Replacement Theology

God’s Plan for Israel, the Apple of His Eye; and the Lie of Replacement Theology

16 February 2024

3.9 MINS

A respected pastor and noted theologian recently shared an antisemitic post critical of “Christian Zionism” and promoting a ‘free Palestine’ rhetoric.

Although I was aware of “Replacement Theology”, I had not experienced it firsthand before, and I was, perhaps naively, shocked at the post.

Replacement Theology in its various forms is widely accepted by many pastors in Australia, and taught in most of our seminaries.

Although it comes in many different forms and may be described alternatively as supersessionism, dispensationalism or similar, it basically teaches that the Church has replaced Israel in God’s plan of redemption. Accordingly, the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, or an integral part of God’s redemptive plan for the world.

Christian history towards the Jewish people has been one of misunderstanding and ignorance. It has led to shameful anti-Semitism, resulting in pogroms, expulsions, and massacres, including the Holocaust, which occurred in the most Christianised country in Europe.

More recently, the church in Australia has been mostly silent about one of the most hideous acts of terrorism the world has ever seen. The lack of overt support for Israel following the horrific events of October 7th, 2023, and the rise of antisemitism across the world, is one manifestation of Replacement Theology.

At the recent ICEJ Envision Solidarity Mission in Jerusalem, Professor Gerald McDermott# gave a clear explanation of how Replacement Theology came to be entrenched in Christianity from as far back as the fourth century. He was a strong proponent of it until he had an unusual encounter that led him to reassess both his fundamental beliefs and his academic stance.

Christ and the Apostles

While leading a tour in Israel, his tour guide humbly challenged him to search the Scriptures with fresh eyes and recognise such texts as Romans 11:29, ‘For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.’ In Romans 11:1, Paul asks: Did God reject His people? By no means! Romans 11 explains in detail the difference between the Jew and the Gentile, and God’s deep love for them both.

After many years of diligent study, McDermott found his whole worldview turned upside down when the Holy Spirit revealed to him the truth about the character and nature of God.  He learned how Jesus came as a Jew, lived as a Jew, died as a Jew and will return as a Jew. He makes an interesting observation that after the Resurrection and forty days spent with Jesus, the Apostles didn’t cease to be Jews and become Gentiles.

Furthermore, the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) determined that Gentiles didn’t need to be circumcised and become Jews after they accepted the Jewish Messiah; rather, God has different roles for Jews and Gentiles, even as we are one in Christ. Isn’t that a picture of marriage? Husband and wife have different roles – but they are one family!

Interestingly, concerning the prevalent teaching of Replacement Theology, Dr McDermott observes:

“Thomas Kuhn wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1961. His thesis was that leading scientists had missed much scientific evidence because they had been trained not to see the evidence. This is the same with Replacement Theology. Some of the leading theologians throughout centuries of Christian teaching have completely missed the truth because they have been trained not to look for it, or the lens through which they are looking is prejudiced.”

Sadly, the deeply embedded Replacement Theology in our churches today creates a prejudice against Jews. Many hold the view that Jews killed Jesus.

Mark 14:32–49 clearly shows Jesus knew He was about to die, in fulfilment of His mission, and He willingly allowed Himself to be arrested and subsequently sacrificed.

Yes, some Jews were instruments in the process, as were the Romans, Jews and Gentiles together. But Jesus said in John 10:18, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” Jesus laid down His life voluntarily to be the ultimate sacrifice.

God’s Promises

Many subscribing to Replacement Theology believe God did establish His covenant with Israel, but Israel failed to follow God’s Way. They contend that in AD 33, God replaced His Old Testament covenant with His New Testament covenant.

But this fails to take into account Jeremiah 31:32–33.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they shall be My people.”

In Genesis 12:3, God speaks directly to Abraham:

I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” 

This could not be clearer. The essence of this covenant occurs hundreds of times throughout the Old Testament and can only apply to both the Jewish people [the Israelites] and to the land God gave them.

