Replacement, Separation & Remnant Theologies Reviewed

In order to effectively study the New Testament, and the Hebraic roots from which we come, one must first determine 'who is Israel?'  Do Gentiles, those with no ethnic ties to Israel, become part of 'spiritual Israel' when they believe?  Does the church replace Israel?  Do Israel and the Church co-exist as distinct entities?  Is there any mingling of the two peoples in Scripture?  Any student of Scripture is sure to wreak havoc on the Scriptures if this is misunderstood.  In fact, this misunderstanding is the main reason for the opposing Calvinistic and Armenian theologies.


There are three main positions on who Israel is:

  • REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY.  The Church replaces ethnic Israel as the true Israel of God, due to Israel's lack of obedience and acceptance of Yeshua Messiah.  Since ethnic Israel rejected Yeshua (Jesus), God has transferred the promises to the Church.  The New Covenant is now fulfilled by the mostly Gentile Church.  Since the Church has replaced ethnic Israel, there is no special role for national Israel. 
    • Denominations: Anglican/Episcopal, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Jehovah Witness, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist, United Church of Christ, and all Reformed and Covenantal
    • Various Titles: Supersessionism, Replacement Theology, Fulfillment Theology
    • Interpretation Style: Often Allegorical in its interpretation of Scripture.
    • Nationalization: Generally indifferent or not pro-Israel.

  • SEPARATION THEOLOGY.  Sometimes called Parenthetical/Parenthesis, the Church is a new spiritual entity, completely separate from ethnic Israel.  It is made up of believing Gentiles and Israelites.  The Church, a mystery during Old Testament times, started at Shavu'ot (Pentecost), pausing God's dealings with ethnic Israel, and was fully revealed to Paul through revelations.  National/Ethnic Israel has a special role since the promises made to Israel are fulfilled by Israel, not the Church, and will commence at the end of the church-age (near the Second Advent).    
    • Denominations: Assembly of God, most Baptist, Bible, Brethren, Calvary Chapel, Charismatic, most Non-Denominational, and all Dispensationalists
    • Various Titles: NonSupersessionism, Separation Theology
    • Interpretation Style: Literal interpretation of Scripture, often called grammatical-historical.
    • Nationalization: Generally pro-Israel.

  • REMNANT THEOLOGY.  The Gentile Church partakes of the promises (and instructions) given to faithful Israel known as the Remnant and the Israel of God.  The Church is grafted into Remnant Israel.  The church identifies with Remnant Israel, partaking of its covenants and promises, being the commonwealth of Israel.  The Remnant, not ethnic Israel, are the chosen of God.
    • Denominations: Messianic
    • Various Titles: Faithful Remnant Theology, Remnant Theology, Grafted-in Theology
    • Interpretation Style: Literal interpretation of Scripture, often called grammatical-historical.
    • Nationalization: Pro-Israel.

In short, Replacement Theology has been taught since 160 AD, starting with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus.  It became the popular teaching of the 'church fathers' who largely wanted nothing to do with ethnic Israel.  Separation Theology became popular around 200 years ago, and was largely popularized by the influences of John Darby, C. H. Mackintosh, C. I. Scofield, and Lewis Sperry Chafer.  Remnant Theology is the most recent understanding and is largely understood by many in the Messianic and Hebrew Roots community.

Israel as seen in the New Testament

Let us start by making it clear what this article portrays and what this author has come to believe.  In short, Gentiles (non-ethnic Israel) and the Church, are never called Israel, spiritual Israel, or a new Israel.  The Church is always distinct from Israel.  Israel is always a reference to:

  1. The land of Israel
  2. The national, ethnic people of Israel (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob's descendants)
  3. The believing remnant within national ethnic Israel
  4. The house of Israel (the northern kingdom, displayed below as 10-Israel for clarity)

Most of the confusion results from mixing ethnic and remnant together instead of understanding them as a group within a group.  As with any nation, there are 'believers' and 'unbelievers.'  When God speaks of spiritually believing Israel He is referring to the remnant within national ethnic Israel (Romans 9:6-8; 11:1-8). 

