A friend caught up with me recently and expressed his appreciation for being someone he could chat with and without being a bible-nutter. He had become a Christian and his conversion came through reading the bible with eyes focused on bible prophecy.
His story is a familiar one. He is in contact with a Christian who is surprisingly quite sensible about everything. They become friends, the only time Jesus comes up in conversation is when the friend raises the subject and the friendship becomes genuine.
The friend is obviously talking to a wide range of people and someone speaks to him about Israel and the prophecies and this interests him and he takes it upon himself to read the Scriptures and a suggested book or two. Over a period of months, this person commits their life to Jesus Christ and returns to thanks the person who didn't spoil it all by being a bible basher.
All this gave rise to my own well credentialed interest in Jewish ministry. I have always been alarmed at the perceived growing influence of well-meaning Christian leaders who disassociate themselves from the biblical prophetic announcements of God's promises to Jewish people regarding the land of Israel.
I've had a long association with Jewish ministry which includes being one of 48 invited non-Jewish (Gentile) international delegates to the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 2005 at the 'March of the Living'. My invitation came through Bridges for Peace based in Jerusalem. I am a qualified tour guide to the Holy Land. I have written extensively on it in this column over 9 years, arguing against Replacement Theology.
Replacement theology questioned
Replacement Theology is a popular term for the notion that God's promises to the heirs of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were conditional and therefore abrogated by Israel's disobedience. According to this theology, the Church stepped in as the true "Israel of God" and possessed the spiritualised, redefined covenants of promise.
This is oft quoted - Eldwood McQuaid, writing in the 'Jerusalem Post' on 14 January 2008, explained the end result of such a view, in these words: "Israelis have no more right to the land than their Muslim/Arab antagonists. Israel is seen as a squatter on property it seized from militarily inferior Palestinians who should receive it back, so much so that Israel has been called an apartheid state equal to South Africa, which practiced legal racial segregation and suppressed human rights from 1948 to 1994."
On the other hand, I advance the viewpoint that the Jewish people retain a special place in the economy of God. I am supported in this by numerous biblical announcements on this subject, two of which are: Psalm 105 'He remembers His covenant forever'; and Romans 11 'They are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and His call are irrevocable'.
God's covenant with Abraham, is just as unconditional and everlasting as His covenant with the Church as is stated in Titus 3 The Lord 'saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.'
God's covenants with Israel and with the Church are based on His promise, not our performance. The Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church both stood, and still stand, by His Grace.
I cautions my fellow theologians that a fundamental tenet of the Koran is that both Israel and the Church failed. Muslims hold they have "replaced" both the Jewish faith and the Christian Church.
In my view, the logical conclusion of Replacement Theology, requires thorough reflection, which becomes more worrying the more one reflects.
If God could replace Israel, in spite of His unconditional, everlasting promises, then He could replace the Church! If you hold to a theology that says, 'God has forever forsaken physical Israel,' or 'The Church has replaced Israel,' you should also seriously and carefully re-examine your view pertaining to the authority of Scripture.
Replacement Theology, along with a weak view of the authority of Scripture, leads directly to the possibility that the Koran is right. The implications of this for the already hapless Palestinian Christians are horrific!
A fresh approach
The ultimate question therefore is how one views the authority of the Scriptures.
For so many today, like my friend, it is the plain reading of the Bible (as the Reformation discovered) that is revealing to many the truths about prophecy and that of Israel.
It is this that is turning their hearts and minds to the living Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html