Anti-Semitism Part II, Replacement Theology

As we continue the discussion of anti-Semitism – Jew hatred – I’ve decided that this would be an excellent topic for Dr. Benjamin Kaplan and his medical students, Josh, Matt, and Sarah, to handle, so we will go to Ben’s office for that discussion right now.

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“Hi Dr. Kaplan. I understand that we are here today to talk about Jew hatred and that we will be focusing on replacement theology. You know that I’m interested in all of the manifestations of Jew hatred because I’m Jewish, but I don’t know what replacement theology is,” said Sarah.

“Dr. Kaplan, Josh and I have been talking a little about replacement theology since we knew that was today’s topic but we don’t really understand what it is either. Even though we’re not Jewish we are definitely opposed to any form of Jew hatred, so we are all ears today,” said Matt.

Ben continued the discussion. “Replacement theology has been with us for a very long time, possibly as far back as the end of the first century A.D. but it’s gotten much more complicated, widespread, and subtle over the centuries. It used to be simple. People who hated the Jews would say that the Jews killed Jesus, or rejected their Messiah, or both and because of that God has canceled his promises to the Jews. The Abrahamic Covenant, an unconditional covenant God made with Abraham, promised a number of things to Abraham and his descendants through the Jewish line of descent, meaning through Abraham’s son Isaac and through Isaac’s son Jacob and on down the line through Jacob’s 12 sons and their physical descendants, the Jewish people. Included in this covenant is a promise of a land for the Jewish people, and I will refer to this land as The Promised Land. Other critically important things were also promised in this covenant, including promises for the Gentiles. We’ll discuss all of the promises made in this covenant at a later date but for now we’ll stay with the promised land provision in order to keep things as simple as possible. Those who believe in replacement theology say that the promises made to the Jews by God are null and void because of what the Jews did to Jesus. Because of this crime the Church has replaced Israel so that all the blessings given to Israel by God and the promises of good things made to Israel by God, in the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant and in three other unconditional covenants (the Promised Land Covenant1, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant) have all been transferred to the Church. But the curses and the promises made by God of bad things for Israel remain. Those have not been transferred to the Church.”

“Dr. Kaplan, is replacement theology sometimes called supercessionism? Do the people who use that term mean that the Church has superceded Israel and the Jewish people in God’s eyes?” asked Matt.

“Yes Matt, that is correct” said Ben.

“So the Church has replaced Israel in receiving good things, but Israel receives all the bad things?” said Josh. “How do the people who teach this theology justify their teaching?”

“That’s an excellent question Josh,” said Ben. “We’re going to deal with that question a little later. But first I want you all to understand that replacement theology has become much more subtle over the centuries and there are numerous variants of it today. So contending against replacement theology can be like fighting the multi-headed hydra of Greek mythology; whenever one head was cut off another would grow back. But an even better analogy might be that of mutating virulent bacteria. As soon as one strain is killed by an antibiotic a new strain pops up that is resistant to that antibiotic and a new antibiotic must be found. For this reason I think we need the equivalent of a vaccine to prevent this deadly replacement theology from spreading and infecting more people.”

“What would be the equivalent of a vaccine in this case? And how would you administer it?” said Sarah.

“Great question, Sarah,” said Ben. “But before we attempt to answer your question I’d like to try to give you all a way to recognize replacement theology when it confronts you. Do any of you know what the Messianic Kingdom is?”

“Isn’t that when the wolf lies down with the lamb?” said Matt.

“That’s right,” said Ben.

“The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.” Isaiah 11:6 (ESV)

“And nobody will die at at young age?” said Josh.

“Right again,” said Ben.

“No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.” Isaiah 65:20 (ESV)

“And there will be peace everywhere?” said Sarah.

“Also correct!” said Ben.

“He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4 (ESV)

“You’ve all got it! And please also note that this Kingdom will be ruled by the Messiah and his reign will be from the throne of David which is in Jersusalem.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV)

“These five Bible verses, and there are many more, describe the Messianic Kingdom or what the Rabbis sometimes referred to as ‘the days of Messiah’ ”, said Ben. “These and other verses describe the Kingdom that the Messiah will bring in when he comes back. Most Jewish people don’t understand that the Messiah, Jesus, has already come once and that he will bring in the Messianic Kingdom described by these verses when he comes again.