Below we will see every reference in the New Testament relating to Israel and will see that it never refers to anyone without ethnic affiliation, whether believing or not. 

# Reference Notes Category
1. Matthew 2:6, 'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are in no way least among the rulers of Judah, for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.' " Quote of Micah 5:2. Ethnic
2. Matthew 2:20-21, saying, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead."  So he got up and took the child and his mother and returned to the land of Israel. The angel told Joseph to take his wife and child (Yeshua) back “to the land of Israel.” Ethnic & Land
4. Matthew 8:10 (Luke 7:9), When Yeshua heard this he was amazed and said to those who followed him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found such faith in anyone in Israel! The believing non-Israelite Roman Centurion's faith is compared to everyone “in Israel.” Ethnic & Land
6. Matthew 9:33, After the demon was cast out, the man who had been mute spoke.  The crowds were amazed and said, "Never has anything like this been seen in Israel!" The crowds marvelled; declaring that they have never seen such miracles “in Israel.” Ethnic & Land 
7. Matthew 10:5-6, Yeshua sent out these twelve, instructing them as follows: "Do not go to Gentile regions and do not enter any Samaritan town.  Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. These verses dispell the idea that Gentiles are in any way part of Israel for the two are clearly contrasted.  
It can here be argued whether the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" is a refence to 10-Israel "lost" in the diaspora, or if this is a reference to the unbelieving ethnic Israel.
Ethnic or 10-Israel
8. Matthew 10:23, Whenever they persecute you in one place, flee to another.  I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.   Ethnic & Land
9. Matthew 15:22-24, A Canaanite woman from that area came and cried out, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is horribly demon-possessed!"  ...So he answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." The believing non-Israelite Canaanite woman is distinguished from being part of Israel; the two are clearly contrasted.  
It can here be argued whether the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" is a refence to 10-Israel "lost" in the diaspora, or if this is a reference to the unbelieving ethnic Israel.
Ethnic or 10-Israel
10. Matthew 15:31, As a result, the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing, and they praised the God of Israel. The 'ethnic Israel' crowds “praised the God of Israel” when they saw Yeshua's miracles. Ethnic
11. Matthew 19:28 (Luke 22:30), Yeshua said to them, "I tell you the truth: In the age when all things are renewed, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The distinction between "the twleve tribes of Israel" and other peoples will continue into "the age when all things are renewed." God has not forgotten about 10-Israel.  Ethnic 
13. Matthew 27:9, Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: "They took the thirty silver coins, the price of the one whose price had been set by the people of Israel, Quote of Zechariah 11:12-13.    Ethnic 
14. Matthew 27:42 (Mark 15:32), "He saved others, but he cannot save himself! He is the king of Israel! If he comes down now from the cross, we will believe in him!   Ethnic & Land 
16. Mark 12:29-30, Yeshua answered, "The most important is: 'Listen, Israel, Yehovah our God, Yehovah is one.  Love Yehovah your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' Quote of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, the Shema. Ethnic 
17. Luke 1:16, He will turn many of the people of Israel to Yehovah their God. John the Baptizer had a specific ministry to "the people of Israel" (cf. John 1:31). Ethnic 
18. Luke 1:54-55, He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy, as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants /to the age/." It is unclear (to this author) whether "servant" refers to all of ethnic Israel or more specifically to the believing remnant of ethnic Israel. Ethnic or Remnant 
19. Luke 1:67-69, Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, "Blessed be Yehovah God of Israel, because he has come to help and has redeemed his people.  For he has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, The "house of David" further clarifies ethnic Israel. Ethnic 
20. Luke 1:80, And the child kept growing and becoming strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he was revealed to Israel. John's ministry was to the physical seed of Abraham (1:73). Ethnic 
21. Luke 2:25-26, Now there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon who was righteous and devout, looking for the restoration of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen Yehovah's Messiah. Simeon was looking for the Messianic Hope, “the restoration of Israel.” Ethnic 
