What is Replacement Theology

Blowing Shofar
Jewish Rabbi Blowing the Shofar

You might never have heard of Replacement Theology, but if you are a church goer in the United States, there is a good chance you are being taught it in Church and Sunday School. Replacement Theology is based loosely on the verse, 2 Cor. 1:20:

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

And Romans 9:6-8:

But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.

Based on these and other related verses, the proponents of replacement theology suggest that Christians have replaced the Hebrews as God’s chosen people, and that God is done with the Jews.

This is a very attractive and easy-to-be convinced of doctrine. First, it puts the hearer, the modern Christian, in the position of not just being a child of God through adoption, but also to become God’s chosen people. We really like to hear good things about ourselves, and are quick to accept teachings that elevate our status. It is also attractive because it gives a very easy out for the complicated topic of the meaning of the Old Testament. With replacement theology, you just read the verse, scratch out “Jew” and Write in “Christian”. This way we do not have to go in and actually study the Old Testament, we just scan it for verses that will look good on T-shirts or facebook posts, Like Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 

We hijack that verse to make it applicable to all Christians today, independent of their obedience or walk with Christ. Lets look at the verse in context. It was not even made to all Jews, the promise was made to a specific group of Jews, the remnant in Babylon AFTER God had taken everything away from them, killed their families, and sent them as slaves into exiles. They had been severely punished by God for their disobedience. That part usually does not make it onto the t-shirts.

We also note that as replacement theologists scan the Old Testament for encouraging verses, they rarely point out the warnings and judgements God put on the Hebrews.  Ezekiel 22:6-12 likewise rarely makes it onto t-shirts:

“Look, the princes of Israel: each one has used his power to shed blood in you. In you they have made light of father and mother; in your midst they have oppressed the stranger; in you they have mistreated the fatherless and the widow. You have despised My holy things and profaned My Sabbaths. In you are men who slander to cause bloodshed; in you are those who eat on the mountains; in your midst they commit lewdness. 10 In you men uncover their fathers’ nakedness; in you they violate women who are set apart during their impurity. 11 One commits abomination with his neighbor’s wife; another lewdly defiles his daughter-in-law; and another in you violates his sister, his father’s daughter. 12 In you they take bribes to shed blood; you take usury and increase; you have made profit from your neighbors by extortion, and have forgotten Me,” says the Lord God.

No, apparently we only inherit the blessings and promises, not the warnings and curses.

The real problem with Replacement theology is that it just does not work when you try to interpret the Old Testament in this light. You simply end up having to throw too much out. The bottom line is that the Old Testament is filled with promises to the Hebrews that are Unconditional and Unfulfilled. Consider Ezekiel 37:19-28:

 

‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”’ 20 And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes.

21 “Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; 22 and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again.23 They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God.

‘Friends read this. These promises are unconditional and unfulfilled! God is promising to reunite Israel and Judah, and put them back into the promised land, and they will never be divided again. Now how does that work with the church being Israel?  The Christian church was never a nation, and even more so was never divided into two nations. To try and spiritualize this will lead to us pretty much throwing out much of the Old Testament.

So, if we choose to reject replacement theology, what do we do with the Hebrew people in our theology? Well, we are left with a mystery. The one thing we can see taught perfectly clearly is that there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved . . . that Name is Jesus Christ. Truly, He is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Light. No one comes to the Father except through him. Yet, we see what look like unconditional promises to the Hebrews as God’s chosen people. Yet God hardened their hearts so that they could not see Jesus as the Messiah. Clearly we see that in the last days, the Jews will repent and be saved . . . in fact, Hosea 5:14-6:2 seems to indicate that the repentance of the Jews is one of the things that must happen in order for Christ to return. We also see in Zechariah 12:10-14 that the jews will repent of what they did in rejecting Christ. The Bible appears to teach that the Hebrew people will repent and acknowledge Christ at the time of his return. This is good news for those alive at that point, but a more perplexing question is related to those who die before that time. To me, that part is a mystery, and I do not clearly understand how they will fit into God’s plan. What I do clearly understand is that we are to love the Jews, and we should continue to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them. My prayer is that I could more clearly understand this mystery of God’s chosen people who constantly rebelled until God hardened their hearts so that they could not see their Messiah, yet even then God still appears to have made unconditional promises to “the whole house of Israel”.

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