“For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” (Deut. 7:6)
So long as the natural Children of Israel kept the Law to the best of their ability, the Lord prospered them. But they didn’t do this. They not only were contaminated by the sins of the nations around them, but they rejected the Messiah: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” (John 1:11) It has been much the same with Gentiles who made a Covenant with God. They, too, have failed to keep their Covenant of sacrifice, and the majority has fallen into disfavor. None of them, natural Israel or Spiritual Israel, have been able to keep a perfect Law; but all those who have done so to the best of their ability have been blessed and protected from many evils of the nations around them.
But we are now discussing natural Israel: they were chosen because of their forefathers – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews we see that there were individuals who had God’s favor before He chose Israel as a nation: Abel, Enoch and Noah, as well as Abraham, are mentioned as faithful. This chapter mentions some of the faithful Ancient Worthies, but not nearly all of them. The reason we call them “Ancient Worthies,” is because they were the “Ancients,” and verse 38 tells us, “Of whom the world was not worthy.” So Ancient Worthies is a Biblical expression. These Ancient Worthies not only kept the Mosaic Law to the best of their ability, they lived above the Law ‑ sacrificed to do God’s will amidst very adverse conditions. “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented.” (Heb. 11:37) For doing God’s will they underwent such sufferings, the same as the faithful footstep followers of our Lord have suffered. Natural Israel, however, was blessed and favored of the Lord when they made an honest attempt to keep the Law.
Deuteronomy 7:6‑18 tells us: “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people. [And that is true of Spiritual Israel in the Gospel Age – they have been the fewest of all people.] But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; And repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face. Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day, to do them. Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the Lord thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers. And he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: he will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee. Thou shalt be blessed above all people: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle. And the Lord will take away from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee; but will lay them upon all them that hate thee. And thou shalt consume all the people which the Lord thy God shall deliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon them: neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee. If thou shalt say in thine heart, These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them? Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the Lord thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt.”
But with all these promises they didn’t hearken unto the Lord. They did this despite Joshua’s encouragement: “Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right or to the left.” (Josh. 23:6) And “One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the Lord your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.” (Josh. 23:10) And also this assurance, “And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.” (Josh. 23:14)
Not only did God choose Israel as a nation but He specially used certain ones among them – such as the Prophets, David, Solomon, John the Baptist, et al. David is called Beloved of God – and God was pleased that Solomon asked for “an understanding heart to judge thy people.” (1 Kings 3:9) “And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast thou asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee... riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.” (1 Kings 3:11‑13) But Solomon loved many strange women – and when he was old “his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.” (1 Kings 11:4)
Here are some pertinent quotes from That Servant:
“Nevertheless, the Scriptures most clearly declare that the natural seed of Abraham, the Jews, are still heirs of a certain promise of God, which in due time will come to them. To their nation will come the great privilege of being the foremost nation amongst men during Messiah’s glorious reign, when the church glorified, spiritualized, will be with Him in His throne, invisible to men. St. Paul thus explains that the full number, to complete the elect Kingdom class, must be first found amongst the Gentiles, and then, these being glorified in the first resurrection, natural Israel will obtain the great earthly blessings which are still theirs and which were promised to their fathers. Natural Israel will receive blessings from Spiritual Israel. ‘They shall obtain mercy through your mercy.’ – Rom. 11:25‑34.” (Excerpt from Reprint 5101, September 15, 1912)
From this we can see that it will be the Church Glorified who will convert the Jewish nation, through the Worthies. Then the Jews will help convert the world of mankind.
You might ask why Israel was specially chosen. Let That Servant answer:
“‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness.’ (Matt. 6:33) At the beginning of our Lord’s earthly ministry the Jewish nation was invited to become the Kingdom of God. The offer of God’s chief blessing was ‘to the Jew first.’ For many centuries they had been God’s special people. They had been called to be unto God ‘a kingdom of priests and an holy nation’ – a peculiar treasure unto God, composed of a priestly class and a chosen, holy people. (Ex. 19:5,6) We do not understand that all Israel from the time of the giving of the Law could have been of the Heavenly Kingdom, however faithful they have been. None could be of this Kingdom class before Jesus came to earth; for He was the Forerunner of this class. The offer was made to the Jews of His day. But those of the nation who lived previously, and who had been faithful to God, true to their covenant, shall be greatly blessed of the Lord on the human plane. They shall be used to bless all nations under Spiritual Israel – the Kingdom of God now being set up.
