The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Answering the Replacement Theology Critics (Part 1)

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“Please unsubscribe me from all mail from American Vision. Your replacement theology viewpoint is not in accordance with Scripture.” -from an email received at AV

Replacement theology has become dispensationalism’s latest prophetic boogeyman. If you want to end a debate over eschatology, just charge your opponent with holding to replacement theology. What is “replacement theology,” sometimes called “supersessionism,” and why do dispensationalists accuse non-dispensationalists of holding it? Here’s a typical dispensational definition:

Replacement Theology: a theological perspective that teaches that the Jews have been rejected by God and are no longer God’s Chosen People. Those who hold to this view disavow any ethnic future for the Jewish people in connection with the biblical covenants, believing that their spiritual destiny is either to perish or become a part of the new religion that superseded Judaism (whether Christianity or Islam).[1]

“Replacement theology” is dispensationalism’s trump card in any debate over eschatology because it implies anti-semitism. Hal Lindsey attempted to use this card in his poorly researched and argued The Road to Holocaust.[2] He wove an innovative tale implying that anyone who is not a dispensationalist carries the seeds of anti-semitism within his or her prophetic system. This would mean that every Christian prior to 1830 would have been theologically anti-semitic although not personally anti-semtic.

As Peter Leithart and I point out in The Legacy of Hatred Continues,[3] it’s dispensationalists who hold to a form of replacement theology since they believe that Israel does not have any prophetic significance this side of the rapture! Prior to the rapture, in terms of dispensational logic, the Church has replaced Israel. This is unquestionably true since God’s prophetic plan for Israel has been postponed until the prophetic time clock starts ticking again at the beginning of Daniel’s 70th week which starts only after the Church is taken to heaven in the so-called rapture. Until then, God is dealing redemptively with the Church. Am I making this up? Consider the following by dispensationalist E. Schuyler English:

An intercalary[4] period of history, after Christ’s death and resurrection and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, has intervened. This is the present age, the Church age. . . . During this time God has not been dealing with Israel nationally, for they have been blinded concerning God’s mercy in Christ. . . . However, God will again deal with Israel as a nation. This will be in Daniel’s seventieth week, a seven-year period yet to come.[5]

According to English and every other dispensationalist, the Church has replaced Israel until the rapture. The unfulfilled promises made to Israel are not fulfilled until after the Church is taken off the earth. Thomas Ice, one of dispensationalism’s rising stars, admits that the Church replaces Israel this side of the rapture: “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.’”[6]

Dispensationalists claim that their particular brand of eschatology is the only prophetic system that gives Israel her proper place in redemptive history. This is an odd thing to argue since two-thirds of the Jews will be slaughtered during the post-rapture tribulation, and the world will be nearly destroyed. Charles Ryrie writes in his book The Best is Yet to Come that during this post-rapture period Israel will undergo “the worst bloodbath in Jewish history.”[7] The book’s title doesn’t seem to very appropriate considering that during this period of time most of the Jews will die! John Walvoord follows a similar line of argument: “Israel is destined to have a particular time of suffering which will eclipse any thing that it has known in the past. . . . [T]he people of Israel . . . are placing themselves within the vortex of this future whirlwind which will destroy the majority of those living in the land of Palestine.”[8] Arnold Fruchtenbaum states that during the Great Tribulation “Israel will suffer tremendous persecution (Matthew 24:15–28; Revelation 12:1–17). As a result of this persecution of the Jewish people, two-thirds are going to be killed.”[9]

During the time when Israel seems to be at peace with the world, she is really under the domination of the antichrist who will turn on her at the mid-point in the seven-year period. Israel waits more than 2000 years for the promises finally to be fulfilled, and before it happens, two-thirds of them are wiped out. Those who are charged with holding a “replacement theology viewpoint” believe in no inevitable future Jewish bloodbath. In fact, we believe that the Jews will inevitably embrace Jesus as the Messiah this side of the Second Coming. The fulfillment of Zechariah 13:8 is a past event. It may have had its fulfillment in the events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Contrary to dispensationalism’s interpretation of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus’ disciples warned the Jewish nation for nearly forty years about the impending judgment (Matt. 3:7; 21:42–46; 22:1–14; 24:15–22). Those who believed Jesus’ words of warning were delivered “from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10). Those who continued to reject Jesus as the promised Messiah, even though they had been warned for a generation (Matt. 24:34), “wrath has come upon them to the utmost” (1 Thess. 2:16; cf. 1 Thess. 5:1–11; 2 Pet. 3:10–13).

Before critics of replacement theology throw stones, they need to take a look at their own prophetic system and see its many lapses in theology and logic.

Endnotes:

[1] Randall Price, Unholy War: America, Israel and Radical Islam (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2001), 412.
[2]
Hal Lindsey, The Road to Holocaust (New York: Bantam Books, 1989). The address for Bantam Books is 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York.
[3]
Gary DeMar and Peter J. Leithart, The Legacy of Hatred Continues: A Response to Hal Lindsey’s The Road to Holocaust (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1989).
[4]
Inserted into the calendar.
[5]
E. Schuyler English, A Companion to the New Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), 135.
[6] Thomas Ice, “The Israel of God,” The Thomas Ice Collection: www.raptureready.com/featured/TheIsraelOfGod.html#_edn3
[7]
Charles C. Ryrie, The Best is Yet to Come (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1981), 86
[8]
John F. Walvoord, Israel in Prophecy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1962), 107, 113. Emphasis added.
[9]
Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, “The Little Apocalypse of Zechariah,” The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack, eds. Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2003), 262.

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