The Truth About Israel and Replacement Theology
Anti-Semitism is on the rise. If you’ve ever wondered where it comes from, this post will certainly help you understand its roots. There is no other nation on earth who has more enemies than Israel. Yet this nation of people were chosen by God to reveal Him, His glory, His covenants, and His redemption to the entire world. Our Messiah, Jesus Christ, declared, “Salvation is of the Jews,” (see John 4:22, KJV). This is no small assignment. Despite Israel’s history of wayward sin and rebellion, God has remained faithful to fulfill every covenant promise.
Ever since Israel’s miraculous conception the enemy has tried to destroy her. The birth of Israel was divinely ordered — and for a very deliberate and strategic purpose: to bring the knowledge of God and His redemption to the world. Israel was created by God to be a blessing. He promised to bestow His blessing to all those who would bless her. Yet when we consider history, Israel has known much more cursing than blessing. One of those curses has been Replacement Theology, which is at the root of long-standing anti-Semitism.
Replacement Theology, otherwise known as Supersessionism, has been a doctrine embraced by the Church for centuries. But why? Where does it come from? What does it really purport to be true? That’s what we’re going to explore today. If you’re asking what Replacement Theology truly is, that’s a very good question. We will begin by defining it, outlining the core tenets of its doctrine. As we move forward we’ll explore the scriptures, and by the end of this post, we’ll discover that Replacement Theology is actually a very diabolical doctrine that was established by the Church in an effort to punish and ultimately remove (destroy) Israel.
In this post we’re going to unmask this deceptive doctrine and the core tenets of its teaching, bringing proper alignment with the scriptures. Replacement Theology has not only fueled an intense hatred for the Jewish people among many nations and people-groups (including Christians), but it has also been the seed for many who believe in the destruction and removal of Israel from her native land and covenant promises. In short, Replacement Theology denies Israel the grace found in Christ her Messiah, condemning her with world.
Everyone wants what God promised to Israel for themselves. How they go about obtaining it has proven to instigate many of the religious wars and antisemitic views held by people all over the world, especially those who are of Abrahamic faiths.
Defining Replacement Theology
The founding of Replacement Theology was initially established by the Catholic Church as a formal doctrine by the Vatican. As such, the teaching proliferated among the masses — even beyond the Protestant Reformation, although to varying degrees. This doctrine was instituted in response to the Jews’ crucifixion of their Messiah, teaching that Israel had consequently been cursed by God and removed from His redemptive plan. Those covenant promises of redemption, which are at the core of the major prophetic books, no longer include Israel at all — they have been entirely transferred to the Church.
As you can see, there are incongruencies. When convenient, the Old Covenant becomes very valid for those who would obtain Israel’s covenant promises for themselves. However, it has been historically rejected as a book full of fables and mythological teachings in other contexts. At the center of this theology Israel and the Church remain entirely incompatible and separate people groups. Because Jews today separate themselves from Christians, this belief is validated from a deist perspective among multiple faiths.
Replacement Theology not only teaches that the Church has replaced Israel, but it also abolishes the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. Instead of teaching that these have been fulfilled by Christ, it instead teaches they are obsolete. In response to Replacement Theology many printed bibles among orthodox religions excluded the Old Testament, viewing it as entirely unnecessary for post-Messianic teaching. It was inherently “Jewish”. Hence, the New Covenant became exclusive to the Old Covenant. In reality the two covenants are entirely interdependent. The Old Covenant reveals the New; and the New Covenant fulfills the Old. To eliminate either is detrimental to our faith, leaving us vulnerable to deception.
KEY BELIEFS OF REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY
If you are a Christian, there is a good chance that you have been taught some of the following core beliefs:
1.) Because Israel broke covenant with God, He has broken covenant with her as well. She has been abandoned.
2.) All of Israel’s covenant promises no longer apply to her, but have instead been transferred to the Church.
3.) Israel has been cut off from any future inheritance in the kingdom of God.
