Replacement Theology or NOT

Unlearned people have falsely accused me of teaching Replacement Theology because I dared to interpret the 10-tribes of Israel in the book of Revelation, a SYMBOLIC BOOK — as it is a vision, as being all those on the Tree of Promise, which are both believing Jews AND Gentiles (which is what Paul taught).

Forgive me for NOT LOOKING IN A THEOLOGY BOOK for truth, I look in the Bible; so now that I own a really thick book on theology I LOOKED IN IT, and guess what it said; it said the old view of Dispensational doctrine on the subject is fading away and most Dispenastionalists hold a newer “progressive dispensationalism.” Yet, his view is slightly different from that. Here are several pages from Wayne Grudem in his famous SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY (For Your Information, he and I AGREE!!!):

While Chafer’s [OLD] position continues to have influence in some dispensational circles, and certainly in more popular preaching, a number of leaders among more recent dispensationalists have not followed Chafer in many of these points. Several current dispensational theologians, such as Robert Saucy, Craig Blaising, and Darrell Bock, refer to themselves as “progressive dispensationalists,” and they have gained a wide following. They would not see the church as a parenthesis in God’s plan but as the first step toward the establishment of the kingdom of God. On a progressive dispensational view, God does not have two separate purposes for Israel and the church but a single purpose—the establishment of the kingdom of God—in which Israel and the church will both share. Progressive dispensationalists would see no distinction between Israel and the church in the future eternal state for all will be part of the one people of God. Moreover, they would hold that the church will reign with Christ in glorified bodies on earth during the millennium (see the discussion of the millennium in chapter 55).

However, there is still a difference between progressive dispensationalists and the rest of evangelicalism on one point: they would say that the Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel will still be fulfilled in the millennium by ethnic Jewish people who will believe in Christ and live in the land of Israel as a “model nation” for all nations to see and learn from. Therefore they would not say that the church is the “new Israel” or that all the Old Testament prophecies about Israel will be fulfilled in the church, for these prophecies will yet be fulfilled in ethnic Israel.

The position taken in this book differs quite a bit from Chafer’s views on this issue and also differs somewhat with progressive dispensationalists. However, it must be said here that questions about the exact way in which biblical prophecies about the future will be fulfilled are, in the nature of the case, difficult to decide with certainty, and it is wise to have some tentativeness in our conclusions on these matters. With this in mind, the following may be said. Both Protestant and Catholic theologians outside of the dispensational position have said that the church includes both Old Testament believers and New Testament believers in one church or one body of Christ. Even on the nondispensational view, a person may hold that there will be a future large-scale conversion of the Jewish people (Rom. 11:12, 15, 23–24, 25–26, 28–31), yet that this conversion will only result in Jewish believers becoming part of the one true church of God—they will be “grafted back into their own olive tree” (Rom. 11:24).

With regard to this question, we should notice the many New Testament verses that understand the church as the “new Israel” or new “people of God.” The fact that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25) would suggest this. Moreover, this present church age, which has brought the salvation of many millions of Christians in the church, is not an interruption or a parenthesis in God’s plan, but a continuation of his plan expressed throughout the Old Testament to call a people to himself. Paul says, “For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal” (Rom. 2:28–29). Paul recognizes that though there is a literal or natural sense in which people who physically descended from Abraham are to be called Jews, there is also a deeper or spiritual sense in which a “true Jew” is one who is inwardly a believer and whose heart has been cleansed by God.

Paul says that Abraham is not only to be considered the father of the Jewish people in a physical sense. He is also in a deeper and more true sense “the father of all who believe without being circumcised…and likewise the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but also follow the example of the faith which our father Abraham had” (Rom. 4:11–12; cf. vv. 16, 18). Therefore Paul can say, “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants…it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants” (Rom. 9:6–8). Paul here implies that the true children of Abraham, those who are in the most true sense “Israel,” are not the nation of Israel by physical descent from Abraham but those who have believed in Christ. Those who truly believe in Christ are now the ones who have the privilege of being called “my people” by the Lord (Rom. 9:25, quoting Hos. 2:23); therefore, the church is now God’s chosen people. This means that when Jewish people according to the flesh are saved in large numbers at some time in the future, they will not constitute a separate people of God or be like a separate olive tree, but they will be “grafted back into their own olive tree” (Rom. 11:24). Another passage indicating this is Galatians 3:29: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Similarly, Paul says that Christians are the “true circumcision” (Phil. 3:3).

Far from thinking of the church as a separate group from the Jewish people, Paul writes to Gentile believers at Ephesus telling them that they were formerly “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise” (Eph. 2:12), but that now they have been “brought near in the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). And when the Gentiles were brought into the church, Jews and Gentiles were united into one new body. Paul says that God “has made us both one and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility…that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross” (Eph. 2:14–16). Therefore Paul can say that Gentiles are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19–20). With his extensive awareness of the Old Testament background to the New Testament church, Paul can still say that “the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body” (Eph. 3:6). The entire passage speaks strongly of the unity of Jewish and Gentile believers in one body in Christ and gives no indication of any distinctive plan for Jewish people ever to be saved apart from inclusion in the one body of Christ, the church. The church incorporates into itself all the true people of God, and almost all of the titles used of God’s people in the Old Testament are in one place or another applied to the church in the New Testament.

Michael D. Fortner