Dismantling Replacement Theology One Step At A Time
“I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars
in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land
I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.”
“The characteristics of Bishop Ryle’s method and style
are obvious. He is pre-eminently and always scriptural
and expository. He never starts with a theory into which
he tries to fit various scriptures. He always starts with
the Word and expounds it. It is exposition at its very
best and highest. It is always clear and logical and invar-
iably leads to a clear enunciation of doctrine. It is strong
virile and entirely free from the sentimentality that is
often described as ‘devotional.”
“I believe that the Jews shall ultimately be gathered again
as a separate nation, restored to their own land, and
converted to the faith of Christ…”
Bishop Ryle of Liverpool
The Leaven of Error
There are certain teachings that have infiltrated the Church through the centuries, and even today are widely accepted, that have no biblical backing whatsoever. An example of this is the doctrine of infant baptism. There is not one verse in the entire Bible that validates this practice and yet it is practiced in many churches. This is just the truth and even the great Church Father Tertullian recognized this and condemned the dogma and practice as unbiblical. In the same way the teaching of Replacement Theology, and for that matter Fulfillment Theology, is not found anywhere in the Bible. This doctrine, again widely accepted by many in the Church today, has no biblical backing whatsoever. It rests on the premise that the Abrahamic Covenant, which vouches safe Israel’s everlasting possession of the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:7-8; Genesis 13:15-18; Psalm 105:7-12), has been adjusted or abolished and consequently Israel’s modern day restoration is debunked as having no biblical credentials. There is absolutely no statement in the entire Bible, and especially in the New Testament, that supports this notion; absolutely none! And yet many in the Church believe it. (4) See footnote
Those who claim this position put forth very weak arguments that constantly take scripture out of context and thereby distort it and turn it into a pretext. This is what I call “pretextology”. In other words pretextology is that teaching that, having no biblical basis, is imposed upon scripture.
Having said this, it must be acknowledged that pretextology or replacement theology has been embraced by segments of the wider Church because it does contain an element of truth in that, as we all do, it affirms that no one can obtain salvation apart from exercising faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross (John 14:6; Romans 1:16, Acts 4:12). It thereafter goes astray in that it seeks to undermine and deny the integrity and efficacy of the Abrahamic Covenant that bequeaths to the Jewish people the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession; even though this Covenant is in all respects everlasting and was made by God with Abraham in such a way that it was unconditional. (5) See footnote. For pretextologists then, the modern day state of Israel is nothing more than an accident of history and thus holds no biblical significance.
The Abrahamic Covenant
So then, in terms of the Abrahamic Covenant; the Bible, always in context, vouches for its efficacy and integrity. These are bound up with the character of God so that if it fails or is adjusted or abolished in any way then God’s character is brought into question. That is, He is unfaithful and unreliable! This is a very serious accusation to place at God’s door but this is an accusation that exponents of Replacement Theology constantly make. It must be remembered that, while the Abrahamic Covenant has many aspects to it, it is essentially only one Covenant and therefore if one part fails all the parts fail. The same is true of the Mosaic Covenant or Ten Commandments; if you break one you have broken them all because it is one Covenant. (James 2:10-11) The aspects or clauses of the Abrahamic Covenant may be listed as the following:
- God will make Israel a great nation,
- God will bless Israel
- God will make Israel a blessing,
- God will curse those who curse Israel,
- God will bless those who bless Israel,
- God will give the nation of Israel the land of Canaan forever and,
- God will give to the world a Savior or Seed who will save it from its sins.
(Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 17:7-8, Genesis 22:18)
New Testament Validation of the Abrahamic Covenant
So, the context of Hebrews chapter six is that of Jewish believers in Jesus who were, for whatever reason, tempted to doubt the faithfulness of God to them as expressed in the New Covenant. The writer then assures them of God’s faithfulness by holding up before them His faithfulness to the Abrahamic Covenant. In other words they can trust God to fulfill all His promises to them in the New Covenant because He has kept and will keep all His promises made to them in the Abrahamic Covenant. These promises He made unconditionally to Abraham and swore to them by His word and character. He affirmed that they were everlasting and could then not be altered or revoked (Genesis 17:7-8; Romans 11:29). This, and this alone, is the contextual argument of the chapter; an argument that the writer makes years after Israel’s rejection of Jesus’ Messianic credentials. Those discounting the promises made to Israel in the Abrahamic Covenant are actually accusing the writer of Hebrews of deception and God of lying since He has in reality abandoned crucial aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant and has in effect then not been faithful to it. This of course is not true!
“Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs
of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an
oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible
for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have
fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”
The Galatian and Roman Letters in Context
So, the context of Galatians 3:16, as I recently pointed out in an earlier article, has to do with the conflict between Law and Grace that erupted in the early Church. Paul’s very strong argument is that 430 years before the Law was given at Sinai God promised in the Abrahamic Covenant that an individual would come (a Seed) and He would save the world from sin. In other words if He, the Seed, saves us by His finished work on the cross then the Law does not save anyone but it is our teacher to bring us to the Savior or Seed of promise (Galatians 3:24)(Romans 3:20). In context, Paul is not discussing the other aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant at all and indeed he tells us that he can appeal to the authority of this Covenant because as a whole it “cannot be annulled” (Galatians 3:17). Indeed Paul compares the Abrahamic Covenant to a human contract that is binding between two entities once it has been signed but affirms that the Abrahamic Covenant is more significant because it is bound to the character of God Himself. This is exactly what the writer of Hebrews does. But, our pretextologists contradict this by asserting, without any biblical grounds, that the other aspects of the Covenant have been annulled. Where did they get this from? From their own imaginations! They are attempting to impose a dogma on the Bible that doesn’t exist. They are pretextologists!
“Now to Abraham and his Seed (Jesus) were the promises
made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of
one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.”
Pretextologists further distort the meaning of Galatians 3:16 by falsely asserting from it that God in fact made no promises to the descendants of Abraham save the one that has to do with the coming of a “seed” or Messiah. In other words, they assert that 4000 years ago when God entered into a Covenant with Abraham He only promised them a Savior and nothing more! This is not only absurd but it is just plain nonsense for God did indeed also promise to the descendants (seeds) of Abraham that the land of Canaan would be their everlasting possession. A simple reading of scripture confirms it. Note: Genesis 13:14-18; Genesis 17:7-8 and Psalm 105:7-12. And, by the way, what is wrong with these people that they just cannot understand the word, “everlasting?”
So once more, if they cannot win the contextual argument then they “cherry pick” scriptures, again out of context, in order to debunk the promises of God in the Abrahamic Covenant. It is worth noting that without any biblical authority they are the sole arbitrators as to which of the promises in the Abrahamic Covenant are in and which are out! One of these pretextologists recently wrote that Romans 4:13 is proof that God has broken His solemn undertakings in the Abrahamic Covenant because Abraham was called to be the heir of the world which, in his view, goes beyond any promises of land made to the Jews. Once again the context of Romans 4 is about the conflict between Law and Grace and has nothing to do with the other promises that God made in the same Covenant to the Jewish people. In fact the Covenant, in its original form, states that God’s purpose is indeed to reach the peoples of the world, “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). We then agree that Abraham is the father of many nations and the “heir of the world” by the promises contained in this aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant. There is nothing new about this and we believe it but it does not remove or change any part of the original Covenant that also bequeaths to the Jewish people the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession. However, in the context of Romans 4, this promise was made to Abraham on condition that he receive it by faith and not by the works of the Law. In other words, it was only Abraham’s believing faith that brought him into right standing with God and not the works of the Law. This is Paul’s punch line and to then suggest that he is debunking the other promises in the Covenant is again pretextology at work. Here below is the verse in question:
“For the promise that he would be the heir of
the world was not to Abraham or to his seed
