You’ll Never Cancel Israel (Part 1)


The Lord Jesus Christ made two startling announcements, through the Apostle John, to the recipients of the book of Revelation.

Speaking to His congregation at Smyrna, He stated: “I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9).

Then, He addressed the Philadelphian church regarding “those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie” (Rev. 3:9).

Could it be that Jesus was here providing a stern warning regarding one of the most seductive temptations with which His church would ever struggle—namely, the inclination to suppose that the church has cancelled Israel out, receiving the blessings first promised to her?1

Warning the Church

The Lord knew that this particular strain of false teaching would haunt the church from its earliest days. The Apostle Paul had also warned the Ephesian elders strictly in Acts 20:29-30, providing an outline of the coming centuries:

For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

Indeed, the church has a long history of struggling with her own identity in relationship to the people of Israel.2 Many of her greatest leaders, going nearly all the way back to the apostolic days, have vainly but confidently asserted that the church has cancelled Israel, taking her place in God’s plan. Such teaching has been absolutely pervasive—making it all the more deceptive.

The theological term for this belief is supersessionism. A more succinct term is replacement theology. Advocates view this as pejorative, and prefer terms such as fulfillment theology or remnant theology—even expansion theology. However, replacement theology may well sum up this teaching best. We might even call it cancel theology.

Beginning in the Garden

Ultimately, as we have seen from the book of Revelation, the origins of replacement theology go back to the serpent in the Garden of Eden—the one who will seek to destroy Israel completely during the future seven-year tribulation period (see Rev. 12:1-17). His very first challenge to Adam and Eve—which quickly led to their fall—hinged on the literal interpretation of God’s Word (see 2 Cor. 11:3).

“Has God indeed said,” he asked, striking to the crux of the matter (Gen. 3:1). He was questioning God’s command, intending to twist its meaning within their minds, thereby causing them to desire a different identity than that which their Creator had designed for them (see Gen. 3:5b).

Satan detests the boundaries that God has ordained for His creatures, and he specifically despises Israel, and seeks her destruction at every turn. Short of that, he desires to blur important distinctions concerning her God-ordained identity and destiny.

Reforming the Reformers

Replacement theology was unquestionably the standard teaching of the church for more than 1,000 years, at least since the days of Augustine. Sadly, it became even more deeply engrained as the Dark Ages gave way to the Reformation.

The first- and second-generation Reformers were largely unable—within their lifetimes—to correct the errors of replacement theology. Instead, they accepted them uncritically, reinforcing their credibility for centuries.

In so doing, they violated the literal meaning of Scripture. In Romans 11, Paul argues that God is “certainly not” finished with Israel (vv. 1, 11). He clearly speaks of her national restoration in verse 26: “All Israel will be saved.”

Yet, when the great Reformer John Calvin commented on this very verse, he wrote:

Many understand this of the Jewish people, as though Paul had said, that religion would again be restored among them as before: but I extend the word Israel to all the people of God…. This interpretation seems to me the most suitable, because Paul intended here to set forth the completion of the kingdom of Christ, which is by no means to be confined to the Jews, but is to include the whole world.3

We see here the danger of allegorical (non-literal) interpretation. Ultimately, it makes the interpreter his own authority. When we interpret the Bible literally—seeking to know what the original author meant in his historical context, according to the grammar that he used—there is no room for us to impose our own theological preferences.

God’s future plan for Israel is based entirely upon the unconditional promises that He made in the Abrahamic Covenant (see Gen. 12:1-3), which is reinforced countless times in Scripture (see. Heb. 6:13-18). We must receive the Bible in its plain, literal sense. And, when we do, we are overwhelmed with the enormity of the importance of Israel (see Zech. 2:8).


1 What exactly is “the synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 3:9)? I will examine this fascinating and significant issue in the final installment in this series.

2 I wrote a three-part blog series for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry called “The Danger of Replacing Israel,” in which I outlined the origin, nature and history of Replacement Theology. You can find Part 1 at Internet, accessed 20 July 2023.

3 John Calvin; “Commentary on Romans—Romans 11:25-27;” Christian Classic Ethereal Library, Internet, accessed 20 July 2023.

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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


You are absolutely right about the falsity of replacement theology. I hate that teaching with a passion. For His own glory, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is going to rule over the world for a thousand years through the glorified Jesus of Nazareth who will return in glory to sit on His throne in Jerusalem over His people whom He has not cast away (Rom. 11:1)! "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev. 22:20).

Could it be since it has been the teaching of the church since the Church Fathers, until the 1920's that maybe this is the correct theology?

You mix terms up here. You say Israel, Jews and the people of Israel. These are not the same. Who do you believe are these people today that the old testament talks about?

In my experience, "Replacement Theology" is a term used by Dispensationalists to tilt discussion toward a predetermined conclusion. No Covenant Theologian uses that term (to my knowledge), nor believes it an accurate representation for what CT teaches. "Fulfillment Theology" is a more accurate term. According to CT, Israel is not replaced, but enlarged. The promises God made to Israel are fulfilled on a scale that is more grand than most OT believers could have imagined.

G. N. Barkman

Where I struggle with the concept that Israel still has a level of inheritance, is trying to align that with Romans 8:8, "This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring". Abraham's offspring are not those of his physical seed, but those of the promise. The second area I have a problem is, who is Israel today? We have a secular nation that calls itself Israel that exists on a portion of the land. The citizenry that is made up of people of all tribes. We have Jews who are spread around the globe, who are made up of various people, some who are of a lineage that dates back to Abraham, but many who are not. Many are practicing Jews of all different stripes from Hasidic to Reformed, and many who have never been a practicing Jew. And lastly, what is the significance of a physical kingdom of Israel, when we are to reject this physical world and seek a new city in a new creation. Not to say Christ could fulfill something within Israel, but since the time of Abraham until Christ every single prophet misunderstood Israel. So why are we so dogmatic that somehow we have it figured out just right. My take is that we will most likely all be wrong.


I would agree with you if you said “no covenant theologian NOW believes it an accurate…”.

It has certainly been the position of major covenant theologians on the past.

Not to say Christ could fulfill something within Israel, but since the time of Abraham until Christ every single prophet misunderstood Israel. So why are we so dogmatic that somehow we have it figured out just right. My take is that we will most likely all be wrong.

Where and how does the Bible itself teach that this is true: "Since the time of Abraham until Christ every single prophet misunderstood Israel"?