Elijah and John the Baptist
Matthew Lesson #095
September 27, 2015
“Father, we’re thankful that You have given us Your Word, and it’s just remarkable that the more we study, the more we realize how much we need to learn and how much there is for us to learn. We’re reminded that the Psalmist says that Your Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, which means that we can’t really see or discern or comprehend where we’re going unless we shine the light of Your Word on our thinking and upon our lives.
So Father, as we study Your Word, may we be reminded this is Your Word to us, that it is designed to strengthen our souls and to give us guidance throughout life, and that every word, every passage is breathed out by You and is profitable for doctrine and reproof and correction and instruction in righteousness, that we might not treat it lightly, but that we might desire to know it more and more to strengthen and dominate our thinking and our soul.
We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen”
We’re in Matthew 17, so turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew 17. This morning we’re going to look at basically five verses, Matthew 17:9–13.
The focus here is on understanding the significance and the roles of Elijah and John the Baptist—how this comes together in the New Testament.
It’s important for us in order to get focused on this section to have a little review, going back to what we learned as far back as Matthew 15.
Remember, up until the end of Chapter 16, Jesus is giving more and more instruction to the disciples. He’s training them in order for them to be prepared spiritually for that time that comes after His death.
But then towards the end of Matthew 17, He begins to announce in verse 21 that it’s necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and to suffer many things at the hands of the religious leaders and to die and be buried, and that He would rise again.
At that point, He’s beginning to prepare them for the fact that He’s going to die. That message really rattles their cage because their whole presupposition about the Messiah doesn’t fit this scenario.
They have been imbued with their cultural expectation from second temple Judaism—that the Messiah is going to come and give them a glorious reign and throw off their enemies and their conquerors and establish this incredible time of peace and prosperity and glory.
Having the Messiah die just doesn’t fit their scenario. So this is what shakes them up, this whole idea of a suffering Messiah.
If we go back to Matthew 15:21–28, Jesus was teaching the disciples about the bounty of God’s grace, not just to the Jews to whom He has been primarily ministering, but at that point He goes outside of Galilee, He went to the area of Phoenicia and Tyre and Sidon, to a Canaanite woman. There He casts a demon out of her daughter.
So that emphasizes God’s bountiful grace to the Gentiles, not just to the Jews. This is a foreshadowing of what will come in the Church Age.
Then as Jesus came back from that area—here we have a map. As He came back from that area, which was along the coast, He came back towards the east side of the Sea of Galilee. There the multitudes came to Him, and multitudes of gentiles.
He healed them. At that same time, this is when He fed the 4,000 gentiles from just a few loaves and fish—again emphasizing the expansiveness of God’s grace to the gentiles.
He’s also continuing to teach the disciples that God’s grace is more than sufficient for whatever problem they face. That’s what He taught them earlier with the feeding of the 5,000, then reinforced that with the feeding of the 4,000, emphasizing that that blessing to the gentiles was also mirrored in God’s blessing towards the Jews—again foreshadowing what would take place in the future with the church.
Then Jesus warned them about the evil of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees and their religious doctrine in Matthew 16:1–12.
Then following that He took them up north to Caesarea Philippi, which we see on the map. And there, with just the disciples around, no crowds, no multitudes, He began to ask them, “Who do you think that I am?”
As the spokesman, the one who’s the most vocal among the disciples, Peter spoke up and gave the right answer. He said, “You are the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
And for this, Jesus praised him and emphasized that it was upon this rock—referring to Himself—that He would build His church—the first reference to the coming church that’s given in the Gospels.
Only Matthew uses the word EKKLESIA for the church. We see it in Matthew 16. We’ll see it again in Matthew 18.
Then it is at that point that He begins to warn them not to tell them about the fact that He was Jesus the Messiah. This gets its meaning from many Old Testament passages, which is one of the reasons I read through Isaiah 53 in the Scripture reading this morning.
As we read through Isaiah 53, what strikes us is this is not a picture of a glorious, reigning Messiah. This is a picture of a suffering Messiah.
