Replacement Theology was introduced to the Church shortly after Gentile leadership took over from Jewish leadership. The premises of this belief are that Israel (the Jewish people and the land) are replaced by the Christian Church to fulfill the purposes of God and to become the historic continuation of Israel to the exclusion of the former.
What is Replacement Theology?
According to Replacement Theology, post the Pentecost event of Acts chapter 2, the term Israel, as found in the Bible, now refers to the Church. Therefore, the Jewish people are now no longer a chosen people. They are no different from any other national group, such as the English, Spanish, or French.
Replacement Theology teaches that apart from repentance, the new birth, and incorporation into the Church, the Jewish people have no future, no hope, and no calling in the plan of God. 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and blessings ascribed to Israel in the Bible have been taken away from the Jews and given to the Church, which has superseded them.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.
Is there a Basis for Replacement Theology?
A favorite starting point for this doctrine is found in the chastisement of backsliding Israel by the prophet Jeremiah. He declares,
The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
During the later stages of the ministry of Jesus Christ He also spoke of a coming severe judgment on the nation of Israel.
Therefore, say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
The apostle Paul declared,
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.
Romans 2:28, 29
What is the History of Replacement Theology?
- Ignatius of Antioch (ca 50-117 AD) — Taught that those
who partake of the Passover are partakers with those who
- Justin Martyr (100-106 AD) — Claimed God’s covenant with Israel was no longer valid and that the Gentiles had replaced
- Irenaeus (ca 130-202 AD) — Declared the Jews were disinherited from the grace of God.
- Tertullian (ca 155-230 AD) — Blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus and argued they had been rejected by God.
- Origen (185-254 AD) — He was responsible for much anti-Semitism, all of which was based on his assertion that the Jews were responsible for killing Jesus.
- The Council of Elvira (305 AD in Spain) — Prohibited Christians from sharing a meal with a Jew, marrying a Jew, blessing a Jew or observing the Sabbath. They changed the celebration of the Resurrection from the Jewish Feast of First Fruits to Easter in an attempt to disassociate it from Jewish feasts. The Council stated: For it is unbecoming beyond measure that on this holiest of festivals we should follow the customs of the Jews. Henceforth let us have nothing in common with this odious people... It decided that the Sunday a week after the Sunday after Passover would be the official date, and that all celebrating on Passover would be considered anathema. This is when the persecution of the Quartodecimans begins. The term Quartodeciman is Latin for fourteeners and it referred to those that celebrated Passover on 14 Nisan.
- Eusebius (ca 275-339 AD) — Taught that the promises of Scripture were meant for the Gentiles and the curses were meant for the Jews. He asserted that the Church was the
- Hilary of Poitiers (AD 291-371) wrote: Jews are a perverse people accursed by God forever.
- Gregory of Nyssa (died AD 394), Bishop of Cappadocia wrote: the Jews are a brood of vipers, haters of goodness...
- Jerome (AD 347-407) describes the Jews as serpents, wearing the image of Judas, their psalms and prayers are the braying
- Augustine (354-430 AD) — Asserted that the Jews deserved death but were destined to wander the earth to witness
the victory of the Church over the synagogue.
- During the Middle Ages, Passion plays abounded and they were used to cultivate hatred toward the Jewish people.
- In 1478, Pope Sixtus IV granted the monarchs of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, the right to establish a special inquisition in Spain to deal with baptized Jews who were suspected of remaining faithful to Judaism. Thousands were burned at the stake by order of the Spanish Inquisition.
- In 1492, King Ferdinand decided that all Spanish Jews should be banned from Spain. It was feared that Jews were a danger to Christianity. Approximately 150,000 Jews were forced to
What does this Doctrine of Replacement Theology produce in the Church?
- Arrogance concerning its Duty & Destiny. When the Church boasts against the Jews and Israel, the Church becomes branches without roots. Many Christians boast of being New Testament (NT) Christians (ie: from the Book of Acts forward). As such, they see no reason to study the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament).
