Supersessionism (Replacement Theology)-Part 1

Most of what we deal with on this site deals with the first century and works back. In this series, we will look at the first century forward because it will play a role in the last days. The writers of the New Testament were Jewish and they believed in a Torah-based faith system that was given by God. They warned of a coming deception that would lead away many. This “faith” would be a counterfeit and it would be based on “lawlessness” (no Law/Torah) and this would lead to the False Messiah, who is called the “man of lawlessness” (2 Thes 2.3). The basis for this study has been drawn from a tape series from Hatikva Ministries called “Replacement Theology” and we highly recommend this source if you want to understand this subject.

Through the centuries this prophecy has proven true in that millions of people follow a faith not based in Torah law, yet they believe they are part of the “royal priesthood” simply because they “believe” certain things about the Messiah. Hosea 4.6 warns that rejection of the Torah will result in a rejection of them as a “priest” of the Lord. Therefore, the religion of the False Messiah will be Replacement Theology, so we need to know exactly what it is and how it got here.

Matt 7.21-23 is talking about when Yeshua returns. There will be a group of people who will think they belong to the Lord because they prophesied in his name, cast out demons and worked miracles. Yeshua says he will declare to them “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” The word for lawlessness is “anomos” and it means “without the Torah.” The word “Torah” was translated as “law” in Greek and the word used is “nomos”, so if one is without the Torah (nomos) you are “anomos” or “lawless.” The False Messiah is called “lawless” (anomos) in 2 Thes 2.8 so the religion of the False Messiah is “without the Torah.” 

This teaching will develop the case that there are religions right now that will welcome the False Messiah and his False Prophet, and one in particular, and we need to know what it is. So let’s begin to analyze what happened and to develop the concept of Replacement Theology.

Yeshua was killed around 30 AD and there is a concept in Christianity that “the Church” began right after this, specifically at Shavuot (Pentecost). This “church” was seen as separate from Judaism and not “Jewish” in character. Some say it was “Jewish” but they were “breaking away” from it, and use the book of Acts to try and prove it. What we are going to do is use the terms, idioms and phrases they used and understood and to show that they were Torah-observant and remained so.

There was no “breakaway” from the Torah to form what would be known as “Christianity.” Paul did not convert to Christianity nor was Stephen the first “Christian” martyr.  In Matt 16.18, Yeshua said he was going to build his “church.” Did Yeshua speak Greek and use the word “ecclesia” or did he use the Hebrew word “kahal” (assembly, congregation)? Did the people in Matt 16 ask “what is a kahal?” No, they didn’t, because they understood what he meant because the concept of a “kahal” goes back to at least Mt Sinai.

There was an expectation that when Messiah came, there was going to be a last days assembly  called “the Eschatological Congregation” and that term will be used greatly on this site. This assembly would be made up of people who were right with God through faith. They would be empowered by the Holy Spirit (Ruach ha Kodesh) and they would prophesy, dream dreams and see visions. This was not for just the prophets anymore, but for the “am ha eretz” or the common people. That’s why Peter said what he said in Acts 2, quoting the prophet Joel.

As a result, there were going to be manifestations of the Spirit (see article on this on this site) such as miracles and healings. They expected it to be a “Jewish” eschatological congregation based on what the Scriptures had said about it. Their “basar” (gospel, good news) was that there was not going to be “Judaisms” anymore, but one, united faith brought together by belief in the Messiah. Gentiles were not seen as a part of this, however, unless they converted by circumcision to whatever brand of Judaism brought them in. Remember, there was not one “Judaism” at the time but many sects with differing opinions. This was how they understood the Basar (gospel) at the time, and this holds true for the Talmidim (students of Yeshua) as well. The Lord will correct this theology, starting in Acts 10 with the story of the Roman centurion Cornelius.