4.) The Jewish people are cursed by God, namely because they crucified their Messiah. Therefore, they are exempt from salvation.
5.) All of Israel’s covenant promises, including her land and territory, now belong to the Gentiles, specifically the Church.
6.) Israel is condemned, being entirely removed from God’s grace. She is without hope and will suffer eternal damnation.
7.) The Church has replaced Israel as God’s covenant people.
Replacement Theology holds a broad spectrum within the Church. Some view it strictly, and therefore the view is very “cut-throat”. Others hold a softer view with some “curb appeal”, where parts of this doctrine are embraced, and yet others are rejected. Even with the most alluring aspects presented, Replacement Theology teaches that the Church has replaced Israel as God’s covenant people, holding exclusive covenant rights which were originally bestowed upon Israel. According to Replacement Theology, Jews and Gentiles are to remain entirely separate and incompatible, hence the many social and religious barriers.
Regardless of what portions are embraced, as you can see, this doctrine readily promotes the removal of Israel from God’s eternal plan, which justifies the hatred and destruction of Israel that is so prevalent in anti-Semitism. When we look at historical events such as the Holocaust, we can clearly see why Replacement Theology lies at the very root of its inception. If the Church is to succeed Israel, Israel must be removed. Israel can no longer have any covenant rights.
Present-day anti-Semitism in all its forms has its roots in Replacement Theology.
Debunking Replacement Theology with Biblical Truth
KEY BIBLICAL TEXTS: Romans, Acts, Galatians, Hebrews
Replacement Theology is not new. Prior to the Catholic Church’s formal creed issued by the Vatican, beliefs that the Church had replaced Israel were prolific within the early New Testament Church. Those who held to this doctrine, although informal, were Justin Martyr, Hippolytus, and Tertullian (to name a few) all which lived between 100 and 240 A.D.
The Apostle Paul, who was considered the greatest of all the apostles, did extensive teaching on this subject among his Gentile converts. He wrote prolifically to the churches in an effort to bring proper theological beliefs among otherwise ignorant Gentile Christians who had no formal training in the Torah, the Law, Old Covenant history, or prophetic teachings. This is where faith in Christ is proven. Paul makes it clear that salvation is by faith — for all who would believe. Paul, as a Jew, was not called to his brethren, whom he termed “Israelites in the flesh”. On the contrary, he was called specifically to the Gentiles. But that does not negate his intense passion for Israel’s salvation. In Romans 9:1 he makes his heart known, preferring his own damnation to theirs. Again, Paul who was a Pharisee, being a master of the Law, teaches that faith in Christ (the Messiah) was the only thing that brought genuine salvation. He also points out, this is precisely why Israel missed it.
In the book of Acts and beyond we see the tumult between the Jews and Gentiles, among believers and unbelievers alike. Arguments about the Law and whether or not Christ had risen were hot topics of debate, which Paul strove to prove before the Jewish Sanhedrin and Roman governments. These were not isolated events — they were repeated. To this very day Jews are taught the lie that Christ’s body was stolen, and that His resurrection was stealthily fabricated by His disciples (see Matthew 28:11-14). Jews and Gentiles alike struggled with the simplistic reality of salvation by faith in Christ, and the grace upon which it was established. As Paul said, to the Jews the Gospel is a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks it is foolishness (see 1 Corinthians 1:23).
#1. TO THE JEW FIRST
Let us remember that the twelve disciples were indeed Jewish — and that thousands of Jewish converts evangelized the surrounding Gentile world. If Israel were removed from God’s eternal redemptive plan that evangelistic effort would have proven to be a major prophetic faux pas. The Apostle Paul’s conversion is therefore one of the most tangible proofs that Israel’s redemption is at the top of His list. As a Pharisee of the tribe of Benjamin, Paul was a noteworthy Jewish authority in all matters pertaining to the Law. As one who vehemently supported the murder of believers, Paul encountered the resurrected Christ who reproved him personally, and was eventually welcomed in among the Twelve after being tested and proven in his faith. As a Jewish believer who ultimately wrote two-thirds of the New Covenant, those who embrace Replacement Theology need to carefully consider the bible they’re reading — and humbly repent and recant.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek,” (Romans 1:16, KJV).