- Allegorization of prophecies concerning Israel. Once Replacement Theology has been established as a foundational doctrine it turns all of the Prophetic Scriptures dealing with a future Israel into mystical predictions about the Church. They fall into the trap of changing the Primary understanding with any Secondary application.
- Aberration from sound Biblical exegesis. It produces historic errors like British Israelism where the people of Western European, particularly those in Great Britain, are the direct lineal descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.
- Amillennialism (No Millennium). This is a classic misapplication of Biblical Eschatology. In other words, if there is no Literal Israel in the future then there is no need for a future Kingdom.
- Anti-Semitism (Hatred of the Jews) This is the natural result of Arrogance + Allegorization + Aberration + Amillennialism.
In 1543 Martin Luther wrote a pamphlet entitled On the Jews and Their Lies. They are: A miserable and accursed people,
Stupid fools, Miserable, blind and senseless, Thieves and robbers, The great vermin of humanity, and Lazy rogues.
Luther went on to write: For such ruthless wrath of God is sufficient evidence that they [the Jewish people] assuredly have erred and gone astray. Even a child can comprehend this. For one dare not regard God as so cruel that he would punish his own people so long, so terrible, so unmercifully. Therefore, this work of wrath is proof that the Jews, surely rejected by God, are no longer his people, and neither is he any longer their God
- In 1924 at a Christian gathering in Berlin, Hitler spoke to thousands and received a standing ovation when he made the following proclamation: I believe that today I am acting in accordance with the will of Almighty God as I announce the most important work that Christians could undertake — and that is to be against the Jews and get rid of them once and for all.
Is there a Biblical Rebuttal to Replacement Theology?
One only needs to examine four of the unconditional covenants of God to find ample reason to question the Biblical soundness of the Replacement Theology doctrine.
- The Covenant concerning the Seed. After the fall of Adam and Eve, God announced that the salvation of mankind would come through the seed of a woman. Later the revelation of that saving seed would be revealed through a Chaldean resident by the name of Abram (later to be known as Abraham). In chapter 12 of the Book of Genesis we read,
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.’
- The Covenant concerning the Land. As Abram arrived in the promised land, he hears from God again.
And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.
Later, God confirms this Land Covenant with Abram by participating in an ancient ritual of purchase. Abram asks, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? God tells Abram to take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. Abram then divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another. Because of the heat of the day Abram falls into a deep sleep. God then makes His declaration of an everlasting covenant without Abram’s participation for God alone passes through the sacrifices.
Late in Abraham’s life God reaffirms His covenant.
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
During the time of the kings in Israel, we read,
Be ye mindful always of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations; Even of the covenant which he made with Abraham, and of his oath unto Isaac; And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant, Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance;
1 Chronicles 16:15-18
- The Covenant concerning the Throne of David. Most Christians recognize the significance of the connection between King David and Jesus Christ. The prophet Nathan came to King David and said,
And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever.
2 Samuel 7:12-16
We are reminded of this promise in a prophecy of Isaiah.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6, 7
- The Covenant concerning the Discipline of Israel. Not all of the covenants with Israel are pleasant. Solomon’s wisdom reveals that He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Moses recorded six progressive punishments that He would carry out if you do not obey Me. It began with Distress, then Drought, Destruction, Disease, Desolation, Debased Mind, and ultimately Dispersion. From the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians (circa 587 B.C.) unto the 1948 reinstatement of the nation of Israel, the Jews have endured more than 2,500 years of discipline during which they were dispersed among the nations of the world.
Is God Finished with Israel?
The apostle Paul answers this question with an emphatic declaration.
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.
Romans 11:1, 2a
The prophet Jeremiah offered this to Israel as they were being prepared for defeat at the hands of the Babylonians which would begin more than 2,500 years of dispersion.
Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me forever. Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath,
I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.
Again, Jeremiah confirms the surety of God’s covenants with Israel.
Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me.
The apostle Paul sums it up this way.
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.