The Lie of Replacement Theology & God’s Plan for Israel

Replacement theology and Israel, man in prayer shawl

By Teri Kempe, ICEJ Australia February 2024

A respected pastor and noted theologian recently shared an antisemitic post critical of ‘Christian Zionism’ and promoting a ‘free Palestine’ rhetoric. Although I was aware of ‘Replacement Theology,’ I had not experienced it firsthand before and I was, perhaps naively, shocked at the post.

Replacement Theology in its various forms is widely accepted by many pastors in Australia and taught in most of our seminaries. Although it comes in many different forms and may be described alternatively as supersessionism, dispensationalism or similar, it basically teaches that the Church has replaced Israel in God’s plan of redemption. Accordingly, the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, or an integral part of God’s redemptive plan for the world.

Christian history towards the Jewish people has been one of misunderstanding and ignorance. It has led to shameful anti-Semitism, resulting in pogroms, expulsions, and massacres, including the Holocaust, which occurred in the most historically Christianised country in Europe.

More recently, the church in Australia has been mostly silent about one of the most hideous acts of terrorism the world has ever seen. The lack of overt support for Israel following the horrific events of October 7th 2023, and the rise of antisemitism across the world, is one manifestation of Replacement Theology.

At the recent ICEJ Envision Solidarity Mission in Jerusalem, Professor Gerald McDermott gave a clear explanation of how Replacement Theology came to be entrenched in Christianity from as far back as the fourth century. He was a strong proponent of it until he had an unusual encounter that led him to reassess both his fundamental beliefs and his academic stance.

Jesus and the Apostles

While leading a tour in Israel, his tour guide humbly challenged him to search the Scriptures with fresh eyes and recognise such texts as Romans 11:29, ‘For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.’ In Romans 11:1, Paul asks: Did God reject His people? By no means! Romans 11 explains in detail the difference between the Jew and the Gentile, and God’s deep love for them both.

After many years of diligent study, McDermott found his whole worldview turned upside down when the Holy Spirit revealed to him the truth about the character and nature of God. He learned how Jesus came as a Jew, lived as a Jew, died as a Jew and will return as a Jew. He makes an interesting observation that after the Resurrection and forty days spent with Jesus, the Apostles didn’t cease to be Jews and become Gentiles.

Furthermore, the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) determined that Gentiles didn’t need to be circumcised and become Jews after they accepted the Jewish Messiah; rather, God has different roles for Jews and Gentiles, even as we are one in Messiah. Isn’t that a picture of marriage? Husband and wife have different roles – but they are one family!

Interestingly, concerning the prevalent teaching of Replacement Theology, Dr McDermott observes:

“Thomas Kuhn wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1961. His thesis was that leading scientists had missed much scientific evidence because they had been trained not to see the evidence. This is the same with Replacement Theology. Some of the leading theologians throughout centuries of Christian teaching have completely missed the truth because they have been trained not to look for it, or the lens through which they are looking is prejudiced.”

Sadly, the deeply embedded Replacement Theology in our churches today creates a prejudice against Jews. Many hold the view that Jews killed Jesus.

Mark 14:32–49 clearly shows Jesus knew He was about to die in fulfilment of His mission, and He willingly allowed Himself to be arrested and subsequently sacrificed.

Yes, some Jews were instruments in the process, as were the Romans, Jews and Gentiles together. But Jesus said in John 10:18, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” Jesus laid down His life voluntarily to be the ultimate sacrifice.

God’s Promises

Many subscribing to Replacement Theology believe God did establish His covenant with Israel, but Israel failed to follow God’s Way. They contend that in AD 33, God replaced His Old Testament covenant with His New Testament covenant.

But this fails to take into account Jeremiah 31:32–33: 

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they shall be My people.”

In Genesis 12:3, God speaks directly to Abraham:

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

This could not be clearer. The essence of this covenant occurs hundreds of times throughout the Old Testament and can only apply to both the Jewish people (the Israelites) and to the land God gave them.

God does not lie. All His promises and covenants are ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’. If the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan of redemption, then God does not keep His promises and is a liar. So here’s the challenge.

If you believe the church has replaced Israel, I invite you to do as Dr McDermott did: ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth and take you on an exciting adventure of new insights into the character and purposes of our wonderful Almighty God, Who is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever. Amen.

A leading academic, Professor Gerald McDermott is an Anglican theologian who teaches at Reformed Episcopal Seminary and Jerusalem Seminary. He is the editor of The New Christian Zionism: Fresh Perspectives on Israel and the Land (IVP Academic), and author of Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently About the People and the Land (Brazos Press). He is the author of volumes of academic books, initially on Replacement Theology, in which he had long been schooled.

Click below for further insight into the theological complexities of Israel and the church.

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