, has failed to present herself as a light to the world, particularly regarding its treatment of the Jewish people. Three such examples of the Church’s persecution of the Jewish people include:

  • In the second century and beyond, many of the notable “Fathers” of the Church began to refer to the Jews as a “rejected people” who were doomed to a life of unimportance and misery. Jews were to exist as a “despised people.” This image has persisted in Christian preaching, art, and popular teaching for centuries. Other Christian leaders who spoke venom against the Jewish people include St. Jerome who said of the Jews that they “grow like worms” (in terms of repopulating areas from which they had been expelled); St. Ambrose (the Bishop of Milan) who rebuked Emperor Theodosius for wanting to rebuild the burned-out synagogue at Callinicum in Babylonia; St. John Chrysostom who forbade Christian fraternizing with the Jews; and Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, who expelled the Jews from this ancient community.
  • During the Middle Ages in Europe many in the Church accused the Jews of being responsible for killing Christ. The Church accused the Jews of  “blood libel” – the false accusation that the Jews (and some other religious minorities) murdered children in order to use their blood in religious rituals. The Middle Age Church persecution of the Jewish people included expulsions, forced conversions, and massacres.
  • Jews were persecuted in Eastern Europe as well as Western Europe as hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered in Christian pogroms in Eastern Europe over the centuries. Pograms, basically, were violent mob attacks sanctioned by the Church and local government. Pograms resulted in the deaths and arrests of thousands of Jews whose only “crime” was being Jewish. These violent and merciless attacks occurred from the late nineteenth century to early twentieth century.

With this track record, why would the Church consider herself a suitable “replacement” for Israel and the Jewish people? This is nothing other than rancid, pompous audacity.

Let’s look at specific statements reflecting the Replacement trend of thought (all theologian statements in italics).

Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson

The founder of Prison Fellowship Ministry who died in 2012, Mr. Colson was a valiant soldier for Christ. A Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973, Colson served a seven-month prison term for his role in Watergate. He came to faith in Christ in 1973 and went on to faithfully serve the Lord.

From his “Colson’s Breakpoint Commentary” (No. 030218) comes this excerpt:

As a Christian and believer in the Abrahamic covenant, I’m a strong supporter of Israel and the Jewish people. I take Genesis 12:3 literally. I also believe that Jesus will return and rule the earth for one thousand years from Jerusalem – pre-millennial perspective on the second coming. I believe that God has a special plan for the Jewish people and the land of Israel (breakpoint.org/commentaries/3320-covenant-and-conflict).

On this point, Colson is to be commended. However, he continues:

But I think it is problematic to relate prophecy to current events unfolding in the nation-state of Israel. There may be some relationship, of course. Only God knows. But the secular state of Israel created in 1948 is not, in my understanding, identical with the Jewish people as God’s chosen and called-out covenant people.

However, Ezekiel’s “vision of dry bones” (Ezekiel 37:1-14) tells us that today’s Israel indeed IS “identical with the Jewish people as God’s chosen and called-out covenant people.” Using the Ezekiel passage as a guide (again, please read it, it’s too long to print here), we see the “dry” bones (v. 2) as the dispersed Jewish people of the world. God asks the prophet, “can these bones live?” (v. 3). These are the bones of Judaism through the ages. God answers His own question by rattling the bones, joining them together (v. 7), and covering them with sinew and skin (v. 8). This is the gathering of the Jewish people to Israel in the middle of the twentieth century. However, “there was no breath in them” (v. 8). This indicates Israel regathered as a nation, but without salvation in Christ. Ezekiel then says, “So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (v. 10). This “army” is Israel of the millennial kingdom, back in the land and living in belief. These Jewish people are the covenant people of God, and include some who now live in the land (and most certainly many of their descendants).

Mr. Colson then says:

God clearly has a distinct plan for the Jewish people that the secular state of Israel helps carry out. I don’t rule that out, of course. And I strongly support Israel because it is a haven for persecuted Jews – not because I think it fulfills biblical prophecy.

However, the Jewish people being back in the land IS fulfilled prophecy. Is it pure coincidence to believe that Israel has been “reborn” as we near the end of the age? This is too wondrous to dismiss as “coincidence” or the work of men’s hands. Also, if Israel being back in the land is but a secular occurrence, then what of the surrounding Arab nations’ desire to destroy Israel? Israel being back in the land is a spiritual phenomenon – God’s mighty work – and not secular happenstance, hence Satan’s desire to destroy God’s plan by destroying the Jewish people, and the spiritual warfare afflicting the Middle East.

Mr. Colson continues:

I also support a Palestinian state both from historical and prudential considerations. Given the state of affairs in the Middle East, a Palestinian state is the only practicable solution for peace.