The Torah was given at Mt Sinai at what would be later known as Shavuot (Pentecost=Deut 18.15-16) and called “the Day of Assembly” or “Yom Kahal” in Hebrew. The Lord already called Shavuot the “day of the kahal” 1500 years before the events in Acts 2. From Mt Sinai to 30 AD and Acts 2, they expected the Messiah and that he would lead an eschatological congregation. This congregation was established at Sinai and it was called “Israel” and they understood that any Gentile could “join” by conversion and that the wicked would be destroyed. They also believed that when the Messiah came that there would be a “transition” not a “do over.”

After Yeshua is resurrected, he tells them to go out into the world and preach the Basar (good news) to the nations. What they hear according to the theology at the time was “go out and make Jews out of the Gentiles and a one, true Judaism will fill the world.”  In Dan 2.34-35 we see a stone and that was seen as the Messiah and the mountain that filled the earth was this eschatological congregation. 

There were other verses that seemed to point to this such as Isa 11.1-12; Isa 66.18-23 and Isa 2.2-4. They believed that the Gentile would convert to a “true Judaism” based on Yeshua. There were many Jewish groups that were “eschatological” such as the Pharisees, Essenes, Theraputae and Chasdim, and the Jewish people in the first century were looking for the Messiah and this eschatological congregation (Luke 3.15). The Talmidim of Yeshua felt the same way as all the other eschatological Jewish sects, except they believed that Yeshua was the Messiah.

Non-Jews who believed in the God of Israel were called “God-fearers” and they existed way before the book of Acts and they were known even in Rome at the time of Julius Caesar. These Gentiles saw through the vanity and emptiness of paganism and intelligent people didn’t believe all the stories about the “gods” and thought worshipping one God was the true way. So, Israel had the Torah and the Basar (gospel) which taught peace, a coming kingdom, health, resurrection, redemption and the forgiveness of sin. This was attractive to the non-Jew and this where we are at in Acts 2. The Ruach descends in power upon the believers at the Temple with the same manifeststations that happened when the Torah was given at Sinai. 

The transition of the congregation of Israel has begun and the believers are now “empowered” according to what they expected.  Gamaliel is the most respected Jew of his day. He was the head of the School of Hillel, the same school Paul was from. Gamaliel says in Acts 5.33-40 that this movement with believers in Yeshua may be from God. Everything that was happening with the followers of Yeshua was within the Jewish expectation of the time.

In Acts 10.1-2 we learn that a Roman centurion named Cornelius was a “God-fearer” and they were a specific group in Judaism. Three men are sent from Cornelius to get Peter to come and teach them. According to the 18 Edicts passed a few years earlier by the School of Shammai, Peter was not allowed into the house of Cornelius. But, Peter has seen a vision and the Lord told him to go. In the natural, a Jew would never have gone, but something is changing. Peter sees that Cornelius is saved by faith and he wasn’t even circumcised yet, which means he needs to change his perception on how people enter into this eschatological congregation.

Peter now knows that anyone who “does what is right (which is by faith)” is welcome to the Lord. Up to this time, Peter thought that a Gentile coming into righteousness had to convert through circumcision. Now he knows different and that anyone , Jew or non-Jew, can enter into the Kingdom of God through faith in Yeshua. Peter was in trouble, however. He broke Jewish law (the 18 Edicts) by going into the house of Cornelius and ate with them, who was only a God-fearer (Acts 11.1-3). He explains what happens and all the others quiet down and realize things are changing (Acts 11.18). 

Now, did Christianity start here or was this a transition to what the Lord wanted and they were seeing some things that they had not seen before? What kind of questions would you have now. Can a non-Jew be an elder now? Is their food permissible to eat? Everything has changed and new light was being shed for the better. There was controversy and questions for sure.  Many thought that the non-Jews won’t follow the Torah for long, or they will do away with things eventually.

This debate will not be settled by the salvation of Cornelius without circumcision. This debate continues in Acts 15.1 and it comes up again in Galatia with Paul. What about the first century Jewish believers, what did they believe. We know from Acts 21.15-24 that they were Torah observant. They had not heard that the Law was “done away with in Jesus” like many are taught today because that teaching is false. They never heard one time from the lips of Yeshua that the Torah was not to be obeyed, and to become “lawless (anomos)” was not in their theology.

