Part 1 of 4
by George Sidney Hurd
The earliest Church Fathers, even though they lived after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., were uniformly Premillennial and therefore anticipated that Christ would save and restore Israel as a nation and reign for 1,000 years from Jerusalem upon the throne of David at His Second Coming. However, as early as the late second century some Church Fathers began to deny that there would be any future for Israel. They began to spiritualize the Millennium, applying it to the present age and replacing Israel with the Church. As time progressed, some of the Fathers like John Chrysostom (344 – 407 A.D.) waxed eloquent in expressing their contempt for the Jews. Chrysostom said:
“Many, I know, respect the Jews and think that their present way of life is a venerable one. This is why I hasten to uproot and tear out this deadly opinion… The synagogue is not only a brothel and a theater; it also is a den of robbers and a lodging for wild beasts… But when God forsakes a people, what hope of salvation is left? When God forsakes a place, that place becomes a dwelling of demons.”
By the third century even Origin, who taught that every rational being will ultimately be restored to God whether in heaven or on earth, did not allow for the possibility that the Jews should ever be restored as a nation. He said:
“We may assert in utter confidence that the Jews will not return to their earlier situation, for they have committed the most abominable of crimes in forming this conspiracy against the Savior of the human race…hence the city where Jesus suffered was necessarily destroyed, the Jewish nation was driven from its country, and another people was called by God to the blessed election.”
According to these and other Church Fathers, God has utterly rejected Israel as a nation and the Church has once-and-for-all replaced Israel as the people of God. This doctrine has become known as Replacement Theology or Supersessionism. However, as I hope to demonstrate in the following pages, this was not what Jesus and His Apostles taught. After Jesus presented Himself to Israel as their King and Messiah and was rejected by them, He told them that their house would be left desolate - but not forever. He made it clear that the desolation would only last “until” a certain condition was met. He said: “you shall see Me no more till you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'" (Matt 23:39). He said that they would be scattered among the nations, however, not forever but only until such a time as they welcome Him as their Messiah and King. He also said:
“And they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” (Lk 21:24)
As with all God’s judgments, His judgment against His people Israel is temporal, only lasting “until…”, and culminating in restoration - not eternal rejection (Lam 3:31-33). And considering the question Jesus’ disciples asked Him on the Mount of Olives just before He ascended, it seems apparent that they understood the irrevocability of God’s promises to Israel better than most theologians have throughout Church history. They asked Jesus if He would restore Israel at that time (Acts 1:6). If God had permanently rejected Israel as a nation certainly Jesus would have corrected them, saying that Israel had been permanently rejected and would be replaced by the Church. But He simply said: "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7). Implied in His reply is the assumption that, in the Father’s time, Israel will indeed be restored as a nation.
The Lord later revealed to Paul that Israel had by no means been cast off, nor had they stumbled so as to fall (Rom 11:1,11). To him was revealed the mystery that the present partial hardening of Israel is only “until” the fullness of the Gentiles comes into the fold. Once the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled and God has called unto Himself His elect firstfruits from among the Gentiles, then all Israel will be saved when the Deliverer (Christ) comes out of Zion, removing all ungodliness from Jacob (Israel), taking away their sins (Rom 11:25-27).
The earliest Church Fathers - in agreement with the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, were Premillennialists and therefore believed that Christ would reign from Jerusalem over the restored twelve tribes of Israel and that the nations of the earth would come to worship in Zion. Indeed, just before going to the cross and knowing that Israel had rejected Him and would soon demand His crucifixion, Jesus made it clear that, in spite of their betrayal, Israel still had a future when He said to His disciples: “I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Lk 22:29-30). This promise to His disciples was given after He had told the chief priests and the elders that the kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to another people (Matt 21:43).
The Early Fathers understood from Scriptures like these that, in spite of Israel’s transgression and ensuing judgment, God’s mercy never comes to an end and therefore His unconditional promises concerning the final restoration of the twelve tribes as one nation in their own land were irrevocable. Tertullian (160 to 225 AD) says of national Israel:
“Christ promises to the Jews their primitive condition with the recovery of their country, and after this life's course is over repose in Hades in Abraham's bosom. Oh, most excellent God, when He restores in amnesty what He took away in wrath! Oh, what a God is yours, who both wounds and heals, creates evil and makes peace! Oh, what a God, that is merciful even down to Hades!” 
