17 - Replacement Theology

There is a disturbing teaching that has gained momentum in the Christian Church since the rebirth of the modern nation of Israel. It is known as the doctrine of Replacement Theology. This is a teaching that I reject as completely unbiblical in nature. Regrettably, it is not just the modern, liberal Protestant churches that adhere to this belief but even some Evangelical churches subscribe to it.

This doctrine teaches that the Christian Church has replaced the Jewish nation of Israel in God's eyes. Therefore, the promises that God gave to the Jews now apply only to Christians. This leads those who support Replacement Theology to reject the idea that the Jews have a right to the land of Israel.

Although Replacement Theologians use various passages in the New Testament to support this doctrine, the foundation for it is a single verse written by the apostle Paul to the Christians in Galatia:

"As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they

constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer

persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves

who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you

circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid

that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,

by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails any thing, nor

uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk

according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon

the Israel of God."1

It is the last verse in this passage that causes those to who adhere to Replacement Theology to reject the modern nation of Israel as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Paul here refers to believers in Jesus Christ as the "Israel of God". Consequently, the Christian Church has replaced the Jews and their nation of Israel. However, Paul was addressing a serious issue that had reared up in the Church in Galatia.

Paul became aware of a situation that threatened to destroy the work that he had done the province of Galatia, which is located in modern southern Turkey. During three missionary trips to Galatia, Paul had led many Gentiles to accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah. There were also many Jews living in that region who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. However, they were telling the newly converted Gentile Christians that they had to accept the laws of Judaism as part of their salvation. These laws included the rite of circumcision that God had commanded the Jews to undergo as a sign of their relationship with Him. In this letter to the Christians in Galatia, Paul refutes this teaching as harmful and unbiblical.

Paul tells the believers that the Law of Moses does not justify people rather it is through faith in Jesus Christ that God saves a person:

"We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but

by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus

Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not

by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no

flesh be justified."2

He goes on in this letter to dispel the notion that the Gentiles have to keep the Law in order to be saved. He uses Abraham as an example of how God accepts a person as righteous because they believe in Him and His word:

"Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him

for righteousness. Know you therefore that they which are of

faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture,

foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith,

preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In you shall

all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are

blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the

works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed

is every one that continues not in all things which are written

in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified

by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall

live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that does

them shall live in them. Christ has redeemed us from the curse

of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed

is every one that hangs on a tree: That the blessing of

Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ;

that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a

man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulls, or

adds thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises

made. He says not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one,

And to your seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the

covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law,

which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot

disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if

the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God

gave it to Abraham by promise."3

Paul's whole point in this passage is that just as in Abraham's day and throughout the Old Testament, the Jews were saved by believing in God and His word, so too are Gentiles and Jews saved in New Testament times by believing that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to be the Savior of mankind. Paul mentions one of the covenants that God made with Abraham. He makes it clear that he is referring to the covenant whereby God was going to bless all nations through Abraham's seed or descendants. Paul points out that the coming of Jesus Christ fulfilled this promise of God. He calls it "the promise of the Spirit" which means that the covenant God made with Abraham had a spiritual aspect to it. Paul was definitely not referring to the other covenant that God made with Abraham to give the physical land of Israel to his Jewish descendants.

In the letter that Paul wrote to the Christians living in Rome, he expands further on Christians' relationship with the faith of Abraham:

"What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining

to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham were justified by

works, he has whereof to glory; but not before God. For what

says the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted

unto him for righteousness...Blessed is the man to whom the

Lord will not impute sin. Comes this blessedness then upon the

Circumcision [i.e., the Jews] only, or upon the uncircumcision

[i.e., the Gentiles] also? For we say that faith was reckoned to

Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? When

he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in

circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign

of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which

he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of

all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that

righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father

of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only,

but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father

Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. For the

promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to

Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the

righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be

heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:

Because the law works wrath: for where no law is, there is no

transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace;

to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that

only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of

Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have

made you a father of many nations,) before him whom he

believed, even God, who makes alive the dead, and calls those

things which be not as though they were. Who against hope

believed in hope, that he might become the father of many

nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall your

seed be."4

Paul again declares that it is faith that saved Abraham. He states, "to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham." This means that everyone, whether Jew or Gentile, who believes God's word is a seed or descendant of Abraham. How can this be since Gentiles are not physically descended from Abraham? Paul is clearly speaking of Christians as a "spiritual" descendant of Abraham. Likewise, in the first passage in this section where Paul refers to Christians as the "Israel of God", he is saying that Christians, as a body of believers, are the "spiritual" Israel of God. This in no way means that the Christian Church has replaced the Jewish nation of Israel.