“God’s special favor to the people of natural Israel in choosing them above any other nation was especially because they were the seed of His faithful friend, Abraham. God had promised Abraham that because of his faith and obedience his seed should be blessed. It was not because they were of themselves holier or better than other peoples. (See Ex. 32:9‑13; Deut. 9:4‑8) But for their fathers’ sakes God chose them to be His people.
“At our Lord’s First Advent the time had come for the offer of membership in the Kingdom, for the testing of the whole nation of Israel, to prove whether they were ready for this choice blessing. Jesus was the One to offer this Kingdom; for He had consecrated Himself a sacrifice for sin, which would constitute a basis for the establishment of the Kingdom on earth.
TRUE AND FALSE IDEAS OF THE KINGDOM
“The sermon on the Mount, from which our text is taken, points out the earnestness and singleness of heart necessary in those who would become members of the Kingdom class. The Master intimates that not all of this favored nation who heard His message would be ready to accept it. Many were absorbed in the things of this life – in what they would eat, what they would drink, what they would wear. But in order to be ready to receive the proffered blessing, in order to be acceptable to God, they must make the Kingdom their first interest. ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,’ enjoined the Savior, not the earthly things. If the Kingdom was made first, all their earthly needs would be supplied; ‘All things shall be added unto you,’ was His promise.
“Not many of the Jews were ready for so drastic a Teacher. They had their own plans – business plans, political plans, social functions. Hence this invitation of Jesus to leave all to obtain a Kingdom of which they knew nothing and which seemed so intangible did not find a very ready response. The twelve Apostles were among the first to accept His offer. At the time of Jesus’ death, something over five hundred had joined themselves to Him as His disciples. Of these we are told that one hundred and twenty were gathered in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, where they received the begetting of the Holy Spirit. After Pentecost some thousands of Jews came to the point of decision to make the Kingdom of God their first business. These, however, were but a small minority of the nation of Israel.” (Excerpt from Reprint 5917-18, July 1, 1916)
Nevertheless, there is still that promise of God to natural Israel that they will become the foremost nation on earth. Pastor Russell gives a very beautiful picture in Volume 4:
“JEHOVAH’S FEET ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES”
“This prophecy [Zech. 14:4,5] is generally misunderstood, and applied to the feet of our Lord Jesus, at His Second Advent. Indeed, those who thus err generally go farther and assert that it will be the feet of flesh, pierced with the nails of Calvary – not realizing that our Lord gave His human nature, complete and forever, as our ransom; and that He was raised from the dead, by the Father’s power, a glorious spirit‑being, the express image of the Father’s person. (See Volume 2, Chapter 5)
“But a glance at the preceding verse (3) shows that the Prophet speaks of the return of Jehovah’s feet; for the verse (referring to the trouble by which the Kingdom will be established) is: ‘Then shall Jehovah go forth and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle [anciently for Israel]. And his feet will stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be divided in its center, from east to west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove northward and half southward.’
“As soon as any see the fact that the feet mentioned are Jehovah’s feet, they will not dispute that this language is symbolic, and refers to the Lord’s re-establishment of His dominion in the earth, that has long been comparatively abandoned to the ‘god of this world’ Satan, except as the Lord was represented first by the typical Tabernacle, secondly by the Temple at Jerusalem, and lastly by the present tabernacle condition of the Church of Christ, during this Gospel Age. Surely, no one will err and get the thought that Jehovah literally rests His feet upon this earth as a ‘footstool.’
“And if the placing and resting of Jehovah’s feet is symbolic, and signifies the return of Divine favor and dominion to earth, so, we may be sure, other features connected in the same prophecy are symbolic: the Mount of Olives, its peculiar division, its valley, the flight of the people, the waters of life from Jerusalem (Compare v. 8 with Ezek. 47:1‑9), etc., are all symbolic statements, pictures of grand spiritual truths.
