Hyung Nam Chung

(1) The founding of the nation of Israel (1948). (2) Israel’s recapturing of East Jerusalem from Jordan (1967). (3) The reconstruction of the third Jewish Temple on the temple grounds of Jerusalem (future). According to the Christian Zionism based on dispensationalism. All of the above: (nos 1,2, and 3) are all fulfillments or preparatory to fulfillments of a biblical prophecy. Approximately 27 years ago (Sept, 1989), an Arab pastor and I were attending a meeting at his church in Bahrain and were both asked whether we agreed with the previous three statements claimed by dispensationalists. While I was hesitating to answer, the Arab pastor hastily answered “yes” and explained his answer. This caused a great commotion among the church people. Although he belonged to the Egyptian Presbyterian church, he was heavily influenced by dispensationalism rather than reformed/covenant theology. In truth, the reason for my hesitancy to answer was the same at the time even though I also belonged to the Korean Presbyterian church.
The first western evangelical missionary in Jordan was Roy Whitman (1904-1992). At the age of 14, Whitman was deeply inspired by a sermon about the rapture and later dedicated his life as a missionary, moving to Jerusalem at the age of 21 (1925). During his ministry in Jordan, the nation of Israel was established (1948.5.17). He interpreted this event as a fulfillment of a biblical prophecy. He justified his interpretation by reminding the Arab congregation that, despite Judas Iscariot’s betrayal against Christ, it was still a part of the process in fulfilling a biblical prophecy. Many evangelical church leaders in Jordan are from Palestine and are also disciples of Roy Whitman. They believe that the phrase ‘his kingdom’ in Matthew 6:33, “But seek his kingdom and his righteousness” is referring to the millennium kingdom of Jerusalem, in which Jesus will return and reign as the Messiah. They also believe that the founding of Israel in 1948 is a foundational step to His kingdom and therefore they must bless Israel. In addition, they apply the passage “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mat 16:24) by explaining that even though it is personally painful and sorrowful to be pro-Israel, it is their cross to bear.
The dispensationalists’ claim of (1), (2) and (3) brings up the question ‘who do the biblical prophecies refer to?’ According to dispensationalism, they refer to the bloodline descendants of Jacob. On the other hand, the reformed/covenant theology states, it refers to the church community redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore, dispensationalism criticizes reformed/covenant theology as ‘replacement theology or supersessionism’.[1] They claim that reformed/covenant theology replaces Israel with the church community as the true fulfillment to the Biblical prophecy. This means that the biblical prophecy refers not to the blood of Jesus Christ, but rather to the bloodline of Jacob. The term replacement theology indicates that the church has overtaken the place of Israel and was formulated by dispensationalists in order to discredit reformed/covenant theology. The term was coined by dispensationalists in an effort to criticize reformed/covenant theology. Sizer explains that the replacement theology is a favorite ‘straw man’ of Christian Zionists. [2] A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent’s argument, while actually refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent. Warner states the following in his conclusion in Replacement Theology,

In conclusion, there is no such thing as “Replacement Theology.” The Gentiles have been grafted in to Israel, and now they are sharers together in the promises of God in Jesus Christ. To propagate this notion of the Church replacing Israel is divisive. It necessitates an on-going pejorative use of the term “Replacement Theology.” This term should be redacted from Christian discourse. Using this device to portray other Christians as anti-Semitic is unfair, and also should find cessation.[3]

In actuality, the concept of ‘replacement’ is found in each Abrahamic religion: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. More specifically, it is the concept of the replacement sacrifices. Although this concept is a part of each religion, a closer look will reveal how Judaism’s replacement sacrifice is merely a shadow and Islam’s replacement sacrifice just an imitation of Judaism’s shadow. It is only in Christianity where the reality (true nature) of the replacement sacrifice is revealed in Jesus Christ, along with the church community who has been redeemed through His blood. Therefore, reformed/covenant theology would technically be the reality theology,’ the exact opposite of the inaccurately coined, ‘replacement theology.’