No Divine Favor?

Another tenet of Replacement Theology is that in the age of grace through Jesus Christ, God shows no favor to anyone apart from their acceptance of His Son as the Savior and Messiah. Thus, God will not give the land of Israel to the Jews because to do so would be showing them favor because of their ethnicity. Since the majority of the Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah, supporters of Replacement Theology contend that they are no longer under God's heavenly blessing, which is true of anyone who rejects Jesus Christ as their Savior. However, Replacement Theologians also say that the Jews are no longer under God's earthly blessing. Thus, the covenant whereby God promised to give the land of Israel to the Jewish descendants of Abraham is null and void in the age of grace.

This tenet is as false as it is unbiblical. The apostle Paul, in the same letter to the Romans that I mentioned above, states the exact opposite of what the supporters of Replacement Theology say concerning God not showing the Jews any divine favor while they are in unbelief:

"For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this

mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that

blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the

Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is

written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall

turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is My covenant

unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the

gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the

election, they are beloved for the fathers sakes. For the gifts

and calling of God are irrevocable."5

Paul says that indeed the Jews are spiritually blind when it comes to accepting Jesus as their Messiah. However, he declares that although the Jews are the enemies of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they are "beloved" by God because of the fathers or patriarchs of the Jews. Even though they are outside the Christian faith, they still have God's divine favor of love upon them. Paul further states here that the gifts of God are irrevocable. Therefore, this means His promise to give the land of Israel to the Jews, even while they are in unbelief, is absolutely still in effect.

To drive home this point, Paul declares that another covenant God made with the Jews was to save them from their sins. He says however, the fulfillment of this covenant will not happen until the Gentiles have had enough time to turn to God and then all Israel "shall be saved". From the time that Paul wrote this unto the present day, this covenant has still not been fulfilled. Yet according to Replacement Theology, this covenant too should be voided since the Jews are currently in unbelief. Thankfully, God will not void it because His gifts and callings are irrevocable. For the same reason, He will not void the covenant that He made with the Jews to give the land of Israel to them.

The term Paul uses here, "Israel", cannot refer to the Church. First, born-again Christians who make up the Church are already saved. Second, earlier in this chapter in Romans Paul makes a distinction between the Jews and the believing Gentiles:

"I say then, Has God cast away His people? God forbid. For I

also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of

Benjamin. God has not cast away his people which he foreknew.

Know you not what the scripture says of Elijah? How he made

intercession to God against Israel saying, Lord, they have

killed your prophets, and dug down Your altars; and I am left

alone, and they seek my life. But what says the answer of God

unto him? I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men, who

have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at

this present time also there is a remnant according to the

election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works:

otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it

is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then?

Israel has not obtained that which he seeks for; but the

election has obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (According

as it is written, God has given them the spirit of slumber, eyes

that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;)

unto this day. And David says, Let their table be made a snare,

and a trap, and a stumbling block, and a recompense unto

them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and

bow down their back always. I say then, Have they stumbled

that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall

salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to

jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and

the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much

more their fullness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I

am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify my office: If by any

means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh,

and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them

be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of

them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruits be holy,

the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the

branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and you,

being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with

them partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not

against the branches. But if you boast, you bear not the root,

but the root you, You will say then, The branches were broken

off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they

were broken off, and you standby faith. Be not high-minded,

but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed

lest he also spare not you. Behold therefore the goodness and

severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee,

goodness, if you continue in His goodness: otherwise you also

shall be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief,

shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For

if you wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and

were grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how

much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be

grafted into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren,

that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be

wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened

to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so

all Israel shall be saved"6

The apostle states: Yes, spiritual blindness has come upon the Jews when it comes to Jesus being the Messiah. Therefore, God turned to the Gentiles who willingly believed that Jesus is God's Son and Savior. However, God has plans for the Jews whereby they will accept Jesus as the Messiah and then "all Israel shall be saved!" As I mentioned in Chapter 11 of this book, this salvation of the Jews will take place at Jesus' second coming when as the prophet Zechariah declared, "[God] will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced."7

