Amillennialism and Gentile Arrogance
We live in the midst of a revival of replacement theology. A growing gaggle of Gentile commentators call national Israel long dead and buried, but I am happy to announce that reports of her death are greatly exaggerated. God still plans for Israel, even while we speak. Among other human authors, that’s what the Apostle Paul tells us, and especially in Romans 11. He also explains these types of accusations—Gentile arrogance or conceit—when he writes (vv. 23-26):
And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
Paul warned Gentile believers about becoming proud because unbelieving Israel was cut off from blessing so that the blessing might be offered to Gentiles—if God wouldn’t spare the natural branches, Israel, then He surely wouldn’t spare the wild ones, the ones contrary to nature, the Gentiles (churches) [v. 24]. And then he says explicitly in v. 25 that he gave this warning so that the Gentiles would not “be wise in [their] own conceits.” God gave this to Paul because he knew that then and in the future the Gentiles could get all full of themselves over their part in God’s plan for them and then show that toward the Jews. Taken to its end, the Gentiles could completely dismiss the Jews at all as having a part in God’s plan. No, the Gentiles were just grafted in; that’s all. They weren’t even the natural plant. God was still going to work through the nation Israel.
Everyone should look at v. 26, because Paul says that “all Israel shall be saved.” He doesn’t say that a “remnant” shall be saved. “All Israel” should be taken as “all Israel”—the entire nation. In this context, why would Gentiles see “all Israel” as only a redeemed remnant that is sucked up by “the church”? Answer: Gentile arrogance and conceit.
Gentile Christians at their worst could tend toward hatred of Jews spurred by an arrogance about their view of Gentiles in God’s plan. Instead of seeing themselves as grafted branches, they think they’re natural. And then Israel isn’t even a graft, let alone the main original stalk. Unrestrained by the Holy Spirit through conversion, a perversion of Christianity, Roman Catholicism, took on anti-semitic practices all over the world.
Augustine, one of Christianity’s most influential leaders, likened the Jewish people to Cain, who had murdered his own brother and thus became the first murderer in history. He wrote that Jews were a “wicked sect” who should be subjected to permanent exile because of their evil ways. He wrote in his Confessions (12.14):
How hateful to me are the enemies of your Scripture! How I wish that you would slay them (the Jews) with your two-edged sword, so that there should be none to oppose your word! Gladly would I have them die to themselves and live to you!
Roman Catholicism officially made these decrees:
- Trulanic Synod (692)_prohibited Christians from being treated by Jewish doctors.
- Synod of Narbonne (1050)_prohibited Christians from living in Jewish homes.
- Synod of Gerona (1078)_required Jews to pay taxes to support the Church.
- Third Lateran Council (1179)_prohibited certain medical care to be provided by Christians to Jews.
- Fourth Lateran Council (1215)_required Jews to wear special clothing to distinguish them from Christians.
- Council of Basel (1431-1443)_forbade Jews to attend universities, them from acting as agents in the conclusion of contracts between Christians, and required that they attend church sermons.
The anti-semitic legacy passed from Roman Catholicism to reformers of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther wrote:
First their synagogues . . . should be set on fire, and whatever does not burn up should be covered or spread over with dirt so that no one may ever be able to see a cinder or stone of it. And this ought to be done for the honor of God and of Christianity in order that God may see that we are Christians . . . . Secondly, their homes should likewise be broken down and destroyed… For, as has been said, God’s rage is so great against them that they only become worse and worse through mild mercy, and not much better through severe mercy. Therefore away with them . . . . To sum up, dear princes and nobles who have Jews in your domains, if this advice of mine does not suit you, then find a better one so that you and we may be free of this insufferable devilish burden — the Jews.
We can find a similar attitude as Luther by John Calvin, surely influenced by his replacement theology or Gentile arrogance. Barry Horner has written about this in his book, Future Israel. Being gracious, I believe, Horner says that there is a strong anti-Judaism in Reformed Theology saying Israel had lost its election, lost the right to all its covenants and promises. He further writes:
The wrong perception of Israel and the Jews by so-called Christians has produced consequences of horrific proportions during the history of the church. Such a shameful legacy perpetrated during the illustrious Reformation and onwards remains undiminished, largely unconfessed and still prevalent in substantial degrees up to the present within a Calvinistic Reformed and Sovereign Grace environment.
A lot of support exists for Israel from “evangelical Christianity” in the United States, but the recent increase of reformed theology and then amillennialism has resulted in a decreased support from professing evangelicals. When Israel hears of replacement, it all sounds eerily familiar, hearkening back to centuries of persecution from “Christians.” It is no wonder then that Israel’s and American Jew’s attitudes toward Christianity becomes more hostile.
With Divinely empowered prescience, the Apostle Paul warned of Gentile conceit. My own opinion is that amillennialism was conceived from this very arrogance. Instead of merely shelving Israel as Scripture reveals, the Roman Catholics and then Protestant Reformed replace her with “the church.” The great privilege that God has given us as Gentile believers doesn’t nullify the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants (or however else young Calvinists want to explain it). The destiny of Israel will be reversed. Her return to the Lord not only is possible but certain. All Israel will be saved. Gentile Christians should embrace God’s promises—if God could nullify His promises to the natural tree, then He certainly could for the grafted branches too.