What is Replacement Theology?
Replacement theology (also known as supersessionism) essentially teaches that the Christian Church has replaced Israel in God’s plan. Thus, adherents of Replacement theology believe the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and that God’s covenants with them have been cancelled. In other words, according to Replacement theology, the Jewish people today no longer have any unique part to play in God’s plans – they are just like any other nation on the earth (English, Spanish, Chinese, etc.). All the stuff God wanted to do with the Jews in the Old Testament, He is now doing instead with Christians.
Here, in point form, are the main tenets of Replacement Theology:
1. Israel (the Jewish people and the land) has been replaced by the Christian Church in the purposes of God, or, more precisely, the Church is the historic continuation of Israel to the exclusion of the former.
2. The Jewish people are now no longer a “chosen people.” In fact, they are no different from any other group, such as the English, Spanish, Chinese or Egyptians.
3. Since Pentecost of Acts 2, the term “Israel,” as found in the Bible, now refers to the Church.
4. The promises, covenants and blessings ascribed to Israel in the Bible have been taken away from the Jews and given to the Church, which has superseded them. However, the Jews are subject to the curses found in the Bible, as a result of their rejection of Christ.
As a result of these beliefs, Replacement theology is forced to interpret the many prophecies in Scripture about Israel in allegorical and ‘spiritualized’ ways; they have to find ways of reading the Christian Church into all of those prophecies about the future instead of the literal nation of Israel and the Jewish people, since the Church has replaced the Jews in God’s plan for the world.
Why Replacement Theology must be refuted:
1. It is unbiblical and forces a twisted and ‘spiritualized’ interpretation onto huge chunks of prophetic Scripture – hundreds of passages are affected.
2. It cannot explain the continued existence of the Jewish people, nor the miraculous rebirth of the state of Israel in 1948. According to Replacement theology God is finished with the Jews (as of the New Testament). Thus, people who believe Replacement theology cannot give glory to God for the many astounding miracles that have occurred in the past century with respect to the rebirth of the modern state of Israel because, according to their theology, God wouldn’t do that for the Jews. Who, then, is responsible for what has happened? Replacement theology can only answer, ‘not God.’ What about the miracles? No explanation. Thus, Replacement theology has the effect of repudiating one of the greatest proofs for the existence of God in the world today – the miraculous rebirth of the nation of Israel.
3. Throughout history it has paved the way for ‘Christians’ to engage in anti-Semitic behavior. The Christian Church has a horrific and embarrassing history of persecuting the Jewish people, and that history of persecution would never have been possible without Replacement theology. Note: I should here make something clear – Replacement theology isn’t in itself racism and many of the people today who hold to Replacement theology are not racists. But, Replacement theology is the open gate through which all ‘Christian’ persecution of the Jews has had to travel throughout history. See, it would be impossible for anyone who believes that the Bible teaches that (1) God’s covenants with the Jews are still intact, (2) that the Jews are still God’s chosen people, and (3) that God is planning to someday save the Jews and bless them above all the other nations of the earth – it would be impossible for a person who believes that the Bible teaches such things to then turn around and persecute the Jews in the name of that Bible. In order for a person to persecute the Jews in the name of Christianity, said person must first come up with a theology that allows him to do so biblically – a theology like Replacement theology, which says that God has rejected the Jews in anger, and has no more place for them in His plans. Only then can hatred for the Jews be placed under the banner of Christianity, as has happened so frequently throughout history.
1 Spurgeon, “The Church of Christ,” NPSP 1:213-14. Can be accessed online at the website entitled “The Spurgeon Archives,” http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/eschat2.htm#note55 (accessed May 9, 2012). 2 W.C. Kaiser Jr., “An Epangelical Response,” in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church: The Search for Definition, ed. C.A. Blaising and D.L. Bock (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 364. 3 Prophecies about the future restoration of Israel, about the Jews returning to the land of Israel from being scattered around the world, and prophecies about the Jews turning to Jesus with all their heart, and being blessed by Him in the land of Israel at His Return (many Scriptures provided later in this paper).
6 Reasons Why Replacement Theology is not a Biblical Doctrine.
Reason #1: The Bible explicitly promises that God’s covenant with the Jews would be eternal (ie. unbreakable).
a) Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD of hosts is his name: “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the LORD, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.” Thus says the LORD: “If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be explored, then I will cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:35-37 ESV).
Have you seen the sun, moon or stars today? If so, you can know that the nation Israel still has a place in God’s plan because this passage clearly states that so long as the sun keeps coming up God will never reject the Jewish people (‘offspring of Israel’) – no matter what they do (v. 37b).