In Chapter 15, I discussed the covenant that God made with Abraham where He promised to give the land of Israel to Abraham's Jewish descendants. God confirmed this covenant by causing a deep sleep to fall on Abraham and then He, in the likeness of a flaming torch, moved between the halves of animals that Abraham had sacrificed. God placed absolutely no conditions on Abraham's part in order for this covenant to be fulfilled. Abraham was asleep and therefore could not agree to any conditions that God might have required. God did not tell Abraham that he or his descendants had to remain faithful to Him in order to receive this land. God, the Creator of Israel, would bestow a gift of the land upon the Jewish people. And as the apostle Paul wrote, "the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable."

No More Jewish Temples?

Another aspect concerning Replacement Theology rejects the idea that another Jewish Temple should be built. The death of Jesus Christ ended the necessity for animal sacrifices to atone for a person's sins. Therefore, a Jewish Temple is unnecessary since, through the means of the resurrection of Jesus, He became the true Temple of God. They quote the words of Jesus to support this:

"Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this Temple, and

in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and

six years was this Temple in building, and will you rear it up

in three days? But He spoke of the Temple of His body."8

The irony here is that Jesus declares that He is speaking of a spiritual Temple concerning His resurrection. If Replacement Theologians are correct and the only Temple that exists now and forever is the Temple of Jesus' resurrected body, how will the "abomination of desolation" that Jesus spoke of enter into Him? 

"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the

world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end

come. When you therefore shall see the abomination of

desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the Holy

place, (whoso reads, let him understand) Then let them which

be in Judea flee into the mountains."9

The Holy place or Temple that Jesus speaks of here cannot be the Temple that was standing when He was alive on the earth. He says that the gospel will be preached in "all the world" and then shall the end come. The gospel had not been preached in all the world by the time of this Temple's destruction in 70 A.D.  Therefore, Jesus had to be referring to a future Temple that Replacement Theologians say should not be built. The apostle Paul also spoke of this future Temple in his letter to the Thessalonian Christians:

"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not

come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of

sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposes and exalts

himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so

that he as God sits in the Temple of God, showing himself that

he is God."10

Paul says that the "man of sin", whom Christians call the Antichrist and Jesus calls the "abomination of desolation", is going to sit in the Temple before the end of the current age. If Jesus is the only Temple that is going to exist from His resurrection through eternity, then how is the Antichrist going to enter into Him and declare himself God? When a person spiritualizes the plain meaning of the scriptures as the supporters of Replacement Theology do, the result will be one of absurdity.

Although it is true that there is no sacrifice apart from the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ whereby a person can be saved, it is not true that the Jewish Temple no longer served any purpose.

Neither did the apostle Paul agree with this belief. Many years after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, Paul still went to the Temple in Jerusalem to honor God:

"Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself

with them entered into the Temple, to signify the

accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an

offering should be offered for every one of them. And when the

seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia,

when they saw him in the Temple, stirred up all the people, and

laid hands on him, Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the

man, that teachs all men every where against the people, and

the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into

the Temple, and has polluted this holy place. (For they had

seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom

they supposed that Paul had brought into the Temple.) And all

the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took

Paul, and drew him out of the Temple: and forthwith the doors

were shut. And as they went about to kill him, news came unto

the chief captain of the troops, that all Jerusalem was in an


The apostle Paul, the Jewish author of a large segment of the New Testament and a Christian for many years by this time, thought it appropriate to make an offering to God in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Yet Replacement Theologians would condemn him for such an action since the Temple was no longer necessary after the first advent of Jesus Christ.

In Part Two of this book, I demonstrated how the prophetic plans of God include not only the rebuilding of a third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem which the Antichrist will desecrate, but also a fourth Temple in Jerusalem that Jesus will build and rule from during the Millennium.