“The olive is a meaningful symbol: in olden times it was the source of artificial light, its oil being generally used for this purpose. (Ex. 27:20) Indeed, in the Hebrew the olive tree was called shemen or oil tree. Olive oil was also used as the basis of many of the precious ointments of olden time – such as that used in anointing the priests and kings, typing the holy spirit upon the antitypical ‘royal priesthood.’ (Ex. 30:25) And from time immemorial the olive branch has been used as a symbol of peace. (Gen. 8:11; Neh. 8:15)
“If then the olive be the symbol of light, peace and divine blessing through the holy spirit, and if mountain be considered as elsewhere the symbol for a Kingdom, the significance here of the term Mount of Olives is easily seen to be the Kingdom of Light, Peace and Divine Blessing. And the standing or establishment or fixing of Jehovah’s ‘feet’ upon it, signifies that the Divine favor and law will be re-established in the earth by and through the holy Kingdom.
“This application of the term Mount of Olives, is in full accord with Paul’s statement (Rom. 11:17,24) in which he compares fleshly Israel with the original cultivated olive tree, and Gentile converts to wild olive branches grafted in where the natural branches had been broken off. (Compare Jer. 11:16,17) He explains that the root of the tree is in the promise of God, the Abrahamic promise, that the seed of Abraham should finally bless all the families of the earth, etc. Finally the same root or promise will bear two kinds of branches, the engrafted wild olive branches, and the re‑engrafted natural branches: when Israel shall have his blindness turned away, and shall look with the eye of faith on the Savior crucified and pierced eighteen centuries ago, a sacrifice for sin. We remember also that fleshly Israel was God’s typical Kingdom or mountain for a long time, and that spiritual Israel of this age is called to be the real Kingdom of God, as Jesus said ‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’ (Luke 12:32)
“Further, from these two Kingdoms (even before Jehovah’s glory rests on them to make them His channels of blessings to all mankind) has proceeded all ‘the light of the world’ during all the darkness of the past: for are not these the representatives of the Old and the New Testaments, the two parts of the oath‑bound Covenant? Are not these related to the Lord’s two witnesses and to the two olive trees of Zech. 4:3,11,12, distinctly mentioned also in Rev. 11:4? – in that these two parts of the mountain symbolize the outcome of that covenant, the results of the witnessing – the Kingdom in its heavenly and its earthly phases?
“Here we see, then, that the two halves of the Mount of Olives mean the two parts of the Kingdom of God, distinctly separated according to a Divine order or arrangement. The separation indicates no opposition between the two parts of the Kingdom. It is, on the contrary, for the purpose of making the ‘Valley of Blessing’ between – to which all who desire Divine aid may flee and find succor under the blessed protection of both the heavenly and the earthly phases of the Kingdom.
“The Prophet David (Psa. 84) seems to have been given a foreview of this great ‘Valley of Blessings,’ close to Jehovah’s ‘feet,’ when he sings first of the saints of the Gospel Age and then of those blessed in the next Age, saying:
‘How lovely are thy dwelling places
O Jehovah of Hosts!
My soul desired, yea, it even fainted
For the courts of Jehovah.
My heart and my flesh shout with joy
Unto the living God.
Even as the sparrow hath found a house,
And the swallow a nest for herself,
Where she may lay her young: (so
I have found) thine altars, O Lord of Hosts,
My God, my King.
Happy are they that dwell in thy house:
They shall be continually praising Thee. Selah.
Happy is the man whose strong confidence is in thee,
Whose heart reflecteth (wholly)
On the paths of righteousness.
Passing through the valley of mourning,
They change it into a place of (joy) springs
[Valley of Blessings].
The Autumn rain brings them blessings
They go from strength to strength
That each of them may be presented (perfect)
Before God in Zion.’
“The 85th Psalm also pictures the return of divine clemency and blessing under the Millennial Kingdom, the Olive Mountain (Kingdom) of two parts.
