Do you believe in Replacement Theology?
For those who are unsure, “Replacement Theology” is the doctrine that states the Church has replaced the nation of Israel and the many promises made to Israel are either fulfilled in, or now apply to the Christian Church. This is also called “Covenant Theology”.
Dispensationalists or Literalists hold that Israel in the Bible is always the nation of Israel unless the context is clear that something broader is being symbolized (but this is the rare exception).
There is MUCH already written for both sides of this question, and typically a person convinced of one viewpoint is rarely persuaded of the other.
I will say that for about 25 years, I firmly held to one position because it was what I was taught growing up. After a decade of my own open-minded study, I changed my belief much to the chagrin of my friends and family.
Most people who ask me this aren’t genuinely curious or wanting to learn, they are either picking a fight, or using it as a test of fellowship. I have found this to be generally the case over the years.
I do not think that holding one view or the other is a “Gospel-changing” issue, and does not preclude someone from having a saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is not a test of salvation or fellowship.
However, one’s belief on this issue dramatically affects how you interpret major portions of the Bible, specifically Scripture that deals with prophecy and eschatology (the “end times”).
Generally speaking, those who choose Replacement Theology believe that prophecy in the Old Testament and Revelation has been fulfilled in historical events that have already occurred to the Church. That is a broad generalization but accurate enough for this answer. They hold an “amillenial” position, that is, there will be no thousand year earthly reign of Christ or a rapture of the church.
Therefore, verses that speak of the Kingdom, Christ’s reign, the everlasting reign of David’s throne and promises of Israel’s blessing all apply to the Church… according to Replacement Theology. This view necessitates much of the Bible being viewed as symbolism or analogy (thus the opposite view being termed occasionally as being “Literalist”).
The “end of days” for Replacement Theology believers can be summed up as: Jesus returns, the earth and heavens are burned up, the Judgment and then eternity begins. Again, broad generalizations, but enough to give the picture.
Dispensationalists believe that all through Scripture, including Revelation, when Israel is spoken of, the physical nation of Israel, and the literal Jews are still specifically the meaning.
Therefore, promises made about a future kingdom ruled from David’s throne for 1000 years are taken literally. The promises of the land of Israel being restored, and the Jews turning to God are taken literally. The events of Revelation – 1000 year reign, the Rapture, the antiChrist, Armegeddon, 144000 Jewish witnesses – are all taken literally.
Again, broad generalizations, but for this answer, enough to understand the difference in the two positions.
I’ll ask readers not to bombard me with their arguments on this topic because 1) I’m well studied about both sides, and 2) the point of this answer is not to argue either side but to emphasize this:
WHICHEVER SIDE YOU TAKE, YOU MUST REALIZE IT BECOMES A FOUNDATIONAL FILTER THROUGH WHICH YOU UNDERSTAND AND INTERPRET A VERY LARGE PORTION OF THE BIBLE.
What I want to teach you today, is that we must be aware of these “macro filters” when we read the Bible. We all hold certain primary views that affect how we see Scripture whether you realize it or not.
For example, whatever you believe about Calvinism-Arminianism or some varying degree of sovereignty – causes you to filter hundreds of verses through that belief even if you don’t realize you are doing it. What you believe about “eternal security vs. you can lose your salvation” is another example. What you believe about the inerrancy of Scripture is yet another “macro filter” that affects how you interpret passages.
And that’s the point I want you to get. People need to realize they are FILTERING verses through these “macro filters” of belief. Realizing this allows you 1) to more clearly understand why you believe what you believe, and 2) allows you to understand and be patient about what others believe without having the thought in the back of your mind “you must be an idiot to believe that”…. or at best, you think they are just Scripturally ignorant. Of course I realize that NO ONE has ever thought “you must be an idiot to thing that…”
Folks, often Biblical ignorance is the reason, but just as often it is because someone holds a basic foundational view that is the opposite of yours. It’s not because someone is dumb or unenlightened. They hold a different belief because their foundation is different.
You will find yourself more patient with other Believers if you understand and recognize this reality. You will also find your own Bible study to be more productive if you understand the differing view and conduct an open minded study of the “other side” THEN make up your mind which you believe.
To summarize: be aware of your foundational views that are “macro filters”. They have very great affect on how you interpret Scripture, and being able to understand why your Brothers and Sisters in Christ may hold a different view on things like the End Times, Eternal Security and Israel.