Adoption vs. Replacement Theology vs. Dispensationalism

brothers35810241Imagine for a moment that you had two sons, who we’ll call Jacob and John. Jacob and John are stubborn, strong-willed, and resistant to punishment, so when they hit their teenage years, there’s a lot of chaos in the house. Sometimes you have to punish them severely, and on at least one prior occasion you had to follow through on the, “As long as you’re going to live under my roof, you have to follow my rules,” threat and kick them out for a short time. But even in the midst of punishing them you make it clear that you do love them and that you are only punishing them so that they will be proper heirs to your name and your vast holdings.

One day, after things have settled down a bit, you hear about a boy named Luke who has no father or home of his own, so you send out John to bring him to live at your place. After they arrive, you tell Luke, “If you are willing, I’d like to adopt you as my son so that you will be brothers and fellow-heirs to my sons Jacob and John.”

“So what do I have to do?” Luke asks.

“Just accept the adoption and love me and your brothers,” you say. “Oh, there are household rules that you’ll need to learn, but I understand that it’ll take you awhile to learn them. I also know that you’re used to doing things a bit differently, that you’re used to different foods and different holidays, so we’ll make some accommodations to make the transition easier for you.”

Luke accepts and this makes Jacob furious. He’s angry with you because he feels like you’re pushing him out in favor of Luke (who used to bully Jacob and John in school), he’s angry with John for bringing Luke in, and he’s of course angry with Luke, and refuses to accept his adoption. There’s a huge fight between him and John over it, and you have to tell him to leave the house until he cools off.

John and Luke are both upset by this, but you explain to them. “Don’t be troubled. Jacob is for now against my plan because of Luke, but when the time is right I will bring him back in so that all my sons will be in one house and of one family.”

Dispensationalism, or Separation Theology, argues that Luke’s adoption doesn’t really make him a brother to John and Jacob and that he isn’t in the same will as his brothers.

Supercessionism, or Replacement Theology, says that the Father replaced Jacob with Luke, and that Jacob no longer has a place in the Father’s will.

Both tend to ignore the existence of John, the remnant of Jews who love Yeshua as Lord and Savior, but who have not divorced themselves from the Jewish community nor ceased to keep the Torah. In fact, both are guilty of trying to put Joseph under Luke, when in truth it was Joseph who invited Luke home.

Stern_Messianic_JudaismOlive Tree Theology (a term coined by David Stern in Messianic Judaismformerly titled the Messianic Jewish Manifesto) says that all three sons–traditional Jews, Messianic Jews, and grafted-in Gentiles–are in the same will, and that the Father’s ultimate goal is to bring the sons back together under one household in peace.  Therefore, while Remnant Theology is correct about the relationship of Israel and the Ekklesia as we currently see it, in the end, not only the remnant but all Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:29ff).

This approach is the only way to reconcile certain passages of Scripture.  On the one hand, it is clear that Gentiles who enter the service of the King of Israel become full citizens of that nation (Eph. 2:12f).  On the other hand, Replacement Theology has no answer to the promise of Rom. 11:26, that “all Israel will be saved.”  Attempts to say that “all Israel” means the Church are nonsense, since Paul very specifically identifies who this “all Israel” is:

  1. They are not currently among the redeemed, though he wished it otherwise (9:1-3)
  2. They are Paul’s kinsman according to the flesh–his race, in other words (9:3)
  3. They are partially hardened until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in (11:25)
  4. And while so hardened, they are the enemies of the Gospel because of the Gentile inclusion (11:28)
  5. Even so, they are beloved by God because of their forefathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

Trying to say that “all Israel” means only the Church as it currently consists creates a mass of insoluble problems and contradictions: Were the Gentiles Paul’s blood-relations? In what way is the Gentile Church hardened in part? And why is the Church the enemy of the Gospel?

The picture of this expanded Israel is beautifully rendered by Isaiah 19:22-25:

The LORD will strike Egypt, striking and healing. They will return to the LORD, and he will be entreated by them, and will heal them.  In that day there will be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria; and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day, Israel will be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth; because the LORD of Hosts has blessed them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”

map-isr-egy-assyrIn addition to seeing the inclusion of the Gentiles in terms of adoption, Isaiah allows us to see it in terms of annexation; not the violent annexation of the sword, but a peaceful surrender by the nations to the King of Israel.  Israel remains the core of the worldwide kingdom, but Assyria and Egypt, representing all the Gentile nations, become adopted states, their citizens being given the full rights of citizens on God’s Kingdom—and yet, Israel retains a special position and promise, being the place where God sets up His Throne, the people with whom the Sh’khinah, the Visible Presence of the Holy One, dwells in a special way.

When one realizes that Gentile Christians are adopted into the household of Israel without replacing the currently non-Messianic Jewish people nor having to give up their own identity, it reveals not only a solution to many otherwise intractable prophetic problems, but it also presents a fresh perspective on Jewish-Christian relationships:  For one who is truly in Messiah, every Jew you meet is a brother or a sister, whether they recognize you as brethren in return.  An attack on the Jews is an attack on the family, and we need to stand up and defend our family.

The Betrayal of the Brethren

Time passes and eventually Luke goes out under your orders to bring in another homeless young man named Chris. You make Chris the same offer as you did Luke and he also accepts. However, he soon starts to resent John and Jacob for being born into the household and having a particular part of the inheritance that has been set aside for them. He gets Luke to join with him in ostracizing John and demands that John follow the more lenient rules that you gave to him and Luke instead of the rules you had established with Jacob and John years beforehand. When John refuses, Chris starts trying to force him out of the house, even viciously attacking and abusing him, heedless of the fact that if not for John’s obedience, neither he nor Luke would have been adopted.

Word of this reaches Jacob and further embitters him against all three of his brothers. You find out that Chris has even been tracking down Jacob at school and attacking him, telling him, “Father hates you now! He’s replaced you with me and Luke. If you ever want to come back into the house, you have to submit to me and then maybe I’ll be able to get father to let you back in.”

How would you feel when you found out what Chris had been doing to your sons? How furious would you be? Might you not even consider disowning Chris and throwing him out of your house for the sake of protecting John and bringing Jacob home?

How furious then must our heavenly Father be at the treatment of his firstborn, Israel, at the hands of the nations whom he generously opened his arms to! Even so, the Father has not rejected his adopted children, and it is his holy and sovereign will to bring about a reconciliation among all of his children in these last days.

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