A casual internet search of the phrase “replacement theology” will turn up many results; about half of which will denounce it and the rest be in support.
The crux of this teaching is that the New Testament Christian Church has basically replaced the Old Testament nation of Israel, and so all the promises and blessings are now transferred to the Church. The modern-day manifestation of all this is to restrict any special deference, on the part of the Church, to the political nation of Israel. In essence, the idea is that since God no longer places any singular value on such a geopolitical entity, then neither should the Church.
Many current religious debates will leverage various Scriptures in defense. Apparently, one can use both Old and New Testament verses to both prove and disprove replacement theology. So in short, there is no consensus and at this rate, there never will be.
Here is the main issue that is up for grabs: Should the modern-day Church give special esteem and attention to the modern-day geopolitical nation of Israel?
And here are several points that are crucial when considering this concept:
- The movement that Jesus founded was only Jewish, as least spiritually. But could that also be considered as a political dynamic, at least for us today?
- Does God consider Christianity to be a subset of Judaism? Or vice versa? Or neither?
- What is the difference between “all Israel” and just the True Jews (Messianic)?
- What is the difference between “the Church” and just the True Christians?
It is not my point to summarize the arguments of replacement theology here. I am sure there are many online opportunities for that. Rather I would like to offer a perspective that I hope cuts through the dialog and offers a kind of solution. Since the entire Church will never agree on replacement theology, maybe I would like to reframe the discussion.
My main perspective is alluded to in points 3 and 4 above. And I have explained the idea of True Christianity in another article.
In essence, I would like to suggest that it is possible to cut to the chase if we just remember the most important aspect of Christianity. And when we do that, the argument over replacement theology seems either to go away, or at least to have a lot less relevance. In fact, in my opinion, it becomes an unnecessary distraction.
At the risk of oversimplification, let me just say that the most important aspect of Christianity is this: You must be born again. (John 3:3) Without repentance, there is no Christian faith. Sure, “love” is important; but love is like electricity, whereas repentance is the light bulb. Meaning, we would never visually and demonstratively observe the love of God in the world, where it not to lead to repentant souls.
So, if we apply this idea to the doctrine of replacement theology, things start to become much clearer.
When Jesus walked the earth, he said that no one can see the Father unless they become born again. And not just in some spiritually vague way. No, he stated directly that you must be born again in Jesus. That is, Jesus is the only way to the Father. Exclusively.
Jesus also taught that many find the wide path to destruction and few find the narrow path to life. And since Jesus was a Jew, and only taught Jews, we can imagine that the same proportions are intended for Jews. So, that means that not all Jews are saved, just because of genetic heritage. Instead, only some Jews, as Jesus stated, find the narrow path: that is those who become born again in him.
On the other hand, Jesus was, and is, Jewish. So when he comes back he will still be a Jew. I think some imagine that Jesus ceased being a Jew when he ascended to heaven, and maybe exchanged his garb for that which is worn by the Pope. Not so. But let us also not forget that God the Father is not Jewish*.
If there is one thing we know about Jesus is that he does not leverage genetic nor political descriptions. Rather, he and the Father are all about the heart. There are ample verses to describe God’s intention that certain “guests at the wedding feast” will be thrown out, to allow non-originally-invited guests to attend. The meaning is clear: Jesus invited all Jews at the start of his ministry. But because many of them have rejected him over the last two millennia, he will invite non-Jews to take their place. In effect, the offer of born-again repentance has gone out across the nations for any who would hear his voice and find the narrow path.
We can assume that while Jesus will return a Jew, not all Jews at that time will accept him. That is just like is was before, when he came first. Therefore, there will be a subset of Judaism—the Messianic Jews if you will—who are the True Jews. They are the ones who will recognize Jesus as Messiah.
Therefore, just as Jesus does not give priority to all genetic Jews—that is the entire nation of Israel—but only to those Jews who follow him, so should the Church. In effect, the True Christians should recognize the True Jews. Whatever the rest of the nominal Christians and the nominal Jews want to do is their business. Believers can be mindful, but such activities really do not really affect us.
We can then see that the Old Testament blessings of God for Israel are first passed first to the True Jews, not to “the Church.” This subset of Judaism represents the core of Christianity. And then those same blessings are extended to include True (non-Jew) Christians. This gets a bit confusing for some because over the last 2,000 years, the number of True Christians has dwarfed the number of True Jews. But it does not have to be puzzling, if we just keep coming back to the necessity of being born again.
Therefore, we the Bride, have a Jewish groom. So, we should respect his heritage and show it honor. Just like a bride in the natural would show respect for her husband’s genealogical heritage. Some brides will adopt the husband’s faith, and others no. But all brides must show it respect if there is to be nuptial harmony.
So, the True Jews are like the brides who adopt the faith of the husband. And the True Christians are like those brides who do not become Jewish, but recognize the husband’s faith, and respect it.
In light of all this, we can make a simple conclusion:
True Christians need not give special prominence to all Israel, but only to the True Jews. On the other hand, True Christians should not disregard the value and importance of the Jewish heritage of Jesus. Nor the fact that Jesus will return to Jerusalem.
Similarly, True Christians do not focus on the political nation of Israel, just like Jesus did not. He focused on those Jews who followed him…who were a very small percentage indeed.
So what about Paul?
In Romans 11:26, Paul wrote: “…all Israel will be saved…”
Some then conclude that Jews get a free pass, and do not actually have to become born again in Jesus. I find this notion elevates Paul (a sinful man), above Jesus (the Messiah). No True Christian wants to do that, since Jesus has the final word.
But what might have Paul meant when he wrote this verse above? Well, we need to remember that Paul was a man and sometimes men make mistakes. Think of all the Christian leaders who today write books: Have any of them felt that maybe after 10 or 20 years, that they no longer agreed with one phrase of what they themselves wrote earlier? Certainly. And the same could be true for Paul. I realize that this line of reasoning can be unsettling for some, especially for those who start with the idea that the Bible is infallible. But let us not get derailed and lost over this point. Let’s stick to the facts. Paul was a man, who made mistakes and who sinned. Hopefully most or all of what he wrote is devoid of such potential defects; but we could not call ourselves “Berean” if we did not hold out such a possibility.
On the other hand, I would like to offer another perspective on this Romans’ verse that take a less critical approach to Paul’s words. Even so, I should warn that it is not likely to be very popular in some circles. Maybe what Paul meant in the highlighted verse above, was that when Jesus returns, all of the remaining Jews will be saved. Why do I emphasize the word “remaining”? Well in Zechariah 13, the prophet writes of a turning on of a fountain that will cleanse the house of David from sin. It goes on to predict that at that time, fully two thirds of all Israel would perish, with only one third being left alive. Could it be that this “one third” is the “all” that Paul wrote about? Maybe at the end of the age, a mass calamity will come upon the land of Israel and the lasting remnant of Jews at that time will all then believe in Jesus?
In closing, True believers (both True Christians and True Jews), do not take a yes/no approach to replacement theology. We recognize the value of True Jews as those of the faith who brought forth Jesus, and who form the core of Christianity. But we do not extend that same distinction to all Jews or to the geopolitical nation of Israel. We may support the Messianic Jews in Israel, but not automatically any government there, per se. On the other hand, anything that can help the True Jews should be considered.
*Jesus was, and is, Jewish—but God the Father is not Jewish, and has never been. This is an area where the Trinity doctrine has caused confusion. See my book Trinity for more details.
© 2019, Alignment Life