Replacement Theology has become a bit of a reviled term, even by the people who hold to it! The notion that the church has replaced Israel seems rude even to its proponents. Softer terms such as “supersessionism” or “fulfilment theology” are preferred, but they all end up with the same result – Israel is replaced in their thinking by the church, with no further function or role in God’s plans. However, sometimes just a small detail coming to light can totally change our understanding of a situation.
Thankfully, I grew up with such a strong and admirable presence of Judaism, that I knew the idea of replacement theology wasn't biblically accurate. But as I found out later through my journey with Christ, mainly all of my Christian friends knew nothing about Judaism, and I had to go digging to keep proving over and over that the two are equal. God reveals revelation through-out time, not only individually, but in regard to the time and culture we live in, as scripture is a living document- the living word of god. The word of God is how God reveals himself, he speaks through his word, through his spirit. Parts of scripture are applied at different points through the ages. Israel's purpose in Judaism has all led to this point in time- where the internet is uniting people and information is being discovered.
What makes Christianity seem so foreign to Judaism is that the New Testament continues where the Hebrew bible or Old Testament stops. The two are arranged in chronological order and reveal the entirety of God's Word. At the time of the crucifixtion, the second temple period, Israel was scattered, and their Hebrew bible was re-arranged. It is very clear that the modern day Christian scripture is not a mistranslation of the original Hebrew because of how it unfolds through thousands of years. The Hebrew scripture with the Talmud/rabbinic literature is in complete opposition of the Hebrew scripture old/new testaments. Any in depth study will show this. It's inevitable. The only thing that is keeping Judaism from understanding the New Testament to be true is ignoring it. And that only causes conflict with Judaism and Christianity, because you can't understand what you don't know. And you can't move forward without an accurate perspective.
I remember in the beginning of my studies I couldn't accept "Jesus is the only way to salvation." I knew it was deeper than that, there is more to this understanding and it takes a lot of wisdom to discover what this is really saying. Decades ago, I would really have trouble in my bible studies with others who wouldn't know anything about the strong loyalty, endurance, and heritage in Judaism, the true wisdom and divine blessings. A couple of times I was left in tears, because My conscious would not let me accept any views where Judaism wasn't included. Luckily for me, that drive to discover the truth only brought me to discover and learn so much more. I came to a better understanding of the entirety of the scripture, and it strengthened my relationship with God and his revelation.
The Hebrew Scripture is so rich, and layered in meaning, that it takes a very long time of studying to really grasp what God is revealing. The Jewish believers today who understand Judaism and the culture are beyond blessed and you can clearly see that their unity with their Messiah is an extremely strong presence.
It's the culmination of his plan.
There is something in the candle light that has been carried generation to generation, the keeping of the covenant, the keeping of the language and heritage that has a unique, distinct spark of divinity. God chose Israel to endure his greatest task. If Israel had not had such strong faith in her promises, nurtured her roots, even through such hardship and opposition, then everyone and every other nation wouldn't be able to share in the blessings of the God of Israel.
It is clear that Israel is God's chosen people, and that divine spark is evident in its own divine way. God is always watching over Israel. God gave Israel more hills and valleys, so that when redemption comes, it can shine the brightest, and he can prove his power!
And Israel can prove her promises are true. And well deserved.
My go to scripture was always the following from Paul in Romans, and I corrected friends many times, it's not a part of scripture that Christian's unfamiliar with Judaism discuss much.. but it was a significant part of my journey in discovering God, his revelation, and who he is;
The Remnant of Israel
11 I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah—how he appealed to God against Israel: 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”[a]? 4 And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”[b] 5 So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. 6 And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
7 What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, 8 as it is written:
“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that could not see
and ears that could not hear,
to this very day.”[c]
9 And David says:
“May their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them.
10 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.”[d]
11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!
13 I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry 14 in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection brought reconciliation to the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.
17 If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18 do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!
All Israel Will Be Saved
25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way[e] all Israel will be saved. As it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27 And this is[f] my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”[g]
28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now[h] receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[i] knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”[j]
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”[k]
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
A Living Sacrifice
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Humble Service in the Body of Christ
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[l] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[m] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Love in Action
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[n] Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[o] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[p]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Today, it is not hard for us to fathom how everyone in the world could witness the same event simultaneously, for example. The “explosion in knowledge” and great “increase in people traveling to and fro” that Daniel the prophet wrote of (Daniel 12:4) now makes perfect sense with the development of the internet and air travel.
And for centuries it was extremely difficult for Christians to grasp that the word “Israel” in the Bible could possibly mean ethnic or national “Israel”, since it had apparently ceased to exist as a nation. The Jewish people were scattered across the globe for two millennia, and it certainly appeared to many that God’s purposes for them had come to an end. So scholars interpreted the Bible in light of their understanding, not imagining that Israel would exist again once more.