One of the misunderstandings, one of the errors in the theology of the rabbis in the second-temple period is they focus on the glorious rule of the Messiah, and His role as the suffering Messiah began to diminish, and diminish more and more until it was virtually forgotten and unknown.
They thought of the Messiah only as this wonderful, conquering, ruling, glorious Messiah, Who’s going to bring in a utopic kingdom, all of which is true.
But what the Scriptures teach is that the Cross, the suffering Messiah must come before the reigning and glorious Messiah—the Cross comes before the crown, not the other way around.
So we see the language in Isaiah 53 that He’s despised and not esteemed at the end of verse 3.
In verse 4, He bears our griefs, carries our sorrow, but He’s stricken. He’s smitten by God. He’s afflicted—language that indicates rejection, that indicates suffering.
In verse 5 He’s wounded for our transgressions, and it’s by His stripes, that is whipping, scourging, that we are healed.
In Isaiah 53:8 He’s cut off from the land of the living, a language that indicates that He is going to die. He’s suffering, and He will die, and that He is stricken for the transgressions of “My people” at the end of verse 8.
“Then made His grave with the wicked.” Again, a clear indication that He is going to die and that this comes before the glory of the kingdom.
In Isaiah 53:10, we learn that it is the Lord’s will to bruise Him and to make Him a sin offering for His people.
Then in verse 11: that it is through that that God looks on Him, and He is satisfied. That’s the English word “propitiation.” He is satisfied. God’s righteousness and justice are satisfied by the suffering of Christ, His payment for our penalty, and that “by His knowledge,” that is learning who Jesus Christ is and what He did on the Cross, many will be justified.
Here you have again a clear doctrine that it’s through the Messiah that justification occurs for human beings. Many will be justified, and it’s done how? Substitutionary atonement. He’s the One who will bear our iniquities.
So Peter and the disciples recognized, they have recognized. Each few months they get more and more information. Their knowledge and understanding of the fact that He’s the Messiah would grow and increase. And now Jesus is going to add a new dimension to this.
He tells them in verse 21, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things and be killed and raised on the third day.”
This just is something that they don’t understand, and Peter really doesn’t understand it, and once again he comes along, and he just basically says, “Lord this can’t be. Now let’s just not do this. That’s not really the plan. We don’t believe that.”
It shows how much any of our presuppositions can block us from really understanding the truth. We have a wrong presupposition or assumption, and then we read the Scripture, and the Scripture says something else, and we have difficulty understanding because we’re locked in by an erroneous presupposition.
That is what had happened with Peter.
Jesus rebukes him. In fact, He calls him Satan, because he’s taking Satan’s position that “you don’t need to suffer. You don’t need to go to the Cross. It’s not necessary.” So he’s rebuked by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then there’s a section there where the Lord talks about the fact that if we’re really going to follow Him, we need to take up our cross and follow Him.
We would rather dwell on the thoughts of a glorious, utopic environment than on the fact that we need to suffer, we need to follow the Lord in His suffering. It’s not for salvation, but in our spiritual life, in our spiritual growth, submitting to the authority of God. We saw that’s the meaning of that phrase “to take up our cross and follow Him.”
At the end of that statement in verse 27, Jesus says that the Son of Man will come in His glory.
Then is verse 28 He says that there were some in that group that would not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. He is clearly indicating that this kingdom isn’t going to come until after the Messiah suffers and dies.
The kingdom, as we’ve learned, is postponed. It was originally offered to Israel by John the Baptist, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and then by Jesus, and then by His disciples until we got to Matthew 12, when Jesus is rejected by the Pharisees in an official capacity, and they claim that He is performing His miracles through the power of Beelzebub.
So at this point, after announcing that there would be some in the group that would not see death until they saw the kingdom, six days later, we’re told in the first part of Chapter 17, which we studied last week, that Jesus took three of them, Peter, James, and John with Him up on top of an unnamed mountain.
I pointed out that some people think it’s Mount Carmel because that was in the north. Others think it was Mount Tabor, which is further south, down in Galilee. We’re not really sure where He took them up on this high mountain.
