Briefly, Replacement Theology takes a few verses out of context and uses them to overthrow the teaching of the entire Bible. This, of course, is the standard operation procedure of false teaching.
Matthew 21:43 - “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”
If this verse were isolated, it could teach that God was finished with Israel and that the church has replaced Israel, but it cannot possibly teach that since Christ Himself said that He is not finished with Israel. He said they would not see Him TILL they repent (Mt. 23:39).
Christ always described a literal physical kingdom on earth. He said “They shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God (Lu. 13:29).
Christ gave the parable in Luke 19:11-27 specifically to teach that the kingdom of God would not come at that time but would come after the king would go into a far country and then return (Lu. 19:12). After he returns he will reward his servants and judge his enemies. This describes the church age followed by the establishment of an earthly kingdom, exactly as we see throughout Scripture.
Acts 1 also tells us that Christ taught that the kingdom of Israel will be restored.
After His resurrection, He spoke to the disciples “of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Ac. 1:3).
It is obvious that the kingdom Christ taught them about was the kingdom promised in Old Testament prophecy and that He had not taught them that the church has replaced Israel, because just before He ascended, the disciples asked, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Ac. 1:6).
They believed that Israel’s kingdom would be restored, they just didn’t know when.
Christ’s reply makes it doubly clear that they were all on the same page about the future of Israel’s kingdom. He said,
“It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Ac. 1:7-8).
If the disciples had still misunderstood Christ’s teaching about Israel’s kingdom, this would have been the perfect time to have corrected their thinking. But Christ didn’t say, “You are confused; there is no restoration of Israel’s kingdom.” Instead, He told them that the timing of the re-establishment of the kingdom is God’s business, and they need to focus on their own business in this present time, which is preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Romans 2:28-29 - “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
Here Paul was showing the Jews of his day that their outward conformity to the law was not true righteousness and could not save them. Romans 2:28-29 is a simple statement that the true Jew, meaning the Jew that pleases God, the Jew that God intended when He made the Jews, is not one who merely observes the outward rituals of the Old Testament. Rather, he is one who is circumcised in the heart and loves God and His Word, as Abraham, Samuel, David, Deborah, Jeremiah, and Mary and Joseph.
This is not saying that an unsaved Jew is not a Jew or that unsaved Israel is not Israel. It is certainly not saying that a Christian is the true Jew and that the church is Israel. All such things have to be read into the passage.
Romans 9:6 - “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.”
The context of this statement is found in verses 1-8. Paul is expressing his love for Israel even in her unbelieving condition. He recounts her great benefits in having the covenants and the law and the fathers and chiefly as being “of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came.”
Since the question would arise how could God’s promises to Israel be reconciled with her present rebellion, Paul answers this. He says, “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” He is simply saying that a Jew is not saved because he is born into Israel and is of the physical seed of Abraham. Just because someone is born into Israel or converts to Judaism doesn’t mean he automatically inherits the promises of God. The promises of God are not through the law of Moses.
Paul proves this by pointing out that not all of Abraham’s children inherited his promises (Ro. 9:6-8). This is what Paul had already stated in Romans 2:28-29.
John the Baptist and Christ taught the same thing. See Luke 3:8-9; John 8:39-44.
In this passage, Paul uses the term “Israel” in two ways. First, he uses it to refer to all Jews and to all the nation Israel (Ro. 9:4). Then he uses it to refer to the true Israel which is the saved Israel (Ro. 9:6).
Again, Romans 9:6 does not say that a Jew is not a Jew or that an Israelite is not an Israelite. It is not saying that the true Israel consists of New Testament Christians. Paul says nothing here about the church replacing Israel. He is simply explaining what a true Israelite or Jew is before God. He is saying that salvation is not by being a physical descendant of Abraham.
Romans 11:16-24 - For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. 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. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?”
This passage is used by those who hold to Replacement Theology to teach that the church and Israel are one tree.
But the context of Romans 11 itself plainly teaches that the church is not Israel and that Israel has a future in God’s plan and that her Old Testament covenants will be fulfilled.
Verse 15 says that as there is a casting away of Israel, which is what we see in the current dispensation, so there will be a receiving of Israel which will be associated with the resurrection of the dead (Ro. 11:15). Daniel also associates the restoration of Israel with the resurrection (Da. 12:1-2).
What we see in verses 16-24 is that the church, though different from Israel, is closely associated with spiritual Israel (Ro. 11:16-24). The root is not Israel herself. The root is Abraham’s covenant and Abraham’s Seed Jesus Christ. Both the church and Israel are connected with this Root. There is one tree but different branches. An Old Testament saint like Samuel and a New Testament saint like Apollos are both children of Abraham. Some of the natural branches growing from the root were broken off because of unbelief, and when they repent they will be grafted back in. The natural branches refer to Israel by nature; the Jews are by nature the children of Abraham, but the natural cannot inherit the spiritual kingdom of God.
When Paul warns that professing Christians, too, should fear lest they be found to be in unbelief (Ro. 11:20-21), this is the same type of warning as in Hebrews 3:12 - 4:3. It is a warning about professing Christ without possessing Christ through saving faith.
