You Brood of Vipers

(Luke 3: 7-9)

John the Baptist did not mince his words when dealing with the people, especially the scribes and Pharisees. Calling them a brood of vipers, snakes full of poison, was quite extreme. But it got the message across that they were in need of change and the help that could only come from God.

viperHe makes a number of good points here that were specifically relevant to the people of his day, but also are a good warning to us as well. He encourages the crowd to, “Bear fruits that befit repentance.” (Verse 8) In this statement he shows them and us that it is not enough to say that you have repented. You must also show the outcome of your repentance through the changes you make in how you live and behave.

The fruits of repentance are our words, deeds and actions. Repentance, as discussed in my previous post, is about changing your thinking. It is about thinking a different way, specifically to be in alignment with God’s will. And if you change your thinking you will change your behaviour and your life as well. You will no longer desire to do the evil you may have once done because when your thinking is aligned with God, you will desire to do what is good, right and true. This is bearing the fruit of repentance and is as much a factor in our Christian walk today as it was in John’s and Jesus’ day.

John continues on in verse 8 saying, “…do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” Now while he was addressing the people of his day and the Jews in particular, there is also a warning here for us too.

The Jews believed that they were God’s chosen people, and they were correct in this for the Bible says that is so. However some were arrogant in this belief and thought they could do as they pleased, with little regard for others believing they were the chosen people of God. But God is seeking a people who are humble and aligned to his will, not proud and arrogant. He shows through Paul that it is the children of faith who are the true children of God. Those who share the faith of Abraham, who believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, are the true children of God and the chosen family of God. It is not a matter of bodily descent but through faith that people will be saved.

This is the point that John the Baptist was making with the people then. It is not about your lineage for God could easily create people and make them of the lineage of Abraham. Rather it is about walking in accordance with the will of God through repentance and changing your thinking to align with God.

Today there are some who likewise feel they are saved and above reproach. There is a movement among some churches that states, “Once saved, always saved.” I do not subscribe to that philosophy for it leads to licentiousness. If a person comes to the Lord and is saved, then goes out and does all manner of evil, how can that be in line with God’s will? And yet that is what “Once saved, always saved” suggests.

If this philosophy were true, why would the bible writers speak of those who had fallen away and would fall away? If they were once saved, why would they fall away and be lost? For that matter how could they be lost in this scenario if they had been “once saved, always saved?”

There other false teachings too that lead people to believe they are right with the Lord and thus are OK. However I would warn every person that we must continue to walk with Christ. We must continue to move forward with the Lord for he warns us saying, “Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.” (John 12:35) We cannot afford to stop walking for the darkness creeps along behind us. If we stop it will overtake and overcome us. That is why we must continue forward to learn and grow with Christ.

(Picture sourced from stock.xchng http://www.sxc.hu/ taken by Haakon Birkeland

John the Baptist’s Ministry

(Luke 3:1-6)

In the beginning of Luke 3 we see the commencement of John the Baptists ministry. John came to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus and to get the people ready for Jesus by turning them back to God. His primary ministry was to speak about the need for repentance and he came preaching a baptism in water for repentance as a sign that they had begun a new life with God.

BaptismRepentance is an interesting ministry in the Bible. The word that repentance is derived from in Greek (metanoia) means “to think differently.” Repentance then is a call to change the way you behave by changing the way you think. The ministry of repentance taught by John was to encourage the people to turn away from the evil ways of this world and to turn towards God. They were to seek the ways of God by firstly changing the way they thought so as to think about what was good and right and true.

Repentance is a matter of the spirit of a person, not the flesh. As can be seen from the word itself, it is about your thinking rather than your actions. The essence of this is that if you can change the way you think you will change the way you behave. Every action that a person takes is preceded by a thought. So if you can come to the place where your thinking is in accordance with the will of God, your behaviours and actions will also accord with God’s will.

Is it possible for man to achieve this state of his own strength? No it isn’t. Man still has the weaknesses of the passions of the flesh that will lead him to do wrong, but repentance is the start of the process of change.