But since the reestablishment of Israel back in the land in 1948, we can start to read the Bible with new information that helps us to understand what God is talking about when He says, “Israel”. The events of 1948 have presented the shocking possibility that when the Bible talks about Israel, it could now literally mean – ISRAEL!
Since the early church fathers, as far back as Justin Martyr in 160 AD, Christians have been assuming that “Israel” really means “the Church”. Even by 160 AD, the people of Israel had been scattered and the land renamed “Palestine” for almost 100 years, so it’s easy to see how it happened.
THE ERROR OF REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY
But you just try reading Romans 9-11 and every time it says “Israel”, replace it with the word “Church”. You will quickly see that it makes no sense at all.
Israel really means Israel in both the Old and the New Testaments. While the New Testament often describes Israel and the Church in similar terms – both are the Bride of God, children of God, the chosen people, and so on – never does the New Testament call the Church “Israel”.
The word “Israel” occurs 70 times in the New Testament (79 times if you include the word “Israelite”), and all but two of these instances are unequivocally referring to the nation of Israel, and not to the Church – the two exceptional cases being Romans 9:6 and Galatians 6:16. In the past, people have clung to Galatians 6:16 as an example of how Israel can mean the church, but let’s examine that verse…
Galatians 6:16 says: “Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God,” (RSV) or “Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.” (NIV).
But if we look at what the text actually says in the original, these translations have missed a key Greek word:
καὶ ὅσοι τῷ κανόνι τούτῳ στοιχήσουσιν, εἰρήνη ἐπ᾽ αὐτοὺς καὶ ἔλεος, καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ θεοῦ.
Literally translated: And as many as (whoever) to the rule this shall be elementing (observing the fundamentals), peace on them and mercy, and (also) on the Israel of the God.
In other words, even though the Greek text indicates says that Paul was pronouncing peace and mercy to the followers of the Way AND ALSO to “the Israel of God”, those who were translating the text decided it could not possibly mean that Paul wanted to bless the house of Israel as well as the Gentile followers of Yeshua. They chose a far less common way of understanding the grammar, and decided to lump the two together with no distinction. While it is not technically incorrect to translate it in this manner, there are many reasons to stay with the standard meaning of the Greek word “καὶ” to mean “and” or “also”, which is far more commonplace.
GOD’S GREAT PLAN FOR JEW AND GENTILE
Looking at the context of Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he is stressing that there is no need for gentile believers to be circumcised or to follow the Law of Moses, but that salvation is through Yeshua alone, for both Jew and gentile. However, this doesn’t mean that Paul sees no distinction between Jew and gentile, as a cursory look through the rest of his epistles will quickly show you. There is no male or female, he says – and by this he means that both men and women have the same status through Yeshua. But of course there remains a distinction in other ways. Similarly, Paul talks of both the church and of Israel as separate entities many times. They do not blur into one, and there is no evidence that the early church blended the two until 160 AD.
Bible scholar, Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, writes that people who would claim that Israel means the church “must ignore the primary meaning of kai which separates the two groups in the verse in order to make them both the same group”, and Dr. S. Lewis Johnson, who taught Greek and New Testament Exegesis at Dallas Theological Seminary, believes that, “the least likely view among several alternatives is the view that the ‘Israel of God’ is the church.”
For centuries, it did not dawn on Bible scholars that the term Israel could possibly truly refer to the actual nation of Israel, or at least the many thousands of Israelites who were “of God”, and they superimposed their understanding that the Church had replaced it.
In some ways, it is true that the nation of Israel is a “type” of church… a foreshadowing of God’s people both Jew and Gentile together. We can see in the language of Paul throughout the epistles that he seeks to encourage Gentile believers to know that they are just as much “God’s people” as the Israelites have always been, and that they matter no less to him. He deliberately draws parallels with Israel and the new Gentile followers of the Way, showing the similarities. But we also know that Moses was a “type” of Messiah, sent to save the Jewish people, and in no way would we say that he is the same thing as Yeshua Himself. In fact, we see the two standing together on the Mount of Transfiguration!
One does not replace the other, even if one foreshadows the other in a typological manner.
Similarly, in Revelation, we see the tribes of Israel together with every nation, tribe and tongue, worshiping God at the end of time. And of course, the Messiah will return to Jerusalem. Jerusalem in Israel. Israel is Israel, right until the end.
God has no favorites, but He does have a plan. To fudge the distinction between Israel and the Church means that we can miss so much when we read the Scriptures. God wants us to know Him better, to share His heart for Israel, and to understand His plans for Israel in relation to the whole world.
He wants us to continually grow in our understanding of His purposes, redeeming all creation to Himself.
Seeing Israel as meaning “Israel” when we read the Bible brings a whole new level of revelation about our wonderful God and how He is unfolding His perfect plan for all of us.