What is “replacement theology?”
About twenty years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Holy Land. I looked out over the Sea of Galilee. I climbed part of the great mountain fortress of Masada. I witnessed orthodox Jews praying at the Western Wall. I walked the streets of Jerusalem down the Via Dolorosa, the Israeli flag flying high and proudly over several of these streets. It was a breathtaking experience.
However, the exhilaration was soberly offset by a conversation I had with the bus driver for our tour group. Like many other Palestinian Christians, his family had lived in the land for centuries with their Jewish and Muslim neighbors, mostly at peace. However, the events of the past 60+ years between the Israelis and their Arab neighbors have resulted in persecution for his family. He never went into the details, but I was always puzzled by what he meant by that.
Later on in the tour, when our group came to a stone gate in East Jerusalem, our bus driver nervously pointed out the bullet holes where Israeli and Jordanian fighters clashed with one another during the electrifying 1967 Six Day War. On the one hand, I felt then the thrill of the Israeli victory and reclamation of the ancient city that was discussed in this previous Veracity post.
But I had become also deeply troubled: what side was our Christian bus driver’s family on during that bitter conflict, or were they simply caught in the middle of the violence (like in this recent piece of news)? As I am writing this in July, 2014, Israel and Gaza’s Hamas have for weeks been involved in a deadly exchange, and Christians like this Baptist church in Gaza are vulnerable to the crossfire.
What is a Christian to think about the prophetic promises regarding national Israel, while also considering the challenges faced by Palestinian Christians living in the contested land in Middle East today, like my bus driver? What does the Bible have to say?
The study of Bible prophecy is a complicated subject and passions run very, very deep when people talk about “Israel.” Most evangelical Christians believe that “Israel” has a special place in God’s future plans, but there is a growing widespread confusion as to what this really means. So I must admit that I get conflicted when some Christians begin to talk about the errors of “replacement theology.” What is being meant when people speak of “replacement theology?” Granted, some criticisms are indeed valid, but a quick survey of what you find on YouTube can be rather troubling. Here is the ever colorful television personality Jack Van Impe:
Well,… uh, ok… now… what in the world is this guy talking about??????????