Replacement Theology – Has God cast off Israel?

18/09/2009

What is replacement theology?

Replacement theology has been at the heart of anti-semitism for hundreds of years. It is the idea that the “church” has replaced the Jews as the people of God because of their rejection of Jesus Christ. People who follow this ideology believe that God does not have a specific purpose with the Jews or the nation of Israel and that they are no longer his chosen people.

It is for this reason that history is littered with “Christian” violence against the Jews. From the crusades even up to World War 2 many leaders of the main stream churches have expressed little or no protest at the persecution of the Jews – some have even ordered it (for example see more about: the Jews in the Crusades, the Pope in WW2).

When someone starts to believe in replacement theology certain knock-on effects happen. Their churches start to become self centered and boast themselves against the Jews and Israel. The role of Israel in prophecy and doctrine is played down and maybe not even studied. Many of the prophecies and teachings (both Old and New Testament) concerning Israel are not understood and cannot be explained. The significance and importance of the Old Testament is lost.

So – is this something which the Bible teaches? That the followers of Jesus replace the Jews as God’s people?

The Bible teaching about Israel

God has made some amazing promises to the nation of Israel because of the obedience of their forefathers. These promises will never be taken away from them as this verse proves:

“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.” Jeremiah 31:35-37

Followers of Jesus can be associated with these promises by baptism. Consider this verse:

“That at that time (before Baptism) ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:” Ephesians 2:12

To find out more about these promises see the following articles:

Do the followers of Christ replace Israel in God’s purpose?

We will allow the apostle Paul to answer this question – this is what the Bible has to say in Romans 11:

“I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”
Romans 11:1-5

What this passage is telling us is that within “Israel” there has always been a remnant which obey and believe in God. The followers of Jesus, although born Gentile have been adopted into that nation and become heir’s of Abraham (the Jewish patriarch) and heirs of the promises which were made to him by God. Consider this verse:

“And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Galatians 3:29

Paul continues in his letter to the Romans to state:

“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.” Romans 11:17-21

This is telling us that the olive tree (Israel) has had some wild olive branches (converted gentiles) grafted into it. Yes some of the natural branches have been broken off because of unbelief but the allegory clearly shows that the wild branches have been grafted into the hope of Israel and have not replaced it. The followers of Christ therefore do not replace Israel but rather become part of Israel – part of the promises to the Jewish patriarchs of old. These followers should not boast themselves against natural Israel but rather be grateful to be part of the promises.

This is quite a clear teaching of scripture – consider this verse:

“And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” Galatians 3:8

This shows that the Gospel was actually a Old Testament teaching – a belief which Abraham held. The gospel is a Jewish hope. The teachings of the New Testament therefore do not replace the teachings of the old. the doctrines and beliefs have to harmonize.

So if you profess to be a Christian – you have to ask yourself if your beliefs marry up with the Jewish faith. Do you accept the Old Testament as well as the New? Are your beliefs completely different to the Jewish hope or are they in harmony with it?

If one is to ask themselves these questions with an honest heart they will see that such doctrines as the Trinity, Pre-exsistance of Christ, the immortality of the soul, the theory of “original sin” etc. would have to be rejected. The Old Testament teachings that the Messiah is to come to save the Jewish people (Zechariah 12-14), to rebuild the temple (Ezekiel 40+) and establish Israel as the principle nation upon the earth all need to be part of your beliefs.

It is true that the Jews do not accept that Jesus is the Messiah. They see little need for atonement and focus on living their lives by the Torah (or the law of Moses). Yes ,their forefathers did crucify Jesus the son of God – but does this mean God has cast them off?

The future of Israel

It is clear from the History of the Jews that God has been watching over this nation. Where is the ancient world power of the Babylonians? Where is the ancient trading nation of the Phoenicians? Where are the Hittites, the Persians or the Philistines? The Jews have outlasted them all – and yet there is no other nation who has been persecuted as much as the Jews have.

Even in recent History the very fact that Israel exists is confirmation of God working in the affairs of men. Consider the fact that 70 years ago Israel was not even a nation. Then that a Nazi enemy from Europe was systematically attempting to destroy every last Jew. Against the odds in 1948 the state of Israel was born. Then in 1967, outnumbered, they were attacked by their Arab neighbors in what has been know as “the 6 day war” – not only did they survive this attack but also managed to take more land, including Jerusalem.

The Bible teaches that Jesus is soon to return. He will come at a time when Israel is being attacked by a Northern invader (Ezekiel 38, Zechariah 12-14) and will come to save the Jews who will accept him as their messiah. He will then set up his Kingdom on the earth upon the throne of the Jewish King David and will rule the earth in peace – elevating Israel to be the principle nation.

If these prophecies are correct (and there is no doubt that they are), then the Jews have to be in Israel to be able to be attacked. They have to be there for the Messiah (Jesus) to save. They have to be there to start the nucleus of the Kingdom of God on earth. Therefore the very fact that the Jews are in the land right now, is a confirmation that God is in control. For more information about the Jews being a witness to God – read this article)

This future Kingdom which will be set up upon the earth will therefore be primarily based upon the Kingdom of Israel in the past and spread throughout the whole world (see more in this article).

Hath God cast away his people? God forbid.