To understand the danger of replacement theology, we need to get a firm grasp on what it is. Unfortunately, many people provide different definitions, from a subtle error, all the way to hostile anti-Semitic ideas.
Replacement theology proposes the church has in some way replaced Israel.
However, once that foundation is laid, various proponents of replacement theology differ in how far they’ll go. The milder versions claim Israel which today exists isn’t really the Israel of God’s plan, and the church now enjoys the promises God made to the Jews, while the “real” Jews will make an appearance later.
More extreme views declare God has cast off the Jews, and Israel has no special treatment from God any more; the church is now Israel, and when the New Testament refers to the Jews (Revelation), you can allegorize that to the church.
It could be popular to use replacement theology to meld the church with the world (not a good idea), since if Israel isn’t really God’s people anymore you can join the popular notion Israel is the source of all the problems, and if they would just go away, the Middle East (and the world) would live happily ever after.
Of course, replacement theology is all nonsense, whether it’s the mild form, or the extreme anti-Semite form. God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 was unconditional and unilateral (“In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates”). If you study Genesis 15 carefully and note the historical background, you’ll quickly discover the covenant with Abram was unilateral by God alone, and only He can break it.
So if replacement theology has any credibility, the first issue must be where did God break the Abrahamic covenant?
Ezekiel may also contain explicitly fulfilled prophecies declaring when the Jews would be back in the land, and regain Jerusalem. If that be so, those proposing the Jewish people inhabiting Israel currently aren’t really “spiritual” Jews have a lot of explaining to do.
In the end, replacement theology proponents must be able to answer a few questions for their ideas to be taken seriously:
- Where and when did God retract the unconditional promises made to Israel?
- In light of Ezekiel 4, how can modern Israel not be Israel?
- If you reject the Ezekiel 4 prophecy, why would God allow “impostor” Jews to inhabit His land? How do you know they’re not the “real” Israel? Who gets to decide what Jews qualify, and what Jews don’t?
The church and the Jews are distinct groups with different origins and destinies. Attempting to mingle the two creates hopeless problems, resulting in proclaiming some Bible passages don’t mean what they clearly state. Who gets to decide what gets allegorized and what is literal?
The more you study, the more problems replacement theology causes. At best it’s misleading and wrong, causing problems in prophetic studies, while at worst it’s heretical and anti-Semitic.