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Do You believe in Replacement Theology?

Today's Question: Replacement theology is heresy. And after hearing your YouTube video on the 144,000, it smells like Replacement theology, so I am unsubscribing to your channel forever.--Ames, (statement slightly rephrased for clarity)

Bible Answer: Although you did not ask a question, I want to answer your accusation that I hold to Replacement Theology. Let's first define Replacement Theology. It is the view that the Church has replaced Israel as God's chosen people. I would not affirm this definition, because it implies that God changed religions.

            However, here is what the Bible teaches: God promised to send the Messiah to Israel to save them from their sins, and He fulfilled that promise by sending Jesus. Many Jews accepted their Messiah, including all the apostles. Many priests soon afterward became believers in the Messiah: "So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7). These priest were not replaced in any way. They accepted the promised Messiah.

            However, while large number of Jews became believers in the Messiah, the official leadership of the Jewish people by and large did not accept Jesus as the Messiah. So what happened to them?

            Paul writes about this in Romans 10-11. "But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our message?" (Rom 10:16). Israel was not unified in the acceptance of their Messiah. This rejection of Jesus as the Messiah is nothing new to Israel's history. The Old Testament describes many prophets that God sent to Israel, and at the time, many Israelites also rejected the prophets.

            For example, when God sent Moses to Israel, not everyone accepted him as a prophet of God. When the people were hungry, they complained, " In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron" (Ex 16:2). At one point they talked of replacing him as their leader. "And they said to each other, 'We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt." (Num 14:4).

            Let me give another example to show that Israel has a history of rejecting the past prophets. During the time of Jeremiah, most of the Jews rejected his words coming from God. They even imprisoned him for his prophesies. "They were angry with Jeremiah and had him beaten and imprisoned in the house of Jonathan the secretary, which they had made into a prison. Jeremiah was put into a vaulted cell in a dungeon, where he remained a long time" (Jer 37:15-16). It is safe to say that most of the people rejected Jeremiah as a prophet during his day.

            I could give you many more examples of Israel rejecting the prophets God sent to them, but these two will suffice. They show a pattern: Israel by and large rejected the prophets at the time they were alive, only to later accept them as prophets. To this day, the Jews accept both Moses and Jeremiah as true prophets. Rarely are prophets accepted at the time they are alive. As the old saying goes, Hindsight is always 20/20. It is easier to look back into history to recognize the true prophets of God, but it is much harder to recognize the true prophets at the time they are preaching.

            Brother Ames, here is my question: Were the people that rejected Moses still part of the covenant of God? The answer is no! They were judged and cast out from being part of God's people. Were the people in Jeremiah's time that rejected him, still part of the covenant of God? No, they were judged and made prisoners.

            In other words, the covenant God made is contingent on the people accepting the covenant. If they reject the covenant, then they are not part of it anymore. They are not replaced by anyone; they simply are not part of the covenant.

            This brings us to Jesus the Messiah. The greatest promise God gave Israel was that He would send the Messiah Who would establish a new covenant with Israel. Jeremiah speaks of this covenant in chapter 31:31-34:

"The time is coming," declares the Lord,

"when I will make a new covenant

with the house of Israel

and with the house of Judah.

It will not be like the covenant

I made with their forefathers

when I took them by the hand

to lead them out of Egypt,

because they broke my covenant,

though I was a husband to them,"

 declares the Lord.

 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel

after that time," declares the Lord.

"I will put my law in their minds

and write it on their hearts.

I will be their God,

and they will be my people.

No longer will a man teach his neighbor,

or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,'

because they will all know me,

from the least of them to the greatest,"

 declares the Lord.

"For I will forgive their wickedness."

            This prophecy spoke of the New Covenant that the Messiah would make with Israel. Please notice that the covenant is made with the "house of Israel, and with the house of Judah." It is not a covenant made directly with the Gentiles. However, God had also promised that He would make the Messiah a light even for the Gentiles:  "I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness" Isa 42:6-7). The New Covenant was extended to the Gentiles.

            Jesus, the Messiah, was accepted by some Jews, but, like the prophets of old, He was largely rejected by the Jewish people as the Messiah. Should this rejection surprise us? Of course not, because this is Israel's history. They first reject, only later to accept.

            The Apostle Paul anticipates their eventual acceptance of Jesus. But first Paul affirms the present day: "At the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace" (Rom 11:5).  Ames, the remnant of Jews have not been replaced. They, like you and me, are part of the New Covenant, because they recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

            However, Paul discusses what happened to the Jews that did reject Jesus as the Messiah: "They were broken off because of unbelief" (Rom 11:20). This is sad, but it is true. Some Christians, in order to have a better relationship with the Jews, have propagated a dual covenant theology, which is the idea that God has two covenants going on at the same time: the Old Covenant for Jews and the New Covenant for the Church. This is not true. There is only one Covenant honored by God, and that is the one made by our Lord Jesus Christ. The real heresy that is being taught is that Jews have another means, other than Jesus, to be saved. That is heresy! That is a denial of the promise of God to save Jews and Gentiles through the atoning death of Jesus.

            Jews today do not even live by the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant required bloody sacrifices at the temple. But today, the high priestly office and temple are gone. So how could today's Jews receive pardon for their sins without the sacrifices?

            There is only one eternal sacrifice available to the Jews. That is the blood of their Messiah.

            Here is Paul's explanation as to why the Jews rejected the Messiah. Paul writes, "Did they [Israel] stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!" (Rom 11:11-12, brackets added).

            Paul explains that God had a purpose for Israel rejecting their Messiah. Their rejection made it possible for the rest of the world to be included in the New Covenant that God made with the Jews. Here is what possibly could have happened if Israel would have immediately accepted Jesus as the Messiah. First, they would not have lost their temple or priesthood, so they might have continued the sacrifices as a memorial to the Lord. That would have been an abomination. Second, they would have remained as a nation, and they would have likely turned the New Covenant into an exclusionary religion, thus making it more difficult for other nations to join in the New Covenant. Instead, their rejection made it much easier for the Gentiles to get saved. Gentiles did not have to show allegiance to Israel in order to become part of the New Covenant. So Paul finds purpose in Israel's initial rejection of Jesus as the Messiah: "their transgression means riches for the world."

            However, Paul anticipates that in the future they would come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, just as they often repented for their ancestors past rejection of the prophets. "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved" (Rom 11:25-26).

            As in times past, the cycle of Israel is to first reject the prophets and then later to accept them; the same will be true of the Messiah. However, Paul does not say that all of the "Jews" will be saved. He said all of "Israel" will be saved. It is possible to be a Jew but not an Israelite. Israel refers to the Nation of Israel. Thus, Paul recognizes that there will be a nation called Israel at the time of the end. This was not true until 1948 when Israel became a nation. Their becoming a nation is prophetic. The prophecy of Paul could not have taken place without the land of Israel. God has gathered His original people, the Jews, and have brought many of them back to Israel. Now God says, just as in times past, that they will come to recognize Jesus as their Messiah. This will be the final miracle of God. When this happens, the Messiah, Jesus, will return again.

            So I want to make it abundantly clear that I do not believe the Church replaced Israel. Israel has its place. They have a right to their homeland. The Gentiles do not have the right to own the land of Israel. It belongs to God's original people. God's promise, however, will be fulfilled, and that is that the Israelites will be saved through their acceptance of the Messiah. Even now there are many Jews coming to the Lord. This is only the beginning of God's complete restoration.

            God is using the success of the spread of the message of Jesus the  Messiah "to make Israel envious." How do they explain that their most famous Jew is Jesus? If He is not the Messiah, why did His message change the world? And since Jews believe that they were suppose to be light for the Gentiles, how do they explain the last 1900 years of their exile where their light was hidden? If Jesus is not the Messiah, how do they explain that the greatest light for Gentiles in the last 1900 years has been faith in Jesus, the Jewish Messiah?

            What Paul was saying is that God will use the success of the Christian message of Jesus as the Messiah to make Israel envious. They will not be able to explain the success of the message of Jesus, except to realize He must be the Messiah.

            Ames, concerning your accusation that I believe in Replacement Theology, as you can see, I believe Israel has a right to their own nation, and that the Church is the home of both Jews and Gentiles that believe in Jesus. However, Ames, I see another heresy other than Replacement Theology, creeping into the Church, and that is that the Jews are the root of our salvation.

            Some Christian have twisted Paul's words in Romans chapter 11 to say that the current Jewish Faith is the root that sustains Christianity; this is not true. Let us look carefully at Paul's words:

"If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again" (Rom 11:17-23).

            I have heard Christians say that Israel is the root. That is not true. Israel are the branches. How could they be the root when Paul says that they were "Branches...broken off"? Israel is not the root, any more than Gentiles are the root. The root is Christ. Paul essentially says that some Israelites rejected Jesus as the Messiah, so they were "broken off." With branches broken off, Paul uses the analogy, saying that there is now room for other branches to be grafted into the olive tree. Those other branches are the Gentiles who believe in the Jewish Messiah, Jesus.

            Paul then gives a stern reminder to Gentile believers, saying, "Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either." So our Jewish friends have a special place in the Olive Tree. They are the "natural" branches, while Gentiles are the "wild" branches that were grafted into the olive tree. Paul then exclaims hope for Israel, "If they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again."

            Ames, I do not see how you could accuse me of Replacement Theology, unless, of course, you hold to "dual covenant" theology. I hold to neither.

            I believe there is only one covenant that can save, and that is the New Covenant that Jesus established through His atoning death.

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