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Replacement Theology

Before we look in detail at these future events, we need to discuss the interpretation of the scriptures. One of the problems we face is that many people, including Christians do not accept the literal interpretation of the Bible. They maintain that much of it is allegorical or analogy and cannot be taken literally. As a result, they reject much of the Bible. For example, there is a belief widely accepted that the Jews have been rejected by God and replaced by the Church – so called Replacement Theology1.

 

The Church is defined as the body of people who accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who have repented of their former sinful life, whose sins are forgiven under the New Covenant sealed by the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.

 

The Church is under the New Covenant but this has not replaced the Old Covenant that God has with the Jews. Both covenants are valid today.

The Replacement Theology view was expressed way back in the second century by a heretic named Marcion and adopted by some of the early Church fathers. It is based on some shaky translations, mainly of Hebrews 8:13, ‘In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away’, they believe the old covenant is made obsolete by the new covenant. However, the full counsel of the scriptures does not support obsolescence, but rather a development or overlay of the Old Covenant to form the New Covenant. The covenants that God made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses were never rescinded. They remain in force even today.

 

When I was a young boy, we had a strange practice called ‘Penny for the Guy’. Children used to make a life size model of Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament back in 1604, and sit in the street begging for pennies. A quaint English custom, fortunately no longer practiced. However, in that tradition I made the body of the guy out of old clothes and shoes, stuffed with straw. Along came some older children from the next street, took a fancy to my creation and commandeered it for themselves. They fashioned a head out of a pumpkin and stuck it on my body. I struggled to hold back the tears when I saw them next day, begging in the street, collecting all the benefits that should have come my way.

 

The point of the story is to illustrate the way in which many have taken the ‘body’ of Jewish teaching and rejected the Jew, and fashioned a theology of their own making. They take for themselves the promises and blessings from the Jewish Bible, leaving the curses for the Jews. They truly believe that God has replaced Israel with the Church. To adopt this teaching you have to reject huge portions of scripture.

 

Replacement Theology is not a minority view; in fact it has been estimated that as many as 65% of the Christian Church tend towards it. Many notable scholars and theologians have supported the view, including Martin Luther2. Supersessionism, as it is also called, can come in various flavours. Soft-supersessionism regards Israel and the Jews as no longer relevant to God’s plan; they are just another nation like any other. Hard-supersessionism, in its extreme form can result in to persecution of Jews and largely led leading to the pogroms and the holocaust in the last century.

 

Parts of the Church have virtually cut themselves off from the Jewish roots of the faith and believe that the nation of Israel is no longer relevant.

 

The Church has largely invalidated all of the Jewish feasts as instituted by God Himself, which we discussed in chapter 17, and replaced them with its own versions of festivals often taken from pagan or native religions.

 

The Passover was displaced by a pagan feast dedicated to the goddess of love and fertility called Ashtaroth or Eshtar, which became known as Easter. Thus we have Easter bunnies and eggs, which have nothing to do either with the resurrection of Jesus or the Passover celebrations. A deliberate position was taken by the Roman Emperor Constantine in AD 325 to nullify the Jewish Passover celebration; to dissociate it from Easter and cut off all connection with Judaism. Efforts are even made to ensure they do not occur on the same day. Indeed, the resurrection of Jesus should be celebrated by the Church, but it should not be called Easter Sunday; rather Resurrection Sunday, Feast of Firstfruits or something similar.

 

Christmas was invented to commemorate Jesus’ birth at totally the wrong time of year. Jesus was most likely born during the Feast of Tabernacles. Christmas, as one of the most significant annual events of the Church and the world replaces the Jewish Hanukkah or Festival of Lights. The historic Church also took on board the pagan Yuletide, which celebrates the birth of the sun and light. Its origins are believed to predate Christ and in fact may be associated with Nimrod, the founder of the city of Babylon. Apparently, legend has it that, after Nimrod died, his mother commanded that everyone should decorate an evergreen tree to commemorate her son. Trees and logs were also worshipped as the bringers of light when they were used as fuel in the middle of the dark winter. Thus we have yule logs, Christmas trees and decorations as part of the celebrations. Santa Claus appears to be a concoction of various  legendary characters, including the Turkish St Nicholas, as well as legendary or actual Scandinavian characters who gave presents to people at that time of the year, originally dressed in green. Santa was later dressed in red and promoted strongly by Coca Cola around 1906. Although that company enhanced the image, they did not create it.

 

The Feast of Day of Pentecost was retained by the Church, but more recently became the Spring bank Holiday.

 

So we can see that the Church has taken active steps to cut itself off from the Jewish roots of our faith.

The prophets, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea and several of the others, write very graphically about Israel in terms of a wife who has been unfaithful to her husband, the Lord God. But God speaking through these prophets makes it clear that he will never give her up. Although the Prophets comprise about one third of the Bible, many Christians have never read them or given them more than a cursory glance. Many people will quote their favourite verses from the prophets without putting them into context. The prophets are all speaking about Israel and it is hard to understand how anyone could interpret them as referring to the Church. I don’t want to labour the point overly by quoting lengthy passages, since about 300 pages of a typical Bible are devoted to the prophets, but a couple of examples suffice as illustrations which clearly show the reference is to Israel.

