Saturday, September 7, 2013

Replacement Theology again

I just posted a comment I received while I was away for the last month, on a blog entry about Replacement Theology, the idea that Israel was God's chosen people but lost that status so that now the Church inherits the promises to Israel.
The comment writer advised listening to John MacArthur on the subject so I found a ten minute talk of his at You Tube.
I don't claim to be up on all the issues involved in this controversy and I may have some of it wrong, so comments on this post are welcome. 
But here's my take on MacArthur's talk:
It may be that there is such a thing as Replacement Theology which describes Israel as having forfeited God's promises so that now the Church has replaced Israel in inheriting those promises.  I don't know for sure.  MacArthur calls those who believe in Replacement Theology Amillennialists. 
Since I don't believe there are two different saved entities, the Church and the nation of Israel, but only one body of believers, the Church, I can be accused of a version of Replacement Theology.  But I'm not an amillennialist (I discussed this belief sometime ago on my End Times Monitor blog), and I don't think in terms of the Church "replacing" Israel AT ALL.  There is no such thing as "replacement theology" in reality in my view.   I haven't actually run across the idea as MacArthur describes it but as I said perhaps it is held by some.  In any case I don't share it.
I don't know what position I represent exactly but I am very sure it is not unique to me.  The idea is basically that the Old Testament is full of "types and shadows" of God's redemptive plan, types of Christ certainly in many OT figures, as well as in the tabernacle design, but also "Israel" was a type.  Types are symbols or templates or prophetic figures, they are not the Reality.  The Reality of the types of Christ is Christ Himself.   The earthly nation and people of Israel in the Old Testament were a type of the Church, the Jewish believers from Abraham on are all the Church, the Church in an incomplete form, which Christ completed.  The Church in the Old Testament also includes all the pre-Abrahamic believers, the Patriarchs from Seth to Noah for instance, and Job as well.. 
Certainly Israel was and is a real place on the planet, but it is nevertheless a type of something greater, something heavenly, that is the TRUE land promised to God's people.  Israel itself merely represents or typifies that promised land, it is not in itself that promised land, except in the most limited, temporary interim sense. 
So it's not that the promises no longer apply to the Jews, it's that they ALWAYS applied to God's people whoever and whenever and wherever they are found -- "God's people" meaning BELIEVERS.  Not all Israel believed.  Israel in one type IS the Church, the Israel of the believing Jews.  There is no replacement, the promises belonged then and always to believing Israel AS the Church. 
We are to understand the Old Testament through the New Testament.  One very important clue to how we are to understand the land given to Abraham for instance is to be found in the Letter to the Hebrews, which is quite clear that Abraham did not regard the earthly land of Canaan, now Israel, as the land God was promising to him:
Hebrews 11:9-10  By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:  For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
If Abraham didn't view it that way why are so many these days insisting on this view of it?  On this planet we dwell in "tabernacles," or tents, as in an impermanent home, and with our father Abraham we look to another city altogether, built by God, as our permanent dwelling place.   The "land" of promise is not an earthly land at all.  "The meek shall inherit the earth," not a small portion of earth but the entire earth, a renovated earth.  
NOW, if someone wants to argue that NEVERTHELESS God has plans for earthly Israel as the End Times are fast engulfing us, pointing to undeniable scriptural fact that great numbers of Jews will be ushered into the Kingdom of God, the Church, in these last days, and showing from scripture whatever references DO apply to an earthly fulfillment of the promises of God, I'm not going to object.  I think the fact that Israel has been reconstituted in our time and is now a state and now a focus of political and religious hatreds from enemies around the world is in itself a very clear indication that God has His hand on her, so I would expect that some of the OT scriptures DO apply to earthly Israel although I haven't done a study to determine which. 

This view is all about God's plans to bring the six-thousand-year history He's overseen on this earthly planet to a fitting close that demonstrates that He is indeed God and Lord of Lords.  I also believe that Jesus will literally return to this Earth at the Mount of Olives.  There are scripture references that indicate plenty of events along these lines.   I regard the Millennium as yet future and expect it to be played out on this earthly planet as well.  All that seems quite possible to me from what scripture seems to say.
I'm also not going to suggest that the Jews won't have a specially favored position in the Millennium or the heavenly land of promise.  They were God's firstborn in a sense and I expect them to have places of honor. 
Even so, all that plays out on this planet remains incomplete, remains type and shadow in a sense.  God will judge us for our lives here, but our promise is a heavenly promise, the New Jerusalem, not the old, and that is the promise to Jew and Gentile alike.  Ultimately a new heavens and a new earth, the old having passed away completely forever.