Did the Church replace Israel?
By Terry Lynch
There seems to be a tremendous amount of confusion in the Church today over the role that Israel will play in end time’s prophecy. What is Israel’s role in end time’s prophecy? Is Israel the Church and is the Church the new spiritual Israel? When prophecy mentions Israel or the House of David does that mean Israel or the Church?
These are some of the questions we will outline and hopefully answer in this article.
First I would like to cover something referred to as Replacement Theology. Replacement Theology doctrine suggests that Israel was cut off from the covenants and blessings of God and is no longer part of Gods plan. There are several reasons why this doctrine has come into being and in some cases it is simply a matter of misunderstanding some key scripture verses. Let me say one thing here, when Israel was chosen by God and put into being it was like laying the foundation for a large structure that would be built forever. In other words the idea that Israel is removed from the structure is not possible, because in essence it is part of the foundation. In fact I would go so far to say that Israel as a land and a people needs to exist prophetically for the eventual fulfillment of several prophetic events. To fully understand this we are going to have to dig into Gods word and take a journey through the Old Covenant promises and through several New Testament scripture verses. We are also going to look at Gods word prophetically and see what it really says about this subject.
Let’s begin by taking a look at a mystery revealed to Paul in Ephesians chapter 3.
4In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. 6This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
Paul reveals a mystery here. A mystery is something that is not made known prior to that point. Paul reveals the mystery that through Christ Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together in one body. Notice that Saint Paul states that we share as heirs with Israel, not that the Church replaced Israel. Now, let’s think about that for a moment. According to this Gentiles were not heirs together with Israel before Christ and the New Covenant. To understand this better we need to understand what a Gentile is. Scripture indicates that anyone that is not of ethnic Israel to be a Gentile. The Church eliminates this distinction by grouping everyone together in the body of Christ (Galations 3:28). Even today outside of the Church Israel and Gentile groups continue to exist, it is only through belief in Christ that we all enter into one body.
So who was Israel up until Christ implemented the New Covenant on the cross?
The Ethnic Lineage of Israel Heirs to the Covenant Promises
To fully understand who Israel was we need to take a journey through the Old Testament covenant promises in Genesis and on through Exodus.
Genesis 12:2 "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. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
Genesis 13:14 The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, "Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring [a] forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you."
Genesis 15When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the river [a] of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates- 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites
But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year."
Genesis 26:23 From there he went up to Beersheba. 24 That night the LORD appeared to him and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham."
Genesis 28:10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway [d] resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it [e] stood the LORD, and he said: "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."
Genesis 32:28 Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.
Throughout the book of Genesis chapters 12 through 32 we see the covenants given to Abraham and further confirmed with two specific children of promise, Isaac and Jacob. The other sons in Abraham’s bloodline were not given the covenant promises (Ishmael and Esau). Exodus confirms this covenant line and we have a common reference to God being referred to as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob throughout the bible. This reference confirms Gods chosen lineage for the promises and the continuing offspring that would eventually produce the Messiah Jesus Christ.
The Abrahamic covenant promises were not conditional on anything other than circumcision when they were delivered and were mentioned as being everlasting. The word for everlasting in Hebrew is “Olam” meaning continual perpetual motion. In other words, the promises made by God were not dependent on Israel’s actions and therefore could not be broken by Israel, only by God. The covenants I am speaking of are the specific covenant promises referred to as the Abrahamic Covenant promises outlined in the scripture we just covered. Some people are confused about the idea of Israel being in the land today and what it means prophetically. Genesis could not be clearer to the eternal nature of the covenant promises made to Abraham and his descendants. Therefore, even today Israel has a right to occupy the land according to the eternal promise of the Lord through the Abrahamic Covenants. This does not mean that Israel has occupied the land constantly through the past 3000 years. In fact Israel has occupied the land only to be dispersed later because of disobedience or lack of faith more than once. The pattern that emerges is one that proves that ethnic Israel is never forgotten, but instead taken through periods of discipline and judgment and then brought back into the land and restored again. I believe prophecy will reveal this pattern again for the last and final climactic restoration of Israel occurring when Christ returns to the earth and at that point Israel will receive its full promised inheritance of the land promised with Christ ruling the earth from the throne in Jerusalem. God has stated more than one in scripture that he would never foget about Israel and that Israel would also be lineage that exists before him.
In Romans 9 Paul outlines the importance of Israel and what Gods first chosen helped in bringing to the world.
