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Monday, July 14, 2014

all Israel will be saved: Replacement Theology

I want to state out front that I reject Replacement Theology. I reject, too, the opposing view which states Israel is still in covenant relationship with God. Similarly, I reject the anti-semitism charges which come with those rejections. I trust my reasons will be made clear through my comments on this article by Dr. Gary Hedrick, President of CJF Ministries. (The article names Rabbi Loren Jacobs as author, also. It would seem these two individuals know each other. I am not interested or concerned with exactly which one of the two wrote the article.)

Generally, I prefer a Bible term or phrase rather than one created by men, hence the Bible phrase in the title of this article. It is that I am averse or that I take offense at those which have been created by men. It’s just that often these terms and phrases are concocted as a means of simplifying for easy understanding of those matters which are supposedly too difficult for the saints to comprehend. These end up being added to the badminton of terms and phrases volleyed back and forth by scholars and others to elevate the discussion to a level above those whom they purport to enlighten.

Replacement Theology is one such term. Simply stated, it is a teaching which states the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan. The term has undergone some changes and is also known as supersessionism. The broad spectrum under which Israel is viewed in Replacement Theology includes either of these two. 1) The economic supersessionism which states God’s work with Israel has been completed and there is no further connection or purpose for Israel. 2) Punitive supersessionism states God has punished Israel for its rejection of Jesus, the Messiah.

I refer the reader to the article for a brief overview of the historical origins and various explanations of Replacement Theology by different individuals. My response to Replacement Theology in that article is taken from the Tanakh (known by Christians as the Old Testament) and New Testament writings.

all Israel will be saved

The Jewish Tanakh writings are often quoted by the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers. Hedrick cites and quotes the Romans 11:11,12 passage to support his claims for Israel as a covenant people.

I ask then, did they stumble that they might fall? May it never be! But by their fall salvation has come to the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy. 12 Now if their fall is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?

Hedrick’s point is true, valid and indisputable. God has not rejected Israel anymore than the church has replaced Israel. He cites verse 26; all Israel will be saved as the proof text to counter Replacement Theology. However, he neglects an important qualifier noted by Paul earlier.

But it is not as though the word of God has come to nothing. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel. 7 Neither, because they are Abraham’s offspring,* are they all children. But, “your offspring will be accounted as from Isaac.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as heirs

This important qualifier of the promise by the apostle Paul did not originate with Paul or with Christians today. It is as exclusionary as it is inclusionary and is not anti-Semitic. It is a recurring theme in Paul’s writings to continually emphasize that the promise of God is according to faith. This was the message of the prophets to Israel in the days leading up to captivity of Israel by Babylon. Israel learned that salvation and deliverance would come from the Lord, but only of the  remnant, those who had remained faithful to his covenant would return to Jerusalem. The message was not popular or well received by Israel anymore than much of what the prophets had to say and which cost several of them their lives.

It will come to pass in that day that the remnant of Israel, and those who have escaped from the house of Jacob will no more again lean on him who struck them, but shall lean on Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. 21 A remnant will return, even the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. 22 For though your people, Israel, are like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. A destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness. 23 For the Lord, Yahweh of Armies, will make a full end, and that determined, throughout all the earth. Isaiah 10:20-23

“I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they will be fruitful and multiply. Jeremiah 23:3

For Yahweh says,
“Sing with gladness for Jacob,
and shout for the chief of the nations.
Publish, praise, and say,
‘Yahweh, save your people,
the remnant of Israel!’ Jeremiah 31:7

King Hezekiah sent word to the prophet Isaiah to pray for the remnant.

It may be Yahweh your God will hear all the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master has sent to defy the living God, and will rebuke the words which Yahweh your God has heard. Therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left.’” II Kings 19:4

I will surely assemble, Jacob, all of you;
I will surely gather the remnant of Israel;
I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah,
as a flock in the middle of their pasture;
they will swarm with people. Micah 2:12

So, while all Israel will be saved exactly what this means was determined and made clear and not arbitrarily determined by the apostle Paul but by the prophets, the servants of God. Even in the Jeremiah passage quoted above concerning the remnant the prophet elaborated further about a new covenant which God would make with the house of Israel. This promised covenant would not be as the one he made with their fathers who were the flesh and blood descendants of Abraham.