After God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as an offering on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem, He granted Abraham a replacement sacrifice shortly before Abraham followed through. The ram caught by its horns (Gen 22:13) took the place of Isaac and spared his life. Subsequently, Abraham named the location ‘The Lord will Provide (Gen 22:14).’ Later in history, Solomon built the temple / house of God on Mt. Moriah, a place the Lord had prepared to build His temple during the time of Solomon’s father, David (II Chronicles 3:10). Before the house of God was built, the house of David was founded first. The house of David represents the Kingdom of Judah, where the throne of David and his descendants can be found. (Psalms 122:5). Furthermore, there is a precedent in Israel that is based on the two houses of Jerusalem (Psalms 122:4). It is a tri-annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Sukkoth. In the house of David, they pledged an oath of obedience to the authority of the kingdom and provided an offering as a replacement sacrifice in the house of God.
With the destruction of the two houses of Jerusalem, David’s Palace and God’s house (the temple), the nation of Israel was destroyed in 586 BC. Today, the Wailing Wall located on the west side of Jerusalem’s temple grounds is all that remains. Consequently, the precedents of Jerusalem are being impeded. The only one who can restore Israel and continue its precedents is the Messiah of Eschatology. When the two destroyed houses of Jerusalem are restored by the Messiah, (1) the house of David will become the Messianic Kingdom and (2) the House of God (temple) will become the Messianic Temple. According to Judaism, because the Messiah (Christ) has not come, the House of David / Messianic Kingdom and the House of God / Messianic Temple has not been rebuilt yet. In other words, those who are part of Judaism do not have an altar or a temple to offer their replacement sacrifices. Instead, the grounds where they plan to rebuild their temple are occupied by the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic mosque. Additionally, according to Jewish folklore, the rock placed inside the Dome is also the same rock where Abraham sacrificed the replacement offering in place of Isaac.

There are two Islamic mosques in Jerusalem’s temple grounds, one being the Dome of the Rock and the other being the Al Aqsa Mosque. Similar to other typical mosques, there is a large carpet covering the floors of the Al Aqsa mosque for prayer. However, unlike the Al Aqsa and standard mosques, the Dome of the Rock simply has a rock inside. In other words, this building is not necessarily a mosque, but rather a shrine dedicated to a rock. Jews believe that the rock is where Abraham offered the ram as a replacement sacrifice. Muslims, on the other hand, believe it to be associated with two journeys taken place in Muhammad’s vision he had back in Mecca. (1) Al-Isra’ is a journey from Mecca all the way to the rock in Jerusalem (Qur’an 17:1). At Muhammad’s arrival, multiple prophets came down from heaven to greet him and worship Allah together. (2) Al Mi’raj is a journey from the rock up to the heavens (Qur’an 53:8-15). According to Islam, the two following journeys of Muhammad confirmed him as the greatest Messenger, which became the foundation of Islam’s confession of faith, the Shahadah: “There is no other god but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger.”
Roughly two years prior to the 9/11 terrorist attack, Osama Bin Laden and five of his associates announced an important Fatwa regarding the Al Aqsa Mosque standing on the old temple grounds of Jerusalem. The main message was basically a Jihad proclamation to defend and liberate the Al Aqsa mosque.[4] The Al Aqsa mosque in reference to both the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock located in Jerusalem’s holy grounds (Qur’an 17:1) With the rock playing a critical role in the founding of Islam, they were determined to not let it become an altar for Jews to offer their replacement sacrifices.
In the Qur’an, the location of Abraham’s offering did not take place on Mt. Moriah, but in Mecca in the Arabian Peninsula. Abraham in the Qur’an also had to almost give up his son as a sacrifice, referred to as ‘a great sacrifice’ (Qur’an 37:107). The Qur’an does not go into detail about the incident, but there is an old Arabic folklore that does. It states that a ram was fattened for forty autumns and was hastily transported by an angel to Abraham in Mecca. Due to the speed at which the ram was travelling, its wool came off in process, creating the Milky Way that shines above the Arabian Peninsula.
To this day, Muslims have their own way of offering replacement sacrifices in the Haram Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This is known as ‘Eid al-Adha, being Islam’s greatest religious holiday. This religious ceremony and those who take part in it are called ‘Hajj’ in Arabic. The Hajj prayers are supposedly one hundred thousand times more effective than praying anywhere else in the world. Hajj is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and over 250,000 Hajis from all over the world carry out their pilgrimage to the Haram Mosque every year. They also offer up replacement sacrifices, just as Muhammad did, following the footsteps of Abraham. However, Qur’an does not acknowledge the concept of transfer of sins through a replacement sacrifice. The Qur’an repeats in five passages, “No one laden with burdens can bear another’s burden (Qur’an 6:614; 7:15; 35:18; 39:7; 53:38-42),” and denies the principle of a sinner transferring his sins to an offering. Simply put, Islam does not recognize Jesus Christ as the true replacement sacrifice, the son of God who died for the atonement and covenant of his people.

