Replacement Theology| The Tabernacle of David?
I am giving here again the text of Acts 15:10f to remind the reader of the salient points that have to do with the question of Replacement Theology. Remember, we have shown from Acts 10 that Peter said, in no uncertain terms, that the conversion of the Gentiles was foretold by all the prophets. In other words, he came to realize that what was happening with the conversion of Cornelius was in fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises made to Israel, indeed, “all the prophets” according to Peter.
James said (Acts 15: 10-17):
“Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.” Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name.”
James cited Amos 9:11 to say that the conversion of the Gentiles was not only accepted, but predicted by Israel’s own prophets! To say that this is devastating to the Dispensational charge of Replacement Theology is major understatement. To fully catch the power of Acts 15 one has to look for a moment at the context of Amos.
In Amos and his contemporary, Hosea, YHVH “divorced” the ten northern tribes of Israel, for their infidelity. In Hosea, the Lord said He would destroy that nation. In Amos, He said He would destroy that kingdom, but, He would not destroy the house of Israel (Amos 9:8-12):
“Behold, the eyes of the Lord God are on the sinful kingdom, And I will destroy it from the face of the earth; Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,” Says the Lord. “For surely I will command, And will sift the house of Israel among all nations, As grain is sifted in a sieve; Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground. All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword, Who say, ‘The calamity shall not overtake nor confront us.’ “On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; That they may possess the remnant of Edom, And all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” Says the Lord who does this thing.”
Notice the salient issues that are foretold:
1. The destruction of the kingdom of Israel.
2. The salvation of the remnant. This text, along with so many others, should help us in our understanding of Romans 11:25f. The sinners would perish, the remnant would be saved.
I cannot help but notice the correlation between the words of Amos and those of Jesus in Matthew 24:37f and of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5, those who would say: “Peace, peace, when there is no peace!” Paul was speaking of Judah / Jerusalem of his day, who was about to receive the same “harvest” as her “older sister” did – divorcement and destruction.
3. Notice that it would be at the time of impending judgment in which YHVH said that He would raise again the Tabernacle of David! This conflation of salvation and judgment is common in scripture, but often ignored or overlooked. So, in the day (i.e. I suggest that this essentially means in the generation) in which judgment would fall, YHVH would raise again the Tabernacle of David.
Notice how this agrees with Acts 2, where Peter cited Joel 2, a prophecy of Israel’s last days, the restoration of the kingdom, the out-pouring of the Spirit and the Great Day of the Lord. Peter urged his audience, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation!” (Acts 2:40). So, Peter spoke of the restoration of Israel (via the out-pouring of the Spirit) but, he also spoke of the impending, imminent judgment. Joel posited those things for “in the last days”; Amos said it would be “in that day.”
4. A quick note: The Tabernacle of David was not a physical edifice. It was the Covenant bond between the “house of David” and YHVH. When Israel apostatized and split the kingdom, they actually said:
Replacement Theology| Understanding the Tabernacle of David
“Now when all Israel saw that the king (Jereboam, DKP) did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying: “What share have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Now, see to your own house, O David!” (1 Kings 12:16f).
Later, after over two centuries of moral decay and increased religious apostasy, the Lord tore the ten tribes from David:
“And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel, afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them from His sight. For He tore Israel from the house of David, and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel from following the Lord, and made them commit a great sin. For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them” (2 Kings 17:20-22).
Here is the downfall of the “Tabernacle of David”! It was the divorcement and destruction of the ten northern tribes. Yet, as Hosea 3 shows, in the days of the Messiah, Israel would be “restored” and YHVH would once again “marry” Israel (Hosea 2:18f). While we could discuss this extensively, I simply want to note at this time that according to 1 Peter, that promised “restoration” was being fulfilled in the body of Christ. Not through some arbitrary, “Israel has failed” concept, but, Peter, through the inspiration of the Spirit shows that the original intent in the mind of God, in those OT prophecies of Israel’s restoration, was a spiritual restoration – not a nationalistic one! So, no Replacement Theology, only Fulfillment Theology!
Replacement Theology Versus Peter!
Peter quotes verbatim from Hosea 1:9-10; 2: 23 which is the prediction of the restoration of the ten tribes: “who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:10f).
As Dubis cogently notes, according to Hosea and the other prophets, “it is only when God re-gathers Israel and Judah to the promised land that they are once again called ‘Sons of the Living God….Thus, when 1 Peter 2:10 takes up the language of Hosea 1:6, 9, 2:25 (LXX), and says that those who were formerly called, ‘Not a people’ (ou laos) are now called ‘People of God’ (laos theou), and that, ‘Not pitied (ouk eleemenoi) has now received pity (nun…eleethentes), this is tantamount to saying that Israel’s restoration from exile has taken place.” (Mark Dubis, Messianic Woes in First Peter, Suffering and Eschatology in 1 Peter 4:12-19, Studies in Biblical Literature, Vol. 33, (New York, Peter Lang, 2002)59). It is also tantamount to saying that the promises of “the land” must be taken spiritually.
As Dubis notes, “Peter has transferred first century expectations of an eschatological temple to the Christian community (2:5). Thus, the OT images of a gloriously restored temple are ultimately realized in the church for 1 Peter….According to 1 Peter 2:5 the restoration of the temple has already begun– the temple is already ‘being built’ (oikodomeisthe is present tense).” (2002, 55).
I don’t personally care for the word “transferred” since it might hint at replacement theology or supersessionism. This is not what Peter affirmed. Peter was not, as Dubis indicates, writing to Gentile believers. This is critical t understand. His audience was the Diaspora (1 Peter 1:1-2). ! He was saying that those scattered abroad, Israel (again, albeit now Christians), was experiencing the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. Peter was not affirming the failure of God’s promises to Israel or the replacement of Israel with Gentiles. He was affirming God’s faithfulness to Israel! It was Israel’s promises being fulfilled to Israel who had been scattered abroad.
Notice the direct correlation between Acts 15 (Amos 9) and 1 Peter. In both texts the restoration of the ten tribes, under Messiah, and the Messianic “tent / Temple” is in view. In Acts, James draws from Amos, the contemporary of Hosea, and the prediction of the restoration of Israel. In 1 Peter, the apostle draws directly from Hosea, and the prediction of the restoration of the ten tribes. Both OT prophecies spoke of the restoration of Israel.
What is so stunningly important in any study of Replacement Theology, is that both James and Peter clearly state that those OT prophecies were being fulfilled! There is no Replacement Theology here. There is no postponed kingdom. There is no suggestion that the church has temporarily replaced Israel, but that one day, Israel will displace the church. We will drive that home in our next installment as we return to Acts 15 and look a bit more carefully at what James said. Suffice it to say that the pejorative label of Replacement Theology is a false accusation. The New Testament knows only Fulfillment Theology!