through the law, but through the righteousness
The Attempt to Discredit Christian Zionists
Another weak theological position is the idea that if you believe in the integrity of the Abrahamic Covenant, including of course the promises of the land of Canaan to the Jewish people as an everlasting possession, then you are somehow undermining the Gospel and preaching the Gospel of Zionism. This is just nonsense as if it were true then some of the greatest preachers, Church leaders and evangelists of history must be guilty of this! For instance the Wesley brothers believed in the integrity and efficacy of the Abrahamic Covenant but they in no way were compromising or weak on the nature and content of the Gospel. They preached it faithfully, as do many Christian Zionists, and so they were totally committed to the truth of the Gospel that teaches us that we are only saved by faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. To assert otherwise, as the pretextologists frequently insinuate, is to indulge in mischief and deception. One of these pretextologists recently asserted that he was challenging biblical Christian Zionists because his only concern was that of preserving the truth and purity of the Gospel. The insinuation behind this comment is clear; that is, if you believe that the Abrahamic Covenant is still intact in all aspects, including that of a promise of land to the Jewish people then you are a preacher of a false Gospel! This is also absurd because he would then have to lay this accusation against vast segments of the Church world-wide and against great preachers like Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Jack Hayford of the Four Square Church, Derek Prince, Robert Murray McCheyne, Angus Buchan, David Pawson, Franklin Graham and Reinhard Bonnke, who, by the way, has led one hundred million people from all over the world to Christ. Once again this pretextologist routinely lifts texts out of the Bible that in context have no application whatsoever to the various aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant. By this practice he routinely seeks to nullify these aspects and thus claims that Israel’s modern day restoration is a political accident that enjoys no biblical justification. In other words he is imposing upon the text an interpretation that is nothing more than a pretext. This is the habit of all those espousing pretextology.
Paul’s Defense of the Truth
Further more, it must be underlined that Paul was not a theological innovator and he did not anywhere advocate for the adjustment or annulment of any part of the Abrahamic Covenant. Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road Damascus opened his spiritual eyes to the fact that salvation can only be received by exercising faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. He, a man who had dedicated his whole life to keeping the Law (Philippians 3:1-6), realized that Abraham and David were not saved by the Law but by faith in God (Romans 4). The Law could only convict of sin and nothing more (Romans 3:20). To reach the Gentile world with the Gospel he realized that he had to counter the belief that Law keeping was the way to the righteousness of God. Thus in writing the book of Romans he sets out its theme by stating that in the Gospel of Jesus alone, for Jew and Gentile, is the way to the righteousness of God (Romans 1:16-17). Actually, in almost all of his epistles he stresses this truth time and time again and to prove it he relies heavily upon that part of the Abrahamic Covenant that promises salvation in the coming of a redeeming Seed. To construe from this then that the other parts of the Abrahamic Covenant have therefore been abolished is nothing short of presumption because this is nowhere stated. In fact, when writing about the people of Israel in Romans eleven, he stated that God would indeed fulfill all his promises to them because, “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (cannot be altered, taken back or changed) (Romans 11:29) and that they are beloved of God “for the sake of the Fathers” (Romans 11:28). The God of the Bible clearly has a relationship with unsaved Israel that He definitely does not have with other nations! Indeed Paul warns his readers that if they as Christians despise the Jewish branches that have been cut out of the Olive Tree because of their unbelief they will incur the displeasure of God (Romans 11:17-21). The Bible makes no statement like this concerning any other nation or people group.
