Has the church really replaced Israel or have they remained two distinct groups?
In previous posts we have brought to light in Daniel 9:24, that the seventy weeks have been decreed “for your people.” We have said that “your people” means Daniel’s people, the Jews. Therefore, this firmly establishes the fact that the Tribulation period, which is the seventieth week, is meant only for Israel.
But some have insisted that the church has now become Israel; and so, for them, this changes everything.
Well, this is just not true! In this post we will bring to light this error of reasoning that the church has now replaced Israel.
THE ERROR OF REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY
The definition of replacement theology. Kenneth Gentry, one of its leaders, defines it this way: “We believe that the international church has superseded for all times national Israel as the institution for the administration of divine blessing to the world.”
The key here is the words “all times.” In other words, Gentry is saying that the age of Israel is over—that God is finished with them; but the age of the church will continue and has inherited all the promises that God originally gave to the people and to the nation of Israel.
The origin of replacement theology. I won’t try to pinpoint when this false teaching began—I don’t know. However, we do know that it is linked to what is called Preterism: the teaching that most of Bible prophecy—including the Tribulation period of Revelation—happened before A. D. 70. Thus Preterism teaches that when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in A. D. 70, this was God’s judgment on Israel and was Jesus’ vindication for being rejected by His people. Moreover, they would say that at this point in time (A. D. 70) God rejected Israel as His people and installed the Church as His people.
This error of belief seems to have begun with a wrong interpretation of Matthew 24—particularly verse 34—as they insist that “this generation” means the generation that they were living in. This of course would conveniently place all of those catastrophic events described in Matthew 24 (which is the time of the Tribulation) to be around A. D. 70.
Now the problem is that they have built a theology around this false interpretation, and now they interpret scripture according to their false theology. One particular verse that replacement theologians like to teach from and base their theology on is Galatians 6:16. From this verse they insist that “the Israel of God” is the church. But of course it is not. It is a term that Paul uses to refer to all Jewish believers in Christ.
But Preterism, and the wrong interpretation of scripture, is just part of the error; it is just a branch-off of a deeper, spiritual problem. I am referring to Satan and the entire demonic realm. He and his evil cohorts have been working hard to hinder God’s plans, and therefore to put an end to His chosen people—the Jews. He has used various methods to do this down through the centuries: by killing Jewish babies, persecution, mass extermination; and it seems now that he is focusing on just replacing them by the church.
And the way it seems that he has tried to accomplish this is by showing the church (mostly the more liberal part of the church) that the Jews are sinful and stubborn and unworthy to be God’s people. Thus he has been sowing seeds of anti-Semitism into the hearts and minds of people (Christian people), especially into hearts of church leaders.
I won’t take the time here to show every occurrence of Jewish hatred by the church (nor could I); however, after A. D. 70 I think the first major expression of it was the crusades (which began in 1096). The original purpose of the crusades was to rid the Holy Land of Moslems; however, when they found well-established Jewish communities nearby, they decided to attack them. Some would say that their idea was to convert them to Christianity, but their methods weren’t exactly Christian. They dragged them out of their homes, forced them to be baptized, and when they resisted they were killed and their homes were looted and burned.
About four centuries later, the Jewish people underwent another horror—the Spanish Expulsion of 1492. This was also a doing of the church, as Father Tomas de Torquemada thought that the Jews would be a bad influence on a few Christian Jews in His country. So he decided to expel them all—200,000 Jews had four month to leave Spain or die. Few of them escaped safely, many were slaughtered or dumped in the ocean, and some were forced to convert to Christianity on pain of death.
Well, about twenty years later along came Martin Luther to save the day! At first he did just that, making many reforms and saying kind things about the Jews. However, it appears that his supposed kindness was without sincerity or patience; for when his efforts to convert the Jews failed he grew bitter toward them. In 1543 he wrote On the Jews and Their Lies, in which he called them “a base, whoring people, that is, no people of God…” In his book he went on and on raving against them and even called for them to be in forced labor, expelled and slain if they would not convert to Christianity.
Sadly, Martin Luther’s words against the Jews did much damage to the whole of Christianity, especially in Germany, as it planted seeds of anti-Semitism in many hearts. And, as you may have guessed, Luther’s writing against the Jews was later used as Nazi propaganda. In fact, in his book Mein Kampt, Hitler referred to Martin Luther as “a great warrior, a true statesman, and a great reformer.” Moreover, when Hitler set out to rid the world of Jews, he was lauded—by Christians!
What happened? How could these things have happened?
Well, of course, it has happened, and it is still happening by the deceptive work of Satan (Rev. 20:3). Yes, he has sown the seeds of anti-Semitism, which has in effect laid the foundation for replacement theology. And it indeed has now a firm foundation; for I have heard that over 70% of the church holds to this wrong theology.
In our next segment we will attempt to show why replacement theology is in error. Hence, we will show the distinctiveness of each group—Israel and the church, and why they cannot be merged.