We disagree with Mr. Colson’s sentiments. First, which “historical” events is he referring to? The Palestinians are a twentieth-century creation. Their ancestry goes back many generations, but as a national entity, the Palestinians are historically a “new” people. Second, “prudential considerations” are naturally wise, but who determines prudence? Basically, Palestinians want the Jews destroyed, as is proclaimed in their infamous PLO charter of 1964. This death wish for Israel has not been officially and uniformly rescinded. Is it prudent to create a nation for a people whose declared purpose is to obliterate their neighbors from the face of the earth? Two side-by-side states is not a “practicable” and “prudential” solution for peace if one of the states (the Palestinians) detests the idea of creating peace with its neighbor (Israel).

Dr. John Piper
piperDr. Piper has been the Senior Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis (he is currently the Associate Pastor for Preaching and Vision). He will step down in 2014 following thirty-four years of service. A powerful preacher, inspiring author, and astute theologian, Dr. Piper has impacted lives for Christ. However, we disagree with his views regarding modern Israel.

The following excerpts are from Dr. Piper’s sermon, “Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East” (Romans 11:25-32, March 7, 2004). Here is the first excerpt (additional emphasis added):

So the promise to Abraham that his descendants will inherit the Land does not mean that all Jews inherit that promise. It will come finally to the true Israel, the Israel that keeps covenant and obeys her God. By faith in Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, Gentiles become heirs of the promise of Abraham, including the promise of the Land (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/israel-palestine-and-the-middle-east).

Simply put, this is not what Genesis 12:3 says. Yes, Bible-believing Gentiles are most certainly spiritual descendants of Abraham, but where does the Bible say that Gentile believers (we’re assuming that when Dr. Piper says “Gentiles,” he is referring to believers) have a right to the land of Israel? It doesn’t. Gentile believers are promised glorious spiritual blessings (see Ephesians 1:3-14), but nowhere do these promises include the land of Israel. Quite frankly, this comment by Dr. Piper is startling. “Gentiles become heirs of the promise of Abraham, including the promise of the Land”? Scripture simply does not support this statement.

The second excerpt is as follows:

Israel has broken covenant with her God and is living today in disobedience and unbelief in his Son and her Messiah. Therefore, the secular state of Israel today may not claim a present divine right to the Land, but they and we should seek a peaceful settlement not based on present divine rights, but on international principles of justice, mercy, and practical feasibility.

We agree that Israel today is living disobediently and in unbelief of God, but this does not undo God’s promise to the nation. This truth is beautifully worded in Isaiah 43:4-7:

Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, and I have loved you; therefore I will give men for you, and people for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’ Bring My sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.

God’s promises to Israel are often twofold – applying to the time they were made and the future. The above promise most certainly applies to Israel’s Babylonian captivity, from which the Lord brought her back. However, according to the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, only a small percentage returned. The above verse speaks of a mass, worldwide influx into the land, which partners well with Ezekiel 37. God still loves Israel, therefore the nation can lay claim to the land the Lord has brought her back to. This does not mean that salvation will come to all Jewish people, but only to those who have accepted Christ. However, God’s final judgment has not yet come. His end-times program includes the Jewish people being back in the land of Israel. They are there now – and still coming – by divine right. (And for the record, in deference to Dr. Piper’s comment, Israel would love nothing better than to have peace based on “international principles of justice, mercy, and practical feasibility.” However, surrendering land to a people who despises them will not accomplish this goal.)

Dr. Joseph F. (Skip) Ryan

Dr. Joseph F. (Skip) Ryan

Dr. Joseph F. (Skip) Ryan

Dr. Ryan was the Senior Minister at Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas from 1991-2006. He, too, has been an influential voice in Christian circles. The following quotes are from the message, “Certain Promises in Uncertain Times” – Joshua 21:43-45, March 23, 2003:

And here I must say [something] that run[s] against the grain of what we have been taught. Geo-political Israel today is not to be understood as God’s promise of Abraham and Joshua [Joshua 21:43-45]. IT IS NOT! It is fair to say, the world owes them a homeland. But, and this is important, there is no biblical right that geopolitical Israel has today to that particular piece of geography in the Middle East (http://www.watch.org/showart.php3?idx=62726&rtn=/index.html&sh),

To say that that the Jewish people living in Israel today have no right to “that particular piece of geography in the Middle East” is flat-out wrong. Again, if this is the case, then the current Jewish homeland is a coincidence. Back in 1897, the Jewish people of the world considered other locations for their homeland, including parts of Argentina, Uganda, and even the former USSR.  (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proposals_for_a_Jewish_state.) The Jewish people were not even pushing Palestine as their homeland. However, God overruled consideration of any other nation as the future residence of the Jewish people; God chose geographical Israel, and this is where the Jewish people settled.

