Replacement theology, in its inception, is the church believing it has replaced Israel in God’s ultimate redemptive plan. In end times replacement eschatology, Israel rejected Messiah, therefore, God rejected Israel. God replaces Israel with the Church and then removes the Church from the world –– the rapture –– so He can judge Israel in the Tribulation. The Church flies away to … I’m not sure what happens to them. This entire replacement theology is rooted in anti-semitism.
The promise to Abraham was that all nations would be blessed through him, not just Israel or the Church. The Olive Tree illustrates this promise when Sha’ul says wild olive branches, who are the gentile nations, will graft into the Olive Tree with the natural branches –– the Tribes of Israel.
One of the warnings to the wild olive branch is not to be arrogant over the natural branches. If the natural branches can be removed from the tree due to lack of faith, so can the grafted-in wild olive. Those of the nations only remain in the Olive Tree by faith.
There is a prophecy in Ezekiel 37 about two sticks. One stick is for Judah; the other stick is for Ephraim and the remaining tribes of Israel. These two sticks are not spiritual people; they are the national people of Israel and Judah who became divided after King Solomon’s death. They can also be referred to as the southern and northern kingdoms.
Solomon’s son, Jeroboam, became king of Judah and ruled the southern kingdom from Jerusalem, while his other son, Rehoboam, became king of Israel, and ruled the northern kingdom to Shechem. Rehoboam also moved worship of Elohim from out of Jerusalem into Shechem, modern-day Nablus in the West Bank. At some point in prophetic time, these two natural kingdoms will be joined back together to worship the God of Israel as one nation under King Messiah.
Several years ago a woman named Batya Wooten wrote a book entitled Who is Israel and Why You Need to Know? I read the book and I learned a lot about the Biblical history beginning with the divided kingdom. However, some of her ideas, when taken out of context, brought dangerous ideas into the modern-Messianic movement. It is important whenever reading a book like this, it is tested by using all of Scripture.
In the book, Batya suggests that Judah (with Benjamin and some Levites) are all the Jews in the world; and Ephraim are all those in the modern era who have become attached to their Hebrew roots. She derived this idea from the blessing that Jacob gave Joseph’s son Ephraim –– his descendants would become a multitude of nations. Though Joseph receives a double-portion blessing from his father, Ephraim and Manasseh are given separate and different blessings.
Unfortunately, some misinterpretations of her ideas gave rise to the doctrine that those who obey Torah and celebrate the Feasts of the LORD are true Ephramites, –– the lost tribes of Israel returning to Torah or becoming Torah observant. This created an identity crisis within the Body of Messiah: either you are Jewish and from the Tribe of Judah (Benjamin and Levites) or, you are an Ephramite, one of the lost Tribes of Israel from the northern kingdom, and an Israelite.
Let’s extrapolate. No Jew considers himself/herself as Torah observant. Torah is part of the Jewish identity as the people of God, not something they ‘observe’ to esteem themselves higher than the world around them. They were given a calling to be a “light to the nations” and they have been faithful to that call. You do have a Bible.
No gentile, at any time, in Scripture is called an Israelite. Even Ruth who married Boaz and became part of the lineage of King David is still known as Ruth, the Moabitess. Though she most definitely grafted into the nation of Israel through her faith and became a wild olive on the Olive Tree, she was still known by her nationality. No one ever called her an Ephramite who was lost and suddenly realized the truth when she told Naomi that Naomi’s God would be her God and Naomi’s people, her people. Consider others in Scripture who were goyim and grafted into the Olive Tree: Rahab, the prostitute; Batyah, the pharaoh’s daughter, and even Cornelius, the Roman centurion. None of these people were ever referred to as an Israelite or an Ephramite.
No one in Israel is called an Israelite today. If you live in Israel and have citizenship, you are an Israeli. If a gentile believer goes to Israel and claims to be an Israelite to any Jewish person, they would be mocked.
What is the Hebrew Roots movement? According to the definition, ‘hebrew’ or ivrit means ‘to cross over’. Many in this movement say they, like Abraham, have crossed-over from a pagan life to a life of faith in God. That sounds redemptive, but they omit the nations in their theology. I have actually had Hebrew Roots people tell me that if I call myself a gentile, I am a pagan; I can’t have faith in Messiah and be a pagan. What they fail to realize is that the Hebrew word, goy, can be translated as ‘nation’ too. All goyim would be blessed through Abraham, while at the same time Israel was not to learn the pagan ways of the goyim. Twisting Batya’s words negates God’s blessing of all nations through Abraham from before there even was a nation of Israel. Some even omit Israel from their Hebrew Roots views, which includes Judah and is nothing more than blatant anti-semitism.