There, something just incredible took place. He revealed His glory. He took the veil off and displayed His glory as the God of Creation, the God of Israel. They were just dumbfounded.
Then Moses and Elijah appeared to them. Peter who just didn’t want to miss out on anything, often sticks his foot in his mouth, says, “Well, Lord, let me build three tabernacles for Elijah and Moses and for You.” Of course, by doing so he’s basically putting Jesus on the level of a prophet.
As I pointed out last time, Jesus is MORE than a prophet. He was a prophet to fulfill Deuteronomy 15—the prophet like Moses—but He’s more than a prophet. He’s the Son of God.
So God the Father then interrupts Peter, basically saying, “Be quiet, Peter, and listen. Pay attention. Don’t put your foot in your mouth anymore.”
At which point Moses and Elijah disappear. They’ve had a conversation with the Lord Jesus Christ about His mission to Jerusalem and His coming death. So there were things that were understood and learned or should have been learned by Peter, James, and John.
Then when the Father spoke, we’re told that He showed up in a bright cloud which overshadowed them. We’re not sure exactly when this took place, but it is approximately five or six months prior to Jesus’ crucifixion.
Jesus was crucified around the time of March in that next year in AD 33.
Then what we would expect is that this is sometime in October or September, depending on how it fell at that time of year, which is about this time of year [September].
The language that’s used here is interesting. Peter says “we need to build tabernacles for you three,” and then the Father shows up in glory, a bright cloud, and overshadows them. This is language that we often find in the fall feast of Israel called Sukkot.
So I thought I would just take this time to point that out. We don’t know that this is the exact time, but it is germane to our topic, because the Feast of Sukkot is a feast that points Israel to the future fulfillment of the kingdom in glory.
Sukkah, which is the singular of the plural noun Sukkot, was basically a lean-to. Sometimes it’s translated “booths.” You’ve heard maybe the feast referred to as the Feast of Booths, and it looks back to the time that Israel was in the wilderness when they basically lived in lean-tos along the way. They would build these temporary dwelling places where they lived in tents until they arrived in the Promised Land.
The Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths, looks back to how God provided for them in the wilderness. But that was a foreshadowing to look forward to the future kingdom that God would provide for them—that those temporary dwellings were just for now, but that God would replace them with permanent dwellings.
So this is the focus on the Feast of Booths, and in both biblical and rabbinic tradition, the Feast of Tabernacles speaks of the kingdom, the future kingdom of the Messiah.
It teaches about the re-establishment of what Amos 9:11 calls “the tabernacle of David.” And that’s because now the tabernacle of David has fallen.
In the time of Christ, the tabernacle of David is fallen—well, what does that mean? What that means is that a tabernacle is a dwelling place or a home or a house.
It’s referring to the house of David. The dynasty of David had fallen on hard times after the defeat of Judah at the time of Babylonian captivity, and that kingship was never restored to the house of David.
But the One who will restore the kingship to the house of David is the Lord Jesus Christ as the greater Son of David. We’ve seen that title used by the Canaanite woman whose daughter was demon possessed—Jesus casts the demon out—she used that title “Son of David” to refer to Jesus.
So one aspect of this feast is to focus upon the future restoration of the house of David during the time of the kingdom of the Messiah.
Another aspect of Sukkot was the dwelling of God in the wilderness in the tabernacle. It related to the Shekinah glory, which was the cloud that showed up when God’s presence was in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle.
That was referred to by the word I mentioned last time, and that’s the word skene that’s translated “tabernacle” or “a dwelling place.”
The English word that comes from that is used as a technical term in drama in theater, and it comes across in English as the word “scene.” So as I said, we have counterparts or cognates to that word “skene” in almost every language in the world.
When they are up on the Mount of Transfiguration, there’s a foreshadowing of the future kingdom and the glory of the Messiah. The language that’s there is the same kind of language that’s used in talking about the Feast of Sukkot.
Jesus used the word, or John uses the word to describe Jesus in John 1, that word skene, where he writes “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” It’s the verb form of the word—the dwelling of the Second Person of the Trinity in a human body. So that quote is His glory.