God does not lie. All His promises and covenants are Yes and Amen. If the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan of redemption, then God does not keep His promises and is a liar. So here’s the challenge.

If you believe the church has replaced Israel, I invite you to do as Dr McDermott did: ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth and take you on an exciting adventure of new insights into the character and purposes of our wonderful Almighty God, Who is the same Yesterday, Today and Forever. Amen.

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# A leading academic, Professor Gerald McDermott is an Anglican theologian who teaches at Reformed Episcopal Seminary and Jerusalem Seminary. He is the editor of The New Christian Zionism: Fresh Perspectives on Israel and the Land (IVP Academic), and author of Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently About the People and the Land (Brazos Press). He is the author of volumes of academic books, initially on Replacement Theology, in which he had long been schooled.

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Photo by cottonbro studio.

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7 Comments

  1. Barbara Bluett 16 February 2024 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    Thank you. That is an excellent article.

  2. David Carr 17 February 2024 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    Great article, important to be clear on this. Although I have one point of correction: the average dispensationalist is definitely NOT into replacement theology! In fact, it’s a key tenet for them (us; I’m one, broadly speaking).

  3. Kim Beazley 18 February 2024 at 8:40 am - Reply

    Sorry, but in my 50 years as a Christian, and across a number of different denominational and doctrinal strands, I have never encountered this teaching. It is, in fact, along with Dispensationalism, an incredibly fringe teaching rejected by almost every denomination.

    So, when you take something like “Replacement Theology” and make that the reason there are Christians who show favour to the Palestinian cause, you miss the mark completely, and it has the effect of removing the focus from those (primarily Centre-Left “Progressive” Christians) who hold this position.

  4. Marcus Unred 19 February 2024 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    “Replacement theology” strikes me as an odd term (as I’ve only heard it relatively recently) but, leaving that aside, if you’re going to set up straw man, at least put some clothes on it to make it look half decent! Where does one start in commenting on this, without going to a similar length as the article itself? Well, tagging a viewpoint with which you disagree as anti-Semitic is the first red flag. Tying it to current-day middle eastern geopolitical disputes is another: neither the Israelis nor Hamas cite “replacement theology” (or dispensationalism) as the basis of their conflict. Then there’s the doctrinal gaffes like, “Many hold the view that Jews killed Jesus.” Acts 2:36 & 4:10 would explain that. And the tautology-laden, “They contend that…God replaced His Old Testament covenant with His New Testament covenant.” Rather than repeating the entirety of Hebrews and much of Galatians, let me just quote from Hebrews 10: “He takes away the first in order that he may establish the second.”
    I can grade your paper as it is, or you can have tonight to rewrite it and submit it tomorrow. Never let it be said that I’m not a compassionate professor. 😉

  5. Trina Watson 19 February 2024 at 3:30 pm - Reply

    Obviously, people who believe in “replacement theology”, don’t believe in the absolute truth of Scripture, and don’t know the wonderful truth of the promises of God in the miracle in the establishment of the Nation of Israel! Never before has a Nation been formed in a day, but that’s what happened in 1948, when Israel was reestablished in their ancient homeland, speaking their ancient language of Hebrew! Despite all that has come against this Nation, they have survived and prospered, developing a land “flowing with milk and honey” in what was once a barren place! God is faithful to His Word, and He is bringing His people home again to their ancient homeland! This is the fulfilment of Gods word, which would happen before the return of our Messiah, Jesus Christ, whose feet will stand on the Mount of Olives on that day! Hallelujah and praise the Lord! In the mean time let us “pray for the peace of Jerusalem!”

  6. Warwick Marsh 21 February 2024 at 10:40 am - Reply

    A prescient article about a pressing problem. Call it what you will much of the modern-day church ignore to their detriment Gods continuing deep love for Israel. Just two scriptures below show Gods great love for the nation of Israel.

    2 Samuel 7:23

    “And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for himself, and to make a name for himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt?”

    Zechariah 2:8

    “For this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.’”

  7. Adrian 27 February 2024 at 11:29 am - Reply

    Wonderful!! More articles like this please!!

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