This fact is confirmed in the New Testament where Paul says, “I ask, then, has God rejected his people [the Jews]? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has NOT rejected his people whom he foreknew” (Romans 11:1-2 ESV).
Passages like these pose a huge problem for Replacement theology because Replacement theology explicitly teaches that God has rejected His covenant with the Jews, and replaced them with Christians.
b) Furthermore, the Old Testament repeatedly states that God’s promises to the Jewish people of the land of Israel were everlasting promises which could never be broken. ‘Everlasting’ means permanently and forever. Even though God has twice temporarily removed the Jews from the land of Israel as punishment for their sins, He has always and at all times considered the land of Israel to be their rightful inheritance because of His covenant with them.
1) “And I will give to you [Abraham] and to your offspring after you [the Jews] the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:8 ESV).
Either God is a God of who keeps His Word, or He is not. In this passage He clearly tells Abraham that the land would belong to his descendents (the Jews) forever – anything less than forever would mean that God lied to Abraham, something which is impossible for God to do (Heb 6:18).
2) “[God] remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to ISRAEL as an everlasting covenant, saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance” (Ps 105:8-11 ESV).
3) Remember his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, 16 the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, 17 which he confirmed as a statute to Jacob, as an everlasting covenant TO ISRAEL, 18 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan, as your portion for an inheritance” (1 Chronicles 16:15-18 ESV). c) This truth is confirmed in the New Testament as well: “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29 ESV).
Here is New Testament confirmation that the land of Israel will always belong to the Jewish people. In this passage Paul is talking specifically about the Jews and is driving home the point that though most of the Jewish people rejected Christ, God will never reject the Jewish people. As part of Paul’s argument that God will never reject the Jewish people, he makes the above statement that ‘the gifts of God . . . are irrevocable.’ What this means is that once God gives a gift He never takes it back. In the specific context of this passage Paul is saying that God’s gifts to the Jewish people through Abraham will never be taken back – which would most certainly include the land of Israel (see above passages).
Some people may try to argue, however, that the word ‘gifts’ does not apply to the land of Israel. Two things must be said in response to that: 1) First of all, the word ‘gifts’ here has to apply to all the gifts God gave the Jews – this passage certainly cannot be twisted to say that only some of God’s gifts are irrevocable since Paul states clearly ‘the gifts,’ meaning all of His gifts. 2) Secondly, if the word ‘gifts’ doesn’t apply to the land of Israel, one would be hard-pressed to figure out what other gifts Paul could be referring to. What other gifts did God give to the Jews that could be irrevocable? It is clear from the above passages (Gen 17:8, Ps 105:8-11, 1 Chron 16:15-18) that one of the main gifts God gave to the Jews was the land of Israel. d) Elsewhere Paul also said, “To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does NOT annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void” (Galatians 3:15-17 ESV).
In this passage Paul states unequivocally that God never voids a promise. Never. That means that God’s promise to Abraham (the Jewish people), which includes the land of Israel (see above passages), can never be voided.
The heart of Replacement theology is this idea that God’s promises to the Jews were contingent on their obedience, instead of being eternal promises based on God’s character. But this goes contrary to so much Scripture – for another example, “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God.
3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?
4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged” (Romans 3:1-4 ESV).
Paul here states categorically that the unfaithfulness of the Jews could never nullify the faithfulness of God. f) Objection: Adherents of Replacement theology will no doubt here wish to mention the many passages in the Old Testament where God promised to punish the Israelites and drive them out of their land if they were unfaithful to Him. But what these people fail to take into account is the fact that before punishing the Jews God always promised to bring them back! In other words, whenever God punished the Jews by driving them out of the land of Israel, He always considered it to be a temporary disciplinary arrangement rather than a permanent breaking of His covenant with them. For just one example out of many, consider Jeremiah 30: “The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you. For behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord, and I will BRING THEM BACK to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.” These are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah: “Thus says the Lord: We have heard a cry of panic, of terror, and no peace. Ask now, and see, can a man bear a child? Why then do I see every man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor? Why has every face turned pale? Alas! That day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it. “And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. “Then fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the Lord, nor be dismayed, O Israel; for behold, I will save you from far away, and your offspring from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with you to save you, declares the Lord; I will make a full end of all the nations among whom I scattered you [prophesying the dispersion of the Jews throughout the nations], but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished. . . . [But] I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwellings; the city [Jerusalem] shall be rebuilt on its mound, and the palace shall stand where it used to be” (Jeremiah 30:1-18 ESV).
Reason # 2 why Replacement Theology is an unbiblical doctrine: read more