Since I've made some comments on "replacement theology" recently I've been taking notice of the different sides of the controversy somewhat more than I usually do.
It was a comment by Jimmy DeYoung on Brannon Howse's radio show that prompted me to write a post a while back objecting to his statement that animal sacrifices would persist through the reign of Christ during the Millennium, which seems to me to be a radical departure from the revelation of scripture and Christian theology throughout history. I argued that the Old Testament sacrifices all foreshadowed the sacrifice of Christ, they all represented atonement for sin which He fulfilled perfectly, and therefore if they are reinstated in Israel it would be a blasphemy. Such a blasphemous reinstatement might occur during the reign of Antichrist but couldn't possibly persist after the return of Christ.
Then I did a post saying that I do not believe that national Israel is God's Chosen People. This argument is more in line with the views of what is called Replacement Theology, but I don't agree with them that this means there is no role left in God's plans for national Israel at all.
Brannon Howse had Jimmy DeYoung on his radio program again today, in which the topic was the presence of Christian Research Journal's Hank Hanegraaf at a basically anti-Israel conference, and Hanegraaf's Replacement Theology was addressed.
I think it may help clarify what Replacement Theology is, and my own position, to present Hanegraaf's point of view and respond to it:
Does the Bible Make a Distinction between Israel and the Church?
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:28–292).
At the heart of a currently popular end–times theology is the belief that God has two distinct people—one of whom must be raptured before God can continue His plan with the other.
I also have a problem with this division of God's people into two separate peoples, as I don't see scripture supporting this idea. I haven't yet been completely convinced that the Church will be raptured before the very last days begin, but insofar as I entertain this possibility it is with the idea not that there are separate plans for separate Chosen peoples but that there is nevertheless SOME kind of unfinished business God has with Jacob or national Israel, and certainly there is yet the unfinished business of the redemption of the entire Creation to play out. Jesus is to return to claim the entire world as His own in the end, not just His people. The last days are the Day of the Lord which is described throughout scripture as a time of unparalleled suffering. It is a time when Satan gets to run the show, perhaps without interference from the Church. The only glimpse of comfort I see in this whole scenario is that during the "time of Jacob's trouble" God says "he will be saved out of it." None of this is clear to me and probably won't become clear to anyone until it's under way.
Rather than teaching that God has two categories of people, Scripture reveals only one chosen people who form one covenant community, beautifully symbolized by one cultivated olive tree.
I believe what is called the "wave offering" of two loaves of bread that were ceremonially waved before the Lord in various Old Testament ceremonies prophetically shows the essential unity of BELIEVING Jew and Gentile as two peoples composed of the same spiritual stuff. The two olive trees that give their oil to the lampstand pictured in Zechariah are said in the Book of Revelation to be representative of the two witnesses described there, but they also suggest two sources that combine to make one oil which could represent the Church of both Jew and Gentile. Whether this is the case I don't know for sure (that would suggest Enoch the Gentile and Elijah the Israelite as the two witnesses to my mind since both were taken up into heaven without dying, and both witnesses are going to die as they preach in Jerusalem. I don't think one of the witnesses could be Moses because Moses already died once and can't die a second time.), but the point is that there are images in the Old Testament that picture one out of two, but I don't know of any that argue for two ultimately separate people of God.
Hanegraaf later in this article identifies this tree as described in Romans where Paul says the Gentiles were "grafted in" to the root, or the natural olive tree, which represents the Jews.
First, far from communicating a distinction between Israel and the church, the Scriptures from beginning to end reveal that God has only ever had one chosen people purchased “from every tribe and tongue and language and nation” (Rev. 5:9). As Paul explains, the “mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:6, emphasis added). Indeed, the precise terminology used to describe the children of Israel in the Old Testament is ascribed to the church in the New Testament. Peter calls them “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (1 Pet. 2:9). Ultimately, they are the one chosen people of God, not by virtue of their genealogical relationship to Abraham, but by virtue of their genuine relationship to “the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God” (1 Pet. 2:4).
Furthermore, just as the Old and New Testaments reveal only one chosen people, so too, they reveal only one covenant community. While that one covenant community is physically rooted in the offspring of Abraham—whose number would be like that of “the stars” of heaven (Gen. 15:5) or “the dust of the earth” (Gen. 13:16)—it is spiritually grounded in one singular Seed. Paul makes this explicit in his letter to the Galatians: “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed’ meaning one person, who is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). As Paul goes on to explain: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). The faithful remnant of Old Testament Israel and New Testament Christianity are together the one genuine seed of Abraham and thus heirs according to the promise. This remnant is not chosen on the basis of religion or race but rather on the basis of relationship to the resurrected Redeemer.
Finally, the one chosen people, who form one covenant community, are beautifully symbolized in the book of Romans as one cultivated olive tree (see Rom. 11:11–24). The tree symbolizes Israel; its branches symbolize those who believe; and its root symbolizes Jesus—the root and the offspring of David (Rev. 22:16). Natural branches broken off represent Jews who reject Jesus. Wild branches grafted in represent Gentiles who receive Jesus. Thus says Paul, “Not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children….In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Rom. 9:6–8). Jesus is the one genuine seed of Abraham! And all clothed in Christ constitute one congruent chosen covenant community connected by the cross.3
This article first appeared in the Ask Hank column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 31, number 1 (2008). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org
I agree with all this, except that he concludes that there is no role left for national Israel whereas I don't, and as I understand it neither did the Protestant Reformers who did envision a role for Israel in the end times but without taking away from the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise in the Church.
What makes the difference here is a confusion between national Israel and spiritual Israel, which occurs on both sides of the dispute. There are not two separate CHOSEN peoples, there are not two separate people of God, but there is still Jew and Gentile OF THE FLESH, as-yet-unredeemed people. National Israel is "Jacob" not the Israel of God but the Israel of the flesh, from which nevertheless scripture promises to draw many Jews into the Israel of God in the end times.
The extreme pro-Israel dispensationalists make the mistake of thinking of national Israel as God's chosen people, and the extreme exponents of Replacement Theology apparently make the same mistake. There will nevertheless be many of them saved out of this Great Tribulation which is to come upon the earth.
Does the Bible make a distinction between Israel and the Church: No, not between spiritual Israel and the Church, they are identical, but national Israel is not spiritual Israel.
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