Romans 9 4the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen
Saint Paul confirms very clearly in the beginning of Romans 9 that the ancestry of Christ came through the people of Israel. Specifically through the same lineage that was outlined in the covenant promises – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, continuing on through Jesse and David. There is no doubt as to who Israel is in Romans 9 as Paul uses the same set of identifying lineage as God confirmed in Genesis. Once I began to understand the old covenants and who Israel was it changed my perception of the nation significantly and also helped me understand the Church much better. I always felt a kinship with Israel because of the Patriarchs and the word of God, but I never fully understand the process of Israel blessing the nations and what that encompassed until I began to get the bigger picture of history and prophetically. Through them is the very ancestry of Christ, who is God over all according to Romans 9. In other words the foundation of just about everything we see today came through the people of Israel. The lineage of Jacob was Jewish as was Mary and Jesus. Jesus selected Jewish disciples to build the early Church on and every piece of writing found in the bible comes from the people of Israel. It is in the very fabric of the Church, but many times today we view the Church without seeing the Jewish roots that brought the Church into being.
Let’s swing back around to Ephesians 3 for a moment. So where does that leave the Gentiles before Christ and before the Church? Well that is very simple, for the most part the Gentiles were not elected and were therefore not heirs to the covenant that was promised to the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Old Testament covenants given to Abraham were given to a specific lineage of people, so even though the Patriarchs and their offspring were justified by faith they were also chosen by lineage specifically by God.
Replacement Theology advocates cross the line on this biblical fact and begin to focus so much on the Church they forget about the history of Israel and the Old Covenants. This is fantastic if you are revealing prophecy concerning the Church, but not so good if you are trying to identify Israel prophetically and properly handle the word of Truth. The idea that Israel was justified by faith is true, but that does not mean that the old covenants opened the door to Gentiles being part of the land covenant promise or that Israel has now been replaced and is no longer part of Gods prophetic plan. We are joint heirs with Israel through belief in the Messiah through the new covenant, but were not part of the promises given specifically to Israel through the Abrahamic Covenants.
Now there are indications that God used Israel to show the Gentile nations that he was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and who he was. No doubt many Gentiles believed in God of Israel and were aware of his ability to give salvation to people. I do not want to be dogmatic about the idea that Gentiles were or were not justified because God is capable of saving all humans at any given time. As far as election is concerned though the people of Israel were chosen by God and this covenant election did not include Gentiles before the Church was born. This process is never more clear than in the book of Acts chapters 1 through 10 after the Church is formed at Pentecost. During the early part of the Church the focus was on taking the gospel to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles later. In fact it was not until Paul was converted that the focus went over to the Gentiles for Paul was the chosen instrument to take the gospel out to the Gentiles.
The Implementation of Christ and the New Covenant
It is time to put our thinking hats on because this is going to get a little bit deeper. To fully understand the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant there is no better book to use than Romans because it clearly outlines the separation between Israel, Gentiles and the Church.
Beginning in Romans 9, Saint Paul outlines the covenant promises that were given in the book of Genesis by identifying Abraham’s offspring of promise, Isaac and Isaac’s son Jacob.
7Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned."] 8In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring. 9For this was how the promise was stated: "At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son."
11Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: 12not by works but by him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger."[d] 13Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
Paul is faced with addressing several very deep theological issues in Romans 9-10 and 11. First of all Paul must explain the idea that Gentiles can now enter the new covenant and share in the blessings that were once only given to Israel. In the scripture presented in Romans 9 Paul uses the very same covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob outlined in Genesis as an example. The reason this is a fantastic example is because Abraham and Isaac both had more than one child, but only Abraham’s son Isaac and Isaac’s son Jacob received the covenant promises. Not all of Abraham’s children received the promises even though Ishmael and Esau were of Abrahams seed. In the same manner the blessings are no longer Israel’s simply because of election through lineage. The new covenant revolves around faith in Christ, so any person either Jew or Gentile could enter through faith. The example is dead on because not all of Abraham’s children were elected in the Old Covenant, nor are all of Israel elected in the new covenant just because they are from the children of promise (Isaac and Jacob). The Church is made up of both Israel and Gentiles and Paul himself was known as the apostle to the Gentiles. This was all made possible through Christ who was a light to the Gentiles and the entire world and therefore created the Church. There is widespread agreement throughout the Church on the fundamentals of the New Covenant and what is required for eternal life found in John 3:16.
Now, let’s get back to replacement theology for a moment. RT Advocates have taken a verse in Romans 9 and twisted it around a bit.
6It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.
