John the Baptist was and yet was not Elijah

Paul taught Timothy how to present the Truth. We aim to present this study with that same attitude.

2 Timothy 2:24

And the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient

 

 

The link between John the Baptist and Elijah is rather puzzling.

Jesus said that John the Baptist was Elijah.

John said he was not.   So how do we reconcile these statements?

JOHN 1:19

And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

21     And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not.

Elias is the Greek spelling of the Hebrew name Elijah.

But when Jesus spoke about John the Baptist, He said

MATTHEW 11 :14

And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.

An unusual point, that most people miss, is that two Scriptures that refer to John the Baptist are only partially fulfilled by him. So keep in mind that these Scriptures can only be fully fulfilled if they refer to two prophets, John the Baptist and someone else who is to come along later.

The first of these two Scriptures is

MALACHI 4:4

Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.

5     Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

The great and dreadful day of the Lord is the Tribulation time. So this Elijah does not refer to the Jewish prophet Elijah that accompanies Moses to turn the 144 000 Jews to Christ during the Tribulation.

So Elijah must come before the Tribulation starts. John the Baptist came 2 000 years before the Tribulation. That is a very long time indeed if John is the only Elijah being referred to. But if there is another Elijah that is needed to completely fulfill the prophecy, then he must also come before the Tribulation. But that is the time when God is still dealing with the Gentiles. Thus it seems that he must be a Gentile prophet.

MALACHI 4 :6

And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

This Elijah does refer to John the Baptist. But his ministry is puzzling. John must turn the unbelieving generation of the Jewish fathers who followed the Law to the younger generation of their children who had the Truth, namely Jesus and His disciples.

Soon after the time that he had pointed out Jesus,  John was put in prison. It would be pointless for him to try to turn Jesus and His disciples to the beliefs of the Jewish fathers who kept the law. Firstly, no-one can offer Jesus advice or direction. He is perfect in His knowledge. Secondly, the Jewish fathers had it all wrong and endlessly opposed Jesus until they killed Him. Why should Jesus turn to them? He was Truth, they were error.

This Scripture refers to John the Baptist.

LUKE 1:17

And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

This Scripture makes it clear that John the Baptist only fulfilled the first part of the prophecy. He rebuked the disobedient Jewish leaders and elders and tried to turn them to the wisdom of Jesus and His disciples (the younger generation) who would do the preaching once Jesus left the scene.

He did not fulfill the part where it says

MALACHI 4 :6 

...“and (turn) the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse”.

A curse lingers. Like the radioactivity that stays behind when an atomic bomb explodes. Atomic bombs and hydrogen bombs are a preview of the horror of the Tribulation time where millions will simply be atomic fodder.

If it is true that another  prophet must come before this ghastly Tribulation starts, then what will be his ministry?

We cannot just have a prophet pitching up and doing is own thing.

What is it that God wants him to do? He must turn the children to their fathers.

What does this mean?

I JOHN 2:13

I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.

The apostle John is writing to the Christians who will span 2 000 years of church history. The first believers are called fathers. They are the disciples and the early church that knew Jesus.

The disciples at first were called children as they were the younger generation compared to the older generation of Jewish leaders. Then the disciples became the leaders of the church and as such they wrote the New Testament and lived out the Book of Acts, making them the fathers of Christianity. John the Baptist turned the Jewish fathers to their children, the disciples of Jesus. These disciples then grew to become the fathers of the church. (Children grow up and become fathers).  The church then lost direction in the Dark Ages but a younger generation of  men, the great reformers like Luther and Wesley, ripped the church out of darkness and overcame the Roman Catholic stranglehold on the people. Finally at the end, the last generation of little children (which are you and me) need to understand the truth about the Godhead so that they know that Jesus Christ had the Fullness of the Godhead (which is God the Father) dwelling in Him.

It is this final generation of little children that Elijah must turn back to the doctrines of the early church fathers. His ministry is to lead us back to the Bible truths of the New Testament. Just like children are taught by their fathers, so the end time Christians must learn from the apostolic fathers who wrote the New Testament.

Little children do not understand their complex world and they are hungry to have some direction from their parents. So end-time Christians should be hungry to hear from the New Testament which our Christian fathers wrote. Going back to the New Testament gives us a direction and purpose. We know what to aim for. The alternative is our spectrum of many different churches all following their leaders in a maze of different directions. Each one believing that they are right, yet suffering from an emptiness of Scripture.