The Restoration of all Things
The truth is, once making a promise God never goes back on it! In the end the Jewish people, through a process of restoration, will be grafted back into their own spiritual tree (Romans 11:24) and “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-26). Jesus spoke of their regathering to Jerusalem (Luke 21:24) and Zechariah states that, having been regathered to Jerusalem, they will “look upon Him who they have pierced and mourn for Him” (Zechariah 12:10-11). Ezekiel tells us that their final regathering will be in unbelief and then, once in the land of promise and of their forefathers, they will receive a new heart and a new spirit, a reference to the New Covenant, and consequently they will live in the land forever (Ezekiel 36:24-28). One pretextologist recently stated that God would not deal with an unbelieving Jewish state. He knows “not the scriptures or the power thereof” (Mark 12:24) because this is precisely what God says He will do! The Jews will come back to the land in unbelief and then the God of the Bible, who has never broken His Covenant with them, will redeem and transform them in Christ. (2) See footnote
If all of these glorious things happen to the Jewish people in the great city of Jerusalem, including the Old City, then surely it is God Himself who will bring them back and plant them again in Zion? Yes it is, and His basis alone for doing so is a Covenant that He termed to be everlasting and that He made with Abraham four thousand years ago (Genesis 13:14-18). All of Jewish history testifies to this truth, as does Israel’s modern day restoration and Paul confirms that one day the “Deliverer”, Jesus, will finally come “out of Zion” (Romans 11:25-26). This affirms that He will again arise out of and from amongst His own people in Jerusalem meaning that their embracing of Him will bring Him back a second time to the Mt. of Olives. With this Jesus Himself agrees! (Matthew 23:37-39)(3) See footnote.
Defending the Truth
The conclusion to all of this is that there is no verse or passage of scripture that teaches that the Abrahamic Covenant has been partly or wholly abolished. This Covenant, with all its promises and undertakings, remains entirely intact and this in turn means that Israel’s modern day restoration is not a political accident but indeed evidence of God’s faithfulness to a Covenant that He made with Abraham four thousand years ago. It also means that, as a people, Israel is on a collision course with the “Seed’ (singular) of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 22:18) or with the Prophet “like unto Moses” of the Mosaic Covenant (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). This is the promised Messiah and the One who saves apart from the Law. It is He, who by the New Covenant, died for the sins of His people Israel and for those of the world and by Whom then all the families of the earth have been, are being and will be blessed. So then, Israel’s role in redemptive history has been, and is, to birth God’s redemptive initiative and purpose into the world. She is the vehicle of world redemption or the platform upon which the God of the Bible has built His engagement with the humanity (Romans 9:1-5). Jesus underlined this truth when He said that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22) and John the Apostle recognized this truth in the vision of the pregnant woman clothed with the sun, moon and twelve stars recorded in the twelfth chapter of the book of Revelation.
This vision given to John is a reference to Genesis 37 where Joseph has a dream wherein his mother and father are the sun and moon and he and his brothers are the twelve stars. In other words, the pregnant woman of Revelation twelve is none other than Israel; a truth confirmed by the fact that she gives birth to a “Male child” who is destined to rule the nations with a “rod of iron” (Revelation 12:1-5). This is without doubt Jesus and so most definitely the woman is not the Church but Israel. It is Israel that births God’s purpose into the world and so the woman, Israel, brought Jesus into the world and He brought the Church into existence; not the other way around.
The Ultimate Goal
The goal of Israel’s role in history is to bring forth a Bride for Christ the Messiah (Revelation 19:5-9). This Bride is the real Israel of God comprising all those, whether they be Jew or Gentile, who have exercised saving faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross (Romans 1:16)(Galatians 5:16). These all are a part of Paul’s Olive Tree in Romans eleven and they are designated a “new man” by scripture (Ephesians 2:14-18). This under-lines the fact that all those who are a part of this Bride of Christ are freed from all prejudice and this in turn means that in this body there is no racial, gender, economic, religious or cultural discrimination (Galatians 3:26-29). It is a people freed from all hatred and prejudice and they will be married to Jesus at His second coming. Their great privilege will be to reign with Christ as joint-heirs for all eternity (Romans 8:17-17)(Revelation 3:21).
When that day dawns, as it surely will, the peculiar role of Israel in world redemption will come to an end but it will be eternally recorded because the foundations and gates of the eternal and glorious city of God, the New Jerusalem, will be inscribed with the names of the twelve Apostles and the twelve tribes of Israel; all of whom are Jewish (Revelation (Revelation 21:10-14). Above all, the city will have a great King who is none other than Jesus the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5) and the great Son of David (Revelation 22:16).