Jewish believers evangelized the entire Gentile world, gladly sacrificing their lives for the LORD. However, the most poignant passage revealing God’s redemptive plan for Israel on New Covenant terms is written by Paul to the Romans in chapters 9-11. Below is a notable excerpt:
I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? How he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumbling-block, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.
I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? 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 are 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 feel, 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?
For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all,” (Romans 11:1-30, KJV).
In Romans chapter 9 Paul makes the irrefutable case for salvation by faith, apart from the Law, later making it clear (see chapter 11 above) that the remnant are those who are of faith in Christ, whether they be natural branches (Jews), or branches which are grafted in (Gentiles). Paul makes the case for God’s remnant — who are the promised seed of Abraham in the book of Galatians. These are of faith — not of the Law. Paul argues that those who believe upon Christ, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, are the true Israel of God (see Romans 9:1-33 and Galatians 6:15-17), regardless of their origin in the flesh. God shows no partiality. As Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” (John 14:6, KJV). And to which Paul says, “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,” (Galatians 3:28, KJV).
For thousands of years the Jews maintained that salvation was in keeping the Law, which Paul sharply reproves in many of his epistles. For it is not by the Law that Israel will be saved, but solely by faith in Christ. Jews and Gentiles are all are under the same grace. Although the Gospel is intended for the Jew first (hence Christ’s focus on the Jews during His earthly ministry), God used Israel’s unbelief (in crucifying Christ) to first bring salvation to the Gentile world, which is why Christ said, “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first,” (see Matthew 19:30). Israel who was first and chosen by God to receive His covenants, He made last to inherit them. And the Gentiles, who rejected Israel’s God as heathens, He chose to make first, particularly through Israel’s unbelief. The irony is appalling. It’s a magnificent and mysterious plan, carefully executed by our Redeemer. As Paul explains, God will use the Gentiles to reach Israel for Christ once their fullness has come in, just as prophesied. This mysterious plan is one Paul heralds as being full of God’s “unsearchable judgments” (see Romans 11:33). Paul finally concludes, “All Israel shall be saved,” (Romans 11:26).
#2. THE SALVATION OF ISRAEL
The salvation of Israel is at the center of most prophetic books in the Old Testament, specifically Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and Zechariah. God reveals that despite Israel’s sin and waywardness, He will indeed marry her, restore covenant with her, and ultimately bring her the salvation and restoration promised to her, which is eternal. The key is that Israel is not only the vehicle through whom God would bring salvation to the world — she is also the recipient. In the book of Hebrews, which was written to Jewish believers, we are told that these covenant promises are an anchor of hope, to which all may take hold who believe, and that God who cannot lie, has sworn this oath by Himself (see Hebrews 6:18).
The salvation of Israel is currently accelerating. It’s exponential. Multitudes of Jews are coming to faith in Christ. One of the last prophetic signs prior to Christ’s return will be the salvation of Israel on a national scale. Today, individual Jews in record number are coming to a genuine saving faith in their Messiah. There are more Jewish evangelistic ministries than ever before, and they are making remarkable headway for Christ through innovative and creative means that have never been possible before. Many of those ministries are located in Israel, and can be found on our “Israel Network” page, should you want to participate in their work.
However, let us not confuse Israel’s salvation on an individual scale with the salvation of Israel on a national scale. They are different. Although Jews are indeed coming to Christ, Israel as a nation does not yet profess Him as their Messiah. In Christ’s vehement rant against the Pharisees in Matthew 23, He closes with this sobering statement:
For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord,” (Matthew 23:39, KJV).
When Israel is able to declare a blessing upon those who present Christ and His Gospel, behold — they will be setting the stage for their Messiah’s return.
