Although the Scriptures had foretold that salvation was also for the Gentiles (cp. Isaiah 52:13-15; 1 Peter 1:1-2), the early Jewish believers in Christ marveled that God had admitted Gentiles into his plan. When Cornelius’ household received the outer manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and this before baptism and/or circumcision, the Jews marveled at God’s unlimited grace. (Acts 10:34, 44-45; 11:15-18)
What seemed to be an anomaly, gradually became the norm for the Church, until the time when the full number of Gentiles are saved. Then at that time “all Israel will be saved.” (Romans 11:25-32)
Although the modern state of Israel did not exist for 2000 years, the Biblical authors spoke about it in a literal sense. For instance, in Romans 9-11, St. Paul is making a distinction between national Israel and the Gentiles (see Romans 9:1-6; 11:1; 25-32). Much of what he says would make no sense if there were no place for national Israel. Jesus himself did not deny that a time would come in which the “Kingdom of Israel” would be restored. (Acts 1:6-7)
In Luke 21:20-24, the Lord warned about the Roman siege that occurred in 70 A.D. under Titus. Verse 24 says: “They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, UNTIL the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Obviously, in order for there to be a “trampling,” there needs to be a literal Jerusalem. It is also obvious that the “trampling” has an expiration date. Without a literal Israel that is distinguished from the Church, this and other prophecies would make no sense.
It is also interesting that in Romans 11:25-26 the Apostle Paul says: “All Israel will be saved.” This would make no sense if the resurgence of national Israel had no prophetic value. An allegorical interpretation of Zechariah 14:1-9 makes no sense, unless one would also give the Mount of Olives a symbolic meaning. But this interpretation would be extremely difficult to hold, especially that Jesus ascended to heaven from a geographical place known as the Mount of Olives, and this, with the angelic promise that he would return upon the same place. (Acts 1:11-12)
At its core, Replacement Theology teaches that Israel as a Nation has no divine purpose, and that its national promises of old have been transferred to the Church. On the other hand, although all the Biblical promises are “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20) the New Testament does not merge the Church with the Nation of Israel.
Interestingly, the Bible prophetically talks about the Messiah as an archetype of Israel. The reason for this is because Kings are supposed to represent the people, and vice-versa. (Isaiah 49:1-6) But although Jesus came straight from King David’s lineage, fact is, that his bloodline also had Gentiles. For instance, Rahab the prostitute and Ruth are purposely mentioned in Matthew 1:5, as if making the point, that Salvation (which is the meaning of Jesus’ name) came for both the Israelites and the Gentiles. In other words, Christ’s body contains both “Jews” and “Gentiles,” and by being immersed in his glorified body through Faith, both become a “new man.”
In spite of its prophetic importance, the earthly nation of Israel is part of the passing world order. One day, like in the case of all nations, national Israel will cease to exist in order to give way to “New Heavens and a New Earth.” (Isaiah 66:22; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 21:1) In fact, the “New Jerusalem, will be God’s own heavenly city that descends from the heavens to the new earth… “for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:24)
In Christ, there is formed a “new man,” made up of true Israelites that are defined as true believers in the Faith of Abraham (Rom. 9:6-8; Galatians 6:16) and believing Gentiles. (see Ephesians 2:11-22)
This “new man” in Christ is made up of both Israelites and Gentiles who are equal in stature and access before God, because of their faith in Christ. Although in this current world order, there are visible distinctions between Male and Female or Jew and Gentile, from a spiritual perspective (and therefore more real), there are no distinctions before God, besides believers and non-believers. (Galatians 3:26-29; 5:6)
The Church was not “grafted” into the Jews…but rather, unbelieving Jews were cut off from the “Vine” in order that believing Gentiles would be grafted in. (see Romans 11:16-21, 23) The “Vine” is the total body of God’s People from the days of Adam- whether Jew or Gentile. When Christ began his preaching ministry, he never proclaimed that the time for the Kingdom of Israel was at hand, but rather, that the Kingdom of God (or heaven) was at hand. (Mark 1:14-15; 4:11; Matthew 4:17)
The Kingdom of Heaven is for everyone, whether Jew or Gentile. In fact, plenty of Gentiles will be sitting at the heavenly banquet feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Matthew 8:11)
The word “Church” can be looked at from two different positions. First, the “Church” is the assembly of God, made up of all who have been “called out” from among the unbelievers to be His special people. This would include all the believers of all times since Adam. Second, the word “Church” is also used for the assembly of God’s people since the ministry of Jesus Christ. Although national Israel is passing away… The Assembly of God, the Church exists forever.
…and this, made up of both believing Jews and Gentiles. (Revelation 7)
While we live in this age, both Gentiles and Jews (the Nations and Israel) have prophetic importance. But ultimately, the only thing that matters is Christ, the true Israel… which himself is made up of Jews and Gentiles. Christ is restoring all things and subjecting them to God the Father. (1 Cor.15:24-28)
An adherence to “Replacement Theology” denies the prophetic relevancy of both Israel and the Gentile Nations, and steals the promises that are meant to be fulfilled within the context of the Gentile Nations; misapplying them to the Church.
A staunch adherence to Amillennialism is dangerous, because it places the traditions of men above the full counsel of God’s Word. In fact, a staunch adherence to Amillennialism would not only trample prophecies such as Zechariah 14:16-21; but also trample the very essence of Evangelical Lutheranism, which is “Sola Scriptura.” Rather than bending the Word to our idiosyncrasies, let us challenge one another to yield our thinking to the literal sense of Scripture, wherever it is coherent. Since 1948, it is incoherent to believe that National Israel has no prophetic value. God’s Word will be fulfilled.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever.