October 05, 2015


QUESTION ASKED: Matthew Chapter 3 has an account of the baptism of Christ and the implication is that John recognized Christ as the Messiah. John 1:33-36 also attests to that. Yet in Matthew Chapter 11 John has been arrested and send his own disciples to ask Jesus If he is the one or are they to expect someone else. In John 11:21 John declares himself not to be Elijah but in Matthew 11:13-15 Jesus says that he is. Do you know if there is a specific reason for this or is this just a case of John not seeing himself as Christ saw him ?

LET ME MULL: I believe John the Baptist clearly knew who Jesus was. He probably played with him as a child and heard the family account of how Mary came to his mother and the babe, John himself, leaped in her womb. He also pointed to Jesus and preached that He is the Lamb of God. He baptized Jesus and spoke prophetically of Who Christ is and how special He is. And then, hard times come. He's thrown into prison. And John slips into a funk. He hears of all the wonders Jesus is doing and wonders why he, faithful proclaimer that he is, is not miraculously delivered. Did Jesus forget him? "If He is the Messiah why doesn't he save me from my horrid circumstances?" Typical depression, but severe. So, he sends inquiringly. Lesson to be learned? Jesus (GOD) sovereignly dispenses His power and circumstantial control. He CAN heal and change anything He wants. But, He also uses tough things to nurture His own, as with Job and as with Paul, etc., etc. Jesus really gave no clear answer to John's disciples just as God gave no clear response to Job. Just a display of omnipotence (a whirlwind for Job; all the reports of phenomenal miracles for John). And, Job and Paul and John and we must take it from there. God is God and will do whatever He wishes, and it is ours to trust Him when things are good and the miracles happen, and when things are hard and God seems distant. This is my interpretation. 
     Our understanding of whether or not John was Elijah must begin with the O.T. passage in Malachi 4.  “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. 6 He will  restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse” Malachi 4:5-6.
     Elijah's coming precedes "the great and terrible day of the Lord." I take this to mean the seven year Tribulation Period, yet future. Is he one of the two prophets mentioned in Revelation who appear and testify during the Tribulation Period? Just as he and Moses appeared on the Mt. of Transfiguration, do they appear for this witness during the "great and terrible day of the Lord?" Perhaps. And just possibly Elijah appears "before" the Tribulation Period in a special ministry to Israel and then continues on with Moses in a wider ministry to the world? Perhaps. Hard to be to fixed on this, except that Malachi does say Elijah will come at that time. In Jesus' time I believe Elijah was present in spirit, namely, the spirit of John himself. He was like Elijah in that he thundered forth the message and stood staunchly for truth. He was powerful, like Elijah and therefore, shared the spirit of Elijah. It was not Elijah as John, in actual personhood, but Elijah in spirit in the person and work of John. And so, John was in once sense but he wasn't Elijah in another. Does this make sense? In other words, John was Elijah figuratively speaking, but in actuality, no.
     At least this is how I see it and hope it proves helpful to you.

Dick Christen