Has the Church Replaced Israel? By Michael J. Vlach
The relationship between Israel and the Church has been a controversial subject all through Church History, the Church Age. Some will say that Israel was absorbed into the Church. They will say there is only one united people of God in history. This is often called Replacement Theology or “supersessionism.” Some will say, no, there is the Church begun on the Day of Pentecost and while everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ today is part of the Church, the Bride of Christ, including Jews, that Israel is still a people that God will use to fulfill His kingdom purposes by the fulfillment of the Covenants at the Second Advent.
Michael Vlach demonstrates an astute theological understanding and explanation by showing that those who believe the Church replaced Israel have a weak and inadequate case. He adroitly addresses the Bible, theology and history to reveal supersessionism, Replacement Theology, does not reflect biblical truth. Some, who believe the Church replaced Israel, also believe that there will be a national restoration of Israel, but only as a nation and without a distinct purpose God has called Israel to fulfill.
Supersessionism is dangerous theology, because it questions the character of God. If God made an unconditional covenant with Israel that one day they would return to the land, have a Son of David rule on a throne in Israel and bless the world around them, but didn’t really mean that it would happen, then it brings into question the integrity of God. This false interpretation can only result because of symbolic form of interpretation and imposition of typology on the whole of the Old Testament that requires the New Testament for explanation. In other words, the Old Testament cannot stand on its own for promises made to Israel.
One of the arguments that the Church replaced Israel is called “Punitive Supersessionism,” which states basically the Church replaced Israel because God was punishing Israel (Vlach also addresses economic and structural supersessionism adeptly). God certainly removed Israel from His blessing for a time, but the Covenants God made with Israel were unconditional and will be literally fulfilled at the Second Advent.
His discussion on the hermeneutics of supersessionism is thorough and objective. Many have argued that Dispensationalists are not really literalists in interpretation, but arguments are usually pointing at literal interpretation of poetry and eschatological passages that use symbols and have been explained in other parts of Scripture. Replacement Theology does not use a consistent literal hermeneutic, because it foists a system on Scripture rather than letting Scripture speak for itself. This book is a must read to properly grasp the big picture of understanding the Church does not replace Israel in God’s decree.
God chose Abraham to be the first Jew and from him Israel was formed because of God’s covenant with him called the Abrahamic Covenant. That Covenant will be fulfilled at the Second Advent of Jesus Christ prior to the Millennium and therefore the Jewish people will always exist in spite of Satan’s efforts to destroy the Jew. Satan tried throughout history from Abraham down to the cross to destroy the line to Christ. In spite of the stains of sin in the Messianic line, Jesus Christ was born the Messiah and completed His First Advent mission of going to the cross. Prior to the Second Advent, Satan has tried on several occasions to destroy the Jews. Why? Satan has tried to destroy the Jews, because if there are no Jews, then the Abrahamic Covenant could not be fulfilled and God would be proved a liar. The holocaust is just one example of Satan’s wicked ploys against the Jews. Merrill Bolender records how the Church has crept over to Replacement Theology and developed an anti-Jewish bias, including the Crusades and the indifference toward Israel by the Church today. Many of the early church fathers wrote with an anti-Jewish bias. Today in the 21st Century, the church seems to be moving toward Replacement Theology – The Jews were set aside and no longer have a plan in God’s administration of history, while the church has “replaced” Israel and the only focus of God’s history until the final Great White Throne judgment. Scripture does not teach this. You have to spiritualize the Scriptures, changing the hermeneutics from a Literal Historico-grammtical method of interpretation to a litero-spiritual approach, in which Scripture fits a particular theology. Bolender rightly argues the dangers of such an approach. He, nor I, would ever take a position of “Israel, right or wrong, Israel” approach, but Israel does have and will maintain an important role in God’s divine history. This is a short easy read, but important to understand regarding the consequences of Replacement Theology.