22. Luke 2:32-34, a light, for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel."  ...Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, "Listen carefully: This child is destined to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be rejected. Yeshua was both a light to the Gentiles and glory to the Israelite's.  Separation is made between the Gentiles (nations) and Israel.  There is no hint of Gentiles being part of Israel. Ethnic 
24. Luke 4:25-27, But in truth I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's days, when the sky was shut up three and a half years, and there was a great famine over all the land.  ...And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, yet none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian." A historical reference to the widows and lepers "in Israel" in the time of Elijah and Elisha. Ethnic & Land
26. Luke 24:21, But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.  Not only this, but it is now the third day since these things happened. The two Emmaus disciples had hoped Yeshua would be Israel's Redeemer. Ethnic 
27. John 1:31, I did not recognize him, but I came baptizing with water so that he could be revealed to Israel." The Messiah was to “be revealed to Israel” through John’s baptism of repentance. Ethnic 
28. John 1:49, Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel!" Nathanael declared Yeshua to be the “king of Israel.” Ethnic & Land 
29. John 3:7-10, Do not be amazed that I said to you, 'You must all be born from above.'  ...Nicodemus replied, "How can these things be?"  Yeshua answered, "Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you don't understand these things? Yeshua refers to Nicodemus as a “teacher of Israel.” Ethnic 
30. John 12:13, So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him.  They began to shout, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the king of Israel!" The large crowd shouts that Yeshua is “the king of Israel!” Ethnic & Land 
31. Acts 1:6, So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, "Master, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" Only the land and ethnic Israel can be in view of being restored. Ethnic & Land 
32. Acts 2:22, "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Yeshua the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know Peter is addressing an unbelieving Israeli (all twelve tribes) audience assembled for the Shavu'ot (Pentecost) Festival. Ethnic 
33. Acts 2:36, Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Yeshua whom you crucified both Master and Messiah." "all the house of Israel" includes all twelve tribes of Israel, not non-ethnic Israelite's. Ethnic 
34. Acts 3:12-13, When Peter saw this, he declared to the people, "Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this? Why do you stare at us as if we had made this man walk by our own power or piety?  The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our forefathers, has glorified his servant Yeshua, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate after he had decided to release him. Peter is addressing an unbelieving ethnic-Israel audience with the words, “Men of Israel.”  As unbelievers, they could not be part of the "Church" as some theologies teach. Ethnic 
35. Acts 4:10, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Yeshua Messiah the Nazarene whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, this man stands before you healthy. Peter speaks of "all the people of Israel" which includes all of ethnic Israel.  More specifically, he is addressing unbelieving Israel. Ethnic 
36. Acts 4:27, "For indeed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together in this city against your holy servant Yeshua, whom you anointed, The "people of Israel" are listed separately from the Gentiles, but were in agreement with the unbelieving Gentiles to crucify the Messiah.  The "people of Israel" cannot reference the Church. Ethnic 
37. Acts 5:21, When they heard this, they entered the temple courts at daybreak and began teaching.
Now when the high priest and those who were with him arrived, they summoned the Sanhedrin — that is, the whole high council of the Israelite's — and sent to the jail to have the apostles brought before them.
The "whole high council of the Israelite's" were unbelieving ethnic Israelite's judging the disciples for teaching about Yeshua. Ethnic 
38. Acts 5:30-31, The God of our forefathers raised up Yeshua, whom you seized and killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him to his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. Peter and the apostles speak of the repentance and forgiveness offered to the unbelieving ethnic Israel.  Ethnic 
39. Acts 5:34-35, But a Pharisee whose name was Gamaliel, a teacher of the law who was respected by all the people, stood up in the council and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time.  Then he said to the council, "Men of Israel, pay close attention to what you are about to do to these men. Gamaliel addresses his fellow members of the Sanhedrin council, “Ye men of Israel,” which were all unbelieving ethnic Israel. Ethnic 
