Replacement Theology and The Jew and Gentile Distinction #17
As we have seen, one of the fundamental tenets of Dispensationalism is that God made distinctive, exclusive promises to Israel and the Gentiles were not part of those promises. Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy say: “Dispensational premillennialists hold that Israel and the church are two separate and distinct entities throughout all of history, including the millennium.” (Prophecy Watch, 1998, 241). Likewise, Ryrie says “The Old Testament 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 Gentiles in the predictions of the Old Testament, but not on the basis of equality with the Jews.” (Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, (Chicago, Moody Press, 1965)134. He says, in agreement with most Dispensationalists, that the church was not predicted or even known in the OT: “It was something unknown in the Old Testament times; it is a distinct entity in the present age” (p. 135). Ryrie argues that throughout the NT, the church and Israel are contrasted and thus claims “The church does not rob Israel of her blessings. The term Israel continues to be used for the natural (not spiritual) descendants after the church was instituted, and is not equated with the Church” (138).
To say that this distinction is critical for Dispensationalism is a huge understatement.
In fact, if this so-called eternal distinction is not true, Dispensationalism is false.
If God predicted that Israel’s promises were inclusive of the Gentiles, Dispensationalism is false.
If God always intended for Gentiles to be equal partakers of Israel’s promises, then Dispensationalism is false and the pejorative term “Replacement Theology” is shown to be an inappropriate and false label. So, let’s take a closer look at the idea that the Gentiles were never to be part of the promises that God made to Israel.
Replacement Theology and Jew Gentile Distinctions – True or False?
Ryrie is correct that in the NT the writers do, most of the time, when speaking of Israel, refer to Old Covenant, “ethnic” Israel. I actually believe that it is a major flaw in the non-Dispensational world, in critiques of Dispensationalism, to claim that NT references to Israel are descriptions of the church! Ryrie is also correct that the NT no where teaches that the church was “robbing” Israel of her blessings or her promises. However…
1. Dispensationalists, such as Ryrie, Ice, LaHaye, Hagee, etc. are flat wrong in denying that the church was unknown, not foretold and not predicted in the Old Testament. We have already proven this beyond dispute, so there is no need to reiterate those points here. Just keep in mind that Paul said that he preached the mystery of God (Jew and Gentile equality in the body of Christ) from the Old Covenant prophets (Romans 16:25-26). If therefore, the OT prophets did not predict Jew and Gentile equality in the one body of Christ, this means that Paul was perverting the Old Covenant prophecies. This is truly a critical point in which the Dispensationalists are at total odds with scripture. It completely falsifies the charge of Replacement Theology.
2. The NT writers were emphatic and clear that they were living in the days foretold by the OT prophets, and that those prophecies were being – or were about to be – fulfilled in their generation (Acts 3:21-24).
3. The NT writers are equally clear that those OT prophecies were being fulfilled in the body of Christ. Paul said, in words too clear to deny, that the promise of the restoration of Israel and “the earth” was being fulfilled in the body of Christ (Isaiah 49:6f / 2 Corinthians 6:1-3). They were being fulfilled spiritually (1 Peter 1:9-2:10). See again our discussion of 1 Peter above.
4. As we have seen, there were some promises – the literal land promises – that were given exclusively to Israel. (It should be noted, however, and this is very important, that even foreigners could become “as a native of the land ” by being circumcised and obeying Torah, thus demonstrating that the inheritance was never strictly and solely based on blood – Exodus 12:48 / Number 9:14). As we have seen, those exclusive, limited land promises were in fact fulfilled. Those promises were also conditional, as demonstrated above.
5. This next point is absolutely critical: The “greater” Abrahamic land promise, that he would “inherit the world” (Romans 4:13) was in fact always – in the mind of YHVH – intended to be fulfilled spiritually in Christ and his church– where there is no Jew or Gentile distinction!
We will flesh out this last point in our next installment. For now, it is sufficient to see and to say that the charge of Replacement Theology is wrong.