Back to Articles Page

Replacement Theology

Its Scriptural Basis

(I recently received an unsolicited copy of The Jerusalem Post Magazine - the Christian Edition in the mail. In it was an article, entitled "With Israel, or Without Her?" This article was an attack on the scriptural truth that the Church has replaced natural Israel in the economy of God. I wrote this page in reply to that article)

What did Jesus mean when He said this to the Jews of His day?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. (Mat 21:43)

Sounds like a replacement to me.

And what did Jesus mean when He said this?

Luk 5:36-39
(36) He also told them a parable: "No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old.
(37) And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed.
(38) But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.
(39) And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, 'The old is good.'"

The new wine of the New Covenant cannot be placed into the old wineskins of natural Israel. Instead, it will be placed into the new wineskins of the Church. Sounds like a replacement to me.

Excuse me for believing the Word of God:

"Then you will say, 'Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.' That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe." (Rom 11:19-20)

Sounds like a replacement to me.

Besides, whose fault is it that a separation has taken place between Jews and Gentile Christians?

But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. (Act 13:45-46)

Those who don't understand the setting aside of natural Israel for the Church fail to understand a plain scriptural precept:

It is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. (1Co 15:46)

There is a clear distinction between the the Natural and the Spiritual: the Spiritual is better:

In the light of the king's face is life, and his favor is like a cloud of the latter rain. (Pro 16:15)
The end of a matter is better than its beginning (Ecc 7:8a)
The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. (Hag 2:9a)
Behold, something greater than Solomon is here (Jesus speaking of Himself; the end of Lk 11:31)
The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. (1Co 15:47)

And, God Himself removes the Natural that came first in order to establish the Spiritual:

The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. (Est 2:17)
He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. (Heb 10:9b)

This precept is on display in the book of Esther: Vashti was the first queen of him who was called the king of kings. That king wanted to display the beauty of his queen as the height of the glory of his kingdom. But she was stiff-necked and rebellious. Therefore she was set aside,"never again to come before the King". As it is written, "let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she" (Est 1:19). A Christian would have to be spiritually tone deaf to fail to see this as prophetic of natural Israel set aside in favor of the Church. For, as was quoted above, the "king loved Esther", and "she won grace and favor in his sight".

Again, this precept is in full view in the following passage concerning Ishmael and Isaac. Paul boldly states Ishmael is a type of natural Israel, while Isaac is a type of the Church. He finishes by saying it was the clear, revealed will of God for the Church to supplant natural Israel:

Gal 4:22-31
(22) For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.
(23) But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise.
(24) Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar.
(25) Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.
(26) But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
(27) For it is written, "Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband."
(28) Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.
(29) But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.
(30) But what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman."
(31) So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

Ishmael (Natural) was born first, then Isaac (Spiritual). Isaac is better than Ishmael. Isaac replaced Ishmael. I'm sure that much is undisputed. But, Paul says natural Israel is Ishmael - Ishmael was prophetic of Israel. He says the Church is Isaac - that Isaac was prophetic of the Church. The ramifications are clear: the Church has replaced Israel - and it was God's will:

Rom 9:6-8
(6) But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel,
(7) and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named."
(8) This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.

Whether the Natural likes it or not, the Spiritual will replace it:
King Saul didn't like it but couldn't stop it:

There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker. (2Sa 3:1)

John the Baptist understood it and embraced it:

He must increase, but I must decrease. (Joh 3:30)

Besides, Paul declares that natural Israel wasn't really the inheritor of the Abrahamic Covenant; Jesus Christ was:

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring to many, but referring to one, "And to your offspring," who is Christ. (Gal 3:16)

Next, Paul declares that God's covenant with natural Israel, established through Moses long after the time of Abraham, was not part of the Abrahamic Covenant and did not disturb it:

This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. (Gal 3:17-18)

Paul goes on to declare that the entire history of natural Israel was, in effect, God biding His time until the Fulness of Time when Christ would arrive on the scene:

Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. (Gal 3:19)
So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian (Gal 3:24-25)

Don't be so surprised at this - it was not the first time Natural Israel was forced to wait on God: They cooled their heels for centuries in Egypt because "the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet complete" (Gen 15:16). Now, they are being forced to wait once more until the "fulness of the Gentiles has come in" (Rom 11:25)

Chapter 3 of Galatians is not saying natural Israel has no part of Abraham - that would contradict what Paul says elsewhere in scripture - instead, Paul is saying that all that was distinctly Jewish - the Law and the Temple - was not from Abraham but from Moses. Further, those distinctions were only temporary. The Church is for the ages to come; God's mercy to natural Israel is to fold them into the Church. Of course, because of their sinful pride, they must fulfill another precept of scripture: "The first shall be last and the last shall be first" (Mt 20:16). Natural Israel must wait patiently while the Gentiles come in, then they can come in. (Rom 11:25)

God's ways are not our ways nor are His thoughts our thoughts. Let's see some more of His word on our topic:

For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. (Rom 2:28-29)
For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (Gal 6:15-16)
For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh
(Phi 3:3)

This passage from Paul sounds less like a replacement as a union:

Eph 2:11-19
(11) Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands--
(12) remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
(13) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
(14) For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
(15) by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
(16) and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
(17) And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.
(18) For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
(19) So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Even this passage, which stresses the unity of the people of God in Christ, represents a serious dilemma for the judaizers of the plan and purposes of God: Verses 14 through 16 above declare Jesus will bring Jews and Gentiles together... by destroying the Jewishness that separates them! In this passage, Paul states flatly that there was a wall separating Jews from Gentiles - a 'dividing wall of hostility'. That wall was a Jewish possession residing on Jewish terrain. Jesus destroyed that wall nearly 2,000 years ago. It is not overly surprising to me that some Jews want to rebuild that wall - they disrespect Jesus and disregard His work. But I simply cannot understand Christians who lend aid and comfort to the rebels attempting to rebuild what God destroyed. (Please click here to see a related article I wrote on this topic.)

In Summary: The Church is the true inheritor of the promises made to Abraham, not natural Israel. Natural Israel was primarily related to Moses, not Abraham. Natural Israel was a temporary, parenthetical thought. The history of natural Israel represented the people of God "treading water" until God would once again activate His covenant with Abraham. Just as that covenant was with a single man for three consecutive generations - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - so also it resumed with a single man - Jesus Christ.

And, just as Jacob (Israel) fathered a company of people that bore his name, so also the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the "Everlasting Father" prophesied by Isaiah, has fathered the Church (the Body of Christ), a company of people that bear His name.

Finally, though God has disciplined natural Israel, yet, in wrath He will remember mercy by bringing them into the Church - but only after the fulness of the Gentiles have come in.

© Matthew Schilling March 2006

top of page