40. Acts 7:23, 37, 42 But when he was about forty years old, it entered his mind to visit his fellow countrymen the Israelite's... This is the Moses who said to the Israelite's, 'God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers.'  ...But God turned away from them and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: 'It was not to me that you offered slain animals and sacrifices  forty years in the wilderness, was it,  house of Israel? Stephen is making a historical reference to Moses and his “fellow countrymen the Israelite's" who worshiped false gods. Ethnic 
43. Acts 9:15, But the Master said to him, "Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. Yeshua tells Ananias how Saul will proclaim His name before Gentiles and "the people of Israel."  The Gentiles and Israel have not yet heard the gospel that Saul is to share. Ethnic 
44. Acts 10:34-36, Then Peter started speaking: "I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people, but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him.  You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Yeshua Messiah (he is Master of all) Peter is sharing with these Gentiles how God sent Yeshua to the people of Israel, but everyone, in any nation, is welcomed by God if they fear Him. Ethnic 
45. Acts 13:16-17, So Paul stood up, gestured with his hand and said, "Men of Israel, and you Gentiles who fear God, listen: The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay as foreigners in the country of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it. Paul is addressing unbelieving Israelites and makes a does not call the Gentile God-fearers Israelite's. Ethnic 
47. Acts 13:23-26, From the descendants of this man [David] God brought to Israel a Savior, Yeshua, just as he promised.  Before Yeshua arrived, John had proclaimed a baptism for repentance to all the people of Israel...  Brothers, descendants of Abraham's family, and those Gentiles among you who fear God, the message of this salvation has been sent to us. John the Baptizer was sent preaching repentance to the ethnic people of Israel in anticipation of Israel's Savior.   Ethnic 
49. Acts 21:27-28, When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from the province of Asia who had seen him in the temple area stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this sanctuary!  Furthermore he has brought Greeks [or, Arameans] into the inner courts of the temple and made this holy place ritually unclean!" These unbelieving Jews are crying out to their fellow “Men of Israel” against Paul.   Ethnic 
50. Acts 28:20, So for this reason I have asked to see you and speak with you, for I am bound with this chain because of the hope of Israel." Paul speaks of “the hope of Israel,” a reference to the Messianic hope. Ethnic 
51. Romans 9:3-8, For I could wish that I myself were accursed — cut off from Messiah — for the sake of my people, my fellow countrymen, who are Israelite's.  To them belong the adoption as sons, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple worship, and the promises.  To them belong the patriarchs, and from them, by human descent, came the Messiah, who is God over all, blessed /to the ages/!  Amen.  It is not as though the word of God had failed.  For not all those who are descended from Israel are truly Israel, nor are all the children Abraham's true descendants; rather "through Isaac will your descendants be counted."  This means it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God; rather, the children of promise are counted as descendants. Paul here speaks of 'two' Israel's; ethnic Israel, and believing Israel within ethnic Israel.  This speaks nothing of Gentiles, just the believing and non-believing Israelite's.  (See Isaiah 41:8.) Ethnic & Remnant 
53. Romans 9:22-27, And if God, willing to shew the wrath and to make known His power, did endure, in much long suffering, vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, that He might make known the riches of His glory on vessels of kindness, that He before prepared for glory, whom also He did call--us--not only out of Jews, but also out of nations, as also in Hosea He saith, `I will call what is not My people--My people; and her not beloved--Beloved, and it shall be--in the place where it was said to them, Ye are not My people; there they shall be called sons of the living God.'  And Isaiah doth cry concerning Israel, `If the number of the sons of Israel may be as the sand of the sea, the remnant shall be saved; There is a subtle distinction here that is easy to miss.  Notice "out of Jews" is mentioned and not 'out of Israel.'  The passage at large speaks of Israel (12 tribes) but narrows its focus to the Jews (Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites).  The mention of "nations" is in context to the diaspora of the northern kingdom as we see in Hosea 1:10; 2:23.  The Hosea quote deals with the dispersion of the House of Israel (northern kingdom), promising that a remnant will be saved.   Ethnic, 10-Israel, & Remnant
