I was raised in a militantly Amillennial church. By that I mean that you could be disfellowshipped from the church for having any other prophetic viewpoint.
We seldom ever heard any preaching about end time Bible prophecy. The classic sermon within our denomination was one that boldly stated, "There is not one verse in the Bible that even implies that Jesus will ever put His feet on this earth again!"
So, you can imagine how shocked I was at age 12 when I was thumbing though the Bible and discovered Zechariah 14. It was very simple to understand. It said that the Messiah would return to the Mount of Olives, that the mount would split in half when His feet touched it, that He would speak a supernatural word that would destroy all the armies around Jerusalem, and that on that day He would become "king over all the earth."
I had always been taught that the Bible meant what it said, so I found this passage to be very confusing, since my pastor had taught that Jesus was never returning to this earth. So, I decided to confront my pastor with it, and I did so in fear and trembling.
I'll never forget that encounter. I reminded him of what he had been teaching, and then I asked him to tell me the meaning of Zechariah 14:1-9. He pulled out his Bible and read the passage and then seemed to sit there and study it quietly for an eternity. Finally, he looked up, pointed his finger in my face, and said, "Son, I don't know what this passage means, but I can guarantee you one thing — it doesn't mean what it says!"
Well, that was hard for me to swallow. Again, I had been taught that the Bible meant what it said. And being a stubborn Irishman, I decided to seek other opinions. One preacher explained to me that all Old Testament prophecies had been fulfilled. "I have no idea when or where this prophecy was fulfilled," he said, "but I can guarantee you one thing, it has been fulfilled, because all the prophecies in the Old Testament were fulfilled in Jesus."
When I was about 18 years old, a preacher came to town who was a graduate of a seminary. He repeated the same old claim about there not being a single verse in the Bible that implies that Jesus will ever put His feet on this earth again. After his sermon, I confronted him with Zechariah 14. He didn't even blink. He knew the passage by heart. He just blurted out, "Apocalyptic!" I had no idea what he was talking about. I didn't know if that was a theory or a disease. But he was a seminary graduate, so I accepted his explanation.
When I started preaching in my early 20s, I would confidently proclaim that Jesus was never going to put His foot on this earth again. Once, a little old lady in tennis shoes came up to me afterwards and asked, "What about Zechariah 14?" I snapped, "Apocalyptic!" It scared her to death, and she turned and ran. I didn't know what I was talking about, and neither did she.
I didn't realize it at the time, but I had been introduced to the allegorical interpretation of Scripture. The official position of my church was that everything in the Bible means exactly what it says unless it is talking about the Second Coming of Jesus, in which case it never means what it says!
Discovery of Replacement Theology and Deliverance From It
I was also introduced to Replacement Theology, although no one in our denomination really knew what that was. You will find it hard to believe how I was confronted with this unbiblical concept. I was taught that it was sinful to pray the Lord's prayer! When I asked why, I was told, "The Lord's prayer is irrelevant to modern day Christians because it has already been answered. The prayer makes the plea, 'Thy kingdom come,' and the kingdom has already come in the form of the Church."
Another way in which I was subjected to the attitude of Replacement Theology was through the teaching that all of the Old Testament had been nailed to the Cross and was therefore irrelevant to Christianity. We called ourselves "A New Testament Church," and when the minister told us to be sure and bring our Bibles to church, we knew he meant our New Testaments. Many of us did not even own a complete Bible.
The beginning of my liberation from these viewpoints occurred when I was about 30 years old. I started reading the Minor Prophets, and I was captivated by them. Their messages seemed so relevant to modern day problems. And, once again, it was the book of Zechariah that proved to be my turning point. After reading it through from start to finish for the first time in my life, I was impacted by the fact that it is full of Messianic prophecies about the First Coming, and that every one of them meant what they said. It suddenly dawned on me that if the First Coming prophecies in this "apocalyptic" book meant what they said, then the Second Coming prophecies must mean what they say.
My study of Bible prophecy since that time has convinced me that the twisting of scriptures through spiritualization is a terrible abuse of God's Word. It has led Christians to reject the Genesis account of creation as well as the promises of God for the future.
From the beginning to the end of the Bible we need to interpret God's Word for its plain sense meaning. The failure to do so will produce tragic doctrines like Replacement Theology.
In the second part of this study on how Replacement Theology has resulted in the historical abuse of the Jews by the Church, we'll get to the root of the problem.