Dr. Ryan continues:

But do they have a biblical right to that particular piece of geography? It is not in the Bible. For Israel is not a nation state anymore; Israel is the church. Israel is the people of God, Jew and gentile from every nation and every tribe, and every tongue who confesses faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – the new people of God. Ancient Israel is a preview of what God intends for the new Israel.

To say that Israel is not a nation anymore is simply nonfactual. In Luke 13:34, Jesus says, “Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” Notice the phrase, “until the time come when ye SHALL say” (emphasis added). Jesus knew that the Jewish people would deny Him at His first coming, but would one day acknowledge Him. Jesus prophesied that Israel – as a violable geopolitical entity, specifically, the Jewish people (not the Church) – would claim faith in Him.

Jeremiah 31:35-37 says this:

Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for a light by day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar (The Lord of hosts is His name): “If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me forever.” Thus says 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, says the Lord.

God promised Israel in powerful terms that she would never cease to exist as a viable entity. To claim that this glorious passage has been transferred to the Church is absurd. The context of Jeremiah is the nation of Israel. Yes, God did – and will again – severely punish Israel, but will never abandon her. The only exception is if someone can figure out how to count all the stars of the sky and wipe out the sun and the moon. If someone can do this, then God will abandon Israel.

Dr. D. James Kennedy

Dr. D. James Kennedy

Dr. D. James Kennedy

This giant of the Christian faith, who died in 2007, was pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida. He championed many Christian causes and stood boldly for Christ against the corruption of our day. However, his views regarding Israel are questionable. Here is a sample:

At the heart of the political commitments in question are two fatally flawed propositions. First, some are teaching that God’s alleged favor toward Israel today is based upon ethnic descent rather than upon the grace of Christ alone, as proclaimed in the Gospel (http://www.hearnow.org/ICIo.html).

To label the above point – and the one to follow – as “fatally flawed” is inflammatory. Despite Dr. Kennedy’s claim to the contrary, God’s favor, in part, is based on physical descent – and there is nothing “alleged” about it (Genesis 12:1-3). Ultimately, we agree that God’s favor is based on grace. However, the final chapter has not yet been written. According to Romans 11:5, in Israel “at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.” The problem is, this remnant has not yet been revealed. As of now, both the physical (unbelievers) and physical-spiritual (Jewish believers) descendants of Abraham are living in the land. It was always this way in Israel (1 Kings 19:18; Isaiah 10:21, 37:32). The remnant has not yet been revealed, but the groundwork has been laid. Israel is back in the land, partially, by means of “ethnic descent.” There will come a time when divisions will be made between saved and unsaved Jew; but for now, Israel is back in her geographical homeland by right.

Dr. Kennedy continues:

Second, others are teaching that the Bible’s promises concerning the land are fulfilled in a special political region or “Holy Land,” perpetually set apart by God for one ethnic group alone.

This is not true as stated by Dr. Kennedy. Yes, Israel was given primarily to the Jewish people, but this does not mean the banishment of non-Jews. Israel – even at its height of power under David and Solomon – was never void of other peoples and cultures. Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people; they are not requiring – nor is the Bible – the vanquishing or expulsion of the Arabs, Palestinians, and Gentiles who already live there. (It should be duly noted that the Arabs and Palestinians who live in Israel are full citizens with full rights, and are thriving far more than their counterparts in the Palestinian territories and surrounding nations.)

Dr. Kennedy continues:

Furthermore, a day should not be anticipated in which Christ’s kingdom will manifest Jewish distinctives, whether by its location in “the land,” by its constituency, or by its ceremonial institutions and practices.

Here, Dr. Kennedy’s intentions are notable. His point, basically, is that all believers are similar by means of how they are saved – through Christ alone – and that God will bless both Jewish and Gentile believers identically. We agree. However, what sets the Jewish people apart is that God made certain promises to them which have not yet been fulfilled. Many of these promises concerns bringing Israel back to their land in peace and in full knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jeremiah 24:6-7 confirms this:

For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart (emphasis added).

Context clearly dictates that this promise refers to a future time and not the return from Babylonian captivity. How do we know this? God says, “I will plant them, and not pluck them up.” Israel returned to the land in 535 B.C. – only to be dispersed again in A.D. 70 and 135. Also, God promises He would “give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD.” Again, this has never been the case in Israel’s history. Collectively, Israel has never fully trusted in the Lord. This can only be fulfilled when Israel is back in the land, which they are now, AND believing the Lord Jesus Christ, which will occur in the millennial kingdom.

Verses Supporting Israel’s Present and Future Inhabitance in the Land
The purpose of the following verses is to exhibit the fallacy of deeming God’s promises to Israel as being rescinded or transferred to the Church. There is not one iota of evidence supporting this view. This is made further evident by the fact that these verses have not yet been fulfilled.