The universality of the Premillennial hope among the Early Church Fathers is attested to by the great Church Historian, Phillip Schaff, in spite of the fact that he was not himself premillennial in his eschatology. He says:
“The most striking point in the eschatology of the ante-Nicene age is…the belief of a visible reign of Christ in glory on earth with the risen saints for a thousand years, before the general resurrection and judgment. It was indeed not the doctrine of the church embodied in any creed or form of devotion, but a widely current opinion of distinguished teachers, such as Barnabas (died AD 61), Papias (died AD 100), Justin Martyr (AD 100 – 165), Irenaeus (AD 130 – 202), Tertullian (AD 160 – 225), Methodius (died AD 311), and Lactantius (AD 250 – 325); while Caius (third century AD) , Origen (AD 184 – 253), Dionysius the Great (died AD 264), Eusebius (AD 265 – 340) as afterwards Jerome (AD 347 – 420) and Augustin (AD 354 – 430) opposed it….” 
However, with the introduction of the spiritual/allegorical approach to the Scriptures, borrowed from the Greek philosophers in the third and fourth centuries by Origin and other Christian scholars, came a departure from the hope for the Premillennial return of Christ to set up His kingdom on earth. The allegorical hermeneutic allowed for creativity in the interpretation of the Scriptures which gave rise to Amillennialism which denied any literal Millennium and Postmillennialism which taught that the millennial kingdom was now. Consequentially, all of the prophecies concerning Israel’s future kingdom were likewise allegorized in such a way as to make them apply to the Church, which, according to them, is presently reigning with Christ on the earth in the place of Israel who has been permanently rejected by God.
The Replacement theory logically led to the open antisemitism or hatred of the Jews, reflected in the writings of so many of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers from the late third century onward. If one believes that God’s wrath against the Jews is eternal and implacable for having rejected and crucified His Son, it is inevitable that they would in like manner come to hate those whom they believe God Himself hates. History has shown that people always become like the God in whom they believe. If the Church had continued in the revelation of God as seen in Jesus Christ and throughout the Scriptures - a God of love and mercy who does not remain angry forever (Jer 3:12), then the history of the Jews would have read much differently than it does today.
The seeds of antisemitism sown by the Replacement Theology of the late Fathers produced a harvest of incomprehensible suffering for the Jewish people wherever they went. They were hunted down and killed or expelled from virtually every country they fled to following the diaspora which began after the 70 A.D. destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus said that this would happen, and that it would continue until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Lk 21:24). What to me is tragic is that much of this prophesied suffering has been inflicted at the hands of the predominately Gentile Church in the name of Christ!
This same diabolical hatred of the Jews was adopted and intensified by the Reformed Church under the influence of the reformer Martin Luther himself. In his booklet called, “Concerning the Jews and Their Lies” he referred to them as a venomous, miserable, blind, senseless and accursed people who were lazy thieves and robbers and a great plague to humanity. His proposed solution to the problem of the Jews was to burn their houses, schools and synagogues. He said that they should confiscate their money and possessions along with their Talmudic writings, forbidding their Rabbis to teach and compelling them to forced labor.
It should be no surprise therefore, that the Nazis often quoted Luther in order to promote their pogrom against the Jews. In Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” he said of Martin Luther that he was “a great warrior, a true statesman and a great reformer.” In 1924 Hitler spoke to thousands at a Christian gathering in Berlin. He said of Luther:
“Martin Luther has been the greatest encouragement of my life. Luther was a great man. He was a giant. With one blow he heralded the coming of the new dawn and the new age. He saw clearly that the Jews need to be destroyed, and we’re only beginning to see that we need to carry this work on… I believe that today I am acting in accordance with the will of Almighty God as I announce the most important work that Christians could undertake — and that is to be against the Jews and get rid of them once and for all.” 
Since most of the Christians in Germany at that time believed the Reformed doctrine that God hates the Jews and has forever rejected them as “the Christ killers” they gave Hitler a standing ovation. While Martin Luther was greatly used of God to restore the truth of justification through faith alone, his propagation of the Replacement doctrine and its resulting antisemitism provoked one of history’s greatest tragedies. At the Nuremberg trials the Nazi leader, Julius Streicher, defended himself by saying, “I have never said anything that Martin Luther did not say.”
We as Christians need to acknowledge that the Holocaust was the evil fruit of Replacement Theology with its resultant antisemitism. Sadly, many Reformed teachers treat Premillennial Dispensational Christians who love and support Israel with the same contempt which they have shown towards the Jews. Many Gentile believers are guilty of boasting against the natural branches, thinking that now that we are called the Israel of God, we have permanently replaced national Israel (Rom 11:17-18). As I hope to demonstrate in the next blog of this series, the idea that the Church has permanently replaced Israel is based primarily upon a misunderstanding of Romans 11 where Paul actually argues the very opposite.
 See my book entitled “Last Days, Past or Present?” Chapter two: Premillennial Futurism – The Doctrine of the Early Church.
 “It is our conviction that the Word will prevail over all the intelligent creation.” Origin, Against Selsum 8.72.
 Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3 Irenaeus: Against Heresies Book 3 Chapter 24
 Schaff´s History of the Christian Church, Volume 1, chapter 12,158. Chiliasm.