There is considerable disagreement on what Paul was trying to say in Romans 9:6. Replacement Theology doctrine holds the view that Paul is saying that Israel is now a new spiritual Israel and Israel has been replaced by the Church. The problem I have with replacement theology doctrine is the attempt to remove Israel from Gods prophetic plan in the past and the future. RT advocates suggest that because of Romans 9 and Matthew 21:42-45 that Israel was cut off and the kingdom was passed to another people permanently. This is true to the extent that God did open the door to Gentiles and allowed all peoples to freely come into the Church for salvation. It is also true that Gentiles were more receptive to the gospel in larger numbers than the Jews. However, the idea that it removes ethnic Israel completely from prophetic promises in the future and suggests that Israel was not a chosen nation in the past is false. I have witnessed some RT Advocates go so far as to suggest that since we were all justified by faith that there was really no ethnic line identifying Israel in the first place and it was always a “spiritual Israel” from the beginning. That becomes dangerous because in that scenario there would be no ethnic lineage to the Messiah and no delivery of the Prophets and promises of God through is chosen covenant people of Israel. It is almost like there is an attempt to remove any trace of ethnic Israel from scripture either in the past or the future. This can lead to scriptural exegesis that can be unhealthy, especially in the discernment of prophecy and what prophetic verses are truly speaking of. We will get into this in more detail later on in the article, but let’s just say if you begin to rip up the foundation of a structure before long the entire structure falls apart. In other words if you remove Israel from the equation then the stability of Gods plan and design becomes unstable.
I do agree that the Church includes both Jew and Greek and there is no more separation between Israel and Gentile in the body of Christ. This is confirmed in Galatians 3, see below.
27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
So does the Church replace Israel? I do not believe Paul is suggesting replacement of Israel in Romans chapters 9 through 11 or Galations 3 either. According to Ephesians 3 Gentiles share in the covenant promises to Abraham through Christ, share means to be a part of, not to replace. What Paul is trying to outline in Romans 9-10 and 11 is no easy task because of the rule change that was taking place in the New Covenant. The Church is defined through belief in Christ regardless of lineage and is not based on chosen lineage any longer. Paul had to explain the new covenant in Romans 9-11 and at the same time continue to show the election of Israel based on Gods eternal promises and prophecies concerning the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Paul realized that Israel must be a separate entity outside of Christ due to the Patriarchs, the covenants and the prophecies concerning Israel in the future that are currently taking place in the promised land today and will continue through the tribulation period and the return of Christ. It is true that the Church has become the elect of God in scripture, but to the extent that it removes Israel from scripture or change the meaning of prophetic scriptures concerning the first chosen people I think Replacement Theology goes to far. Balance needs to be applied by acknowledging that the Church is the elect of God, the bride of Christ but still recognizing the prophetic significance of Israel and understanding that they are still part of the prophetic plan. Using this method of interpretation helps discern what prophecies are for the Church and when ethnic Israel is spoken of and keeps Old Testament prophecy concerning Israel in its proper bucket.
The Separation of Israel and the Church
Notice how Paul begins Romans 9 by immediately identifying Israel as his own race and those that were cut off from Christ because of unbelief. Once again this identifies ethnic Israel outside the Church as “Israel”.
3For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4the people of Israel.
11Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.
It is very confusing to try to understand Paul’s sermon by stating the Church is now spiritual Israel, because he very clearly refers to Israel as those that were cut off from Christ. Then again in Romans 11:11 Paul says, “did they stumble beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious”. Ok, so Israel is envious of the Gentiles who are now the Church, but Israel is now the Church according to Replacement Theology advocates? If this document stopped right here it would be enough to prove the fallibility of the RT doctrine easily. Clearly, Paul is referring to Israel as the ones that have rejected Christ and this leaves a simple form of identification through ethnicity. Think about it for a moment, if the Jews were believers they would no longer be Israel, but would be the body of Christ. (Remember Galations 3) Paul states that once a person believes in Christ there is no more separation between Jew and Gentile, therefore in Romans 9-10 and 11 Israel means ethnic Israel outside of the Church, not the new spiritual Israel. Let me send out a warning here, it is confusing to refer to the Church as Israel or suggest that the Church is now the recipient of Old Testament prophecies concerning ethnic Israel.
The Olive Tree of Jewish Promises
As we continue on in Romans 11 Paul begins using an olive tree as an example to explain the separation between Israel and the Church. The idea is that the tree is the covenant promises that produced the natural branches of Israel. In other words Israel is natural to Paul’s Olive Tree based on the covenant promises given in the Old Testament to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.. In Paul’s outline the natural branches, (Israel) have been cut off because of unbelief and the Gentiles who are from a Wild Olive shoot have been grafted in unnaturally to the promises that were once only ethnic Israel’s. This occurred when Israel did not recognize the appearance of the Messiah Jesus Christ and the Gentiles accepted him in large numbers after the formation of the Church at Pentecost.
17If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." 20Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
Notice that Paul refers to Israel as the broken off branches due to unbelief, but he also refers to them as natural branches. There is that ethnic lineage confirmation again and we will see it throughout Romans 9-11. Then Paul confirms the fact that Gentiles are not natural to the promises by stating that Gentiles are unnatural to the tree, but were grafted in through faith in Christ. Romans 11:23 confirms Ephesians 3 to the detail. Paul also tells the grafted in Gentiles not to boast over the broken off branches in arrogance. I find that remark interesting based on some of the attitudes in the Church today towards Israel. I wonder what Paul would say about those that are boasting about the idea that Gentiles were more receptive to the gospel and Israel lost their blessing because of rejection of Christ? Do not boast or be arrogant, but be afraid or you may end up broken off like the ones you are boasting over. We should be aware that we are being grafted into promises that are not natural to us and not be arrogant. In my opinion doctrines like Replacement Theology are the epitome of arrogance due to the denial of Israel the very people that the promises are natural to, the very people that God chose to bring the promises through.