27 “Behold, the days come,” says Yahweh, “that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and with the seed of animal. 28 It will happen that, like as I have watched over them to pluck up and to break down and to overthrow and to destroy and to afflict, so will I watch over them to build and to plant,” says Yahweh. 29 “In those days they will say no more,
“‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
30 But everyone will die for his own iniquity. Every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge.
31 “Behold, the days come,” says Yahweh,
“that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel,
and with the house of Judah:
32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt;
which covenant of mine they broke,
although I was a husband to them,” says Yahweh.
33 “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,”
says Yahweh:
I will put my law in their inward parts,
and I will write it in their heart.
I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
34 They will no longer each teach his neighbor,
and every man teach his brother, saying, ‘Know Yahweh;’
for they will all know me,
from their least to their greatest,” says Yahweh:
“for I will forgive their iniquity,
and I will remember their sin no more.”
35 Yahweh, who gives the sun for a light by day,
and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night,
who stirs up the sea, so that its waves roar;
Yahweh of Armies is his name, says:
36 “If these ordinances depart from before me,” says Yahweh,
“then the offspring* of Israel also will cease from being a nation before me forever.”
37 Yahweh says: “If heaven above can be measured,
and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath,
then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done,” says Yahweh.
Jeremiah 31:31-37

children of the promise

If all Israel will be saved this can not be Israel in the flesh and blood. Rather, it is the children of God who are of faith who are to be saved. Paul writes:

8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as heirs Romans 9:8

It is through this declaration by which the apostle Paul reminded Jewish Christians of what must surely have resonated with them; that the promises of God going back to father Abraham are according to faith, not flesh and blood. Assuredly, those Jewish Christians in Rome, like those Jews of the remnant in king Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah’s time, lived and walked by faith. Those Jews living during Hezekiah’s reign lived under the law of Moses even while they were surrounded by those whose apostasy of unbelief had brought calamity and destruction on Israel.

The first century Jewish Christians in Rome were among those of the remnant, the faithful who walked BY faith and now THROUGH faith. This justification of the faithful is a core message of Paul:

since indeed there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith, and the uncircumcised through faith. Romans 3:30 What the justification of the circumcised and uncircumcised have in common is law; _ a word and a concept held with much aversion by many saints in Christ. Law is to be obeyed even such as Paul states, a law of faith in verse 27. Indeed, the priority of obedience was impressed on Israel early after settling in Canaan by the prophet Samuel:

22 Samuel said, “Has Yahweh as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying Yahweh’s voice? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim.* Because you have rejected Yahweh’s word, he has also rejected you from being king.”

It is a travesty that Christians often view the entirety of Jewish history and Jews as not much more than automatons whose lives were a drudgery under the law with no joy or faith ever laboring feverishly in vain to fulfill the law. Yes, Israel was bound to live by and to keep the law, but among them were children of God who lived by faith as did their father Abraham. This is not to say these children of God thumbed their nose at the law, but the too struggled to keep even while they had maintained a faith in God which exceeded the constraints and ritual of the law.

The church has no more replaced Israel anymore than God replaced, abandoned or rejected faith in the individual who seeks after and love God. When God called Israel out of the world; an ethnic nation and later the church; the ethnic nation of Israel and all the ethnic nations of the world it was through faith. The call of those who are of faith today is through faith in Jesus who was raised from the dead and declared to be the Son of God.


The term Replacement Theology is bad enough as the albeit well-intended effort to simplify for the saints the will of God. The unfortunate and completely unnecessary troubling of hearts which it produces among the saints in Christ as well as Jews is as good an indicator it has no place in the teaching of the church.

The church today, that is, the saints in Christ, no more created the concept of the remnant than did the apostle Paul. King Hezekiah and the prophets of God including Isaiah and Jeremiah revealed this exclusionary term to Israel in the days before Israel was taken captive by Babylon. Their message was that not all those who are Israel according to the flesh would be saved or would return from their captivity, but only the faithful remnant, the children of God, according to faith.

This is the exclusionary phrase with its limitations which Paul uses in Romans when he states, all Israel will be saved. Clearly, between the prophets of old and the apostles of Jesus any understanding of that phrase must reflect a focus on Israel according to the flesh and the significance of the contrast between that Israel and the children of God. There is nothing anti-Semitic in this thought and expression and the conclusion that God’s faith covenant with Israel remains intact. However, this covenant is not the same covenant of old. Here again, this was the message of Jeremiah, not something concocted by Paul or the saints today.

Lets not misconstrue or distort these things even if they may be difficult to understand much less accept. Lets not rail or assail against Jews that they are under a curse or the punishment of God. That reality is not an unfamiliar one to the Israel of history or to Jews today. The reality is that Israel, despite being front row witnesses to the wonders and miracles of God after He had delivered them from Egypt, were repeatedly caught up in their unbelief. It was an unbelief for which Israel saw some of their own, such as Korah, receive the punishment of God.

As always God bore with Israel even as he does today with them as with all Gentiles who have yet to come to put their faith and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Peace to all.

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