At this time however, there is a violent intolerance among orthodox Jews for evangelistic believers — both Jew and Gentile. The persecution prophesied by Christ, which is violent and includes martyrdom, is very real for believers who attempt to reach the Jewish world. To this day Israel has evangelism laws on the books which must be heeded by those who would seek to proselytize their citizens. Therefore, we can safely conclude that Christ’s statement is yet to come to pass.
So, has Israel come to a saving faith as a nation? No, not yet. But that day is drawing ever closer. And when it does, we can know that Christ’s return is drawing ever nigh. As Paul said, “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15, KJV).
#3. THE ONE NEW MAN
For thousands of years the Jews were a peculiar people set apart unto God (see Deuteronomy 7:6). God’s commands to the Jewish people demanded that they keep their bloodline pure, not merely for the sake of their lineage through whom Christ would come, but for the sake of abstaining from foreign gods. God has always referred to His chose people as His peculiar treasure. That has not changed. The Apostle Peter, who was a mere fisherman, was called to the Jews. In his first epistle he says this:
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light,” (1 Peter 2:9).
This is a key reminder to Jewish believers of their covenant promise. Their identity and origin are divine — they are in essence, royalty. Until Christ came this was something of which the Gentiles had no part. There were strict boundaries between Jews and Gentiles. In fact, Gentiles were often referred to as “dogs”, which among Jews are a lowly and unclean animal according to the Law. Therefore, let us understand that when the woman spoke to Christ, begging Him for healing, and said that even the dogs eat the crumbs from their Master’s table — she was making a valid point to Him. She knew she had no covenant right. However, our gracious LORD proved those crumbs to be sufficient for her complete healing.
One of the greatest mysteries of the Gospel was the joining of Jew and Gentile. Again, God chose Peter to reveal this truth when he had a dream in Acts 10:16, where He revealed all animals to be clean. This included the dogs. The prophetic message extended far beyond meat for food — it was a message to Peter that the Gentile nations were included in God’s redemptive plan for all mankind. They were no longer unclean and excluded from the covenant promises of God. They were, as Paul says, ingrafted branches into the true Vine of Christ (the olive tree), who are partakers of the promises and covenants of Israel (see John 15).
Paul explains this mystery:
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 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 dow 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: and came and preached peace to you which were far off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
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 are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit,” (Ephesians 2:11-22, KJV).
The consistent narrative throughout the New Covenant, especially in the book of Acts, is not that the Gentiles supercede Israel, but that they are privileged partakers of what Israel offers by way of the covenant promises of God, which are received solely by faith. This truth was shocking for many Jewish believers — namely Peter, whom Paul later rebuked publicly. The reality that God intended for the Gentiles to be included was something they didn’t immediately understand, hence the prolific teaching of the apostles. This inclusion does not make Gentiles better than Israel. All are equal in Christ. As Paul says, God is no respecter of persons, and is utterly impartial (see Romans 2:11). What is to be noted is that Israel has always been first in God’s eyes, although as a nation she will be last among all the nations and tribes of the earth to come to a saving faith in her Messiah.
Instead of holding an opinion of arrogance and pride, Gentile believers should be humbled and grateful that we serve a God so rich and abundant in mercy, who would ingraft us into such lavish covenant promises.
Christ, who is the True Vine (see John 15), unifies all of His branches — both those which are natural, as well as those ingrafted. He promises that if we abide in Him, He will also abide in us, and that we will bear fruit for His kingdom unto His Father.
Replacement Theology, in all its forms, is something the Church needs to vehemently reject and reprove. Israel, our brethren, is in dire need of the Gospel. They are the ones through whom Christ came. He kept His promise, which extends to every nation, tribe, and tongue. With Paul, I urge you to embrace the call to Israel:
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen,” (Romans 9:1-5, KJV).
As Gentile believers, may we fully embrace our Jewish brethren, reaching them with the Gospel of Christ until our fullness comes in. As Gentiles, let us obey the Gospel of Christ. We all await Israel’s redemption, which will be life from the dead. It is sure. It is promised — to all of us.
Cheers & Shalom,