 

Often quoted is the passage: ‘Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned’. Usually ignored is the fact that this is preceded by ‘Thus says the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel’ and followed by ‘For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour’ (Isaiah 43:1-3)

 

People love to quote ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3), ignoring the preceding two verses ‘"I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they will be my people… I will come to give rest to Israel’.

 

The following passage is in reference to the return of Israel in the last days, from all of the nations into which they have been dispersed. ‘Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Now will I bring again the captivity of Jacob, and have mercy upon the whole house of Israel, and will be jealous for my holy name; After that they have borne their shame, and all their trespasses whereby they have trespassed against me, when they dwelt safely in their land, and none made them afraid. When I have brought them again from the people, and gathered them out of their enemies' lands, and am sanctified in them in the sight of many nations; Then shall they know that I am the LORD their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them unto their own land, and have left none of them any more there. Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord God’ (Ezekiel 39:25-29)

 

God is saying that He dispersed them as punishment for their disobedience, and He is then gathering them back into their own land. Then He will pour out His Spirit on them and never again turn His face away from them.

 

Some have tried to argue that these passages about Israel returning from exile and dispersion were fulfilled in the return from Babylon, around 500 BC in the days of Nehemiah and Ezra, but only about 50,000 Jews returned to Israel. The vast majority of Jews never did return and have continued to live in exile for 2500 years.

 

These scriptures clearly show that God has not abandoned Israel and He never will. Even in the last war when it must have looked as though God had forsaken them, He was with them. Even though the Arab nations and indeed the whole world seems to be bent on extinguishing the nation of Israel, that will never happen. The promises that God made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David will be fulfilled and their descendents will again be gathered and remain in the land of Israel. God’s word cannot be broken.

 

There is a passage in Jeremiah that describes the history and the future of the Jews and Gentiles very clearly and succinctly.

 

‘Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the LORD, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law; And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me: Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favour. Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers. Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the LORD, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks. For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes. And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things. O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods? Therefore, behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is The LORD’. (Jeremiah 16:11-21).

 

This passage, written in about 600BC, states that:

1. Israel has forsaken God and served idols and not kept the Law; they had filled the land with abominable things

2. God will cast Israel out of their land into distant unknown lands.

3. In exile they will serve other gods and not be favoured by the God of Israel

4. There they will have to repay God and recompense for their sin

5. God will send hunters and fishermen to seek them out of hiding and bring them back to the Land of Israel

6. God will again become their fortress and deliverer from affliction

7. They will no longer refer back to the miracle of the Passover and deliverance from Egypt, but God will be known as the one that brought Israel out of the land of the north and from other lands where they have been exiled.

8. The Gentile nations from all over the Earth will acknowledge and worship God.

9. The Gentiles will realise that they have been taught lies, deception and things of no value, by their ancestors (such as replacement theology!).

10. Both Jew and Gentile will accept the God of Israel as the LORD

 

The same sentiment is repeated in Jeremiah 23, showing that this worldwide dispersal and re-gathering of Israel is not an afterthought, but a very critical part of God’s agenda. ‘Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land’ (Jeremiah 23:7-8)

 

This has not yet happened, but Jews are steadily returning to their own land and everything is in place for fulfilment of this promise.

 

The Jews or the Nation of Israel have always been a special people to God even though they have suffered so much rejection by the nations of the world. Their success and evident blessing of God is seen in what they have achieved as a nation in terms of Nobel prize winners, eminence in research, film industry, computing and technology and many other areas of business as well as farming and agriculture.

 

Jews make up approximately 0.25% of the world's population, yet at least 23% of all recipients of Nobel Prizes during the 20th Century were Jews3. (i.e. nearly 100 times the average per capita.)

 

They have survived many attempts to eliminate then from the face of the earth and still bounced back time and again. They are formidable in warfare. They are undoubtedly a gifted nation. However, this is not the reason they are special to God.

 

Deuteronomy Chapters 7, 8 and 9 express that this people is chosen by God, not because of all their achievements or their greatness, but because He made a covenant with their forefathers and God does not renege on his promises.

‘For thou (Israel) art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations.’ (Deuteronomy 7:7-9)

This was written about 3500 years ago, but the promises stand for at least 25,000 years!

 

Even so, Moses had to remind God of this, as He was about to destroy the Israelites because of their rebellion. ‘I prayed therefore unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, destroy not thy people and thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed through thy greatness, which thou hast brought forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Remember thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; look not unto the stubbornness of this people, nor to their wickedness, nor to their sin: Lest the land whence thou broughtest us out say, Because the LORD was not able to bring them into the land which he promised them, and because he hated them, he hath brought them out to slay them in the wilderness’. (Deuteronomy 9:26-28)

 

So, in spite of their unfaithfulness, stubbornness and rebellion, God has made an unconditional covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and it will be fulfilled. The time is coming when they will finally live in peace in the land that God defined all that time ago. ‘In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:’(Genesis 15:18) and ‘Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.’