According to the New Testament, the replacement sacrifice that took Isaac’s place was more of a shadow; the reality of the shadow was the true descendant of Abraham, Jesus Christ.[5] Through his death on the cross, Jesus became the true sacrifice of the countless replacement offerings that had been sacrificed since Abraham, found in Hebrews & Colossians:

They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven… (Hebrews 8:5)
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves… (Hebrews 10:1)
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:16,17)

The replacement sacrifice, the temple for offerings, religious holidays, the new moon celebration and the Sabbath, representing the traditions of the Old Testament and Mosaic Law, are all but just a shadow and a remnant of the past. The true identity behind this shadow is none other than Jesus Christ, who came down from Heaven. Judaism, being solely based on the Old Testament is merely a shadow, compared to Jesus Christ who fulfilled both the Old and New Testament as the reality. Despite the coming of Jesus Christ, Paul’s adversaries continued to obsess over shadow of the past and persecuting him and criticizing his gospel (Col 2:16-17). The first one to identify Jesus as the reality was not one of his twelve disciples or Paul, but John the Baptist. In John 1:29, when John saw Jesus coming towards him, he announced, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
When did John the Baptist declare this affirmation? This must have taken place shortly after Jesus spent forty days for fasting and prayer in the wilderness. They first met when John baptized Jesus and then met again after Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. During their first encounter, John was not able to introduce Jesus to his own disciples; Jesus was baptized with the Holy Spirit and was sent to the wilderness soon after (Mark 1:12). John was unable to meet up with Jesus during his time out there, while the devil came to him and tempted him and angels attended to him, but Jesus came back to see John after his trial. What was the reason behind this? It was so that Jesus could recruit some of John’s disciples as his own, which John was fully aware of. The forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness was also a time for John to prepare for a transfer or farewell ceremony in order to send his disciples to Jesus. The passage of John 1:29 – 34 is a summary of John’s message during this event:
Let us take a closer look at God’s command and promise given to John the Baptist. God commanded John to baptize with water (John 1:33a). Then what was God’s promise for John (John 1:33)? The Messiah, the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, will come to John in order to be baptized with water, and the Spirit will visibly come down on him and God would visibly send the Spirit down onto him to distinguish him as the Messiah. According to the synoptic gospels, God’s promise was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus as a dove (Matt 3:1: Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22). Taking Luke 1:39-56 into consideration, it can be assumed that John the Baptist expected that the Messiah, who was baptized with the Holy Spirit, was none other than Jesus of Nazareth. One would assume John was eagerly waiting to fulfill God’s promise by baptizing Jesus. However, Matthew 3:14 reveals the contrary. John insists, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John did not follow through with God’s command or plan and instead acted as if he had forgotten about the promise of God and fulfill it. What could be the reason behind this?
Until that time, John had been baptizing people with water, signifying the repentance of sinners. He would openly preach, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven has come near,” and carry out baptisms of repentance (Matthew 3:2). He could not make himself baptize Jesus; he was without sin and the Son of God, who was born by virgin birth. Regardless, Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness,” and convinced John to baptize Him with water (Matthew 3:15). John reluctantly complied. At that moment, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove and God’s message was proclaimed, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased (Matthew 3:16,17).”
This declaration was a combined reference to the verses Psalms 2:7, “You are my son…” and Isaiah 42:1, “… in whom I delight…” Psalms 2 is an enthronement poem written by David for his descendants. When David’s descendants are enthroned, a person opens the Old Testament scroll and reads Psalms 2. However, when Jesus was enthroned, God the Holy Spirit personally descended from the heavens and proclaimed that Jesus of Nazareth, the spotlight of the enthronement, is His own son. Therefore the baptism of Jesus was His enthronement ceremony as a king to the messianic kingdom. In addition, John the Baptist realized that Jesus was the Messiah who was to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 42, by receiving the baptism of repentance to carry the sins of his kingdom’s people. In other words, He also discovered that the baptism of Jesus was not only his enthronement, but also a transferring of sins for Jesus to carry the sins of the world. Finally, John affirmed to his disciples “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is a clear indication of Jesus becoming the true sacrifice of the replacements sacrifices that have been offered since the time of Abraham. In addition, his resurrection, ascension, and sitting on the heavenly thrones are clear evidence that His enthronement, which began with His baptism, was completed as Jesus became the King of the Messianic Kingdom.[6] The establishment of the church community on the Pentecost through the coming of the Holy Spirit confirms that the church community is also the reality along with Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ being revealed as the reality of the replacement sacrifices solidifies that the church community that has been redeemed by his blood is also the reality. That is why the church community celebrates communion, which has been claimed by Jesus as part of the new covenant. It commemorates the flesh and blood Jesus bled for the church community with bread and wine. This reveals that the replacement sacrifice and three religious holidays of Judaism are nothing more than just a shadow and that Jesus Christ is the reality. Reformed/covenant theology interprets that the old covenant is replaced with the new covenant, contrary to the dispensationalists who disparage this interpretation for replacing Israel with the church. Hebrews 8:13 states, “By calling this covenant ‘new’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.”[7] From this perspective, the church community of Jesus Christ supersedes the old Jewish communities due to the fact that the New Testament was written on the basis that Jesus Christ has fulfilled, excelled, and superseded the Old Testament.
Dispensationalists often quote Revelation 7:1-8 to support their argument that the Biblical prophecies are in reference to Jacob’s descendants. The twelve descendants of Jacob will each lead a tribe of 12,000 who are sealed by God, amounting to the total number of 144,000. According to dispensationalists, the 144,000 are all direct descendants of Jacob. Reformed/covenant theology believes that they are the representatives of the church community of Jesus Christ who have been called as spiritual soldiers of the earth. Just like the Israelites during the Exodus who counted their numbers with men over the age of 20 who had been called as soldiers of the army (Numbers 1, 26), their place is not the heavens but the earth (Revelation 7:1). According to an angel, the ones with a seal on their foreheads are servants of God (Rev 7:2-4). These servants of God are those who belong to all the churches of Jesus Christ, represented by the seven churches of Asia Minor, which is revealed as recipients of the revelation (Rev 1:1). The number 144,000 here is not only a representation number, but also a symbolic and complete number. If they try to literally interpret the book of Revelation, they are greatly deviating from the author’s intention. This goes the same for those who interpret the leaders of the twelve tribes as the bloodline descendants of Jacob. They are actually the soldiers of the church community of Jesus Christ who endure the spiritual battle on earth. Then what is the total number of God’s spiritual soldiers that are saved who are represented by the 144,000? The total number is revealed in Rev 7:9.

