Replacement Theology| A Key Myth of Dispensationalism
One of the favorite “arguments” of the Dispensational world, against all non-Millennial eschatologies, is that any view that identifies the church as the replacement of Israel borders on anti-semitism, and fails to honor the fact that Israel was the focus of God’s eschatological schema. In fact, however, Dispensationalism teaches, as I have pointed out in previous articles, the worst sort of “Replacement Theology.”
Take note of these remarkable admissions and quotes from leading Dispensationalists of the day:
Thomas Ice says, “At the parousia the times of the Gentiles cease and the focus of history once again turns to the Jews” (Prophecy Watch, (Eugene, Ore., Harvest House, 1998)264- my emphasis). 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” (my emphasis).
Ice cites Gentry, who says that the church has superceded Old Israel for all time, and responds by saying: “I could almost agree with his definition if he removed the phrase ‘all time.’ We dispensationalists believe that the church has superseded Israel during the current church age, but God has a future time in which He will restore national Israel ‘as the institution for the administration of divine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.’” (Pre-Trib Perspectives, P. O. Box 14111, Arlington, Tx., Vol. VII, Number 3, August 2002).
According to millennialists, 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, 1980, 528).
It is manifestly evident from these quotes that Dispensationalists absolutely believe in Replacement Theology. The trouble is that they believe in replacing the blood bought body of Christ with the body of Old Covenant Israel!
One of the fundamental tenets of Dispensationalism is the distinction between the church and Israel, as indicated in the quotes above. Since God’s promises to Israel were not fulfilled – due to the Jewish rejection of Jesus – God established the church as an interim measure, to endure only until the Rapture when God removes the church from the earth and resumes His dealings with Israel. In this paradigm, Israel has her promises and the Gentiles have their promises, and it is of paramount importance, we are told, to honor those distinctions. Ryrie is clear on this: “The OT does predict Gentile blessing for the millennial period (Isaiah 61:5-6; 2:1-4), but, the specific blessings do not include equality with the Jews as is true today in the Body of Christ. Great blessing is promised to Gentiles in the predictions of the Old Testament, but not on the basis of equality of position with the Jews. This equality is the point of the mystery revealed to the apostles and prophets in the New Testament times” (Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, (Chicago, Moody Press, 1965)134 ). Ryrie insists that the distinction between the church and Israel is the cornerstone of Dispensationalism: “Ecclesiology , or the doctrine of the Church, is the touchstone of Dispensationalism.”(1965, 132).
It should be noted that even in the NT, particularly in Paul, there is in fact a distinction between Israel and the church, in many texts. The problem for Dispensationalism is that those distinctions are not always posited in positive terms! Israel of the flesh is depicted as the enemy of God (Philippians 3:18) and as guilty of rejecting their own Messiah (Acts 3:16f). Even in the text that is most appealed to for a future for Israel, her current standing was one of unbelief and rebellion, subject to the “severity of God” (Romans 11:22).
While there is a great deal that would be said even on this matter, our purpose here is to show that in God’s eschatological narrative, and as the fulfillment of God’s purposes for Israel, there is no sharp distinction between Gentile promises and Jewish promises. In fact, just the opposite is true, and this is critical.
One of the first things to be noted is that Paul was a Jew, and a Pharisee (Philippians 3) and that he preached nothing but the hope of Israel found in the Old Covenant prophecies. As a faithful Jew who by no means communicated that his message was anything but the hope of Israel, Paul taught that his ministry to call the Gentiles into full equality with the Jews, in the body of Christ, was foretold by the Old Covenant prophets! It is critical to see and to accept this truth when discussing the Replacement Doctrine claims by the Dispensationalists. Read what Paul had to say in 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.”
Paul is very clear: he got his message, his message of the mystery of God, from the Old Covenant prophets! It will do no good therefore, to argue as do the Dispensationalists do, that the mystery of God – Jew/Gentile equality in the body of Christ was unknown in the Old Covenant! Paul’s statement that the mystery was “kept secret since the world began” does not state nor imply that the mystery was not in the OT, but that it was not known then as it was being revealed through him.
Ask yourself this question: If the mystery of God was not foretold, not promised, not even discussed in the OT in any way, then how in the name of reason could Paul say that he preached the mystery from those OT prophecies! Was Paul distorting the message of the prophets? Was Paul lying? Was he inventing the doctrine of the mystery and “inserting” it into the OT prophecies? And if so, would that not be eisegetic and wrong? The fact is that Paul could not preach the mystery of God from the OT if the OT never predicted the mystery at least in some form, in some way! Paul the apostle, faithful Jew that he was, said the mystery of God – Jew and Gentile equality – was in fact foretold in Torah. Thus, a pillar of the Dispensational Replacement Doctrine is falsified.
I suggest that there are several OT prophecies that contained the thought of Jew/Gentile equality and that Paul, through the Spirit, expounded on and expanded those seminal thoughts.
Take a look at just one of those OT prophecies:
“Thus you shall divide this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. It shall be that you will divide it by lot as an inheritance for yourselves, and for the strangers who dwell among you and who bear children among you. They shall be to you as native-born among the children of Israel; they shall have an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel. And it shall be that in whatever tribe the stranger dwells, there you shall give him his inheritance,” says the Lord God” (Ezekiel 47:21-23).
Now, virtually commentators agree that this is a Messianic Temple / Messianic Kingdom prophecy. It describes, in highly stylized language, the inheritance of the land. Do you see what it says? It says that the foreigner – i.e. anyone that would not be of the lineage of Israel – who wanted to serve the True God was to receive equal inheritance with the Israelites and would be considered “as native-born among the children of Israel.” This is stunning! This is the mystery of God in seminal form, from the Old Covenant prophets that the Millennialists tell us never discusses the Jew/Gentile equality in the kingdom!
So, we have a key OT kingdom prophecy that negates the “church -v- Israel” distinction. Here is a text that speaks eloquently of Jew/Gentile equality under Messiah! Israel’s land promises have become the promises to the Gentiles! The Dispensational insistence on a sharp distinction between Gentiles and Israel falls to the ground. But, there is much more, and we will continue to examine that in the ensuing discussion, so stay tuned. For now, it is enough to realize that the Dispensational doctrine of the Replacement Doctrine is specious.