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The two-edged sword of Replacement Theology

The majority of Christians believe in Replacement Theology – the majority of Evangelicals and charismatics also. It may surprise you to know that many Christians who love Jewish worship music or who staunchly believe in future prophetic events for Israel are also ‘practical Replacement Theology’ adherents.

  • What is Replacement Theology?
  • What are its historical origins?
  • Why is it so widespread in the Church today?
  • How come even many of those who appreciate Jewish roots end up being ‘practical followers’ of Replacement Theology?
  • What steps can be taken to help bring down this stronghold?

Can anything good come out of Samaria?

Circa 150 A.D. a Samaritan believer in Yeshua named Justin Martyr was one of the first theologians to push Replacement Theology. The Samaritan community Justin was raised in was shot through with anti-Semitism for many centuries. As the Book of Ezra tells us:

  • “Now when the enemies of Judah and Benjamin (‘and the rest of their colleagues who live in Samaria’) heard that the people of the exile were building a temple to YHVH God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ households, and said to them, ‘Let us build with you, for we, like you, seek your God; and we have been sacrificing to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us up here.’ But Zerubbabel and Yeshua and the rest of the heads of fathers’ households of Israel said to them, ‘You have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God; but we ourselves will together build to YHVH God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia has commanded us’” (Ezra 4:1-3, 17).

Justin hewed the pillars of Replacement Theology in his “Dialogue With Trypho, A Jew (see The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1975; ed. Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson, Vol. I, chapters 29, 120, 123-124, 135):

  • God has rejected the Jewish people (see Romans 11:2)
  • Gentile Christians have replaced Israel and are now the chosen people and the ‘true Israel’ (see Romans 11:29)
  • All God’s promises to the Jewish people now apply only to Gentile Christians (see Romans 9:4)
  • God likes Gentile worship better than Jewish worship (see Romans 15:10)

For more in-depth information on Justin’s teachings, see Israel the Key to World Revival by Avner Boskey, chapter nine, How Have We Robbed God?  Replacement Theology and You (available at https://davidstent.org/books/ ).

Justin believed that, when the majority of Israel’s spiritual leaders rejected Yeshua’s Messiahship, this was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ – and that God then rejected the Jewish people. In spreading this ‘fake news,’ Justin violated the word and heart of God as expressed throughout the Bible:

  • “My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth; and there was no one to search or seek for them … And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams … And they will no longer be a prey to the nations … and they will not endure the insults of the nations anymore” (Ezekiel 34:6, 13, 28-29)
  • “He who scattered Israel will gather him” (Jeremiah 31:10)
  • “And it will come about that as I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to overthrow, to destroy, and to bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant” (Jeremiah 31:28)
  • “For I will restore you to health and I will heal your wounds, declares YHVH, because they have called you an outcast, saying: ‘It is Zion; no one cares for her’” (Jeremiah 30:17)
  • “Is not Ephraim My dear son, the child in whom I delight? Though I often speak against him, I still remember him. Therefore My heart yearns for him. I have great compassion for him, declares YHVH” (Jeremiah 31:20)
  • “Proclaim this word: This is what YHVH Almighty says: I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they added to the calamity” (Zechariah 1:14-15)
  • “To them ( the Jewish people) belong the covenants . . . and the promises” (Romans 9:3-5)
  • “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way!  First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God” (Romans 3:1-2)
  • “(The Gentile believers of Macedonia) … indeed … owe it to (the saints in Jerusalem). For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings” (Romans 15:26-27)
  • “As far as the gospel is concerned, (, the unbelieving Jewish people) are enemies (ed. of the gospel) on your (ed., Gentile) account. But as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable” (Romans 11:28-29)

Justin Martyr and the Replacement theologians who followed him may have delighted in Jesus’ great passion for the Church, but they were blind in not recognizing Messiah’s great passion for His own Jewish people.

By trumpeting an unbalanced focus on Israel’s judgment while ignoring God’s undying commitment to and covenant with His Jewish people, Replacement Theology has missed the heart of God in these matters.

Robbing the God of Israel and the Israel of God

To appropriate Israel’s chosen status is to steal the Jewish people’s God-given promises. To rob the Jewish people is to rob the God of the Jews. This is of course a violation of the Eighth Commandment, “Thou shalt not steal!” (Exodus 20:15). Stealing from the Jewish people brings a curse on the thief according to Genesis 12:3, even if that thief is a Christian thief. Theft, like all sin, needs to be confessed according to 1 John 1:9. But after confession comes restitution – what John the Baptist called “fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:7-9).

  • How will the Church as a whole and as individuals bring restitution to the Jewish people?

Boasting in the breeze, swinging in the wind

In Romans 11:17-24 the Apostle Paul explains that all non-Jewish believers in Messiah Yeshua are actually grafted into a pre-existing Jewish olive tree of faith. He rings out a prophetic warning to Gentile believers down through the corridors of time, warning them not to boast against the Jewish people, their national and prophetic calling, and their amazing Last Days restoration. To boast against the Jews is to separate oneself from the Jewish tree of faith. It is literally to cut oneself loose from the place of blessing and stability. A tree not connected to its own roots will eventually wither and die. This is Paul’s warning: “Do not be conceited, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off” (Romans 11:20-22).

Avoiding the Scriptures about Jerusalem’s restoration

Over the past forty years I have watched a growing awareness among some believers that End Times events will have a focus on Jerusalem. I have also seen a blossoming appreciation of God’s passionate love for His bride. Yet I have not always seen these two streams come into a biblical balance regarding the Jewish people’s central place in this jigsaw puzzle. The Scriptures let us know beyond any doubt that:

  • The God of Israel is crazily and passionately in love with His Jewish covenant people
  • The God of Jacob is restoring the nation of Israel and raising them up to be a mighty army à la Ezekiel 37:10

Most of the teaching I have heard about Israel strays from these central biblical truths.

