Replacement Theology| Was the Church the Eternal Purpose of God?
As we have shown in this series, fundamental to the Dispensational paradigm is that the Gentiles were never promised equal inheritance with Israel in the Abrahamic promises. If, therefore, it can be shown that the OT did in fact promise Gentile equality with Jews in the Messianic promises, then the charge of Replacement Theology is totally misguided. And this truth can be established by both Old Covenant prophecies and New. Let me establish my case in the following way.
The Ministry of Paul and His Message: Nothing but the Hope of Israel
One of the most fatal facts – for Dispensationalism – of the New Testament is that while virtually all of the writers were Jews -with Luke being a possible exception – and they are emphatic that the gospel that they preached, and the eschatological hope they anticipated, was nothing different from, nothing other than, the Old Covenant promises that God made to Old Covenant Israel. You really must catch the power of this undeniable fact. For brevity, I will only take note of a few texts.
As I have documented extensively in my book, We Shall Meet Him In The Air, the Wedding of the King of kings, Paul, Peter and John all tell us in no uncertain terms that their eschatological hope was the imminent expectation of the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. We have touched on this above so we will not belabor the point except to offer this:
If it is true that all NT writers said that their eschatological hope was the expectation of the imminent fulfillment of God’s Old Covenant promises to Israel, then the entire Dispensational house falls to the ground. I will not belabor this point except to focus one more time on two texts that we introduced earlier. One of those texts is mostly ignored in Dispensational literature, Romans 16:25-26:
“Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began, but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith.”
Keep in mind that Paul said his gospel and his eschatological hope was nothing but the hope of Israel found in Moses, the law and the prophets.
Notice now what Paul said.
1. He proclaimed the mystery of God, by the authority of God.
2. He said that mystery was “kept secret since the world began” but was now, through him, being revealed. The Dispensationalists tell us that what Paul means here is that the mystery was not to be found in the OT. But that is not what Paul said.
3. Paul said that he preached the mystery of God from “the prophetic scriptures.” That is a direct reference to “Moses, the Law and the prophets”! This raises a serious question: Since Paul said that he preached the mystery of God from the Old Testament prophetic scriptures, then if the Dispensationalists are right in saying that the mystery was never foretold anywhere in the OT, was Paul wrong? Was Paul mis-using the OT prophecies when he preached the mystery? Was Paul a perverter of the OT prophecies? If the mystery of God was not in the OT scriptures then the only way that Paul could preach the mystery of God from the OT scriptures is for him to pervert the OT!
The only solution to this severe problem is to admit that when Paul said, in Ephesians 3 for instance, that the mystery of God had not been revealed in ages past “as it is now revealed” is to understand him to be saying that the mystery was there, lying latent if you please, in the OT prophecies, but, had never been understood, never fully explained as he was doing, by the command of the Father!
Notice now the other text:
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.”
This is an incredible text, and like Romans 16:25-26, it is often ignored in eschatological discussions. Yet, it is very powerful. Look at a couple of bullet points:
1. Paul speaks of the mystery of God that had been revealed to him and the apostles. Cf. Chapter 3.
2. He speaks eloquently of the “eternal purpose” of God in choosing Israel to be His chosen people, but then, in v. 12-13, he tells how the Gentiles were now partakers of the blessings of Christ as well.
3. Notice that Paul says it was God’s eternal purpose to “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.” This is the mystery of God! And Paul said it was God’s eternal purpose! If the unity of Jew and Gentile in one body was God’s eternal purpose, then it is specious to say that the mystery of God was unknown!
4. Paul says that it was God’s purpose to bring about that oneness, that unity, “in the stewardship of the fulness of time.”
The fullness of time, according to this same apostle, was the last days of Old Covenant Israel (Galatians 4:4). That was the time appointed by God to accomplish the Divine purpose of uniting all things in Christ!
Now, if it was God’s eternal purpose to unite all things in the one body of Christ, and to do it in the ‘fullness of time” i.e. the last days of the Old Covenant age of Israel, then it is prima facie evident that God did not postpone that plan! It is irrefutably true that God’s plan did not fail! The time was right, the plan was right, the power – the resurrection of Jesus Christ – was sufficient!
The power of Ephesians 1 must be grasped! Jew and Gentile equality in the one body of Christ was God’s eternal purpose! It was not an afterthought. The one body of Christ was not an interim “replacement” of the “real purpose” of God. It was the eternal purpose!
In our next installment, I will share just a few OT prophecies of the mystery of God, texts in which the “Jew / Gentile equality” was taught, sometimes implied, sometimes explicitly, and yet, clearly not grasped by the Jews. When we see that the Tanakh predicted the mystery of God, the Dispensational charge of “Replacement Theology” is totally nullified.