The Evils of Pretextology
Replacement theology or Pretextology has historically unleashed an avalanche of evil upon the Jewish people culminating in the Holocaust. Sam Clarke writes, “(The).. Application of this theology ranges from a subtle way of reading and misinterpreting Scripture to a vicious form of anti-Semitism that has been responsible for the murder of millions of Jews.” Bishop Ryle wrote, “What I protest against is, the habit of allegorizing plain sayings of the Word of God concerning the future history of the nation of Israel, and explaining away the fullness of their contents in order to accommodate them to the Gentile Church. I believe the habit to be unwarranted by anything in Scripture, and to draw after it a long train of evil consequences.”
It is no coincidence then that those Church movements that have embraced Pretextology have been most responsible for anti-Semitism through the centuries. Martin Luther, whose life and times we will again celebrate this year, subscribed to this theology and became an anti-Semite (1) See footnote. A well-known Anglican cleric aggressively pursued this theology for years and finally he went too far and the Anglican Bishop, under whom he served, accused him of anti-Semitism and placed him under discipline. Is it not interesting that those churches that have not embraced pretextology have no record of anti-Semitism? Even the apartheid government of South Africa was galvanized from this false teaching! Dutch Reformed Ministers, the most famous of which being the Rev. Dutoit, who was the architect of “Grand Apartheid” and the Rev. D. F. Malan, the first apartheid Prime Minister of South Africa, used Replacement Theology as the foundation upon which to build their ruthless ideology of racial discrimination.
Jesus said that we would know the validity and truth of certain teachings by the fruit they produced (Matthew 7:17-20) and in this case the fruit speaks so loudly that we cannot hear the preaching of those who advocate for such a misguided theology. Selah.
- In 1543 Martin Luther published a pamphlet entitled “On Jews and Their Lies.” Europe was rife with anti-Jewish sentiment. Luther added fuel to the fire by asking the question, “What shall we do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews?” He recommended that houses of Jews be “razed and destroyed”, and their religious books burned. This pamphlet and later his anti-Semitic writings, “Annuls of the Jews”, paved the way theologically for Hitler and the Nazis. (The Holy One of Israel by Sam Clarke)
- It is important to note that at Sinai, and through the Mosaic Covenant, God brought the Jewish people into a special relationship with Himself (Exodus 19:1-8)(Deuteronomy 26:16-19). They were thus to reflect to the nations the light that they had received. All of this was based on faith and not on Law keeping, a fact established by Deuteronomy 30:13-14 and confirmed by Paul in Romans 10:6-9. This in turn meant that they were to be a holy and royal nation and that they were to live on the land bequeathed to them as an everlasting possession in righteousness and holiness. In short only a holy people could live on a holy land! Failure to live in a reconciled relationship with God would remove from them the privilege of living on the land of Canaan but it would not remove from them the possession of it. They land would always and forever be theirs, by the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant, but their right of domicile would not. This is then the story of the Major and Minor Prophets who held the people of Israel to account for their sin and rebellion against God. The result was two exiles but there was always a promise of restoration and redemption (Obadiah 17)(Amos 9:14-15)(Deuteronomy 30:1-6).
So then, the undertakings and promises of God in the Abrahamic Covenant were unconditional but the promises and undertakings of God in the Mosaic Covenant were conditional upon Israel’s obedience and faithfulness to them. Failure to understand this makes it difficult to understand how these great Covenants are interconnected and therefore to be understood.
- There is absolutely no doubt that for the first two centuries of the present
Church era up until the Church Father Tertullian, the only eschatological
view and teaching of the early Church was that of a coming, as they put it,
“Jewish Kingdom.” That is, the end time events would be characterized by a
return of the Jews to the land of Canaan, their spiritual recovery, the reign of
Antichrist, the visible return of Jesus to the Mount of Olives and the ushering-
ing in of the Messianic Age. All the early Church writers beginning with
Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna and the disciple of John the Apostle,
wrote of this. There is not one writer of this period that expounds the errors
of Pretextology or Replacement Theology, not one! The eschatological
commentator Peters writes:
‘Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, Matthew, Aristio, John the
Presbyter-all these are cited by Papias, who according to Irenaeus,
was one of John’s hearers, and intimate with Polycarp. Now this
reference to the apostles agrees with the facts that we have proven:
that the disciples of Jesus did hold the Jewish views of the Messianic
reign in the first part of this century and that, instead of discarding
them, they linked them with the Sec. Advent. Next Clement of Rome,
who existed about A.D. 40-100, Barnabas about A.D. 40-100, Hermas
from A.D. 40-140, Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, died under Trajan,
about A.D. 50-115, Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, a disciple of the
Apostle John, who lived about A.D. 70-167 and Papias, Bishop of
Hierapolis lived between A.D. 80-163.”