There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Rev 7:9).

Bauckham explains that the role of Rev 7:9 is to reinterpret Rev 7:1-8.[8] If we take a look at the following explanation of Pilchan Lee, we can see how incorrect it is for dispensationalists to criticize reformed/covenant theology as replacement theology.

Revelations 7:9 alludes to the fact that the church community of God is not overtaking the place of Israel, but is eradicating boundaries and differences, opening up the new covenant to every nation, tribe, people, and language. However, the previous verses 1-8 cause a juxtaposition with the verses that follows it. The number 144,000 in Rev 7:1-8 makes another appearance in Rev 14:1-5. They are introduced as victors of the beast, introduced in chapter 13. However, they are not on earth but in Mt. Zion of the heavens with the Lamb of Jesus Christ (Rev 14:1). It can be speculated that Mt. Zion is not on earth but in the heavens, because they are singing a new song before the four living creatures and the elders (Rev 14:3). Expressing the ‘heavens’ as ‘Mt. Zion’ is an Old Testament concept of succession, for ‘Mt. Zion’ of the Old Testament has been regarded with Heavenly attributes. The 144,000 introduced twice in Rev Chapter 7 and 14 is a representation and symbolism of the complete number of the countless great multitudes. In other words, the 144,000 mentioned in Rev 7:1-8 and ‘the great multitude that no one could count’ in Rev 7:9-17 was consolidated and referred to as the 144,000 in Rev 14:1-4. The same consolidation takes place on the basis of the church regarding the trumpets in chapter 8-9, the spiritual battle between the church and the dragon in chapter 10-12, and the church which stands up to the two Beasts in chapter 13.[9]