John the Baptist’s ministry was to “Prepare the way of the Lord.” (Verse 4) It was not to complete the work but to make a beginning. Repentance is a starting point from which the Lord can then build upon. A person must first come to repentance though before the Lord can continue the work. Repentance is about changing the way a person thinks, as I have said. But this change is to bring a person to the place where they recognise their sins and their failings so that they will come to the Lord in humility seeking a Saviour. Repentance then is also about being humble under the mighty hand of God.

A proud and arrogant person does not consider their faults. They believe there is nothing wrong with them. But a person who repents understands that they are in need of help, and when they come to the Lord asking for His help, they receive what they ask for. In repentance people are having the rough edges made smooth, as the prophet shows in verse 5 in this section.

When this occurs the Lord then offers more help to assist man to go to the next stage. He offers his Holy Spirit to those who ask for it so that the Spirit can teach, comfort, guide, counsel and fight on the individuals behalf as they walk with the Lord. An unrepentant person does not receive this help because of pride. But a repentant person stands humble and ready for the transformational work of the Holy Spirit who will bring the repentant person into the image of Christ.

And this is not our doing but is the work of God. We cannot perfect ourselves, but it is the work of God to do this work in us. Is it possible to be perfect in this life? Yes it is for the Bible tells us so. Jesus told the rich young man it was possible saying, “Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21) This man had issues with money, but the key to perfection shown here were to follow Christ. Then perfection will be possible.

When or if a person reaches that place in this lifetime is not for me or anyone else to say. It is God who judges us in that and every other regard. However, the Lord showed clearly that it is possible to achieve, but only through faith and the working of the New Covenant via the Holy Spirit as we follow Jesus.

(Clipart sourced from ChristiansUnite.com http://clipart.christiansunite.com/)

Birth of John the Baptist

(Luke 1:57-80)

John the Baptist was born and in accordance with the law of Moses they brought him forth to be circumcised on the eighth day. At this time he was to be named and the people inquired as to what he should be called. Elizabeth said that he was to be named John, but the people thought this to be wrong as none of the child’s family or kin were named John. When they inquired of Zechariah, for they wanted to name him after his father, Zechariah still unable to speak wrote on a tablet, “His name is John.” (Verse 63).

His parents were following the instructions given them by the angel Gabriel of which the rest of the people were unaware. But we see their astonishment when Zechariah had written these words that his tongue was loosed and he began to speak and prophesy by the Holy Spirit. All the people seeing and hearing these things wondered and considered just what this child would become.

The prophesy of Zechariah is interesting. In it we see the Spirit speak of the blessing of the Lord and the role of this child, John the Baptist. We see his ministry described saying in verses 76-79:

“76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,
78 through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

John the BaptistJohn came to prepare the way for the Lord. He came to give knowledge of the way of salvation and the forgiveness of sins to the people. The people were not receiving this knowledge through the Law as it was being taught by the religious leaders of the time but the people were like sheep without a shepherd. They did not know where they were going or which way to turn.

But when John came he put their feet on the right path and showed them the direction they needed. He pointed them to God saying for them to believe in the one who was to follow him, Jesus Christ. And through the message of John the people did indeed receive light where they previously sat in darkness. They received the light of the knowledge of the truth about salvation and forgiveness of sin so they could learn to live as God wanted them to live. And as he taught them they received direction and were truly guided into the way of peace.

The work of John still rings true today. People are still in need of a Saviour and the way of truth. His contribution was enormous, so much so that we see here he was called, “the Prophet of the Most High.” Add to this the words of Jesus who said, “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John” (Luke 7:28) The message of repentance and the message of baptism in water still resounds as part of the New Covenant. The purpose may have changed with the introduction of the Covenant, but the underlying truth that we should repent and turn to God has never and will never change.

(Picture sourced from ChristiansUnite.com http://clipart.christiansunite.com/)

Mary and Elizabeth

(Luke 1:39-56)

Mary and Elizabeth were kinswomen. They were related to each other and Mary went to visit and stay with Elizabeth for a few months. It is evident that the Holy Spirit was with both of these women for they prophesied of the Lord and the things to come.