  • Israel chosen: “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 7:6).
  • Eternal salvation for Israel: “But Israel shall be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; you shall not be ashamed or disgraced forever and ever” (Isaiah 45:17). “I bring My righteousness near, it shall not be far off; My salvation shall not linger. And I will place salvation in Zion, For Israel My glory” (Isaiah 46:13).
  • God will abundantly bless Israel: “Yet hear now, O Jacob My servant, and Israel whom I have chosen. Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you: ‘Fear not, O Jacob My servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring” (Isaiah 44:1-3).
  • Israel’s redemption following chastisement: “‘For the Lord has called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a youthful wife when you were refused,’” says your God.
    For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,’ says the Lord, your Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:6-8).
  • Israel’s future salvation, according to Jesus: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly,I say to you, you SHALL not see Me UNTIL the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Luke 13:34-35, emphasis added).

flagYes, the prophets and Jesus predicted that Israel would be disciplined for a time. However, they also foresaw Israel’s reconciliation. Though Israel’s chastening is ongoing, this is no excuse for the Church to condemn Israel by “transferring” her blessings to herself, a blatant act of  audacity. Judgment is God’s work; praying for Israel is the Church’s responsibility (Psalm 122:6).

What Paul Says
The book of Romans has been called the greatest single document ever written. Contained within this extraordinary treatise is Paul’s assessment of Israel and the Church. In Romans 11:2, Paul pens this pointed and definitive statement: “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has NOT cast away His people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:1-2, emphasis added).

This cannot be any clearer. When Paul says “Israel,” he is NOT referring to the Church. The context of Romans 9, 10, and 11 is clearly, unmistakably, and absolutely Israel. However, it is to the Church Paul asks: “Has God cast away his people?” Replacement proponents say “Yes!” This is tragic considering Paul answers his own question by saying, “God forbid.” This term is a powerful Hebrew idiom which, in essence, means, “Absolutely not! Don’t even think such a thought!” So, Paul, has God abandoned Israel by transferring her promises to the Church? Paul’s reply: “Absolutely not! Don’t even think such a thought!”

Later in the chapter, verses 13-15, Paul says:

For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

Paul’s point is that Israel has been temporarily removed as the vehicle through which salvation comes to the world. The vehicle is now the Church. The setting aside of Israel has proven a blessing for the world in a narrow sense. However, because Israel was God’s original means of salvation, her return to favor can only mean blessing upon blessing. In other words, God’s promises to Israel led to blessing for the entire world (Genesis 12:3). Paul firmly believed that Israel’s setting aside was temporary, and that she will one day be restored. God’s future favor upon her will be the ultimate blessing. The ultimate manifestation of the glory of God is the reconciliation of the Jewish people. Therefore, it is imperative that God fulfill His promises to Israel.

Furthermore, please understand that the “casting away” – or “setting aside” – of the Jewish people does include eternal condemnation. God is still “working” with the Jewish people, honing them and fashioning them into the people He will one day redeem. Current events are clearly proving this.

Paul continues this thought in Romans 11:16-21:

For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.

Ironically, Replacement proponents are doing the exact thing Paul tells them not to do! Paul calls the “firstfruit” – Israel – holy, and her holiness has spread to the Church, not the other way around. Furthermore, the Church has been “grafted in” to God’s redemptive plan for humanity and can partake of some of Israel’s promises. However, Paul warns the Church not to become “highminded,” or lifted up with pride regarding Israel. Yet, this is exactly what the Replacement adherents do. They are, in essence, proclaiming: “We are the Church, we are the promised ones! God has cast Israel off that we may be exalted. Israel is no more.” To this, we tell Replacement proponents to consider Paul’s words: “For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.”

Conclusion
It is both conceit and audaciousness for the Church to seek to usurp God’s promises to Israel. Israel is Israel, and the Church is the Church. In defending Israel’s claim to God’s promises, we do not blindly overlook Israel’s faults. We also acknowledge that God has chosen Israel for His own special purposes, rather than for any merit she has “earned”:

For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:6-8).

There is no text in all of Scripture indicating this promise has been rescinded or transferred to the Church. Yet, Replacement Theology says, “If this promise has not been rescinded, then it has surely been transferred over to us, the Church.”

To this, we say: “You are wrong!” The specific promises made to Israel belong to Israel, not the Church. For sure, the Church possesses multiple promises of its own that we should rejoice in. Therefore, let us be satisfied with those and let God do with Israel as He will. If the Church truly wants to reflect the heart of God concerning Israel, she will do well to meditate upon the following words from Jeremiah 23:5-6:

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

Read more insightful articles by David Ettinger and Marv Rosenthal at zionshope.org.
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