According to the book of John, during his first miracle performance (John 2:4) and last public appearance on the cross (John 19:26), he calls his mother ‘woman’ and himself ‘the offspring of the woman’ both times, which is known from primitive Gospel (Gen 3:15).[10] The coming of Jesus was not only for the bloodline of Jacob, but for all the descendants of Adam, especially for the church community that was redeemed by His blood. When the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 1:4, “for he chose ‘us’ in him before the creation,” the term ‘us’ is the church of Jesus Christ, represented by the Apostle Paul himself and the church of Ephesus. In addition, looking through Paul’s message “now, through the church…according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord…” (Eph 3:10-11), it is for certain that the church of Jesus Christ was prepared by God in the eternal past.
The dichotomous question of who the biblical prophecies are referring to, “Israel or the community” is the same question as “Is it the bloodline of Jacob, or the blood of Jesus?” Furthermore, it is also equivalent to “The Wailing Wall, or the church (community)”, “The rock/altar of the Jerusalem temple grounds, or Jesus Christ/sacrifice?” “The old walls of the in-laws or the new walls of the in-laws?” What does this all mean? There is a Korean proverb that goes, “If the wife is beautiful, one will bow down to even the wall of the in-laws’ house. Now let’s say the in-laws moved to a different house, we can presume that the son-in-law would be bowing down to the wall at the new house. The son-in-law would have been in serious denial to refuse to bow at the new house and stubbornly continue to bow at the old one. Unfortunately, there are those like the son-in-law in denial who continue to bow down to the old house. These would be the Jews and dispensationalist Christians. In other words, the Wailing Wall in the Jerusalem temple grounds is only one of the walls of the old in-laws’ house, where Islam now resides. What once was the temple ground for Jews has now been occupied by the Muslims, along with its rock in the Dome of Rock located on the temple grounds of Jerusalem.
Muslims believe the rock has a significant role to the birth of Islam and its confession, “There is no other god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.” On the other hand, Jews believe that the rock was the altar Abraham attempted to sacrifice Isaac and instead offered the ram as a replacement sacrifice. Finally, as Jesus Christ carried the sins of the world by becoming the Lamb of God and dying on the cross, he became the only true sacrifice in place of all replacement sacrifices. Jesus is not only the reality of the replacement sacrifice, but also the true temple. His church community is also the temple. The church community is the Messianic Kingdom, because Jesus was enthroned as the King of the Messianic Kingdom when he first came to Earth. Therefore, the reconstruction of the two destroyed houses of Israel/restoration of Israel: (1) the house of David and (2) the house of Jehovah God (the temple), has in fact already begun with the first coming of Jesus and will be complete when He returns. In other words, the two houses have combined as one, for it is Jesus Christ alone who is the owner of both houses. The house is the church community which has been redeemed through the blood of Christ. Additionally, the church community of Jesus Christ is his bride, and New Jerusalem.

Dispensationalists claim that the biblical prophecies are in reference to the bloodline of Jacob/Israel, the grandson of Abraham. Therefore, they denigrate reformed/covenant theology for supporting a replacement theology that believes the church community, redeemed by the blood of Christ, is the truth behind Biblical prophecies. However, the concept of ‘replacement’ is shared by all three Abrahamic religions. To be more specific, it is a ‘replacement sacrifice’. Although Judaism identifies the ram caught in its horns as the replacement sacrifice. However, it was no more than a shadow, and the true identity of the shadow is never revealed. Islam provides no further explanation or identification either, merely imitating the shadow Judaism examines. According to Christianity based on reformed/covenant theology, Jesus Christ is the reality of the replacement sacrifice, along with the church community that was redeemed by his blood. Therefore, it is more appropriate to call reformed/covenant theology as ‘reality theology’ instead of ‘replacement theology’. Unfortunately, Judaism does not know of Jesus Christ and his church as the reality and still holds on to the shadow. More regrettably, despite dispensationalist Christianity’s faith in Jesus Christ, it still holds on to the shadow alongside Judaism and is caught up in the confrontation between Judaism and Islam. In fact, it only antagonizes more Muslims and increases the tension in the area by siding with the Jews. What is even more unfortunate is that some Arab evangelical church leaders are being branded as advocates of deeply rooted dispensationalist theology of Zionist Christians. If a church community based on reformed/covenant theology is the reality, we can assume that Jerusalem-centered dispensationalist Christianity is a mix of reality and shadow. On the other hand, Islam imitates Judaism’s shadow, with its biggest holiday being an imitation of Judaism’s three religious holidays. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).”

*This paper was a part(p.128 – p.145) of 2016 Korea Missions Quarterly.


[1] Craig A. Blaising, “The Future of Israel as a Theological Question,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 44:3 (2001): 435.
[2] Stephen Sizer, Zion’s Christian Soldier? (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008), 16.
[3] Brian D. Warner Brian is the lead teaching pastor at Fairport Community Baptist Church (
[5] O. Palmer Robertson, The Israel of God, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey, P&R, 2000), 4.
[6] John H.N. Chung, Islam and the Issue of Messianic Kingdom, (Seoul: CLC, 2009). 155-175.
[7] Stephen Sizer, 16,37,125,159.
[8] Richard Bauckham, The Climax of Revelation, (Cambridge, CPY, 1993), 225.
[9] Pilchan Lee, I will come soon, (Seoul, Iresewon, 2006), 607.
[10]  Goredon J. Wehnahm, Genesis 1-15, (Wacko, Texas, WBC, 1987), 81

Hyung Nam Chung
Dr. Chung belongs to Global Mission Society.He served the Iraqi Christian Refugee Worship Communities of Jordan Evangelical Churches since 1994. He was a lecuturer of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary. He received his DMin. from Fuller Theological Seminary. He published a book in Korean entitled: “Islam and the Issue of the Messianic Kingdom”.

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