“The removal of one part of the mountain to the north and the other to the south is significant; the North is the direction of the Pleiades, the celestial center of the universe, the supposed seat of divine empire. (See Vol. 3, p. 321) This would seem to indicate the ‘change’ of the Gospel Church at this time, from human to spirit conditions as ‘partakers of the divine nature’; and the removal of the other half of the mountain would seem to signify the complete restitution, to perfect human conditions, of those ancient worthies accounted worthy to constitute the earthly representatives of God’s Kingdom.
“The valley thus produced would be one full of light – free from shadows: for the sun would stream through it from east to west. This speaks pictorially of the Sun of Righteousness and its full light of divine truth and blessing scattering the shadows of sin, ignorance, superstition and death, and healing and restoring the willingly obedient of men who will flee to this valley of blessings, the valley of mercy. The valley of mercy, between and under the care of the spiritual and human phases of the Kingdom of Light and Peace (the standing of Jehovah’s feet) will surely be a ‘Valley of Blessings’ to all who enter it with broken and contrite hearts.
“We must recall, further, that while it is said to Israel only, ‘Ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains,’ yet as a name Israel meant ‘The people blessed of the Lord,’ ‘The people of God,’ ‘The Lord’s people.’ (2 Chron. 7:14) While, as we have seen, the first or spiritual blessing of the Kingdom shall come to spiritual Israel, and the second or earthly blessing shall begin with Israel according to the flesh, yet it will not stop there; for whosoever will may become an Israelite: by exercising the faith and obedience of Abraham, all mankind may become Israelites indeed, ‘the people of God.’ Hence the Prophet Isaiah declares that when Israel is called back to divine favor, at the establishment of the Kingdom, it will include ‘Every one that is called by my [Jehovah’s] name: for I have created him for my glory; I have formed him, yea, I have made him.’ (The name Israel will then apply to all who are God’s people.) – Is. 43:7; Rom. 9:26,33; 10:13.” (Volume 4, pages 649‑654)
“Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.” (Matt. 24:46,47)
(Written by Brother John J. Hoefle in 1978. Reprint of No. 520, September 1, 2000, with minor editing.)
Replacement Theology is a misguided systematic approach to the Bible that has not only led millions of Christians astray over the years but it has in addition birthed evil of the most horrific proportions, i.e., it played a role in the persecution of Jews by the church through the centuries, including the Holocaust and it was the theological thinking behind the nightmare of apartheid.
Definition: Concisely put, Replacement Theology states that Israel, having failed God, has been replaced with the Church. As a consequence all the Biblical promises made to Israel are transferred to the Church. The Church is now the real Israel of God and Israel’s national destiny in God is forever forfeited. The restoration of the modern state of Israel is thus an accident enjoying no Biblical credential – and Christians who believe that it is an act of God, in faithfulness to His covenant cut with Abraham some 4,000 years ago, are considered misguided. This is the basic position of those subscribing to Replacement Theology.
ERRORS OF THINKING
The Allegorical Method of Interpretation: Replacement Theology effectively undermines the authority of God’s Word in that it rests on the allegorical method of interpretation. That is, the reader of God’s Word decides to spiritualize the text even if its context is literal. This effectively robs the Word of God of its own authority and the meaning of the text is entirely dependent on the reader’s decision to spiritualize it or not. The problem with this approach is this: Man alone decides what he will spiritualize and what he won’t. The Word of God can thus be manipulated to say anything. So, Replacement Theology rests on a false basis of Biblical interpretation.
Inadequate Understanding of Covenant: Replacement Theology is only held by those who have not properly understood the nature of the Abrahamic Covenant. This covenant, first mentioned in Gen 12:1-4 and thereafter repeatedly asserted and confirmed to the patriarchs, is in fact the covenant of grace in Scripture, for it underlines God’s intention to bless the world with redemption. Such blessing however, is through the nation of Israel. God says to Abraham: “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” So the Abrahamic covenant is one covenant having three vital elements:
1. It declares a strategy – to reach the world through the nation of Israel.
2. It bequeaths a land – as an everlasting possession to Israel... and –
3. It gives a promise – those who bless Israel will be blessed, those who curse her will be cursed.
It is important for us to note here that if one element of the covenant fails then all fails. The covenant is like a coin having three elements, e.g., a rim, a head side, a tail side. However, it remains one coin and one cannot retain one element of the coin and give away another. The Abrahamic Covenant is just the same, it is one covenant. If one element of the covenant fails then all the elements fail. Thus if God’s promises to Israel have now failed then equally His promises to bless the world have also failed.