How does Israel get grafted into the promises again?
23And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!
They must come to belief in Jesus Christ and only then will they be given eternal life and fully reinstated to the full extent of the original promises. Scripture is clear that after the formation of the New Covenant, Jesus is the only way to the Father and no one is saved except through him. Based on this Israel is cut off from the Messiah and therefore in a state of unbelief and lost without Christ. This is true. It is important to realize however that Israel is still elected through the Patriarchs and through the old covenants. This is where the major disconnect in understanding this theology occurs because many people cannot get their arms around the idea of Israel being elected through the foundations of Gods design, but also cut off from the Messiah at the same time. We must remember that through the Old Testament Israel was disobedient many times and disciplined more than once. Many times Israel was dispersed from the land and judged, even taken captive to foreign lands, but God sustained a remnant every time and eventually brought them back. This pattern is shown again and again in the Old Testament. For people to argue that Israel was cut off permanently shows a lack of understanding of the Old Testament and certainly shows a lack of knowledge for Gods prophetic word.
Let’s continue on with Paul’s revelation of the mystery of the broken off branches and get into prophecy concerning end times Israel...
The Mystery of the Broken off Branches
Now Paul reveals the Mystery of Romans 11
25I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. 26And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:
Paul once again warns the Gentiles in the Church not to be conceited over the broken off branches because Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of Gentiles has come in. First let’s cover the “Fullness of the Gentiles”. John 3:16 confirms that Christ has opened his arms to the world inviting all who would come to believe. The Gentiles began coming in when Christ died on the cross and the Church was born. The time between the birth of the Church until the Rapture (1 Thess 4:13-17) is referred to by scholars as the “Church Age”. Eventually when we near the end of the age, Christ will return for his bride the Church and the rapture will occur. This time will coincide very closely with what Paul refers to as the fullness of the Gentiles when the final Gentiles has come into faith in Christ. According to scriptural prophecy, Israel will be brought back into the land to go through a period of tribulation outlined in both the Old and New Testament. Paul is referring to this time when he reveals the mystery of the broken off branches “Israel” who experienced a partial hardening until the last Gentile comes in will be softened and will come to recognition that Christ is the Messiah.
"The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. 27And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins."
The Lord Jesus Christ will come and turn godlessness away from Jacob, God will not forget his covenant with ethnic Israel. (Jeremiah 31:31-33)
Think about this for a moment, the Jews have been longing for the return of the Messiah for hundreds of years and many Jews wholeheartedly believe in the Torah and continue to watch for the Messiah. I have thought deeply about why the Jews continue to overlook the fact that Christ is the Messiah because Old Testament prophecy confirms it again and again. David wrote about Jesus dying on the cross and soldiers casting lots for his clothing. Isaiah wrote about the Messiah being a light to the Gentiles and Daniel prophesied about the Messiah coming and then being cut off in Daniel 9:26 followed by the destruction of the temple in 70 AD that was fulfilled in detail by the people of the prince that will come – the Roman Soldiers. I have many times wanted to sit down with a Jewish believer and say, “How can you not see it man, you know the Old Testament better than I do”. The conclusion that best explains this mystery is a hardening of the heart and blindness that has occurred with the Jewish people. This is what Paul explains and it makes perfect sense due to the overwhelming evidence that the Jews are reading overwhelming evidence in scripture and not seeing. The only way to fully explain this phenomenon is by understanding the idea of a partial hardening that Paul mentions keeping the Jewish people from seeing the truth.
Israel in end times prophecy
The next thing I would like to do is reference the prophetic plan for Israel prophetically to prove that Israel exists as a separate group of people outside the Church prophetically. It will become very apparent that the doctrine of Replacement Theology falls very short of being accurate when we look at the prophecies concerning Israel in the end days.
According to Replacement Theology Advocates Israel was cut off and there is no longer an ethnic Israel that would be prophetically recognized. In other words the re-gathering of the Jews to the land is not prophetic because there is no more Israel. One has to make this statement because either “Israel” is or it is not. There is no middle ground here. Replacement Theology advocates cannot say Israel is cut off and then refer to Israel prophetically when they feel like it. This would show an inconsistent method of interpretation and completely dismantle the viewpoint. If you ask viewpoints that hold to Replacement Theology scriptures about Israel in the land today they will say it is man made and not God led. This is a ridiculous statement to be honest with you when one takes into consideration the destruction of the nation in 70 AD, wandering the earth for 1878 years, going through the Inquisition and the Holocaust in the 1940s only to be miraculously gathered in 1948 and recognized as a nation again. This entire process was predicted in detail in scripture and continues on through to the return of Christ in which Israel becomes one of the main focal points during the tribulation period.