An end-time prophet is not someone that we need to follow in everything he says. We only follow what he says when he points us back to the Bible. Then it is the Bible that we follow, not the prophet. If this prophet tells us his life story or tells us about his hunting exploits, then all of that is not really relevant. You can believe it or ignore it or find fault with it. It is not part of his Scriptural ministry. God will judge him by how effectively he turned us back to believing the Bible. Other issues are not part of God’s Big Picture which is the Spiritual wave that sweeps through our modern times. Being part of this unseen wave is all that counts.

1 JOHN 2 :13

I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father

The end-time Elijah must finish the mystery of God by making it clear to us who the Father is. He must ensure that he dismantles the opinions of the churches’  traditions and shows us what the early church believed. We must focus on returning to the beliefs of the early church and not speculating on issues that they did not believe.

The early church of the New Testament did not claim that Jesus had come. They did not claim to know what the 7 Thunders said. They did not know the new Name of Jesus. They did not believe that mercy was over. They did not believe that a big supernatural cloud was the coming of the Lord. So we should also not believe these ideas.

Once the New Testament was written, they did not believe that any man could contradict Scripture or claim that there was a mistake in the Bible. Nor did they regard any man’s quotes as being equal to Scripture or being above the written statements of the Bible.

If we make any mistakes like these, it simply means that we have missed the purpose for which God promised to send Elijah.

His ministry has two simple thrusts about which we must agree with him:

 

A second reference to John the Baptist again leaves us with the puzzling thought that he could not fulfill the entire Scripture.

MATTHEW 17:10

And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?

11     And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.

12     But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.

13     Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

So John had come  (“is come already” is past tense).  That part of the prophecy was obviously fulfilled. John had come and been killed.

But notice verse 11 : Elias truly shall first come (“shall” is referring to a future event) and “restore all things”.

Now Jesus begins to talk about the future. John was already dead.

John did not restore anything.

He came to introduce Messiah. This had never happened before.

He introduced Israel to water baptism. They had never done that before.

John’s ministry was the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was not a restoration as the Jews had never had the Gospel before.

MARK 1:1

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;

2   As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

3   The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

4   John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

So who is the Elijah that restores all things?

Jesus said that he shall come in the future.

Something can only be restored if it has first been lost or damaged.

During the Dark Ages Christianity fell into an awful state of pagan superstitions and unscriptural  opinions. Then Luther restored Justification by Faith. Wesley restored Holiness and Outreach to the lost. Pentecost restored the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.

But many mysteries remained that the reformers were unable to explain. Ask Christians what original sin was and you get vague answers like "They were disobedient", which tells us nothing.

Ask Christians what the Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is and they are baffled, as they cannot find one Name for three Persons.

When a woman was taken in adultery, Jesus twice wrote in the sand. Why? Most Christians just shrug their shoulders. The writing in the sand means nothing to them. They simply cannot understand it.

So we need someone to fully restore us back to all the truths of the Bible that we need to know in order to prepare for the Coming of the Lord.

Once again, the ministry of Elijah is based on restoring us back to the beliefs of the New Testament that were held by Christians in the first church age.

That is the only criterion by which we can judge him.

If he says anything different to the New Testament then ignore that statement. But where he reveals what the Scripture says on a topic, then listen to him.

His primary ministry is to restore us back to the early church because that is what the prophecy said. His ministry is not dependent on his ability to predict future events. He may or may not do that. But that is a secondary issue.

If he restores us back to the New Testament then God will judge his ministry to have been a success, irrespective of any other mistakes that he may or may not make.

JOHN 1:19

And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

20     And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

21     And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

So why did John deny being the Elijah of Malachi 4 :5?

Simply because that prophecy referred to two prophets and as such he could not fulfill it all.

MALACHI 4 :5  

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

6     And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

The Jews did not grasp the mystery that this Elijah had to come twice.

JOHN 1:19

And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

23     He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

John justified his ministry by quoting the Scripture from Isaiah that referred to himself.

JOHN 5:31

If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.

When the Bible speaks of a prophet, then that is a second witness that tells us the true meaning of his ministry. What a prophet says about himself is just one witness. Be careful about that information. But what the Bible says about that prophet is a second witness, and thus what the Bible says is the real truth.

John, who had a remarkable life story in terms of dedication to God as he received the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb, left no record of his life story.

A prophet’s real ministry does not have to include his life story.

John's ministry was to prepare the way for Jesus. Talking about himself and his interests and opinions on other topics was not his prophetic ministry.

The first Elijah arrived unannounced, from the remote little  village of Tishbe, which some claim is in the mountains of Gilead on the other side of Jordan. Most of us have never heard of Tishbe. So our lack of knowledge of Elijah’s life story has no bearing on his ministry. Equally unknown is the life story of Elisha. He suddenly appears on the scene and has a powerful ministry that did not depend on our knowledge of his past. We do not know how old they were. So whether they had a birth certificate or not was irrelevant to their ministries. Even if they somehow had a wrong date on a birth certificate, that would have been a human blunder, but it would have had no influence on their ministries.