In short if Israel’s national destiny has been forfeited, through her disobedience, then the Church is also finished. It must be remembered that the Church’s disobedience has been as great as that of Israel over the last two thousand years. No one can deny this! So if Israel is finished because of failure then the Church is as well! There is no way that we can get around this. Moreover, Paul underlines this very point in Galatians 3 where he writes, years after Israel’s rejection of Jesus the Messiah, that the Abrahamic Covenant cannot be annulled.
“What I am saying is this; the Law which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.” (Gal. 3:17,18)
According to Replacement theologians this Covenant has been annulled. Only a superficial, inadequate grasp of a covenant can lead to such a misguided conclusion.
THE PROPHETIC TESTIMONY
God’s promises to national Israel are constantly reaffirmed by the prophets. In this way He underlines the nature of His character and confirms the Abrahamic Covenant. An example of this is Jeremiah 31:35-38:
“Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night; Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The Lord of hosts is His name: If this fixed order departs from before Me, declares the Lord, then the offspring of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me forever. Thus says the Lord, if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done, declares the Lord.”
So again the fact that the sun, moon and stars are still with us confirms the ongoing validity of the Abrahamic Covenant and as a result, Israel’s national destiny. For Replacement Theology to be valid the sun and moon must also be vanquished. There is no way that Replacement thinkers can get around this!
Moreover, Replacement Theology makes a mockery of God’s character for it rests upon the premise that if you fail God in any way He will discard you... even though initially He asserted that His commitment to you is everlasting. This sounds like a typical human response to the world and not like the God of the Bible which, of course, it is since Replacement Theology is but the thinking of men!
According to the writer of the book of Hebrews, we know that God will be faithful to us because in spite of Israel’s disobedience He has kept faith with her. Speaking of the Abrahamic Covenant, he says:
“In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, in order that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 6:17-20)
Note again that we know God to be faithful because He has been faithful to Israel in all that He promised her through Abraham. In fact this knowledge, says the writer, is the anchor of our soul (v.19). According to Replacement Theology this is not true!
In the final analysis Replacement Theology is but the mere thinking of men unable to stand up to the test of Scripture. It contradicts Scripture everywhere and by so doing robs thousands of Christians from understanding God’s redemptive purposes. The truth is:
1. God has not cast off national Israel.
2. Canaan to this present day is Israel’s national homeland.
4. The modern restoration of Israel is evidence of God’s faithfulness to His Word and promise and strong encouragement to the Church.
5. The restoration of Israel will culminate in the coming of the Messiah. Therefore the Church in the world is able to make herself ready and bless Israel as much as she can.
6. The restoration of Israel to her homeland in Canaan – including the West Bank – is the first step towards Israel’s national redemption. (Rom 11:25-27)
In closing, it would be good for us to note a quote that came from the pen of the now famous and very godly Bishop of Liverpool, the Right. Reverend J. C. Ryle. He said:
“I warn you, that unless you interpret the prophetical portion of the Old Testament in a simple literal meaning of its words, you will find no easy matter to carry on an argument with a Jew. Will you dare tell him that Zion, Jerusalem, Jacob, Judah, Ephraim, Israel do not mean what they seem to mean, but mean the church of Christ?”
(By Malcolm Hedding; published in Christian Action for Israel Newsletter, Second Quarter 1992)
QUESTIONS OF GENERAL INTEREST
The following questions were recently submitted to a newspaper column on religion. Here we present the columnist’s answers along with our answers:
Question: “My dad died recently without being a Christian. Where did he go?”
Columnist’s answer: “Your concern probably comes from the history of Christianity, which has insisted that it is the only way to salvation. That seems to be a rather myopic view of life and is dismissive of all other faiths. Christians regard Jesus as the clearest window through which we are given a glimpse of the nature of God. If this is true, we must conclude that God is pure love. Love is accepting and inclusive, not rejecting and exclusive. It is impossible to imagine a loving Father God ever rejecting one of His children. Jesus did claim to be the way, but He is not talking about intellectual consent to some doctrine. His way is the way of love. I believe the life within each of us is God-life. It cannot die and can only grow. Think of your father in the loving acceptance of The Father.”
