Hank Hanegraaff’s Conference On Preterism And Replacement Theology
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Hank Hanegraaff is often heard quoting the phrase “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things charity.” I wonder, though, where is the charity and liberty of which he speaks in his own testimony and teaching?
I have been interested in Hanegraaff and his teachings since attending one of his conferences. I knew, though he is very ambiguous when it comes to actual details in his eschatological viewpoints, it was sure to be an interesting evening. When I left the conference, I was completely convinced that Hanegraaff obviously does not practice what he teaches in regards to humility, charity, or biblical literacy.
However, I refuse to resort to the kind of demeaning rhetoric that he uses when attempting to make his point. More time was spent belittling dispensationalism at the conference and Hank’s beliefs concerning the nation of Israel than was spent asserting the validity of his own beliefs of God’s total rejection of Israel. The rants that were heard that night had little if anything to do with his proving his questionable “Exegetical Eschatology” which he teaches. His seminar was filled with juvenile name calling and misinformation of dispensational teachers and their teachings. Instead, I will focus on the wayward theology that is being propagated as truth by Hanegraaff and his staff, Replacement Theology.
You do not have to listen to many teachers very long before you are able to determine whether or not they hold to Replacement Theology. In brief, Replacement Theology is the belief that the Church has replaced Israel in every blessing. However, one should point out that those who hold to this erroneous view only attribute Israel’s blessings to the Church, they shy away from any judgements. Replacement Theology is a shining example of poor Biblical interpretation.
In my years at biblical colleges and universities, I have heard a range of emotion when the topic of Israel would arise in a discussion. Most often when the topic came up, it was met by either the extreme of anti-Semitism or love. Hardly anyone is indifferent when Israel is mentioned. That being said, I must also mention that while I was at this conference, when Replacement Theology was being taught, I looked around the room and saw what looked like a sea of heads nodding in agreement as if they were choreographed. I cannot say I was surprised at the realization. Rather, I was saddened by the welcome acceptance of a belief that is easily refuted by proper interpretation of Scripture.
By proper interpretation, I mean the implementation of the Literal-Grammatical-Historical method. To interpret Scripture literally is not to be committed to a “wooden literalism,” nor to a “letterism,” nor to a neglect of the nuances that defy any “mechanical” understanding of the language. Rather, it is to commit oneself to a starting point, and that starting point is to understand a document the best one can in the context of the normal, usual, customary traditional range of designation which includes “facet” understanding.
Thus, a normal or literal reading of Scripture will take into account figures of speech and symbolism. We are able to determine whether or not the passage that we are reading should be taken at face value or if it contains symbolism or figures of speech by asking ourselves three easy questions. The first question we need to ask is if the passage harmonizes with the flow of Scripture and the context. Next, we should determine whether or not it harmonizes with the whole of Scripture. Third, we must discover when the words in the passage are taken literally if they are at variance with the nature of the subject discussed in the passage. These questions will allow the careful student to determine if the passage should be read in a figurative manner or in a nonfigurative manner. There are at least three reasons why a literal hermeneutic should be considered the proper approach. The first reason being the nature of language itself. The logical purpose of language is to enable communication effectively. Words have meaning, and the hearer should be able to clearly understand them. When Jesus spoke to the apostles, He expected them to understand. Even when He spoke in parables, the stories were not intended to be riddles. Jesus explained most of the parables that He spoke, and all had a literal meaning behind them. The second reason is the historical fulfillment of prophecy. Every prophecy thus far has been fulfilled literally, and it makes no sense to suddenly conclude that the remaining prophecies should now have an allegorical fulfillment. To spiritualize unfulfilled prophecy is to shift the pattern of prophetic fulfillment which would be unnecessary and completely illogical. Third, when one is given the opportunity to interpret the Bible without a solid framework of guidelines, a large opening is created for the unconstrained imagination which can pave the way for all kinds of dangers.
When we approach the Bible with this logical method of interpretation, we clearly must adhere to a distinction between Israel and the Church. There are several verses in Scripture that must be manipulated or simply avoided when one tries to construct Replacement Theology. It is quite amazing to me that many people believe that the Church is Israel’s replacement when we have such obvious verses that state otherwise.
In Psalm 137:5 we read: If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill.
Ezekiel 36:10 states: I will multiply men on you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities will be inhabited and the waste places will be rebuilt.
Not only couldn’t this verse have already happened like many preterist teachings would claim, but moreover, this verse could not be talking about the church, because the church is not found in the Old Testament. Furthermore, the church has never had a city that needed to be rebuilt!
Thus, this verse is a foreshadowing of Israel in the future Messianic Kingdom. In Ezekiel 36:24 we read: For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Again, this is speaking of the re-gathering of the nation Israel from other lands back to their Promised Land. Even today, after the establishment of modern Israel in 1948, we are seeing this begin though total fulfillment will not take place until the future Messianic Kingdom. This verse could not refer to the church, because we were never in the Promised Land in the first place. Logically, we cannot be brought back to a place we were never in to begin with! There are literally dozens of verses that enforce Israel as being distinct from the Church; the ones mentioned are merely quick examples.
It is true that many teachers who hold to the belief that the Church replaced Israel will find ways of manipulating the Old Testament text by using extreme forms of allegorical methods. But when focusing entirely on the New Testament he or she would have to use questionable interpretational methods in order to get around the clear distinction between Israel and the church.
For instance, in Romans 11:1-2 the Bible says, I say then, God has not rejected His people has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2. God has not rejected His whom He foreknew…
When one reads these verses it is all but impossible to honestly say that Paul is not speaking of national Israel. We also read here that God chose them, and not only that, He foreknew them. To say that God foreknew Israel is also to understand that He foreknew their disobedience before making His eternal Covenant with them as a distinct people group. Israel rejected Jesus, but He never rejected them, for we read in Romans 11:29: for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. In other words, God’s election of Israel is like His election of individual believers– it is unchanging and unconditional.
I have realized in my studies that this teaching of Replacement Theology does much harm to the church, because it adds to the anti-Israeli sentiment that seems to be an undercurrent in many mainstream churches today. That night at the conference as I sat there listening to speakers and people in the audience whisper statements lauding Hank and his teachings, I was so saddened by the lengths to which we have gone in the Body of Christ to cast aside His chosen people.
It all culminated to a head when Hanegraaff stated with authority that Israel was the Harlot of Revelation, particularly Jerusalem. I was taken aback and angered at this deceptive statement. I will close by refuting this preposterous claim that was thrust upon us as if it were sound doctrine.
In Revelation 17 we see a Harlot. In verse 9 we read: Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. I have studied the Bible for years and never have I come to the conclusion that the Harlot was Israel. Many well respected biblical scholars believe that the seven mountains which are mentioned in this verse refer to the seven hills that surrounded Rome. Others teach that the seven mountains represent the seven kings and their kingdoms that are mentioned. Contextually, the Harlot is the deceptive system that is woven across the planet during the Tribulation period just prior to the Second Coming of Jesus.
It is obvious to any thinking Christian that Hanegraaff’s “Exegetical Eschatology” is nothing more than the use of his presuppositions to cloud the natural meaning of the holy Scriptures. If I were a teacher in Hank’s position, I believe I would have trouble sleeping at night doing such a thing to Scripture interpretation.
LTW Research Team