Today it seems that many people want to buy into particular viewpoints without taking the whole bible into consideration. There is a common thing used today called allegorical or metaphorical interpretation of events. It allows people to take verses that do not line up with their viewpoint and spiritualize them for obvious reasons. For example if a scholar runs into a scripture that would not line up with his viewpoint they have only two choices, spiritualize the meaning or prove that it was fulfilled in the past. To combat this we will focus on verses that refer to Israel in prophecies that are no doubt literal and yet to be fulfilled.
Remember, I have stated a belief that Israel is defined by ethnic terms and it is not the Church. Scripture makes a distinct separation between the Church and Israel and I believe we must understand this if we are to comprehend scripture correctly. As we moved through the document I presented scripture outlining that once a Jew or Gentile he is saved he is no longer defined by ethnic lineage and is in the body of Christ. It is this ethnic identification that helps us discern the difference between the Church and the future plan for the remnant of Israel.
We left off in Romans 11 with Paul’s mystery of the broken off branches showing a picture of this group (Israel) recognizing Christ after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. What I would like to do is introduce a prophecy in Zechariah chapters 12-14 to begin to reinforce what Paul is outlining in Romans 11.
A prominent scholar named Thomas Ice turned me on to the importance of Zechariah 12 through 14 in his writings. He refers to it as the little apocalypse of Zechariah and I thought that reference was very appropriate. In Zechariah 12 we see the nations of the earth being gathered against Israel to do battle with her.
2 "I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling. Judah will be besieged as well as Jerusalem. 3 On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.
This can only be identified as the battle of Armageddon because we see a succession of events that show Israel recognizing the Messiah being described as the one they pierced.
10 "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit [a] of grace and supplication. They will look on [b] me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.
Grace is poured out on the nation of Israel as they mourn for the one they pierced. Remember, in Romans 11 when Paul said that the broken off branches would come out of a hardened state and then the deliverer of Zion would return saving Jacob.
Then we see Christ returning to stand on the Mount of Olives in Zech 14.
3 Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.
The Old Testament prophet Zechariah sees the exact same return that John sees in the book of Revelation. Remember that the Jews were familiar with the prophecies of Christ’s return based on the Old Testament prophets. The disciples were specifically familiar with Zechariah 14:4 when they were conversing with Jesus about his return to come into his kingdom in Matthew 24. The Lord is returning to fight the armies of the Antichrist who have gathered the nations of the world at Meggido Israel to destroy Israel and fight Christ as he returns to set up his earthly kingdom in Jerusalem.
16Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
19: 11I saw heaven standing open and there before
me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he
judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like blazing fire,
and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows
but he himself. 13He is dressed in a robe dipped in
blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14The armies of
heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen,
white and clean. 15Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword
with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron
scepter."[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the
wrath of God Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he
has this name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.’
Just to sweeten the prophecy pot a little I would like to point out something that is absolutely fascinating. Did you know that Armageddon is not just a description of the final battle, but it an actual place in Israel? Napoleon called this battlefield the greatest strategic battlefield on the face of the earth. It has a long history of epic battles and will be the staging area for the largest battle the earth will ever witness. I believe God created this great valley long ago when he designed the earth for this epic battle to rage there. This time of the second coming of the Messiah will be the time when God puts things right and ends the rule of the Gentile nations on the earth. From that point forward the Jewish King Jesus Christ will rule with an iron scepter forever. Daniel 2:32-35.
Zechariah 14 and Revelation 19 harmonize together perfectly. Revelation confirms that the Church will be with Christ when he returns, further supporting the idea that the Church is separate from Israel in the tribulation period and that a remnant of Israel, referred to in Zechariah as the House of David and Jerusalem will be in the Holy Land when Christ returns to rescue them. Zech 12-14 harmonizes with Paul’s mystery of the broken off branches in Romans 11 perfectly. You see folks, for Gods word to be fulfilled accurately it is an absolute requirement to have ethnic Jews in unbelief in the Holy Land before Christ returns because it is predicted that unbelieving Jews will recognize the Messiah. Parts of the prophecies of the Messiah returning in Glory are to return to his first chosen remnant of Israel and save them from the impending destruction at the hands of a Gentile Ruler.