We know of John the Baptist’s birth. The thirty years of John the Baptist’s life before he began preaching is basically unknown. But is not necessary information in order for us to understand his ministry. You and I can grasp the meaning of the ministry of any one of these three men, who each had the spirit of Elijah, without knowing their background.

Lesson -- the spirit of Elijah in a man  will perform a certain ministry that is not affected by the facts and figures of his earlier life story, whether they are accurately recalled or whether the facts are confused and wrong. We humans do not have perfect recall of past events and easily muddle things up. The Scripture simply ignores the life story of each Elijah. We must just move on with what they had to do.

Elijah lost the anointing and ran away from one woman, Jezebel. This was a less than impressive performance since he  was the same man, with the anointing, that called down fire to burn up his sacrifice and then slew 450 false prophets of Baal. Did God hold this fearful flight against him? No. God sent a chariot to take him home.

So we must judge Elijah by what he did right, not by what he did wrong.

Do not be in a rush to condemn God’s prophets. God uses them to fulfill a specific ministry. If they mess up on other issues, that just means they are human. John the Baptist was fearless in pointing out Jesus as the Messiah. But later on, when he doubted if Jesus was the Messiah (which was a very serious mistake), Jesus overlooked his error because John has fulfilled the Scriptures that described his ministry. What John had done right in terms of God’s perfect will that fulfills the Scripture, far outweighed any mistake (however serious) that he had done wrong.

John the Baptist did a lot of preaching that was never recorded.

LUKE 3:18

And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people.

John left no record of all this preaching simply because it was secondary to his main ministry, which was to point out Jesus Christ as a Man walking amongst men. What he had to say on other topics was not rated as important enough to be mentioned in the Bible because that was not the main thrust of his ministry, which was to point out the Messiah.

Jesus judged John the Baptist purely in terms of his ability to fulfill the Scripture that spoke of John.

MATTHEW 11:9

But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.

10     For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

11     Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist:

A prophet is vindicated by his ability to fulfill the Scriptures that are written of him. This is the hidden Spiritual wave of God’s Big Picture (God’s perfect will) that sweeps unseen through our human history like a spiritual tsunami. Everything else that a prophet does, right or wrong, is just a part of our local, human small picture (which is like a splash in a little puddle) that is of no real consequence to God’s Big Picture.

So it is critical that we find out what the Bible prophecy for a prophet’s ministry is and we must only accept what he says when he is fulfilling that Scripture.

We are not compelled to believe what he says when he speaks on other issues.

A prophet is only justified when he fulfills the Scripture that speaks of himself.

You are free to ignore what he says and does when he steps outside those Bible boundaries.

JOHN 1:35

Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples;

36  And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!

37  And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.

This is the final success of John’s ministry.

He pointed out Jesus to his disciples, and they followed Jesus.

The disciples who recognized John, but then stayed and followed John, were a disappointment. When John doubted Jesus they also doubted that Jesus was Messiah.  After that episode, where John's quotes contradicted the Word, the followers of John faded off the scene and are never heard of again. Following a prophet was not a good idea.

However, the disciples of John who heard him preach and then followed Jesus (the Word), they turned the world upside down, and we still revere their names and actions today.

A prophet is just a signpost to point out Jesus as He walks through the pages of His Word. The quotes of a prophet are only valid if they illuminate and explain the Scripture. Then we must follow what is written in the Bible and we link the Scriptures to prove the doctrine.

JOHN 5:31

If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.

JOHN 5:33

Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.

JOHN 5:35

He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.

The quotes of John the Baptist could not stand on their own. They needed  to refer to Jesus in order to have real value.

When Elijah comes again, his quotes will also have no real value on their own.

His quotes will have to reflect in the Scripture and be proven from the Bible before they can be accepted as truth, because Jesus is the Word of God.

John the Baptist said :

JOHN 3:30

He must increase, but I must decrease.

This is true for every prophet.  A prophet points to Christ but then fades when compared to Christ.

Those who follow the prophet (like the disciples of John) instead of following Christ will lose their vision and doubt and contradict the Word as they cling to their quotes.

Those who heard the prophet preach and are thereby turned to the Bible, and follow the truths of their doctrines from Scripture to Scripture, will have enough Bible light to qualify as wise virgins.

The Wedding Feast of the Lamb beckons them. They will eat.

For the rest there is only the Beast, and they will be eaten.

REVELATION 19:17
And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;
18   That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.