“But I want you to notice that the above verses are all from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. These verses and others don’t tell us how long this Messianic Kingdom will last, ” said Ben.

“Can we know how long this kingdom will last? I’ve heard of something called the Millennial Kingdom. Is that the same kingdom?” asked Josh.

“Millennium means a thousand years doesn’t it?” asked Matt.

“Precisely Matt. And yes, Josh, the Messianic Kingom is the same as the Millennial Kingdom,” said Ben.

“Where does the Bible say that, Dr. Kaplan?” said Sarah.

“In the New Testament. It’s in chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation. It tells us the duration of this Kingdom which is 1000 years. In fact this one chapter mentions the 1000 years six times in six separate verses. I’m going to read just one of those verses,” said Ben.

“Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Revelation 20:4 (ESV)

“So the Old Testament gives us many verses that describe the character of the Messianic Kingdom, many more than the New Testament gives us, but the New Testament gives us the length of time this Kingdom will last. It will last 1000 years. That will be the duration of Jesus’ reign over this kingdom. The Messianic Kingdom and the Millennial Kingdom are one and the same,” said Ben.

“Wait a minute, Dr. Kaplan. Doesn’t the Bible say somewhere that 1000 years is equal to a day? Doesn’t that mean that the thousand years isn’t literal? Isn’t the thousand years just a figure of speech?” asked Sarah.

Ben replied. “Great question Sarah, but no, the Bible doesn’t say that. Let me explain. Let’s take a look at a verse from Peter’s 2nd letter which is in the New Testament.”

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” 2 Peter 3:8 (ESV)

“First of all, Peter is telling us that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. So Peter is not telling us that one day and a thousand years are the same. Secondly, this verse is expressing something important about the Lord and time. The Lord does not dwell in time. He dwells in eternity. Finally the context of this verse is crucial. In the passage which contains this verse Peter is telling us about the Lord’s patience and about His heart. Let’s look at verse 9,” said Ben.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (ESV)

“OK. I get it. The thousand years in Revelation 20 is literal. So the Messianic Kingom is a literal thousand years and the Millennial Kingdom and the Messianic Kingdom are the same. But how does this relate to replacement theology, Dr. Kaplan?” said Josh.

“I’m so glad you asked!” said Ben. “This is where things get really interesting.

“Now stick with me please because this gets a little complicated. We have to be careful when we lump people together into groups but sometimes it’s useful to do that as long as we recognize the limitations. I’m talking about categorizing different groups of people who might believe in or reject replacement theology. Now just as Jews, like Sarah and me, do not wish to be stereotyped, we do not wish to stereotype other people either. Yet certain groups of people can be characterized in certain ways, within limits, by who they are. For example, Jewish people traditionally believe in one God and they also believe that Moses was a great prophet who delivered them from Egyptian bondage and who received the Law from God for them.

“So would you be surprised to know that many Gentiles who believe in a literal Millennial Kingdom believe that this Kingdom will be ruled by the Jewish Messiah from Jerusalem? These people believe that, because they believe the Old Testament verses about the Messianic Kingdom and they believe the New Testament verses in Revelation 20. Now that certainly makes sense to me.

“But not all who believe in a literal Millennial Kingdom do believe that it will be governed by a Jewish Messiah reigning from a restored Jerusalem in a regathered Israel which will be the Nation above other nations. These people believe that there will be a Millennial Kingdom but their belief is based only on the verses in chapter 20 of the New Testament Book of Revelation. They don’t believe that any of the Old Testament prophecies about this Kingdom have anything to do with Israel,” said Ben.

“But why wouldn’t they believe that those verses are prophecies of the Millennial, or better Messianic, Kingdom?” said Sarah.

“Because they have written off anything in the Old Testament that prophecizes blessings or fulfillment of promises made by God for good, for the Jewish people,” said Ben.

“Are you kidding, Dr. Kaplan?” asked Matt. “Why in the world would they do that?”

“Great question, Matt, and we have to answer that question on more than one level. The most fundamental answer is that Satan, the deceiver, is relentlessly working to confuse people about what is true. He and his minions have convinced millions, perhaps billions, of people that God has gone back on His promises to the Jewish people because they are guilty of killing Jesus and guilty of doing other terrible things so that God no longer loves them. As we discussed last time, Satan is interested in completely annihilating all Jews from the face of the earth, so he will do whatever it takes to cause susceptible minds to condemn and hate the Jews and ultimately to destroy them. All of them,” said Ben.

