John the Baptist and the Spirit of Elijah
Matthew – Chapter 3
John the Baptist has brought us a message of life changing significance. Responding to his message prepared the people of Israel for the coming of the Lord. Understanding and responding to his message will be critical to the church in the coming days. Are we the Elijah generation?
Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr.
God Always Communicates With His People
The 400 years between Malachi and Matthew are called “the silent years.” That does not mean that God was silent for all those years, but that there were no recognized prophets bringing God’s message to His people.
However, the New Testament show us that God communicated with His people even before Jesus came. Following is a list of people who received direct communication from God before Jesus’ ministry:
- Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-25).
- Mary, Jesus’ mother (Luke 1:26-38).
- Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary and wife of Zacharias (Luke 1:41-55).
- Joseph, the husband of Mary (Matthew 1:19-24, 2:13-15).
- The shepherds who were directed by the angels to go to see Jesus at His birth (Luke 2:8-14).
- The wise men from the East, who know about the arrival of the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-2, 12).
- Simeon, who prophesied on Jesus at His dedication (Luke 2:25-35).
- Anna, the prophetess who prophesied on Jesus at His dedication (Luke 2:36-38).
- John the Baptist, who prophesied about Jesus, as we will see later (Matthew 3:1-3, 3:11-14).
It is true that all these messages were related to Jesus, but that does not prevent that others heard from God. If many people received messages over a short time, we can derive that it was common also for others to receive messages from God. God does not change and He loves and directs those who are open to hear Him. It is the same even today.
We can expect that God will speak to us today and even more to today’s believers because they have the Holy Spirit living in them.
The Important Role of John the Baptist
To understand the ministry of John the Baptist, we must read also the Gospel of Luke and some passages on the Old Testament.
First, John was Jesus’ cousin. He likely knew what had happened when his mother, Elizabeth, met Mary, about 30 years before, and what Mary had shared with his mother. (Luke 1:46-56).
Further, John the Baptist had a special call from God and he responded to the call (Luke 1:5-25).
- Some prophets announced the coming of John the Baptist, centuries before (Isa 40:3, Mal 3:1, 4:5-6).
- He was born miraculously when both his parents were well advanced in years (Luke 1:7).
- The angel Gabriel visited the priest Zacharias, John’s father, to announce John’s birth and role in preparing the coming of the Messiah. (Luke 1:5-17)
- John was also a prophet (Mat 11:7-15) and Jesus recognized him as the greatest prophet (Mat 11:1-15, Luke 7:24-28).
John the Baptist, the Greatest Prophet
Why did Jesus say that John was the greatest prophet? There is no record that he performed miracles like other prophets of the Old Testament. Nevertheless, he prepared people for Jesus’ coming like no prophet before.
John’s ministry was powerful and uncompromising. Following are some of the characteristics of his ministry:
- He was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15).
- He lived for God in complete righteousness and separation from worldly pleasures (Luke 1:75, Matthew 3:4).
- He denounced sin and called people to repentance. This is the basis for any spiritual progress (Matthew 3:2).
- He exposed and confronted the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of the time (Matthew 3:7-10).
- He announced the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 3:2).
- He prophesied that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11).
- He recognized Jesus as the Messiah (Matthew 3:13:17).
- He gathered many disciples some of whom later followed Jesus.
- He was fearless in his dealing with corruption and because of this, he gathered many enemies. This resulted in his death. (Matthew 14:6-12, Mark 6:18-25)
Even if John the Baptist had prophetic discernment and revelation, he started doubting about Jesus when things did not go as he had expected (Luke 7:18-23). This shows that his understanding of Jesus’ ministry and the Kingdom of God was limited.
The Spirit of Elijah
The ministry of John the Baptist can be summarized in four words: the Spirit of Elijah. There is a strong similarity between the ministry of John the Baptist and that of Elijah.
Four major factors are part of the Spirit of Elijah:
- Power – Elijah was a prophet who performed many signs and wonders. His prophesies were confirmed with great manifestations of God’s power. Elisha, his pupil asked to have a double portion of his spirit (2 Kings 2:9). Elisha wanted and received that power (2 Kings 2:15).
- Repentance – Elijah called Israel to repentance.
- Obedience to the Word of God (1 Kings 18:21).
- Appearance – Rugged, intimidating, hairy, with a leather belt (2 Kings 1:8) representing their attitudes well.
These factors were essential for producing the spiritual results they obtained.
God Promised to Send Elijah
It is no coincidence that Malachi, the last of the prophets in the Old Testament, ended the Old Testament with a prophecy about the coming of the Lord and announcing that Elijah will come first (Malachi 4:4-6).
The ministry of the Lord’s forerunner described by Malachi (Malachi 3:1-5, 4:4-6) fits clearly to John the Baptist. John the Baptist denied that he was Elijah (John 1:19-23). However, Jesus pointed out this parallel of ministry to his disciples. He also expanded and explained that prophesy (Matthew 17:11-12).
John the Baptist had fulfilled the prophecy for Jesus’ first coming, but there was more to come for His second coming. That fulfillment will parallel His first coming. Thus, Elijah will come again with even greater power to prepare for the second coming. Both power and repentance will bring unity within the church during the troubles of the End Times.
The Coming Repentance, Obedience and Power
I believe that the coming of the Spirit of Elijah has started already. The manifestation of the power of God in the church is increasing. This will bring about the manifestation of repentance and obedience to the Word of God. This will prepare the church for the Second Coming of the Lord.
Questions to Consider
- How do you see God revealing Himself and convicting people to repentance and obedience?
- What evidence do you see today about the fulfillment of the promise of the coming of Elijah?
- Does any Scripture speak strongly to your spirit in this post?
- What is the impact of this realization on you?
- Are we the Elijah generation?