Our answer: The views of traditional Christianity are based on the assumption that death does not mean death, that to die means a continuation of life, either in heavenly bliss or in a hell of torment. While evading a direct answer to the question, the columnist supports this view by saying the life within each of us cannot die. This view is not scriptural. In the Genesis account it was God who declared to Adam and Eve, “Thou shalt surely die” and the serpent (Satan) who said, “Ye shall not surely die.” Do we believe God or do we believe Satan, the father of lies? (John 8:44)
The Scriptures teach that the dead know nothing (Eccl. 9:5,10; Job 14:21; Psa. 146:4; Isa. 38:18) In both the Old Testament and the New Testament it is written of both the good and bad that they “fell asleep” in death. This likening of death to sleep tells us that there is hope of an awakening, a resurrection. In the Apostle Paul’s wonderful treatise on resurrection, he says that those who have “fallen asleep in Christ” are perished if there be no resurrection of the dead. (1 Cor.15th chapter)
So the proper, Biblical answer to the question “Where did he go?” is: He is “asleep in Jesus,” awaiting the resurrection.
Question: “If God is all loving and accepting, why did Jesus have to die?”
Columnist’s answer: “Throughout the history of Christianity, there have been conflicting answers to the question about Jesus’ sacrificial death.
“The oldest explanation is referred to as the Ransom Theory. It hypothesizes that all humans had fallen under the control of Satan and that God gave His Son as a ransom payment to Satan to secure humanity’s release. This concept is crudely economic and questions the omnipotence of God. It suggests that God was not able to save humanity without capitulating to Satan’s demands.
“A second theory was taught by Anslem, Archbishop of Canterbury. In a book titled “Why God Became Man,” he declares that God’s justice demanded payment for sin and that Jesus’ death was a sacrificial payment, not to Satan, but to God the Father, in order to satisfy his demands for justice. Since Jesus sacrificed his life in our place, this is sometimes referred to as the Doctrine [of] Substitutionary Atonement. This explanation is also crudely economic and suggests that God could not lovingly forgive without his justice being satisfied.
“The third theory was advanced by Abelard, a philosopher in Paris who taught at the cathedral school of Notre-Dame de Paris. Abelard understood Jesus’ death as a sacrifice but not as a payment. Jesus sacrificed his life rather than compromise what he believed to be God’s will for his life. As such, the death of Jesus becomes an example and the inspiration for his followers to also live lives of sacrificial love.
“Although Anselm’s doctrine became the most widely accepted, I find many modern Christians gravitating toward Abelard’s doctrine of inspiring Christians to accept sacrificial love for their lives. The three theories are doctrines based on the interpretations of Biblical Scripture by individuals and can be confusing.
“Christians should read and study in order to understand. Another point about the death of Jesus was the fear of political rulers and synagogue leaders of the time period who believed that Jesus was becoming too influential and needed to be stopped. In their eyes he was crucified for political and social reasons. Their plan backfired in a way, since it became apparent that his crucifixion gave strength to the Christian movement.
“We must also note that the theories of Christ’s death serve followers as they seek their personal salvation, which is important, but I would like to note that God’s plan enabled Jesus to live a life as a human being before his death. Why? Perhaps the message is that living a life following the words and actions of Jesus is important because Jesus demonstrated the way as being loving, accepting and living peacefully.
“Living in this manner could mean that salvation is the natural outcome overshadowing the theories of human beings.”
Our answer: Scriptural testimony shows that God did not require Jesus to die but rather Jesus offered Himself voluntarily: “No man taketh it [my life] from me, but I lay it down of myself.” (John 10:18) He voluntarily laid his life in the Father’s hands saying, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
1 Tim. 2:6 says He “gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time.” This verse shows that of the three theories presented in the column, the second one is Biblical: The ransom price was paid to satisfy the demands of God’s justice because justice is the foundation of His throne. (Psa. 89:14)
Please direct all correspondence to:
P.O. Box 2246, Kernersville, NC 27285-2246