In this post and the next one, I will attempt to show why replacement theology is in error by showing the distinctiveness of each group—Israel and the church, and why they cannot be merged.
To begin our discussion, let me assert this: the name Israel, as it is referred to in scripture, always means the Jewish people—those who are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and the church always means those people who are believers in Christ and the Bride of Christ. Therefore, what we are affirming is that after the birth of the church at Pentecost, the distinction between these two groups remains intact. In fact, in the book of Acts, both Israel and the church exist simultaneously. The term Israel is used twelve times and ekklesia (church) nineteen times, yet the two groups are always kept distinct.”
Israel is not only distinguished because of their race—a people who descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—but because they, as a people, were chosen by God. They were chosen to be loved by Him (Deut. 7:8), to be blessed by Him (Gen 12:2-3), to be His own possession (Deut. 7:6), to be a holy nation (Ex. 19:6), and to be a kingdom of priests before Him (Ex. 19:6). They were also chosen to receive the words of God and to record them as our scriptures (Rom. 3:1-2). Most importantly, they were chosen to bring salvation to the world; that is, God chose that Jesus the Messiah would come to this world and be a savior to this world through their line (Rom. 9:5; Heb. 7:13-14).
Now because of God’s great love for His people He has given them certain promises. Some of them pertain to the blessings they will receive subsequent to their own personal salvation (also of which gentile believers will benefit from), and some of them are promises to them as a people and as a nation—which they will receive as soon as they accept Him as their Messiah and Lord.
Spiritual promises. These promises are known as a “New Covenant.” They were originally given by God for the “house of Israel,” at which time all of Israel will be saved. This, of course, will come about at the end of the Tribulation, when Christ returns and they see Him. Thus, at this time, as Paul writes, “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26). Here is this New Covenant recorded for us (in part) in Jeremiah 31:33-34:
But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 “And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.
As you can see, these promises are to Israel as a nation and will be given to them subsequent to their salvation. However, the promises are also very personal and are realized by all who believe—to Jews and gentiles. Hence, these New Covenant promises are the undergirding of the church, of which without the church cannot exist.
Therefore, as Paul has explained to us in Romans 11:17-18, when those of us who were not Jews believed, we were grafted into the Jewish vine and therefore became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree. That is to say, all gentiles (none Jews) who believe are now privileged to share in the spiritual blessings that were originally promised to the Jews through Abraham in the New Covenant.
This wonderful fact—that gentile believers are recipients of the New Covenant, has established another important distinction for Israel—that they have been chosen to administer the blessings of the New Covenant to all who believe.
National promises. God has given Israel many national promises. The following are just a few of them.
From Jeremiah 30:3 ‘For, behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel and Judah.’ The Lord says, ‘I will also bring them back to the land that I gave to their forefathers, and they shall possess it.'” From Jeremiah 31:38-40 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when the city shall be rebuilt for the Lord from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. 39 “And the measuring line shall go out farther straight ahead to the hill Gareb; then it will turn to Goah. 40 “And the whole valley of the dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields as far as the brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be holy to the Lord; it shall not be plucked up, or overthrown anymore forever.” From Deuteronomy 28:11-13 And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. 12 The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. 13 And the Lord shall make you the head and not the tail, and you only shall be above, and you shall not be underneath, if you will listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully…
Israel has not yet received these promises in full because they have not believed in Him. But in the end they will be saved and they will trust Him; consequently, all the promises will be theirs.
I mentioned earlier that some think that God has rejected Israel as His people and this is why they say He has installed the church as His people. Well this is just not true! God has not rejected His people and never will. If you have any doubts about this, listen to what He has said through Jeremiah the prophet, from Jeremiah 31:35-37:
Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day, And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The Lord of hosts is His name: 36 “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the Lord, “Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease From being a nation before Me forever.” 37 Thus says the Lord, “If the heavens above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,” declares the Lord.
If you have read and understood the above declaration of the Lord you know that He definitely has not cast away His people; rather, He has great and glorious plans for them. And you will also see next, as we examine the distinctive of the church, that Israel and the church are uniquely different and will have different and unique roles in the Kingdom.