Let’s take a look at how Replacement Theology stacks up when interpreting Zech 12-14 and Revelation 19. For lack of a better term it falls on its face because these prophecies clearly force the reader/interpreter to identify Israel ethnically in the Holy Land during the future tribulation period. If we try to associate Israel with the new spiritual Israel or the Church then it becomes impossible to interpret the verses correctly. For example, if Zech 12-14 is future, and it clearly is future because of the Messiahs return, then why would the new spiritual Israel recognize the one they pierced when they are surrounded by the armies of the Beast? Isn’t the Church already the body of Christ and would already be in the New Covenant? Israel is going to be coming out of its blindness during this time and is therefore coming into the New Covenant. Simply put it goes like this… Recognition and acceptance, Receiving Grace and Supplication, Pouring out of the Holy Spirit for those in Christ. This is the climactic ending of the tribulation period when Christ returns to the land with ethnic Jews recognizing him as he returns to set up the throne of David. The throne of David itself has very Jewish implications as well as an earthly political meaning. This is the beginning of the 1000 years where Jesus will reign from Jerusalem during a period of unprecedented peace. Clearly Zechariah is not outlining prophecies for the Church in chapters 12-14; he is outlining prophecies for ethnic Israel during the tribulation period.
Let’s take a look at another end time’s prophecy concerning Israel to see how replacement theology stacks up. In Revelation 7 John mentions the 12 tribes of Israel and 144 thousand of those twelve tribes being called out as servants of God and sealed.
not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads
of the servants of our God." 4Then I heard the
number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. 5From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed, from
the tribe of Reuben 12,000, from the tribe of Gad 12,000, 6from the tribe of Asher 12,000, from the tribe of
Naphtali 12,000, from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000, 7from
the tribe of Simeon 12,000, from the tribe of Levi 12,000, from the tribe
of Issachar 12,000,
8from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000, from the tribe of Joseph 12,000, from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.
If there is no more ethnic Israel then who are the 12 tribes of Israel… First of all why would the Church made up of Gentiles be referred to as the 12 tribes of Israel? The 12 tribes of Israel are identified with the same language they were in the Old Testament referring to the ethnic lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is absolutely a reference to ethnic Israel and just like in the beginning of Zech 12 Israel is in unbelief when they are first mentioned. The 144k mentioned in Revelation 7 are called out and sealed as servants of God early on in the tribulation period leaving the biggest majority of the 12 tribes in unbelief.
Other prophecies confirm this. For example, in Matthew 24:15 Christ outlines what is referred to as the Abomination that Causes Desolation and quotes the prophet Daniel. Christ tells those in Israel to flee when they see this event. The Abomination of Desolation is the Antichrist standing in the temple proclaiming himself to be God. Paul makes reference to this event in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 as well. This event will lead to the Jews fleeing Israel into the wilderness after they see the Abomination of Desolation occurs. This can be confirmed by scripture about the Woman in Revelation 12 giving birth to the male child and fleeing for 1260 days.
15"So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,'[b] spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. 18Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. 19How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. 22If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened
5She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
What does this have to do with the Church other than an identification of the midpoint of the tribulation period? Is the Church going to be in Jerusalem carrying out Sacrifice and Offering at the rebuilt temple or in the land of Judea? Perhaps some Gentiles would be in the land, but this is clearly a reference to ethnic Israel. To argue that the Church is somehow recipient to these prophecies is a stretch and requires taking the prophecies out of there literal context... In Revelation 12 the woman gives birth to a male child that would rule the nations with an iron scepter and is then pursued by Satan into the wilderness for 1260 days. If you study your history and scripture you will quickly realize that Israel gave birth to the male child who is Christ. Remember in Romans 9 Paul stated clearly that Israel held the lineage of the Messiah Jesus Christ. If we piece that together we can only conclude that Israel is being shown in the tribulation period. Israel outside the Church in unbelief and yet still part of Gods plan. The mystery of the broken off branches is just about ready to be completed, bringing Gods first chosen people back into the Holy Land and prophetically fulfilling his word. What we see in Revelation 12 is a picture of re-gathered Israel being pursued into the wilderness after the Antichrist claims to be the Messiah and desecrates the temple.
These prophecies all fit perfectly with Paul’s scenario in Romans 9-10 and 11 that a remnant of Israel will be preserved and in existence during the tribulation period. Not sure if any of the readers here have been watching the news lately but if you were not aware the nation of Israel was brought back into existence from an 1848 year dispersion in 1948. That’s right folks, from 70 AD to 1948 the nation of Israel ceased to exist. Scholars were calling for the re-gathering of Israel long before it took place in 1948 based on the prophecies I am pointing out to you. There are people in the Church even today that say Israel is no more, even though Israel has been gathered before our very eyes! By the way, just in case you were wondering the bible predicted the re-gathering of the nation of Israel in Ezekiel 37:11-14 as well as several other places in the bible.
How do the verses we have briefly covered line up with the idea of Israel meaning “Spiritual Israel” or the “Church”? Obviously it creates problems when you try to apply the prophecies of the end times concerning Israel to the Church. Take into consideration that I only touched on a few end times prophecies dealing with Israel, there are many more in the Old and New Testament that I did not cover. I think it is fairly clear at this point that Replacement Theology doctrine is faulty to say the least.