Since, as Replacement Theology dictates, Christians do not need a Temple to worship God in, who is going to build the future third Temple in Jerusalem? The Muslims certainly do not want a Temple built on the Temple Mount. They already have their Dome of the Rock shrine standing there. Therefore, it has to be the Jews who will build this future prophetic Temple and for the Jews to build it they need to be in the land of Israel. As God declared many times in His word, He would bring the Jews back to Israel, which is the land that He gave to them and them alone. Then they will build the Temple according to His prophetic timing. As we read in the last chapter, God brought the Jews back to the land of Israel in 1948.

Bad Christian Theology

I read a public statement12 that a seminary, which teaches Replacement Theology, issued in opposition to Christians who support the Jews' right to the land of Israel. In this statement they declared that bad Christian Theology concerning Israel led to the cruelty of the Crusades and that bad Christian Theology is leading to the oppression of the "Palestinians" in the modern, secular state of Israel. They are absolutely correct that bad Christian Theology led to the Crusades. That Theology taught that the Jews were no longer entitled to the land of Israel and therefore Christians had a right to conquer the land and persecute the Jews. Replacement Theology also teaches that the land of Israel does not belong to the Jews. That is one thing it has in common with those who initiated the Crusades against Jews.

I would ask those Christians who adhere to Replacement Theology two questions: Was God wrong for telling the Jews to conquer the land of Israel and destroy the Canaanites who were living there at the time of Joshua? If not, then was God wrong for bringing the Jews back to the land of Israel in modern times as He said repeatedly that He would?

For Replacement Theology to be tenable its adherents have to spiritualize every prophetic scripture in both the Old and the New Testament. Therefore, no prophecy written in the Bible is what it seems. They have to have a deeper, spiritual meaning for Replacement Theology to work. As I have shown however, it is not tenable because some prophetic scriptures cannot be "spiritualized" away.

I think it is lamentable that just as Paul had to deal with false teachings in his day, so too after two thousand years, Christians today have to deal with false teachings such as Replacement Theology.

Though the language and tone that I have displayed in this chapter might seem angry to some, there is a reason for that. The apostle Paul got angry with those who twisted the plain meaning of scripture. In the aforementioned letter to the Galatians, Paul used the strongest language possible in opposing those who were bringing false teachings into the Church:

"You did run well; who did hinder you that you should not obey

the truth? This persuasion comes not of Him that calls you. A

little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in you

through the Lord, that you will be none otherwise minded: but

he that troubles you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.

And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet

suffer persecution? Then is the offence of the cross ceased. I

would they were even cut off which trouble you."13

Paul says that those who were hindering Christians by insisting that to be a true Christian they had to circumcise themselves were changing the truth of God. He said that he wished these false teachers would castrate themselves. I too get angry with those who change the truth of God's prophetic word to support their own beliefs. I think that Christianity has done enough harm to the chosen people of God throughout its history. To oppose the unconditional covenant that God made with the Jews concerning their right to the land of Israel is harmful to the Jewish people.

In the statement issued by the seminary that I mentioned above, it said that Christians who support the modern state of Israel and the seizure and occupation of Palestinian land are in moral jeopardy of their own blood-guiltiness. On the contrary, those who would curse the Jews by denying them the land that God gave to them are the ones whose standing before God may be in question. To paraphrase the Jewish Pharisee Gamaliel who taught the apostle Paul, I say to those who oppose the Jews' right to the land of Israel, be careful, "if it be God's will for the Jews to have the land, you cannot overthrow it; lest haply you be found even to fight against God."14


1    Galatians 6:12-16

2    Galatians 2:15-16

3    Galatians 3:6-18

4    Romans 4:1-3,8-18

5    Romans 11:25-29

6    Romans 11:1-26

7    Zechariah 12:10

8    John 2:19-21

9    Matthew 24:14-16

10   II Thessalonians 2:3-4

11   Acts 21:26-31

12   At the time of the writing of this book, this statement can be found

      at the following web site:

      http://www.knoxseminary.org/Prospective/Faculty/Wittenberg Door/

      The author's response to this public statement can be found at:


13   Galatians 5:7-12

14   Acts 5:39 (author's paraphrase)

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