54. Romans 9:30-32, What, then, shall we say? that nations who are not pursuing righteousness did attain to righteousness, and righteousness that is of faith, and Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, at a law of righteousness did not arrive; wherefore? because--not by faith, but as by works of law; for they did stumble at the stone of stumbling, Ethnic Israel was guilty of seeking God's favor by works and not by faith.  This scenario is commonly seen in legalistic environments.  Ethnic
55. Romans 10:19-21, But I say, Did not Israel know? first Moses saith, `I will provoke you to jealousy by that which is not a nation; by an unintelligent nation I will anger you,' and Isaiah is very bold, and saith, `I was found by those not seeking Me; I became manifest to those not inquiring after Me;' and unto Israel He saith, `All the day I did stretch out My hands unto a people unbelieving and gainsaying.'   Ethnic
57. Romans 11:1-13, So I ask, God has not rejected his people, has he? Absolutely not! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.  God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew! Do you not know what the scripture says about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?  "Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left and they are seeking my life!"  But what was the divine response to him? "I have kept for myself seven thousand people  who have not bent the knee to Baal."  So in the same way at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace... What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was diligently seeking, but the elect obtained it.  The rest were hardened... I ask then, they did not stumble into an irrevocable fall, did they? Absolutely not! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make Israel jealous.  Now if their transgression means riches for the world and their defeat means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full restoration bring?  Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Seeing that I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, Paul, an ethnic Israelite, references Elijah who pleaded "with God against Israel."  God revealed to Elijah that He has a chosen remnant within ethnic Israel. Ethnic & Remnant
60. Romans 11:25-26 Paul speaks of the blindness that had befallen Israel.  The prophecy that all Israel will be saved. Covenant Theologians are split on the meaning of this verse. Generally speaking, Covenant Amillennialists see this as a reference to the Church, while Covenant Postmillennialists and Covenant Premillennialists see it as a reference to national ethnic Israel.  Some see this as the only possible reference to a distinction in the church and national Israel?  
62. 1 Corinthians 10:18 The “Israel after the flesh” is obviously national ethnic Israel.  Also referring to the two Israels, ethnic and ethnic believing?  
63. 2 Corinthians 3:7 A historical reference to “the children of Israel” at the time of Moses.  
64. 2 Corinthians 3:13 (same as above)  
65. 2 Corinthians 11:22 Paul refers to both unbelieving Jews and to himself as “Israelite's.”  
66. Galatians 6:16 Paul’s reference to the “Israel of God” is the only reference used by all Covenant Theologians to prove that the Church is called Israel. "and the Israel of God", kai should not be translated as "even", there is no grammatical reason to not translate it as its primary meaning. Remnant
67. Ephesians 2:11-19, Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh — who are called "uncircumcision" by the so-called "circumcision" that is performed on the body by human hands — that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees.  He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed.  And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near,  so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God's household, An absolutely remarkable passage.  The common understanding is a contrast and unification of "two" groups, Israel and the "uncircumcision" (non-ethnic Israel).  However, I propose another view, one that makes more sense with Ephesians as a whole; the "uncircumcision" is not non-ethnic Israel, but 10-Israel who were dispersed into the nations, having lost their identity and citizenship.  Just as God promised they would lose their identity, He promised to "reconcile" 10-Israel and Judah in the New Covenant.  (See Acts 2:36-39; Daniel 9:7, and particularly Luke 15:11-32; regarding the Prodigal Son who likely represents 10-Israel.  Also, Luke 15:32 parallels Ephesians 2:1,5 being "dead" and "alive." Ethnic & 10-Israel
68. Philippians 3:5 Paul refers to himself as coming from “the stock of Israel,” an obvious reference to his national ethnic origins.  
69 Hebrews 8:8,10 A quotation of the New Covenant of Jeremiah.  
71. Hebrews 11:22 A historical reference to the Israel of the Exodus  
72. Revelation 7:4 A reference to the twelve tribes of Israel  
73. Revelation 21:12 (same as above)  


Part 2, coming soon

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