WHAT ABOUT 'REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY' TEACHING?

* Should We Oppose This Teaching?
* Should We Firmly Support It?
* Or, Should We Support It, But With Some Provisions?


As we are about to see, it is the third of these options which will bring us most in-line with New Testament teaching

Some while ago this question came in:

"While your article, 'The US and Britain in Prophecy' is certainly interesting and I think your position has more strength than British/American Israelism, do I not detect 'Replacement Theology' in some of what you write? Has God really no further purposes for Israel as a national people? This appears to be your position."

The questioner makes a fair point which should be addressed.

'Replacement Theology' generally refers to the concept that God has now replaced Israel with the Church as His people.

First of all, a comprehensive knowledge of the Book of Romans is essential before one can even begin to tackle this very important question. Why? Well, God has certainly chosen this book to reveal some pretty powerful truths. It is in this book (although not without good outside corroboration), that we learn the full truth about Justification by Faith Alone. Here too (although, again, not without corroboration elsewhere), we learn that we all - Jew and Gentile, and male and female, alike - become as one in Christ Jesus. But with specific regard to Jew and Gentile becoming as one in Christ, probably the most pertinent and dramatic statement by Paul is this one:

'The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a law breaker. A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.' (Romans 2:27-29, NIV throughout).

So Paul is clearly saying that - from this point onwards - we should see circumcision before God as a purely spiritual matter, nothing whatsoever to do with a man's foreskin or his nationality! For Paul, true circumcision is now like a heart which is flooded with God's Holy Spirit. For Paul, a man or woman is now only "Jewish" if such a person has received, and now walks with, and is led by, the Holy Spirit! Frankly, this incredible and dramatic statement is frequently and effectively ignored by numerous theologians and Christian teachers alike.

Next, please turn to the 'Parable of the Wedding Banquet' which may be found in Matthew 22:1-10 and also Luke 14:15-24. The reader is encouraged to check out both accounts. No serious Bible scholar doubts that those who were originally invited to the 'Great Banquet' were the Jews; in the Lukan account they make excuses because they are too involved in their money-making (Luke 14:18-19), in the Matthew account they are also overly involved in business (Matthew 22:5), but they also kill the son's servants whom had been sent (verse 6), which seems to be a clear reference to the prophets sent to Israel; the king is enraged by their behaviour and burns their city (verse 7), which many have compared to the AD70 burning and destruction of Jerusalem. Again, no serious or reputable Bible commentator doubts that these parables are attacking the Jews and Israel. Moreover, in Matthew 21:33-41, in the 'Parable of the Tenants,' there is certainly an attack on the Jewish religious authorities by Jesus. Again, please read the text carefully. If any should doubt whom Jesus is attacking here, we may note that the Pharisees themselves had no doubts:

'When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them.' (Matthew 21:45).

In this particular parable, the tenants who had been placed in charge of the vineyard killed the servants that the landowner had sent (Matthew 21:35-36); then he sends his son and heir (obviously a reference to Christ) but the tenant farmers also kill him (verses 37-39). Then, in the 'Wedding Banquet' which shortly follows, Jesus reveals His intention to replace those whom He had placed in charge because they had proven unworthy:

'Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.' (Matthew 22:8-10).

Once more allow me to underline that every serious Bible student has no doubt at all that this is a reference to the Gospel going to the Gentiles! We should also carefully note that these parables do indeed teach a replacement of a people no longer considered worthy! Unpalatable to a few though this may be, we must be faithful to what Scripture clearly teaches. 'Spiritual Jews' are now truly converted Christian believers. But is that the end of the road for those of the racial stock of Israel? Actually, no, not quite.

Later, in the amazing book of Romans, which we now return to, Paul reveals a little more - He shows us how God will not entirely give up on Israel (nationally speaking) because He is able to graft saved Gentiles into the Israel which still has a part to play within His divine plan because of former promises. So saved Gentiles are now saved by being 'grafted' into Israel. Check Romans 11:16-24. But this is not all, there is even better news for the Israel which rejected Jesus at His First Coming! Undeserving or not, a time will come when there will be a great calling of physical and national Israel, and many, many Jews - yes, physical Jews - will indeed find salvation in that future day! Many thousands, perhaps millions, of Jewish people will finally be saved (Romans 11:25-27). So the Jewish rejection of Jesus opened the door for the Gospel to go to the Gentile world, but eventually Israel will receive another opportunity. Romans 11:11-12. They are not beyond recovery. So while it is true that Christians become 'spiritual Jews' in Christ (Romans 2:27-29), in Romans 11, Paul is very careful with his choice of words to make it abundantly clear that national Israel yet has hope and is not forgotten by God, and a major response from the Israelitish peoples to the truth of the Gospel lies yet in the future.

Finally, in the great Book of Revelation, the seventh chapter, we see the symbolic '144,000' who are redeemed from the earth calculated through the tribes of Israel. We may take joy in God's mercy and faithfulness towards a people who have proven unworthy indeed; Gentiles are included in this symbolic number through 'spiritual grafting.' This huge number which is a multiple of 12 (12x12x1,000), is the largest number ever appearing in all of Scripture; the two 12s are the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles and the work which God has done - and continues to do - through these entities are what makes human salvation possible; of course, God Himself has engineered it and enabled it. The symbolic number is absolutely huge because an absolutely huge number will finally be redeemed from the earth.

So what of "Replacement Theology"? There is indeed a sense in which God has used a replacement mechanism for human salvation as we have clearly seen from Scripture itself, and Gentiles are saved by a spiritual en-grafting into Israel. Yet God has not wholly rejected the Jewish Israelitish peoples either, certainly not because of any of their own merits, but because of His own faithfulness.

So this form of theology is not wrong provided that one takes account of God's own highly important proviso as carefully outlined in Romans 11 and confirmed by Revelation 7. The test is this: If any form of 'Replacement Theology' sees no further place for physical and national Israel at all (as Paul very clearly does in Romans 11), then that form is in error. Nevertheless, we cannot escape the wholly biblical conclusion that true Christians now become spiritual Jews and the Old Testament focus on Israel turns into a New Testament/New Covenant focus on Spiritual Israel: The Church!

Robin A. Brace, 2008.

See also:
Does Christ's Kingdom Last for 1,000 Years? Or Is It Eternal?
(The flawed reasoning of some Dispensationalist oppositions to Replacement Theology)
UK APOLOGETICS