Q. I found an article on a Christian site where the author claims that the Old Testament contains many prophecies that cannot be fulfilled and promises that have been forfeited because God’s promises to Israel were conditional. Am I correct in interpreting his teaching as replacement theology? What would you say in a rebuttal to this? I personally don’t believe in replacement theology and think it is a heretical teaching and was interested in your view. Thanks for your wonderful insight.
A. Yes, you’ve come across a website that teaches Replacement Theology. This view holds that when the Jews rejected the Messiah, all the promises to Israel were transferred to the Church. It’s held by a significant portion of the main line protestant church as well as their more extreme counter parts in the Christian white supremacy movement, where it’s used to justify their anti-semitism.
Advocates of Replacement Theology have departed from a literal interpretation of Scripture, especially where the Old Testament is concerned, and in the New Testament they often re-interpret passages about Israel, saying they’re really written to the Church. Therefore, offering a satisfactory rebuttal is difficult. But there are a number of passages that clearly deny this teaching, and if you take God at His Word, you’ll reject Replacement Theology. Jeremiah 31:35-37 is representative.
This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar– the LORD Almighty is his name: “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the LORD, “will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.” This is what the LORD says: “Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,” declares the LORD.
And in the New Testament, there’s Romans 11:25-27.
“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”
This sounds pretty unconditional to me. There are literally scores of other similar promises.
As far as prophecies that cannot be fulfilled, this idea goes against the very heart of God’s most powerful claim to authority. The way He validates Himself as being worthy of our obedience to Him is by His faithfulness in keeping His promises to us. You’ve staked your eternal destiny on this. Listen to Isaiah 46:8-10.
“Remember this, fix it in mind, take it to heart, you rebels. Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”
Advocates of Replacement Theology are asking us to believe that God didn’t know that Israel would disobey Him and therefore had to come up with a plan B when they did. They say that Israel’s unfaithfulness to Him justifies His unfaithfulness to them. If so, what’s to prevent Him from changing His mind about us? The Church has certainly been unfaithful. Like I said, if you take God at His Word, you’ll reject Replacement Theology.