The dilemma of Israel for the Church
What I would like to do now is
focus in on some of the reasons that people use to create unfavorable or
incorrect viewpoints on Israel. In Romans 11 Paul makes a statement that
creates a dilemma for the Church in how we view and deal with Israel.
28As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. “NIV Version”
As far as the gospel is concerned, in other words as far as belief in Christ goes (Israel) are enemies on the Church’s account, but as far as election goes they (Israel) are loved on account of the Patriarchs. What is the Church supposed to do with this dilemma concerning Israel, on the one hand they work against the Church because they are in rejection of Christ, but at the same time they are first chosen and have given the Church so much, even if they do not fully realize it. It is no secret that Jews outside the Church today are very uncomfortable with the idea of Christ being the Messiah. This fact coupled with the doctrine of Replacement Theology gives some people an easy excuse to form opinions that are hostile towards Israel and sometimes even Anti-Semitic. When God first created Israel to be his chosen people they were immediately targeted for persecution and destruction by the enemy because so much would be riding on these people as a nation. Paul listed several of the fantastic things Israel helped bring into being. I am not at all saying the Church should not firmly and unapologetically spread the gospel of Christ and tell the truth, regardless of how it is taken, I am simply suggesting that Christians today should be mindful of the plan God has for Israel prophetically and what they have brought to the Church. Just because someone is Jewish does not open up a loophole that justifies behavior that is deemed questionable by Christian standards. For example lets say a Christian takes this viewpoint; the Jews were part of tricking and killing Jesus so they deserve what they get. This is very dangerous ground for a Christian believer and doling out judgment and punishment is Gods territory, not ours.
It is interesting to me that a chosen people that have done so much for the world would come under such intense persecution. Let me take that back and rephrase the statement, it is not strange that persecution comes from the world for Christ said it would, what is interesting is when it comes from those that claim to be followers of Christ. Throughout history Israel has been persecuted for reasons that defy logic and we only need to go back to the 1940s to see one of the most extreme examples of this concept during the Holocaust. This was an unthinkable act of aggression that targeted the Jews for absolute extermination… Why did Hitler do this? For all the reasons that people want to come up with the one that makes the most sense to me is that he was an agent of evil. Just a few years after the Holocaust in 1948 Israel was birthed as a nation again and fulfilled one of the most incredible pieces of prophetic scripture found in the bible. Is it a coincidence that right before the wandering Jews fulfilled a major prophetic event a madman from Germany that is a foreshadow of the coming Antichrist would attempt to exterminate the entire race and therefore block the prophetic fulfillment of the Jews returning to the land of Israel and the fulfillment of Ezekiel 37? I don’t think it was a coincidence at all. It would probably shock many of you to know that some people claiming to be Christians were friendly with Hitler and supported his rise into power. This is all recorded history and there is written documentation and relationships that prove this link. Obviously the true followers of Christ would never have persecuted Israel in this manner. Paul did not persecute Israel nor did any of the other disciples, because after all they were all Jews. Even today there are people like the President of Iran that talk about their desire to destroy the “Occupying Regime” in Palestine, without giving the Jews their proper respect and identifying them as Israel. He will not even acknowledge that Israel exists as a people or a nation. It is hard to believe that this man is also from the seed of Abraham (Ishmael, Esau) and that he is a mortal enemy of Gods covenant people. What a contradiction. Many of the extreme Islamic nations today speak of the destruction of Israel and have no problem justifying anti-Semitic views.
Nothing is more of a contradiction though, in Christianity itself than a Christian that is Anti Semitic. You want to talk about a conflict of fundamentals; there is nothing stranger than a Christian that worships a Jewish Messiah but at the same time holds contempt for the Jewish people. To show you how ludicrous this is let’s think about the great Jewish Patriarchs of the bible and the fact that we share in Jewish promises. Some of the doctrines out there today would put the Patriarchs of the bible on a pedestal and at the same time deny that ethnic Israel exists today or every existed. Folks, the enemy would like nothing more than to trick Christians into an Anti Semitic viewpoint. I plead with you to study the scriptures and understand that we are connected to the people of Israel and owe them a debt of gratitude for what we have today. They need our prayers and support, regardless of the blindness they might be in. Don’t fall into the trap of creating a skewed viewpoint about Israel without the facts that we are given in scripture because God is clear that he loves Israel and has found great purpose in his first chosen nation. I personally think it is very arrogant and conceited for people in the Church to form negative views about Israel. Sometimes the gospel paints a very negative picture of the Jewish leaders and it causes an emotional response towards Israel. In reality we all put Christ on that cross with our sin and we have no right to blame a race for the actions of a few. In fact I view the Jewish people in exactly the opposite light by focusing on the fact that they were first chosen through the great patriarchs that provided the lineage of the Messiah Jesus Christ. I also look at all the disciples he hand picked including Paul who was Jewish. I think it is time for a reality check. Paul and the other Jewish disciples launched the early Church and it is partly because of their work and sacrifice that the Church is what it is today.
