In the Fulness of Time/Part 72
By: Dr. Thomas Figart
|By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2007|
|Jesus makes it clear that the preaching of John was the culmination of the Old Testament promises of the coming of Messiah, and He says that, if the Jews care to receive the message of John, then the Elijah prophecy would be fulfilled. But was John the Baptist actually the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy?|
Israel did not accept John’s Ministry (continued). Matthew 11:12-15
- Matthew 11:13-15 “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elijah, who was to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”
Jesus makes it clear that the preaching of John was the culmination of the Old Testament promises of the coming of Messiah, and He says that, if the Jews care to receive the message of John, then the Elijah prophecy would be fulfilled. The first class conditional clause (using ei with the indicative mode, ei thelete dechasthai) “if in reality, you are willing to receive it, this is Elijah who was to come.” Thus, the earthly kingdom is still being offered to the nation Israel by Jesus, in spite of the mounting opposition. The question now arises, “Was John the Baptist actually the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy?” Consider the following:
- John definitely fulfilled Isaiah 40:3, according to Matthew 3:3. He is the forerunner, preparing the way of the Lord. Elijah is not even mentioned in Isaiah 40:3.
- John definitely fulfilled Malachi 3:1a, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me” see Matthew 11:10. The remainder of Malachi 3:1 refers to an event which did not occur at the first advent of Christ, thus, it had no necessary reference to John.
- In John 1:21 John the Baptist flatly denied that he was Elijah: “And they asked him, what then, Art thou Elijah? And he saith, I am not.” Immediately after this, in John 1:23 John reaffirmed that he was the forerunner of Messiah, fulfilling Isaiah 40:3.
- In Luke 1:15-17 the angel proclaimed that John should turn the hearts of many Israelites to their God, and that he should go forth 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 a people prepared for the Lord.” This is a partial quote from Malachi 4:5-6; however, there is no record that John accomplished all of this. As a matter of fact, Jesus said, “He was a burning and a shining light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light” (John 5:35), but it was only for a season! Many were turned to Christ through the ministry of John, but not the nation as a whole.
- Now, here in Matthew 11:13-15 Jesus says that there is still an opportunity for the nation to receive Him as Messiah/King, and if they did, then John would have fulfilled Malachi 4:5-6, and would have been “Elijah who was to come.”
- In Matthew 17:10-13 Jesus gives this same truth in a different way (after the appearance of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration), by answering the direct question, “Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come?” Jesus replied, “Elijah truly shall first come and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elijah is come already, and they knew him not, but have done to him whatsoever they desired. Likewise shall the Son of Man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spoke unto them of John the Baptist.” Therefore, Elijah will literally come “before that great and terrible day of the LORD” as prophesied in Malachi 4:5.
- Conclusion: John the Baptist came and fulfilled Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1a, as the forerunner of Christ. John attempted to turn the nation back to Jehovah, but failed to fulfill Malachi 5:5-6. In Matthew 11:13-15 Christ continued to offer Himself as Messiah and said that if they wanted to receive Him as John presented Him, then John would have accomplished Malachi 4:5-6 and would have fulfilled the Elijah [prophecy. But, the Jews were unwilling to receive John’s message or Jesus’ Messiahship (as will be seen in 11: 16-19; Thus, by the time He spoke the words of Matthew 17:19-23 Israel had rejected all of this. Jesus could then say, “Elijah shall first come and restore all things” because John the Baptist was killed before he could accomplish that task!
Be assured, my friend, that all will be fulfilled, “in the fulness of time!”