Yeshua says he is the root and offspring of David who was from the Tribe of Judah. He was the shoot (netzer) that came up from the stump of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1). So the root is Jewish (from Judah) not Hebrew, not Israelite, not Ephraimite. (To get even more technical, the root is Biblically Jewish.) To attach oneself to the Jewish root of the faith brings great condemnation from those who reject the ‘roots’. No one wants to be ‘Jewish’. They don’t willingly choose the rejection or the persecution that comes with being ‘Jewish.’ Yet, if we are to live for Yeshua, we will suffer as he did and that includes his identity in being Jewish and the Jewish Messiah. Hebrew Roots doctrine is not only anti-semitic, but is replacement theology in a cute camouflage that breeds an arrogance over the Jewish people who were chosen by God.
I was asked why it was so important that I call myself a gentile and not an Israelite. First and foremost, my identity is not in Israel, not in Judah, and not even in the nations, but in the Messiah of Israel, Yeshua. My calling as a ‘gentile’ is to make the Jew envious for their Messiah and, not offend them with centuries perpetuated ignorance, arrogance, and violence. Since the person who asked me the question didn’t know any Jews personally, it didn’t matter. From further conversation, it became apparent that this person didn’t know the one Jew, named Yeshua, who is their salvation. Yes, they had embraced the twisted doctrine to the point of rejecting Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel.
The terms Torah Observant has its own set of issues. Many in this group ‘observe’ Torah to the neglect of many of Yeshua’s teachings of love, mercy, and compassion. I have actually heard some Torah-observant people claim that the Jews don’t need Messiah because they have Torah. Their rationale is that Yeshua is the Torah in the flesh, and since they have Torah, they already have Yeshua. If that is Biblically sound truth, then why did Torah become flesh? What is it about “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory” that doesn’t include the Jews? It was explained to me that ‘all’ doesn’t mean ‘all’. Because Yeshua never sinned, ‘all’ can’t include ‘all’ because it doesn’t include him.
Yeshua said “salvation comes from the Jews” (John 4), but that doesn’t mean they have ”salvation.” Jewish people need Messiah as much as anyone else; they are more aware of this fact from Torah than even the Torah Observant. They know that without the Temple, without the priesthood, without the sacrifices, they have no atonement for their sins. According to Yeshua, it will be the Jews, –– his brothers and sisters –– not the Ephramites, the nations of the world, or even ‘Israelites’ who cry out for Messiah’s return.
In Revelation when the Tribes are listed, Ephraim is not among them even though he is Joseph’s son. There are some really abominable prophecies about Ephraim that would make me stop and consider what it means to be part of that group of nations. Perhaps the prophecies about Ephraim refer to these end times ideologies when Ephraim becomes the arrogant child over Judah, creating a false identity of Israelites who have a type of Torah; while the Jews who have Torah don’t need Yeshua are distanced from the very salvation they brought to the world enduring millennia of persecution. This is anti-semitism and replacement theology at its best. And, it’s the work of the Adversary.
Decades after the Messianic Jewish movement started 1948 and continued into 1967 with the restoration of Jerusalem back to Israel, some ugly theologies have reared their heads to divide and conquer, not the beast, but the restoration of Israel and the Jewish people to the Messiah. Brave Jewish men and women returning to the Land accepted Yeshua as Messiah and began the modern-day Messianic Jewish movement. The Adversary doesn’t win, but he puts hindrances in the way for the return of Messiah.
As the Messianic Jewish movement moved into the nations in 1967, more gentiles, discouraged with traditional Christendom, entered Messianic congregations. Eventually most Messianic Jewish congregations had more gentile than Jewish worshippers, which is exactly what happened in the first century. However, unlike the first century when the Council of Jerusalem and Sha’ul dealt with the issues, modern-day Messianic Jews told the Messianic gentiles that they did not have to obey Torah. Many from the nations who came out of the lawless church became even more discouraged. Batya Wooten arrives on the scene with her book, and suddenly, there is a springboard for the new ideologies of Torah Observant, Hebrew Roots and Ephramite Israel.
What happens when gentile believers become arrogant over the Jewish believers according to Sha’ul? They are cut off from the Olive Tree of Israel. They no longer receive its living water from the root –– Yeshua –– and die. I’ve witnessed people who embrace Torah so diligently that they neglect the new testament because everything in the new is in the old so they don’t need the gospels or the apostolic writings. Eventually, they question the deity of Yeshua until he is rejected as Messiah.
Replacement theology is nothing new, but it has evolved since the Councils of Laodicea and Nicea. Israel and the Jewish people will always remain God’s chosen people, not the Christian Church, not the Ephramites. The nations of the world will be blessed because of Abraham’s faith in believing God, not because he ‘crossed over.’ The Torah was not written to be outwardly observed, but written on the hearts of those who have received the Spirit (Jeremiah 31:31, Ezekiel 36:24). The first-century church followed continued in The Way and those of the nations who put their faith in Messiah joined with them. At that time, the revelation of the two –– Jew and non-Jew –– becoming one new man flourished in the synagogue every Sabbath.
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