Elizabeth had been given insight into the fact that Mary was to be the mother of the Christ, and this was confirmed when her baby, John the Baptist, leapt for joy in her womb as Mary approached and spoke. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit as she spoke the prophecy saying, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Verse 41-43)

When Mary replied she spoke those words commonly referred to as “The Magnificat.” Her words were clearly spoken in great humility for she was not concerned with herself but gave all glory to the Lord God. She spoke great wisdom in these words that we can consider and bear remembering.

Mary and ElizabethShe rightly proclaimed that, “…his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.” (Verse 50) There is no doubt that those who come to the Lord, humble and obedient to his will, shall receive God’s mercy. And she continues saying, “He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree…” (Verses 51-52) This principle of exalting the lowly and the humble is expressed throughout the New Covenant. God’s people are not proud or arrogant but humble, obedient and meek. This does not mean they are weak though. Far from it! But the strength of the people of God does not rest in their own strength. They do not rely on their own power but rather on the power of God to do mighty things. And in God’s mercy he does and will provide for his people.

For three months Mary stayed with Elizabeth, which shows how close they were. At about the time she left, whether before or after, John the Baptist was born and we will look at the events surrounding his birth in the next posting.

(Picture sourced from ChristiansUnite.com http://clipart.christiansunite.com/)

The Coming of John the Baptist

(Luke 1:5-23)

The coming of John the Baptist was an important part of the beginning of the New Testament age. It was John who set the scene and prepared the people for the coming of the Lord. Although there is not a lot spoken of John in the New Testament, his role was crucial to prepare the people. In these scriptures we see how his coming was announced to his parents and the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies.

His parents were both of the tribe of Levi who were the tribe of the priests under the Old Covenant. His father Zechariah was of the division of Abijah and he was a priest, and his wife, Elizabeth was descended from Aaron who was the first of the priests and the brother of Moses.

While serving in the temple Zechariah was burning incense in accordance with the requirements of the priesthood, and while doing so he saw the angel of the Lord standing beside the altar of incense. Zechariah was greatly troubled and fearful, but the angel said to him not to fear. He said, “Do not be afraid, Zechari’ah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” (Verse 13) In this way the birth of John was announced.

Now the coming of John was necessary for the work he was to do was to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus. His role was, “… he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli’jah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Verses 16-17) The preparation work he would do was to turn the people back to the Lord. His message would be to repent and return to the Lord God.

Repentance means to change and turn around your life. The literal meaning of the word translated as repent in the Greek (metanoeo) is to “think differently.” That is, top think differently to the way the world thinks and to think differently to the way you used to think. This is a first indication that the message of the New Covenant would be different to the Old Covenant.

The Old Covenant dealt with the things of the body and the flesh as the writer of Hebrews showed when speaking of the law, “…According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various ablutions, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.” (Hebrews 9:9-10)

The Old Covenant dealt with the matters pertaining to this life in the flesh. But the New Covenant deals with the spirit and matters of the spirit. As the writer in Hebrews indicates, the law “…cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper…” and we see also in the meaning of the word “repent” that it too deals with thought processes, which are of the spirit. We need to change the way we think and to think differently.

The work of John the Baptist was to turn people around and to begin to change their way of thinking so they would be prepared to accept the new teaching the Lord was to bring where people could find the way to “…perfect the conscience…” which the law could not do.

Jesus said of John that amongst those born of mankind none was greater than John (Matthew 11:11) The announcement of his coming and the way he was born testify to the greatness of this servant of God. Both his parents were well advanced in years and childless, like Abraham and Sarah. Yet with God all things are possible and he caused Elizabeth to be able to bear a child and thus John was born and named by God as the angel instructed. Truly a remarkable beginning to someone who would lead a remarkable life as a servant of the Lord.