In verses 25-27, Paul summarizes the issue of the church and Israel in a simple and clear manner. Israel is in spiritual blindness today, and that is what we see in modern Israel, but God isn’t finished with blind Israel. She will be saved and converted, and God’s covenants with her will be fulfilled. Words could not be plainer. When Paul says that “all Israel shall be saved,” he is referring to Israel as a whole Israel and not to every Israelite. This is clear in comparing Scripture with Scripture. All Israel will be saved in the sense of the 12 tribes. Ezekiel tells us that God will restore Judah and Israel and they will be one (Eze. 37:15-20). But Zechariah tells us that only one-third of individual Israelites living in that day will be converted (Zec. 13:8-9). Elsewhere, Paul stated that a remnant of Israel will be saved (Ro. 9:27).
Galatians 3:16 - “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”
Paul taught that Abraham’s covenant is fulfilled in and by Christ. He is the promised Seed. He inherits the promises and distributes the blessings.
But Paul nowhere says that Jacob’s seed, the 12 tribes of Israel, have ceased to be the seed of Abraham. In the context, he is contrasting the covenant of Abraham with the covenant of Moses. He is proving that the law of Moses was temporary, and the blessing of Abraham and the salvation of God does not come through the law of Moses. It comes through Jesus Christ. See verse 17 - “And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.”
Galatians 3:26-29 - “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
This passage is speaking about Christ and those who are in Christ. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek. All are saved the same way and all become part of the same body today.
But this passage does not say that there is no Jew or Greek today. There are still Jews and Greeks in the flesh, but they must be saved in the same way through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul made this clear elsewhere, when he said that the gospel was to be preached to “the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Ro. 1:16) and when he divided men into three major groups: Jew, Gentile, and the church of God (1 Co. 10:32).
(Israel is also addressed as Israel multiple times in the book of Acts--Ac. 3:12; 4:8; 5:21, 35; 21:28).
New Testament believers are the seed of Abraham in Christ (Gal. 3:7). They are the children of God. But they are not the nation Israel and they have not replaced the nation Israel, and God is not finished with the nation Israel.
Galatians 4:21-26 - “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.”
The allegory of Galatians 4 cannot support the allegorical interpretation of prophecy, because Paul never interpreted Bible prophecy allegorically, always literally. He described a literal tribulation (1 Th. 5:1-3), a literal Antichrist (2 Th. 2:8-12), a literal resurrection (1 Co. 15), a literal return of Christ with his saints (1 Th. 3:13; 4:14), a literal kingdom to come (2 Ti. 4:1), a literal fulfillment of national Israel’s promises (Ro. 11:25-27).
Paul’s allegory is different from the allegorical method of interpreting prophecy, because in Galatians 4 Paul assumes the literal existence of Hagar, Sarah, Mount Sinai, Jerusalem, etc. He cites them as allegories only for the purpose of illustration. Those who interpret prophecy allegorically, though, say that Zion is not Zion and that the 144,000 in Revelation 7 is not 144,000 and that the 1,000 years in Revelation chapter 20 is not 1,000 years. This is not what Paul was doing in Galatians 4.
Paul is contrasting the law of Moses with the gospel of saving grace, as he does throughout Galatians. He is refuting the Galatian legalizers who were preaching a works gospel.
Galatians 6:15-16 - “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.”
Those who believe in salvation by grace through Christ Jesus are the ones who are accepted by God and are the true Israel. Paul is saying here the same thing as he said in Romans 2:28-29 and 9:6.
This is not to say that an unsaved Jew is not a Jew or that unsaved Israel today is not Israel or that the church is Israel. Only by isolating Scripture and proof texting and spiritualizing that which can only be literal can one come to such conclusions. By comparing Scripture with Scripture, we know that national Israel has a future in God’s program and that her covenants will be literally fulfilled when she submits to Christ.
Paul is using the term “Israel” in a different and broader way than he usually does, but elsewhere he plainly says that Israel is Israel and Jews are Jews. He taught that a remnant of Israel will be saved (Ro. 9:27) and that God’s covenants with her will be fulfilled (Ro. 11:25-27).
“All the 65 other occurrences of the term ‘Israel’ in the New Testament refer to Jews” (Bible Knowledge Commentary).
Ephesians 2:13-16 - “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.”
Replacement Theology says that this passage teaches that Israel and the church are one body, one new man, that the church has been added to the body of Israel.
“In the inspired writings of Paul, he clearly teaches that God is taking two peoples and making them into one people” (Matt Furse, Who Is Israel?).
But Paul is not teaching here that Israel and the church are one body. He is teaching that Jews and Gentiles are one new body, which is the church. The church is the body and the new man.
Paul does not say here that Israel is the church and Israel’s covenants are fulfilled in the church.
To say that Jews and Gentiles are brought together into a new body, the church, conforms to the Bible’s consistent teaching that God is not finished with Israel as 12 tribes of Israel and that her covenants will yet be fulfilled literally on earth.
But to say that Israel and the church are the body and the new man of Ephesians throws the Bible into confusion and forces the interpreter to allegorize massive amounts of Scripture that are clearly intended to be literal.