Is anyone in the Church going to judge and look down on Israel or just as bad deny Israel its promises prophetically from God? That is another contradiction in Christianity because of the commands to not judge others, especially on past actions. Think about the hypocritical stance of many today that judge Israel but at the same time need to go to Jesus Christ in repentance for their own past mistakes… Once again Paul’s warning to the Gentiles to not be conceited and arrogant screams out even today. Paul speaks of this tension between Israel and the Gentiles in other books after the implementation of the New Covenant and I believe it continues to this day.
Replacement Theology advocates pull an interesting conclusion out of Romans 9-10 and 11 based on the idea of the remnant of grace. According to their doctrine the remnant of grace today would be Church and therefore Israel outside the Church is no longer part of prophetic plan or as we would call it “chosen by lineage”. The Remnant of grace is not that simple to understand and it is not as easy as simply saying the Remnant exists today and then goes away. The Remnant in Paul’s letter is speaking of the remnant that was set aside since the time of Isaiah and states that there is always a remnant of “Israel” that is justified by faith. The question still becomes is ethnic Israel still a player in Gods prophetic work and I think the answer is yes. Based on that conclusion the remnant of grace spoken of by Paul is a Jewish remnant justified by faith that will continue moving forward. Now to fully understand this we must again think about the prophecy of the broken off branches that will come to repentance after the fullness of the Gentiles comes in. That Remnant spoken of in Revelation 7 referred to as the 12 tribes of Israel must be future remnant, even though at the particular time they are references in Revelation that group of Israel is in unbelief and rejection of the Messiah. How do we know this? Because 144 thousand of them are called out and sealed, leaving the remaining 12 tribes to flee into the wilderness in Revelation 12:6 for 1260 days. The dragon pursues the Woman (Israel) into the desert because she gave birth to the Male Child symbolically referring to (Jesus) and the (144 thousand Jewish Evangelists) that will spread the gospel during the tribulation period. Now, keeping that in mind we need to backtrack to Paul’s prophecy of the broken off branches. Paul says that after the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, basically when the last Gentile has come to belief in Christ, the blindness that was given to the Jews will be lifted. The bible actually refers to this as a hardening, making reference to the fact that the Jews will be blinded or hardened to the point of non repentance until that time comes. Once the fullness comes in the 12 tribes in unbelief will recognize the Messiah (we have already pointed this out in Zech 12-14) and Christ will return. The mystery of the broken off branches refers specifically to the 12 re-gathered tribes of Israel and speaks to the prophecy that they will accept the Messiah and therefore are part of the remnant that has always been and will always be set aside. This remnant and the mystery refers to ethnic Israel still being part of the plan, prophecy confirms this very accurately and specifically. So where does Replacement Theology fit into that fact and promise? It does not really fit anywhere into it and would seem to be a total misinterpretation of scripture.
The Conclusion – The Church is the elect, but Israel is still in the plan
Hopefully by now you have concluded scripturally that Israel is part of Gods plan and this article has provided a greater understanding of the prophetic events that will take place dealing with Israel before the return of Christ.
Here is a scripture I try to keep in mind as I think about the Jewish people.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
The Church above all other peoples on the earth should bless Israel and build bridges that will help introduce the Jews to the Messiah Jesus Christ. Replacement Theology is not only wrong scripturally it can potentially cause negative attitudes towards Israel. I agree with the RT Advocates on some levels. It is true that the Church is now Gods elect and his bride, but to the extent that RT advocates use it to completely remove Israel and state that they are totally cut off is where I draw the line scripturally. We must do our best in the Church to reach out to the people of Israel with the full knowledge that many can be saved by coming into the Church. We also need to respectfully acknowledge their first chosen status and the things they did to make the Church possible today. I believe it is also important to recognize the people and nation prophetically in Gods word to better understand the Lords plan. Finally we must combat negative and anti Semitic attitudes towards Israel, for we worship a Jewish God and our biblical heroes and teachers were Jewish. They are the very lineage that produced the opportunity we have today in the Church. I believe as the return of Christ nears there will be greater opportunity for Christians to stand with the Jewish people and many opportunities to show the love of the true Messiah Jesus Christ. That above all else is the best way we can love the Jewish people, but we must not forget about the principles of unconditional love in the face of opposition and rejection and cannot allow attitudes that are negative to slip into our viewpoints. The minute we as the Church allow ourselves to become conceited or hostile towards the Jewish people for whatever reason we not only look like hypocrites based on the teachings of Christ we also lose the ability to introduce them to the love of the true Messiah who is working through every believer.
Please stay tuned for more articles on prophecy in the future.
© T. Lynch, July 24th 2006.
To contact Terry please email firstname.lastname@example.org