By: William Jackson
Replacement theology “is the teaching that the Christian church has replaced national Israel regarding the plan, purpose, and promises of God”1 In theological circles it is sometimes called supersessionism or fulfillment theology. In short, it asserts that the Jews were bumped out as the chosen people and replaced by the Christians. For Christianity, this is a critical component, especially if one believes in the rapture or tribulation. As we view it, much of Revelations hinges on Daniel 9:24-27 which is where the seven-year tribulation was taken. The problems for Christians is that Daniel is talking about the Jews in the final days not the Gentiles. Thus begs the question, is replacement theology something that is supported by God’s word, or is it a method of perpetuating the Christian religion? We will dig into both the Tanakh and Christian writings to determine an answer.
We do know that initially God selected Israel as His chosen people; Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 7:6-8, 14:2. However, if one reads the New Testament, it infers that Jews were replaced by Christians as God’s Holy people. We see this with Paul when he says
For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. – Ephesians 2:14-15
The “one new people” would be any Jew or Gentile that believed in the Christian messiah, or more simply said, “this one new people would be the Christians.”
As well; Colossians 3:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:4, 2:13, and Revelation 17:14 are other New Testament verses that claim the church and believers in the Christian messiah are the new chosen ones2.
So, what makes a people the chosen ones(?) – a covenant. As we know, God did make a covenant with Israel first, through Abraham 3 (Genesis 12:1-3,7; 13:14-17; 15:1-21; 17:1-21 and 22:15-18) at Mount Sinai 4 (Exodus 19–24). However, one must note that under this covenant, there are certain blessings (Leviticus 26:1-13, Deuteronomy 28;1-14), and curses (Leviticus 26:14-39 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68). As the prophets would tell us, Israel would receive both blessings and curses for her obedience and disobedience, respectfully. As for Israel’s disobedience, we see punishments beginning with the Babylonian captivity in 605 BCE.
Yes, the consequences for disobedience are punishments; but this does not suggest that the covenant is broken. God states, at the end of the curses, that He will remember the covenant He made with Israel (Leviticus 26:42, Ezekiel 16:60, Psalm 106:45). Still many bring up Jeremiah 3:8, where God divorced Israel, but if we read the balance of chapter 3 we see God pining for Israel to repent and return to Him.
Another point to ponder is that our God does not change his mind (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, Isaiah 44:6), and He knows the future (Jeremiah 29:11, Isaiah 46:10, Psalm 33:11). So, the idea that our God, who sees into the future and doesn’t change, would pick a new people is ludicrous. Even when we look at the book of Zechariah we see a future plan which includes the Jewish people. This book talks about the Messiah to come and Israel’s prospects in the future5. In Zechariah 8:23 it speaks about an upcoming time where, “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’” If the Jews have been eliminated as God’s people, how could this statement of future tense happenings hold up? Remember that Zechariah was written after the Babylonian captivity. Let’s not stop here, we need to look towards Malachi as to the conclusion of the Jews. Remembering that Malachi was the last prophet to say anything. He sums it up nicely by saying “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed” (Malachi 3:6). God then speaks to Israel over the next five verses explaining how Israel can recover from its’ curse. Do we not think if God was going to break His covenant with His chosen people and pick a new people, that we would have heard about it through His prophets?
The Tanakh teaches the restoration of the nation Israel5 – Deuteronomy 30:1-6, Jeremiah 30-31, 33, Ezekiel 36–37, Amos 9:11-15, Zephaniah 3:14-20, Zechariah 12–14. Nevertheless, let us return to Paul, who at the beginning of this article talked about the Christians becoming the “new” chosen people in Ephesians 2:15; “He (Jesus) did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations…”. So, Paul says that the method of making the Gentiles His chosen people is to remove the covenant. Funny, because the Tanakh tells us in Isaiah 56:6-8; Ezekiel 43:18-27 and Zechariah 14:16, that God’s Kingdom will be reinstituted as it was before. Likewise, for those that believe in the New Testament, it appears that Paul was in contention with his fellow Christian writers who believed that the law would remain and that the Temple would be restored (Matthew 5:17-18, Luke 16:17, Acts 3:20-21, Revelation 11:19). Replacement theology appears to be a method of forcing the New Testament to work with the Tanakh. Stealing a play from the Christian handbook in 2 Corinthians 6:14, they warn believer to not be unevenly yoked. The New Testament does this type of manipulation to the Tanakh, because they need to carve the puzzle pieces to fit them together; because they won’t snap into place on their own. Replacement theology is just a way to force things together that do not fit.
- Slick, Matt. “What Is Replacement Theology?” CARM. Accessed April 30, 2016. https://carm.org/questions-replacement-theology.
- Sizer, Stephen. “2 – Israel and the Church: Who Are God’s Chosen People.” Zion’s Christian Soldiers? 2007. Accessed April 30, 2016. Page 22, http://www.christianzionism.org/BibleSays/Sizer03.pdf.
- “Jewish Roots.” The Abrahamic Covenant. Accessed April 30, 2016. http://chosenpeople.com/main/jewish-roots/267-the-abrahamic-covenant.
- Barrick, William D. “The Mosaic Covenant.” Academia.edu. Fall 1999. Accessed April 30, 2016. (Page 220) http://www.academia.edu/1370222/The_Mosaic_Covenant.
- Vlach, Michael. “12 Reasons Why Supersessionism / Replacement Theology Is Not a Biblical Doctrine.” – Theological Studies. 2012. Accessed April 30, 2016. http://theologicalstudies.org/resource-library/supersessionism/327-12-reasons-why-supersessionism-replacement-theology-is-not-a-biblical-doctrine.