Paul is keeping the festival of Shavuot (Acts 20.16) and  coming out of a Nazarite vow (Num 6; Acts 18.18) and did animal sacrifices (Acts 21.24-26; 24.17). This is about 30 years after Yeshua and Paul is encouraged by James to pay for the sacrifices of four other Jewish believers coming out of a Nazarite vow to show the others that the rumors going around about Paul not being Torah observant are not true (Acts 21.23-24). This point is important when talking about Supersessionism or Replacement/Fulfillment Theology. Christianity is built upon the belief that God did away with Judaism and the Old Testament and the New Testament through “Jesus Christ supercedes the Old Testament.” They believe this began a “new” thing called Christianity.

Anything Jewish like the Torah, Temple, festivals and many other things were no longer a part of it.  When you don’t understand the foundational things, the higher you go will not be understood either.  That is what happened in the Scriptures. People got off track a long time ago and did not understand the foundation, so wrong conclusions were reached. If you miss the foundational teachings in math, then all your calculations will be off. How do you fix it? Go back to the basics, master it, and then move on.

That is the goal of this website. When Paul is arrested for the false charge of bringing a Gentile into the Temple (Acts 21.28), he speaks Hebrew (21.40) in his defense. He gives his story in Acts 22 and the people don’t really have a problem with him, his belief in Yeshua and that he appeared to him and sent him as witness to all. But, when he tells them that he was also sent to bring the Basar to the Gentiles, the people want to kill him because he is going to the Gentiles without them becoming Jews (21.21-22).  

This was a hot topic in the first century. The Jews were already sending people out to the Gentiles but they were to become God-fearers and then eventually become Jewish through circumcision. Paul was telling them that their theology about that was wrong. That was hard to take and they were upset.

A few years after this James, the brother of the Lord, was killed. The Pharisees were outraged and the High Priest responsible was removed from office. His death weakened the eschatological congregation. In 66 AD there was a revolt against Rome and it was over by 73 AD. Jewish believers in Yeshua participated in this war against Rome but abandoned Jerusalem when they saw the city surrounded (heeding Yeshua’s words in Luke 21.2021) and fled to Pella.

The Romans won this war, destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple and the eschatological congregation was gone. Believers did not call themselves the Greek term “Christians.” They were first called this in Antioch, a Greek city, and they spoke Greek there (Acts 11.26; 26.28).

Rome had a bad view of the Jewish people. Josephus wrote his books to show that the Jewish people had a history with the Lord, and were a good and just people. He wrote this so that the Romans would read it and understand his people and their history and the interactions that they had with all the great people and civilizations that even predated Rome.

Rome was reacting to what the Jews had recently done, but he was trying to show that their history goes way back and they were a reasonable people. But, Rome was anti-semitic after one war. What would they be like after two more wars. In 115-117 AD and 132-135 AD there were two more wars against Rome and the Jewish people suffered great losses.

The Epistle of Barnabas was written around 135 AD and Jerusalem was leveled by Hadrian. Jerusalem was renamed after a Roman god and a temple was erected on the site of the Temple Yeshua knew. By 138 Marcion began a church with two “gods”, the Old Testamnet “evil” god and the New Testament “good” one. Marcion also published the first “new testament” canon with ten epistles by Paul. There are some terms we need to know and they will be developed later.

The “Ante (before) Nicene Fathers” began to officially “organize the church” and the” Nicene Fathers” were the ones who were at the council in 325 AD. The “Post-Nicene Fathers” were the ones after the council . The Ante-Nicene fathers were the ones who are active during the time that Rome was very ant-semitic and against anything Jewish. This will be very important as we develop the topic of Replacement Theology and we will pick up here in Part 2.

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, Understanding the New Testament

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