REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY? Part 1
I was perusing some past issues of the Pre-Trib Perspectives, that was published by the late Tim Lahaye, and Thomas Ice. In the article, Ice castigated the non-millennial world for its view of what he calls Replacement Theology, i.e. the view that the church is the fulfilment of Old Covenant Israel’s promises. ( Pre-Trib Perspectives, P. O. Box 14111, Arlington, Tx., Vol. VII, Number 3, August 2002).
This brief article will not discuss this issue in detail, in fact, we will not examine the passage that Ice concentrates on, Galatians 6:16, leaving that to the discussion found in Like Father Like Son, On Clouds of Glory book. However, for this brief article, we want to take note of just a few observations that are particularly relevant to this study.
First, Ice makes an astounding admission. He cites Gentry, who says that the church has superceded Old Israel for all time, and responds by saying: “I could almost agree with his definition if he removed the phrase ‘all time.’ We Dispensationalists believe that the church has superseded Israel during the current church age, but God has a future time in which He will restore national Israel ‘as the institution for the administration of divine blessings to the world.’” In other words, Dispensationalists admit that Replacement Theology is, at least temporarily, the will of God! Be sure to get a copy of my 2017 book, One Root, One Kingdom: All Nations, for an in-depth refutation of the church of Replacement Theology.
Now, it is either the will of God, or not the will of God that the church replace Old Covenant Israel. If it is the will of God that the church was to replace Israel, (as the fulfillment of her promises) then it is, at least hypothetically, possible that it is God’s will that the church replace Israel permanently. Of course, the bottom line is that the Dispensationalists do not believe that it was the eternal will of God for the church to replace Israel at all. for Ice says, “Israel could have obtained her much sought after messianic kingdom by recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. We all know the sad reality–the Jews rejected Jesus. As a result, the kingdom is no longer near, but postponed.” (The Great Tribulation, A Debate, between Kenneth Gentry and Thomas Ice, (Grand Rapids; Kregel, 1999), 115). According to this view, it is clear that God did not intend to establish the church to replace Israel. The church had to be established only when Israel refused to accept the kingdom. Thus, according to the millennial paradigm, it was not God’s original purpose to replace Israel with the church.
The fact is, however, that the church was God’s eternal purpose. Paul says this in Ephesians 1:9-10. It was God’s eternal purpose to gather together all things, in one body, in Christ. In other words, it was God’s eternal purpose to reunite heaven and earth in the church, the body of Christ, i.e. the church (Ephesians 1:20-21)! The spreading of the gospel to bring all men to Christ, in the church, was ordained before time (Ephesians 3:8f), to manifest Jehovah’s glory “in the heavenly places.”
According to Millennialists however, God’s real purpose is, in reality, to replace what He had eternally purposed to establish, and re-divide humanity! Dwight Pentecost says,“Gentiles will be the servants of Israel during that age” (Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 1980), 508). When the reign of Jehovah-Jesus is established, “the distinction of Israel from the Gentiles will again be resumed” (Pentecost, 519) He adds, “Objection is sometimes raised that God has forever broken down the barrier that separates Jew and Gentile and makes them one. This view arises from the failure to realize that this is God’s purpose for the present age, but has no reference to God’s program in the millennial age.” (Pentecost, 528) Thomas Ice says, “At the parousia the times of the Gentiles cease and the focus of history once again turns to the Jews.” (Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, Prophecy Watch, (Eugene, Ore; Harvest House, 1998), ), 264). Finally, Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, in their book Charting the End Times, state, “In the tribulation, there is no longer a body of believers knit into one living organism. There is rather a return to national distinctions and fulfillment of national promises in preparation for the millennium.” (Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, Charting the End Times, (Eugene, Ore; Harvest House, 2001), 117).
So there you have it, Replacement Theology exemplified. The millennialists believe that the Old Covenant World of Israel, in which the Gentiles were outside the covenant promises (Ephesians 2:11f), the world in which the Jews looked on the Gentiles as dogs, is the ultimate, “determinative purpose of God.” What a glorious future the Gentiles have to look forward to, being slaves of the Jews! There are so many difficulties with this paradigm one hardly knows where to begin. However, we want to make a few observations.
First, Old Covenant Israel was only the shadow of coming better things (Colossians 2:16f; Hebrews 9:24f; 10:1-4, etc). The body of Christ is the reality. Ask yourself the question, which would you rather hug, the shadow of your wife, or the body? Which is better?
Second, the body of Christ is better than Israel’s Old Covenant praxis, and this, in reality, (excuse the pun), is the crux of the matter. Hebrews discusses the body of Christ, and compares it with Old Covenant Israel. The author says that Christ is a better leader than Moses (3:1f). He is a better priest than the Levitical system (5-7). He serves in a heavenly tabernacle, which is the True Tabernacle (8:1f). His Covenant is better than the Old Covenant, and is the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel (8:6f). He is a better sacrifice than any of the Old Covenant animal sacrifices could ever be (9-10).
Now, if Christ and the church is better than Israel in every conceivable manner, why would Jehovah replace the church with Israel, and her (even if modified) Old Covenant praxis? Remember, now, the millennialists admit that God has (temporarily) replaced Israel with the church. Will they also admit that the church is better than Israel? If not, why not? But if the church is in fact better than Israel, why replace the church with Israel in the future?
In our next installment of this important issue, I will dig a bit deeper into the Dispensational claims that Israel will one day “replace” the church. In the meantime, be sure to get a copy of my book, One Root, One Kingdom: All Nations, for one of the most extensive discussions– and refutations – of Replacement Theology available today. This book powerfully glorifies Christ and his body by exposing the fallacy of the Dispensational Replacement Theology!
Stay tuned for part 2