(By the way, in dealing with the teaching of Ephesians 2-3, Pastor Furse mistakenly says that Dispensational Theology makes an error by saying that the church age comes to an end. He says, “Dispensationalism teaches that there is a ‘church age’ that comes to an end, however, the inspired Word of God teaches that there will be ‘glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end’ (Ephesians 3:21)” (Who Is the Church?). But to say that the church age has an end is not to say that the church itself has an end. I have never read anywhere that a Dispensationalist has said the church has an end.)
Ephesians 2:19-22 - “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
Those who hold to Replacement Theology claim that here Paul is teaching that the church is one with redeemed Israel as one building and one temple.
But the Bible teaches as plainly as it says anything that Israel will be saved and her earthly covenants will be fulfilled. Paul himself says this in Romans 11:25-27.
So on the one hand, the Bible says that Israel has a future in God’s prophetic program and her Old Testament covenants will be literally fulfilled, and on the other hand the Bible says that the church is a mystery body not seen by Old Testament prophets and that the church is already seated in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6).
The question is, what relationship does restored, converted Israel have with the church?
In what sense is there one building and one temple?
The answer is that there is one building, but there are different aspects of the building, different parts of the building, different rooms, so to speak. Paul is dealing with metaphors which teach spiritual truths, but in Ephesians 2 he is not stating everything that can be said about the church and Israel. He is making one major point, and that is that God’s eternal plan is for everything to be one in Christ as a habitation of God (Eph. 2:22). This was God’s plan for man from the beginning. Man was made for God. Man is to love God with all his heart, soul, and strength (De. 6:5). That is man’s chief purpose. God made the creation for man to enjoy (1 Ti. 6:17), but man’s passion is to be directed to the lovely Creator Himself. This was lost in the fall, when man began to worship and serve the creature more than the Creator (Ro. 1:25), but man’s proper relationship with his Creator will be restored and taken to a much higher level in the new creation, and the church is the firstfruits of the new creation (Jas. 1:18). The church is one part of the new creation. Converted and restored Israel will be another part of the new creation.
Paul says in Ephesians 2 that there one holy temple in the Lord (Eph. 2:21), spiritually, but we know that there will be a literal millennial temple on earth in Jerusalem, and it is associated with Israel. It will have Levitical priests (Eze. 44:15-31) and sacrifices (Eze. 46:1-6). This is not the church, but we also know that church age saints will be ruling and reigning with Christ at that same time (Re. 2:26-27).
Personally, I don’t believe that the Bible reveals exactly how redeemed Israel and the church relate to one another in the one spiritual temple of God (as per Ephesians 2) and as part of the one spiritual tree growing from the one root, which is Christ (as per Romans 11:26-24). There are many questions that are not yet answered on these matters.
Philippians 3:3 - “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
In this verse, Paul is saying that born again New Testament saints are the true circumcision, meaning they fulfill the true spiritual meaning of circumcision, which points to the circumcision of the heart, to knowing and loving God from the heart, to a rejection of self-righteousness for the true righteousness in Christ, rather than mere external ritual and confidence in religion and ritual.
The verse does not say that New Testament believers have become the true Israel and replaced Israel. It doesn’t say that God’s covenants with Israel are fulfilled in the church.
Hebrews 12:22-23 - “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect.
This passage contrasts the law of Moses with the gospel of salvation by the grace of God in Christ. See Hebrews 12:18-24.
The passage actually supports the doctrine that the church is not Israel by teaching that the church’s portion and hope is heavenly. The New Testament believer is seated in heavenly places in Christ positionally (Eph. 2:6). Therefore it is said that we are come unto the heavenly Jerusalem. We are exhorted to set our affections there rather than on this earth (Col. 3:1-4).
The passage says nothing about national Israel and her covenants. The author of Hebrews does not say that God is finished with Israel and that her covenants are fulfilled in the church. The passage does not and cannot negate all of the clear teaching of Scripture on a literal fulfillment of the Return Covenant (De. 29-30), the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7), and the New Covenant (Je. 31-33).
The present earthly Jerusalem points both to the heavenly Jerusalem and to the glorified Jerusalem that will be the headquarters of the Messianic kingdom.
Jesus is said to be “the mediator of the new covenant,” but this does not mean that the New Covenant is fulfilled in the church and has no literal fulfillment in Israel. As Hebrews teaches in chapters 8 and 10, the New Covenant has elements that extend beyond Israel and her conversion and restoration and glorification. New Testament believers participate in the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant through Christ’s atonement. We see this in He. 8:8-11 (quoting from Jer.31:31-34), where the writer cites only the spiritual aspects of the New Covenant. We see this in He. 10:15-18, where the writer again refers only the spiritual aspects of the New Covenant. Nowhere does Hebrews or any other New Testament epistle say that this covenant has been transferred from national Israel to “the church” or that the physical aspects of the covenant should be spiritualized.
The writer of Hebrews does not quote from the New Covenant to teach that the “church” rather than Israel has inherited it, but rather to show that the Old Testament itself pointed to a time when the Mosaic sacrifices would no longer be made (He. 10:16-18).
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