“But how does Satan implement this?” said Josh.

“That’s a super-important question Josh. Let me give you just one example today. There is an ancient document, The Epistle of Barnabus, which was written around the end of the first century or the beginning of the second century, AD. It is an apocryphal letter meaning it is not God inspired and it is not part of the Bible. It is also not written by the Barnabus of the New Testament. But a lot of people have read it and believe it. It states that God broke His covenant with the Jewish people and gave the covenant to the Gentiles, because the Jews disobeyed God and because consequently the first stone tablets of the Law that Moses brought down the mountain from God were broken. This completely erroneous teaching is based on a misinterpretation of a passage of Scripture from Exodus. It’s so important that you understand all this, that we will read the passage in its entirety.

Exodus 32:7-14, 19 (ESV)

7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.

8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”

9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.

10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

“The LORD says in verse 10 that He wants to consume, or destroy, His people.

11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?

12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.

13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’”

“Moses is “reminding” God of the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That was and is an unconditional covenant.

14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

“So the LORD “relented” and did not destroy His people. Now please take note that He, God, never would have done this because He always keeps His promises. The LORD was very angry because His people disobeyed Him and made an idol and worshipped it. The Israelites broke the Law, they violated the Mosaic Covenant. But this was not an unconditional covenant. God knew that His people would never be able to keep it. But the Epistle of Barnabus is saying that God broke “the covenant” with His people. The people indeed broke the Mosaic Covenant but the much more important and foundational Abrahamic Covenant is not broken because it is an unconditional covenant from God and it is everlasting. Of course The Epistle of Barnabus does not tell us that.

Exodus 32:19 (ESV)

19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain.

“The Epistle of Barnabus equates broken stone tablets with a permanently broken relationship between God and His Chosen People, the Jews,” said Ben. “That is a completely wrong interpretation of what the Bible teaches.”

“Dr. Kaplan, I see what you mean when you say that Satan is subtle,” said Sarah.

“He surely is Sarah.

“I think we need to wrap this up for today. But before we do so, let’s review:

  1. Most people who believe in the Old Testament and New Testament promises of a literal Messianic Kingdom do not believe in replacement theology.
  2. Most people who believe that Revelation 20 speaks of a future literal 1000 year reign of Christ, a Millennial Kingdom, but deny the Old Testament promises of such a Kingdom, do believe in replacement theology.
  3. People who don’t believe in a Millennial Kingdom at all almost have to believe in replacement theology. This would be the biggest number of church going people who believe in replacement theology and would include many members of Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Anglican, and Episcopal churches, as well as the Roman Catholic Church, because the official teachings of those denominations have generally been that there is no Millennial or Messianic Kingdom. They do not interpret the Bible literally.
  4. And there is another group, and we haven’t discussed this group yet, but we will. These people believe in the Old Testament and New Testament promises of a literal Messianic Kingdom, and they believe in Daniel’s 70th Week, described in Daniel 9:24-27, which is a future literal 7 year Tribulation, and they believe in a Pretribulation Rapture. The people in this group are the most likely of all to reject replacement theology,” concluded Ben.
  5. And of course people or groups or even countries who deny the right of the Jews to the Promised Land of Israel and believe that that Land belongs to the so called Palestinian people, believe in replacement theology. Islamic nations can be included in this category but there are many other people and groups who fit here as well. Some of these groups sponsor something called BDS, which is against Israel. BDS is short for Boycott, Divest, and Sanction, and BDS is an overtly antisemitic activity.

“But Dr. Kaplan, just one second please. Why are those people who believe in the pretrib rapture the least likely to accept replacement theology?” asked Josh.

“And why are Islamic nations so likely to hate Israel?” asked Sarah.

“And what about the vaccine against replacement theology? What is that?” asked Matt.

“Those are all great questions. The answers are a bit complicated. How about we cover those next time?” said Ben.

“We can hardly wait!” exclaimed all three students together.

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  1. I’m indebted to Matthew Ervin Bryce for this new and very appropriate name for this covenant.