  • When Last Days events are considered, only the traumatic aspects of biblical prophecy are focused on, but the equally amazing passages of Jewish revival and victory are simply not proclaimed (g., Zechariah 12:509; Psalm 110:3; Isaiah 41:14-16 etc.).
  • Focus is often given to God’s love for the primarily Gentile church, but little interest is shown for YHVH’s burning passion for the Jewish people in the past, present and future (Ezekiel 16:7-14; Isaiah 54:5-7; 61:10; 62:3-5; Hosea 2:14-23, etc.).

When there is no awareness of the need to focus on Israel in the here and now, and when the subject of the Jewish people is taught without passion or biblical depth, then one can say that these above-detailed expressions can be called ‘practical Replacement Theology.’

Making room for Jewish roots but having no time to focus on real Jews

I and my Lady Rachel have a deep love and appreciation for music and especially for Jewish music. I grew up immersed in Yiddish culture (theater, choir, literature and folk songs). My whole family loves art and theater, and is actively involved in encouraging such expressions. So we have been encouraged to see Gentile believers embrace Jewish modes of worship. These would include Jewish-sounding music, banners with Jewish themes, Jewish dancing in worship, focus on the Hebrew language, and the perfume and shades of meaning that the study of the Hebrew Scriptures can sometimes bring to biblical studies, etc.

The Apostle Paul prophesied about how the Jewish roots of the faith would bring blessing and encouragement to many non-Jews. Gentiles in Messiah have become partakers with the Jewish believers of the rich sap and root of the Jewish olive tree (see Romans 11:17).

But I have also noticed that all too often, for some Gentile believers, these new and Jewish expressions are both the beginning and the end of the story.  These appreciative manifestations for Jewish things often do not cross over the line and lead to activity dedicated to Israel’s restoration. A healthy appreciation for the Jewish roots of our faith should lead to the following:

  • Intercession for the Jewish people’s safety, rescue, deliverance and salvation in Messiah Yeshua (Isaiah 62:1, 6-8)
  • Outreach to the Jewish people with the message of atonement in Messiah Yeshua (Romans 1:16; 10:14-15)
  • Extending one’s hands to bolster and equip Messianic Jewish ministry (Romans 15:25-28)
  • Standing with the Jewish people who are under attack internationally (Jeremiah 16:16a; 31:7, 10; Isaiah 60: 61:4-9; 62:8-11)

Connection with Jewish things is not primarily meant to give us a happier and more prosperous life in Gentile suburbia. The priority focus here is meant to enfold our hearts with God’s purposes in blessing and restoring His Jewish people spiritually and physically – and all the more so as we see the Day drawing near.

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Removing the Jewish people from Jewish promises

The final point to be considered here concerns a way of interpreting the prophetic scriptures. Many of the biggest serial offenders on this point are well-known teachers and leaders. In this form of Replacement Theology, scripture passages which specifically refer to the prophetic future of Israel are reinterpreted, with Gentile believers deftly inserted in place of the Jewish nation. These passages are then presented with gusto as offering a brilliant future for Gentile believers, even though the actual prophecies in question specifically refer to the Jewish people and to their own Promised Land of Israel. This usage is by far the most common example of ‘practical Replacement Theology.’

Here are a few common examples:

  • using the terms Hephzibah and Be’ulah in Isaiah 62:4 to refer to the primarily Gentile church, when the clear context is the Jewish people and the physical ruins of Jerusalem
  • one example among countless others: turning Isaiah 60:1-3 (“Arise, shine for your light has come”) into a prophecy about a Last Days Gentile Christian ministry, even though the text clearly describes a Jewish End of Days spiritual revival
  • using the term ‘the restoration of David’s tabernacle’ to refer to a revival of praise and worship, when Amos 9:11 clearly teaches that the restoration of the physical Davidic dynasty in a restored Jewish Jerusalem is the governmental focus of this passage (see free downloadable article by Avner Boskey at https://davidstent.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/davidstabernacle.pdf)
  • teaching that scripture passages about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Deborah, Esther, Zion etc. refer to the primarily Gentile church, while ignoring the clear teaching in these passages that they are referring to the Jewish people and their national destiny

The amount of examples here could go on for a long time. Suffice it to say that such ‘practical Replacement Theology’ teaching is widespread, and most people who teach such things may not even be aware of how this approach twists the Scriptures and distorts the heart of God’s message written there about Israel.

It is wonderful and edifying to apply scriptural principles from the Word of God to whatever situation we are facing. At the same time, when the text or passage actually refers to the Jewish people and we avoid that contextual reality in our sharing, there arises a problem called ‘patent infringement.’  It is honorable, indeed essential, that we all should remind our listeners that these promises will find their completeness and essential fulfillment when they are fulfilled for the Jewish people. Let us ‘walk the line’ here, and make the crooked paths straight.

How should we then pray?

  • Pray for many Gentiles in the Body of Messiah to receive a revelation of God’s passionate love and burning urgency regarding the Jewish people
  • Pray for many believers to move beyond a narcissistic use of Jewish faith expressions into an apostolic heart for Israel
  • Pray for more Gentile believers in Yeshua to step up to the plate in supporting Messianic Jewish ministry
  • Pray for Messiah’s body to receive strategies and empowerment in standing with the Jewish people as anti-Semitism and anti-Israel movements increase

 

Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.

In Messiah Yeshua,

Avner Boskey

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