John the Baptist – Elijah Who is to Come

(Mark 9:9-13)

Over the years I have often read the scriptures that talk of John the Baptist as being the “Elijah who is to come.” But in all that time I have never stopped to consider why he was called by that name. So I have spent a little time looking at the ministry of Elijah and comparing him to John the Baptist.

The key words used by Jesus were that the Elijah who is to come was to “…restore all things.” (Verse 12) Also in Matthew 11:7-15 Jesus talks of John as being the one who fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare they way before thee.” Even before John was born an angel appeared to his father saying, “…and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli’jah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:17)

ElijahThe ministry of John the Baptist was to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He did this by preaching repentance and the need to turn away from evil and sin. He also upbraided the religious leaders of the day, as did Jesus, calling them a “brood of vipers” and warning them to repent also. (Matthew 3:7) John was also at odds with Herod the tetrarch who had been reproved by John for taking his brother’s wife and all the evil he had done. His wife also bore a grudge against John and it was eventually through her that John was beheaded.

John’s ministry was to bring the people back to the Lord in preparation for the coming of Jesus. In many ways there are similarities with Elijah the prophet.

Elijah lived in the days when Ahab was king over Israel. Ahab did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all the evil kings before him, and he considered it a light thing to walk in sin. He took Jezebel as a wife and together they built idols to Baal and made an Asherah to the false gods and Jezebel killed many of the prophets of the Lord. Ahab did more to provoke the anger of the Lord than all of the kings of Israel before him. (1 Kings 16:29-34)

Elijah was at odds with Ahab and Jezebel just as John was at odds with Herod and Herodian his wife. Like John, Elijah was in the wilderness for a time and during that period was fed by ravens and drank only water from a stream. But the main similarities are in the respective ministeries of these two prophets. The most telling scripture in the events surrounding Elijah’s ministry was when he called upon the Lord to bring fire down to light the burnt offering when he challenged the priests of Baal. As Elijah prayed to the Lord he said, “Answer me O Lord, answer me that this people may know that thou, O Lord, art God, and that thou hast turned their hearts back.” (1 Kings 18:37)

In this scripture we see that the purpose of the Lord in Elijah’s ministry was to turn the hearts of the people back to God and away from all the evil brought on them by Ahab, Jezebel and the worship of Baal. Elijah was the instrument used by God to bring his people back to worshipping the Lord. This was in essence the same as the ministry of John the Baptist, for he was called to, “…turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:17)

Thus we see the similarities in the ministries of Elijah and John and why it is that John was called the “Elijah who is to come.”

(Picture sourced from ChristiansUnite.com http://clipart.christiansunite.com)

John the Baptist Beheaded

(Mark 6:14-29)

Herod imprisoned John the Baptist. His wife had a grudge against John and had him beheaded when an opportunity arose. I have covered this previously at this link (freegiftfromgod.com/2011/01/beheading-of-john-the-baptist/) so will look at a different aspect of John the Baptist’s life this time.

transition-transformThe life and times of John the Baptist was a time of transition. Jesus alluded to this when he said, “The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently.” (Luke 16:16) In the short period that the ministry of John commenced and up until the death of Jesus, the world was going through a transition.

John’s role as was prophesied of him was to prepare the way for the Lord. He commenced his ministry preaching a baptism in water for repentance and the forgiveness of sin. He prepared the people for the coming of the Lord who then took that ministry as a beginning and transitioned people into the New Covenant.

It was necessary that John came for he also bore witness to Jesus, and under the Old Covenant law, a matter was established on the basis of two or more witnesses. It was at this time that Jesus in the scripture quoted above drew a definite line in the sand. He said that the era of the Old Covenant, which is the law and the prophets, ended at John. From John the Baptist onwards then began the preaching of the good news of the kingdom of God.

We see that although John had a powerful ministry, unlike many other religious leaders over the centuries, at his death his ministry ceased. It was not carried on by his followers for John himself taught them that he was only there for a time to prepare the way. He taught them not to follow himself, but to follow the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus Christ. Thus all the followers of John transitioned across to Christ once he appeared and John bore witness to him. We see this evidenced when Paul found a group of John’s disciples at Ephesus. (Acts 19:1-7) On hearing of Jesus they took the teachings of the New Covenant to heart and became Christians.