(Joshua 1:3-4).

This territory goes from Lebanon and Syria in the north to Egypt in the south, from the Mediterranean in the west to the River Euphrates in the east.

This is at least 10 times the land currently occupied by Israel. So it seems like a big undertaking, but that is the unconditional promise God made to the descendents of Jacob.

 

When Israel moved in to conquer this land, according to the Bible, they were doing exactly as God told them. He gave precise instructions of the territory they were to occupy, specifying exact boundaries and the names of the cities in great detail (Joshua Chapters 14–19). This signed, sealed and witnessed document, written over 3000 years ago, held by millions of people must constitute the oldest and most authentic title deeds to any property on Earth. Yet people, including many so-called Bible believing Christians constantly challenge the right of the Jews to occupy this land, carving it up and giving it away in direct defiance again God the Creator. Nowhere in the Bible is there any indication that this covenant is no longer in force. The word of God stands forever.

 

Of course there are humanitarian issues regarding the Palestinian families that took up occupation during the time of Israel’s exile, which must be dealt with by fair negotiation, but the millions that have poured into that land since it was given to the Jews in 1948 have no special right to live there. Using sheer weight of numbers of Arabs moving into the only democratic nation in the Middle East would soon ensure that the politics of that country would become Muslim within a few years and Judaism would effectively be wiped out. However, that is God’s problem and He will deal with it in His way, not necessarily by military might and warfare; just as He did thousands of years ago.

 

It may come as a shock to the majority of Christians, that when they stand before the one they know as Jesus, the Son of God, that he is not actually a tall blond, blue-eyed Anglo-Saxon; because He was, is and always will be a Jew. His name is Yeshua and he is a member of the most despised and hated race on Earth, a Jew of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5).

 

As, during the pogroms of the last century, the time will come when, once again Jews will be hated and hunted across the world. As worldwide fear and tension grows fuelled by terrorism, Muslims will claim that the problem is with the Jews. As a result, the Jews will again become castigated as the root problem of the troubles in the world. In the Bible it is known as ‘The time of Jacobs trouble’ (Jeremiah 30). When we stand before Jesus He will ask what we did for His brothers during their time of misery. When they are rejected and reviled, cast into prison and starving, did we help, clothe and feed them or did we turn away? On that basis, we will be labelled as sheep or goats, for Jesus said, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ (Matthew 25:40). He will be asking how you treated his brothers, the most despised people on Earth.

 

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, (Luke 15:11-32) Jesus tells how the younger son takes his inheritance from his father and squanders it in a foreign land. Living amongst the pigs, having lost everything, he realises his mistake and determines to return to his father. Rather than rejecting him, the father welcomes him back and restores his position in the household with celebrations. Meanwhile the elder brother angrily rejects his repentant brother and refuses to join the party. The prodigal son is a type of the Jewish race, which has been, and is currently, living apart from God the Father. The elder brother represents the Gentile nations and in particular the Church. The basis for this statement is that, whilst the Jews are under the Abrahamic and the Mosaic covenant, the Gentile nations are covered by an even older covenant: that of God and Noah . God said, ‘And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.’ (Gen 9:9,13). Every time we see a rainbow, it is a reminder of God’s covenant, not to flood the world again. On man’s side, the requirement was to repopulate the earth, not to shed the life of another and not to eat or drink blood. Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth became the fathers of all the nations that are in the world today. So the Gentile covenant is much older than the Jewish covenant, on which basis Gentiles can claim to be the elder brother.

 

Paul also argues in Romans 4 that Abraham was the father of those of faith before he was circumcised, when he became the father of what would later be known as Jews. In other words, those non-Jews who live by faith can be considered as the elder brother.

 

In the not-too-distant future, like the prodigal, the Jews as a nation will return to their Father and home, who said ‘And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart’ (Jeremiah 24:7). The Church, as the elder brother may well be resentful when the wayward son realises his mistake and returns to the Father. Many will turn their backs and refuse to join the welcome home party, to whom the Father says  ‘Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found’ (Luke 15:31,32). The story as told by Jesus is left hanging with those words, but you can feel the anguish of the Father as the elder brother turns away from the repentant younger son and refuses to accept him back into the family.

 

The question of how we as individuals, treat those brothers of Jesus, may well be the test as to whether we are to be treated by Jesus as sheep or goats!

 

1. See Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supersessionism

2. Martin Luther: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Jews_and_Their_Lies

3. Nobel Prize winners: http://www.jinfo.org/Nobel_Prizes.html

Some further detail:

- Chemistry (29 prize winners, 19% of world total)

- Economics (22 prize winners, 38% of world total)

- Literature (13 prize winners, 13% of world total)

- Peace (9 prize winners, 10% of world total)

- Physics (47 prize winners, 26% of world total)

- Physiology or Medicine (53 prize winners, 28% of world total)

 

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