John the Baptist Coming as Elijah
2000 years ago Jesus Christ taught his disciples that John the Baptist was Elijah who was to come.
Matthew 11:14 And if you are willing to accept it, he (John the Baptist) is the Elijah who was to come.
This means Elijah in the Old Testament was the prophetical figure who foreshadowed the one who would come to fulfill the prophecies. John the Baptist came and accomplished the prophecies of Elijah. In this respect, we can say that John the Baptist was the prophetical or spiritual Elijah who was to come.
Now let us find out some of the features in the prophecies of Elijah and the manner John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecies as spiritual counterpart.
Elijah and His Mission
Prophecies About the Appearance of Elijah
According to the prophecies in the bible, Elijah would come to prepare the way of God and bring a reconciliation between God and his people. Let us first take a look at the prophecies in the bible.
Isaiah 40:3 A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Isaiah says that one is going to appear to prepare the way of God. Then who is the one who would come to prepare the way of God. We can see a mated verse in Malachi.
Malachi 3:1 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
God said that He would send a messenger to prepare the way for Him (God). And in the next chapter, he continues and let us who would come to prepare the way of God’s coming to his people.
Malachi 4:5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
The Mission of Elijah
Then what is the purpose of Elijah’s coming? According to the prophecies above, Elijah comes mainly for two missions that he should accomplish. First, he was to prepare the way of God so that the glory of God would be revealed to people. This contains many deep connotations in it. Above all, Elijah should appear first and somehow he was to reveal God who was coming after him. Also, Since Elijah is coming as messenger for God, we cannot know who God is without first knowing who Elijah is. When we recognize Elijah, we can recognize God who is coming after Elijah and revealed by Elijah.
The second mission of Elijah is bringing a reconciliation between God and his people by bringing the hearts of people toward God, and also the heart of God toward His people. This means there was kind of separation between God and His people and it is only through Elijah that the estrangement can be resolved. As a result, there could be a reunion between God and His people.
These are the two missions of Elijah: revealing God to people who has no knowledge of God, and bringing a reconciliation between them so that God’s people could return to God for the blessings. According to these prophecies, people cannot know who God is and get reconciled to God for the blessing without first knowing Elijah. Therefore, Elijah’s appearance was essential for the salvation of God’s people.
John the Baptist Coming as Elijah
John the Baptist as Elijah
These prophecies in the Old Testament was fulfilled by John the Baptist coming as spiritual Elijah 2000 years ago. Jesus clearly teaches that John the Baptist was the prophetical Elijah who was to come.
Matthew 11:10 This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ …. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.
By quoting the prophecies of Malachi, Jesus let us know that John the Baptist was the one who was to come as Elijah. Also, he says:
Matthew 17:11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.
Through the testimonies of Jesus, we can know that John the Baptist was the spiritual Elijah.
John the Baptist and Mission of Elijah
Preparing the Way of God
Then how did John the Baptist accomplish the mission of Elijah? How did he prepare the way of God and brought reconciliation between God and His people?
John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy about preparing the way of God by testifying about himself and God who was to come after him. First, John the Baptist testified about himself coming as Elijah by quoting from the prophecies of the bible. By quoting Isaiah, he let us know that he is the messenger who comes first to prepare the way of God and then he teaches about the one who comes after him.
John 1:22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” … 26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
Through his testimony, we can be sure that he is the prophetical Elijah and he is testifying about the Lord who was coming after him. Also, he testified about the Lord who was to come after him.
John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’
He reveals that Jesus is the Lord who came for the forgiveness of sins. He also teaches that Jesus is God “who was before him” even though he came after him to fulfill the prophecies. And also through the baptism of repentance, he brought the reconciliation by bringing the hearts of people toward God through repentance.
Matthew 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Luke 3:3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
Through the baptism of repentance, he turned the hearts of people to God and God’s heart to His people.
In this post, I showed about the prophecies of Elijah and the fulfillment of the prophecies by John the Baptist. As I have told before, only those who received John the Baptist as Elijah could receive Jesus Christ as the Lord God who was to come to save them.
Those who did not receive John the Baptist denied Jesus’ coming as Savior. Since John the Baptist was not Elijah to them, Elijah did not come yet; neither did the Lord who was to appear after Elijah.
Luke 7:29 (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30 But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)
Those who received John the Baptist could receive Jesus as the Lord and those who did not receive John the Baptist could accept Jesus as the Lord to come. To them, neither Elijah nor the Lord came yet.
This prophecies of Elijah is extremely important to us today because the fulfillment of the prophecies by John the Baptist coming as Elijah 2000 years ago was just a partial fulfillment. The complete fulfillment of the prophecies are going to come true in the last day. In the next post, I would like to talk about the prophecies of Elijah and Lord which are going to be fulfilled in the last day.