John the Baptist was truly a change agent and there has never been anyone else like him in history. As Jesus said of John the Baptist, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11)

The Baptism of Jesus

(Mark 1:9-11)

The baptism of Jesus was a significant event. It marked the beginning of his ministry as it was from that point on that he began to preach the good news of the gospel. But there are other significant matters pertaining to the baptism of Jesus that we need to understand as well.

John the Baptist was preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. However in Jesus case there was no sin. Thus he did not really need to be baptised. If this was so then why did he do it? We see the answer in the Matthew version of the baptism of Jesus. “John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented.” (Matthew 4:14-15)

Jesus did not need to be baptised for he was without sin. However he went through baptism as an example for all who were to follow him later on. It is through baptism in water that Jesus showed we fulfil the requirements of righteousness. Baptism is essential if we are to be enabled to reach a place of righteousness in him, for in baptism we are baptised into Jesus Christ and put on his righteousness. This occurs through faith, as baptism is a faith-based teaching. In it we believe through faith that we have died and been raised again with Jesus so that we are born again as new creations.

Also in the baptism of Jesus we see that he provided an example that we ought follow. If Jesus had not been baptised then people could have claimed it was not necessary to be baptised. But in the example of Jesus we see that no man can claim that they need not be baptised. And yet some do not baptise still today. How then is it possible to fulfil all the requirements of righteousness as Jesus pointed out to John the Baptist? If you are not baptised you cannot even begin to fulfil the requirements of righteousness.

We see further that these requirements are what will bring us into the kingdom of God. Jesus said to Nicodemus that being born again of water and the Spirit was necessary to be able to enter the kingdom of God. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) Baptism is the rebirth in water and receiving the Holy Spirit is being born of the Spirit. Jesus fulfilled both of these requirements at the time he was baptised for as he came up out of the water the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove. (Verse 10) And as the result of these two events we see God the Father speak audibly saying, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.” (Verse 11)

When we obey the Father and follow the example of the Son by being baptised and receiving the Holy Spirit and believing in Jesus Christ, we too will please the Father. In the end it is our hope that we will receive entry into his kingdom for eternity with the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)

Baptism and John The Baptist

(Mark 1:1-10)

The Gospel of Mark is shorter than the other three gospels. It seems to me that it is in many ways included as witness to many of the events in the other three gospels, although it does have some quite different insights of it’s own. While Matthew seemed to focus on the fulfilment of prophecies to show who Jesus was, Mark seems to have presented a more general account of the times and events surrounding Jesus appearance and work on the earth. His account is more condensed and has focussed more on the principal teachings and events of Christianity beginning with baptism and John the Baptist in these first few scriptures.

John the Baptist came as prophesied to prepare the way of the Lord. He was the messenger sent before the Messiah to prepare a people ready to receive the words of Jesus and the New Covenant. We see in this section that John came preaching a baptism of repentance telling the people to be baptised in water for the forgiveness of their sins. (Verse 4) At the end of this section John also spoke of his baptism in this way saying, “I have baptised you with water; but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.” (Verse 9)

He speaks of two baptisms, one of water and one being a baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus also spoke of two baptisms as well for he said in John 3:5, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Being baptised is the process by which a Christian is born again. As Jesus clearly shows here, we must be born again of water and of the spirit.

Now in fact this process of being born again of water is baptism, but it is not the baptism that John preached. John taught a baptism for the repentance from sins, but being born again is not merely repentance but the complete removal of sin. Paul showed this difference when speaking to a group of disciples at Ephesus. He said, “And he said, “Into what then were you baptised?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptised with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:3-5)

Thus we see that Paul makes this distinction between the baptism of John the Baptist and the baptism where people are baptised into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Both are water baptisms, but the second baptism is the important one. John the Baptist prepared the way by introducing the process of baptism and teaching about repentance and forgiveness, and in Jesus this baptism was expanded to have a much greater meaning.