On the other hand Pretextology or Replacement Theology had its beginnings
with a Church Father called Origen who, coming from the Alexandrian School
of Theology, propagated the allegorical method of interpreting the Bible and
thereby discounted the promises made to the Jewish people in the Abra-
hamic Covenant and transferred them to the Church. Augustine, A.D.185-
254, a man of great intellect, embodied these views in his famous work called
“The City of God.” This work rejected the notion of a “Jewish Kingdom” and
introduced a whole new theory about the Millennium called Amillennialism.
Dwight Pentecost writes:
“Thus Augustine made several important assertions which molded
eschatological thinking: (1) He denied that the millennium would
follow the second advent, (2) he held that the millennium would fall
in the inter-advent period, and (3) he taught that the church is the
kingdom and there would be no literal fulfillment of the promises
made to Israel….”
The views of Origen and Augustine have been adopted by many parts of the
Church until today because Martin Luther’s Reformation, consumed with
establishing the truth that we are put right with God by exercising faith alone
in Jesus’ finished work on the cross, failed to reform this misguided
teaching which contradicted that of the Apostles and early Church leaders.
Again, it is those holding to Pretextology who have, through the centuries,
despised the Jews, persecuted the Jews, exiled them, murdered them in
pogroms and crusades and gassed them in industrialized killing facilities.
It was only in 1965 that the Catholic Church finally did away with “The
Teaching of Contempt” that for centuries had echoed the words of
Augustine who stated “it was the will of God to keep a remnant of
the Jews alive in a degraded state as living witnesses of the Christian
- Bishop Ryle has made the following observations:
“I believe it is high time for the Church to awake out of its sleep about Old
Testament prophecy. From the time of the old Fathers, Jerome and Origen,
down to the present day, men have gone on in a pernicious habit of
“spiritualizing” the words of the Prophets, until their true meaning has been
well nigh buried. It is high time to lay aside traditional methods of interpreta-
tion, and to give up our blind obedience to the opinions of such writers as
Pool, Henry, Scott, and Clarke, upon unfulfilled prophecy. It is high time to
fall back on the good old principle that Scripture generally means what it
seems to mean…”
“It is high time for Christians to interpret unfulfilled prophecy by the light of
prophecies already fulfilled. The curses on the Jews were brought to pass
literally: -so also will be the blessings. The scattering was literal: – so also will
be the gathering. The pulling down of Zion was literal: – so also will be the
building up. The rejection of Israel was literal:-so also will be the
- Indeed God made (cut) the Abrahamic Covenant in such a way with Abraham
that He alone passed through the sacrificial offerings and then He required of
Abraham that, as a demonstration of his commitment and obedience, he
should sacrifice his only son Isaac on an altar at Mt. Moriah (Genesis 15:17;
Genesis 22:1-3; Genesis 22:15-18). Abraham faithfully obeyed this require-
ment and thus, from that day forward, the Covenant would be uncondition-
ally fulfilled by God Himself; a promise that He has never faltered on. Daniel
“Most modern evangelicals classify the Abrahamic Covenant
as unconditional. But the label is ambiguous. A review of the
covenant passages strongly suggests that the blessings prom-
ised to Abraham were conditioned on his obedience-making
the covenant in this sense conditional. On the other hand,
once Abraham obeyed God’s commands, the covenant became
prophetically guaranteed-and is, in this sense, unconditional.”
(Daniel Lee-Quodlibet Journal: Volume 6 number 3, July-September 2004.