The distinction between the two baptisms is that John the Baptist taught repentance and forgiveness of sin through baptism. But the baptism into Jesus removes sin for we symbolically die and are resurrected with Jesus in his baptism. And as we are symbolically resurrected as we are lifted out of the water we are reborn as new creations, no longer under the power of sin but in a new life ready to walk in the ways of the Lord. Following this baptism for rebirth into Jesus Christ we are prepared to receive and be baptised with the Holy Spirit so that the work of transformation that occurs under the New Covenant can commence.

It is in the baptism into Jesus Christ that we must come as Paul showed the Ephesians for we are not looking for forgiveness of sin but the complete removal of sin from our lives. In this way we are made ready to come into the presence of God and be prepared for his kingdom. Forgiveness of sin was already attainable under the law for the people were required to offer sacrifices for the forgiveness of sin. But perfection and removal of sin could not be achieved until Christ came and died for our sins. This is then the true purpose of Christian baptism, the release from sin and the law so that we are transformed into the image of Christ and walk with him in the new life of the Spirit.

First Elijah Must Come

(Matthew 17:9-13)

Jesus warned the disciples not to tell anyone of his transfiguration until after his death and resurrection. The disciples then asked him an unusual question. They said, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” (Verse 10) There are several dimensions to this question worth considering. If the scripture was to be fulfilled then first Elijah must come before the day of the Lord.

The scribes were quoting the last words of the prophet Malachi in the Old Testament. This scripture says, “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.” (Malachi 4:5-6) The scribes were looking for the signs of the Messiah’s coming. One of those signs was that first Elijah must come. Elijah was to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.

The scribes and Pharisees had asked whether John the Baptist was the Christ, but he confessed saying, “I am not the Christ.” (John 1:20) They then asked whether he was Elijah and again he said, “I am not.” (John 1:21) Now it is interesting for Jesus said of John that he was indeed Elijah who was to come first. However he was not Elijah the prophet of old himself. To think that he was would be to accept reincarnation, which is a false teaching. For we know from scripture that, “it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

So how is it that John the Baptist could be Elijah? This is cleared up in the Luke version. The angel Gabriel appeared to John’s father, Zechariah, and told him that he would have a son. He said of this child, “And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:16-17)

So John could confidently say that he was not Elijah, for he was not Elijah the prophet from old times. However he did come in the spirit and power of Elijah to do the ministry of preparing the way of the Lord. So when we see that first Elijah must come to do the work of preparation, we find that prophecy fulfilled in the work of John the Baptist.

It was interesting too that the scribes and Pharisees had already asked whether Jesus was the Christ. His response was, “So the Jews gathered round him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me.” (John 10:24-25) The key here is that the works he was doing bore witness to Jesus that he was the Christ. It was exactly the same with John the Baptist. When you review his works, which were to prepare a people for the coming of the Lord, it is clear that his works testify that he was Elijah who was to come. Not the actual Elijah of old, but the one who comes in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the way of the Lord.

Now Jesus also warned the disciples not to mention the transfiguration events until after his resurrection. Why was that? Well prior to the resurrection if the disciples began spreading the word that they had seen Elijah, let alone Moses as well, the scribes and Pharisees would say they were making it up. They would want proof that Elijah had come before they would believe, not that they would believe anyway. How would the disciples be able to substantiate such a claim? In fact it would confuse matters more for John the Baptist was the Elijah who was to come. The scribes were looking for Elijah, not John the Baptist who came in the spirit of Elijah.

But after Jesus death and resurrection the scribes had a much greater sign, which they should not have ignored. They had the proof that Jesus was the Christ and the fulfilment of Jesus word that the only sign they would get was the sign of Jonah. (Matthew 16:4) His death and resurrection was proof that Jesus was the Christ. And yet still they would not believe. However, if Jesus was the Christ, which he was, then they had to also accept that John the Baptist was Elijah who must come first.