In Matthew 17:4–5 Peter said, “Let us make those three tabernacles.” That’s that word skene. We also have the bright cloud showing up.
Then in verse 9—moving on—as they came down from the mountain to rejoin the other disciples, Jesus gave them an odd command.
Earlier remember, He told them not to tell anyone that He was Yeshua HaMashiach, that He was Jesus the Christ. And now as He comes down with Peter, James, and John, He says, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”
I’m sure Peter is thinking, “There you go, Lord, talking about dying again! That’s not the plan! We don’t like that plan! We like the plan where You just bring the kingdom, and why do you keep talking about the fact that You have to go suffer, and You have to die! What’s happened to the kingdom?” That’s the thought that’s going on inside their minds.
So in verse 10 they articulate that. “And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ ”
See, what they’re really asking is on their understanding of the Old Testament. There’s a prophesy in Malachi that before the Messiah comes, Elijah will come. Elijah will be the forerunner of the Messiah, and Elijah will proclaim the coming of the Messiah.
They’re saying, “Well, we don’t understand. If the scribes teach us that Elijah may come first, what’s going on with the plan, because the Messianic Kingdom is not coming according to You. You’re going to die, so we’re just totally confused, and we don’t know what is going on.”
Part of the ground for understanding this is understanding that there’s contingency in God’s Plan. I think that’s an important thing to recognize because it applies to all of our lives.
God in His Sovereignty is directing human history to its end to His desired goal. But within that plan, God has allowed and built in a certain amount of flexibility to allow for our negative volition, so that in His omniscience, He knows all of the things that can take place and all of the things that woulda-coulda-shoulda taken place, but won’t take place because of our volition.
He allows for human beings to have genuine volition in different times, and at many times we make bad decisions, and so we’re living on our Plan X,Y, or Z instead of Plan A, B or C. But nevertheless, God is still working out His plan. His ultimate Plan and structure is not dependent upon human volition. He will still work things out.
I remember years ago when I was listening to Charlie Clough teaching in the Framework Series. At the time I listened to the first series back in the 70s when I was in seminary and wrestling with these issues on sovereignty and free will and Calvinism and Armenianism.
He made this statement in talking about how the curse of sin so fragmented and corrupted all of physiological creation that, he said, God built enough flexibility within the DNA structure of human beings and all living things, and within the structure of all the physical world, to handle this massive chaos that would enter as a result of Adam’s wrong use of his volition in the garden.
He was talking about the curse in creation. But at the time I was studying the issues about free will and sovereignty. And it struck me that that’s exactly how it works within free will and God’s sovereignty.
He gives us the freedom to make bad decisions, but God has such magnificent power and control that He doesn’t have to force human beings to do everything the way He wants to bring about His end result. He is still able to bring about His end result without violating individual human responsibility.
So there’s this flexibility there, and we see this in passages where Jesus speaks, like in Matthew 11:23 where He is addressing the negative volition, the hostility of His hometown Capernaum.
He says, “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.”
See, He knows what would have happened if Sodom had been positive. He knows what the alternatives would have been, and He understands not only what will happen but what could have or would have or should have happened.
There’s that flexibility there, but God doesn’t lose control because He gives a measure of freedom to human beings to exercise their volition.
So as we study in Matthew 17, we have to go back to some other passages to understand what comes up in Matthew 17:10 when Peter says, “Why does it say that Elijah must come first? Is this wrong? What’s going on here?”
To understand this, we have to go back and look at some things that we’ve already studied, for example in Matthew 11, but also what is said in the Old Testament related to John the Baptist and Elijah, because this comes back to contingency again—that John the Baptist—here’s basically what I’m saying: John the Baptist would have had that role of Elijah if Israel had responded positively to the message that Jesus was the Messiah. Then he would have fulfilled that role of Elijah.
But because they rejected Jesus, John ended up not fulfilling that Elijah role. That will be ultimately fulfilled by someone in the Tribulation period.
So in Matthew 11 going back to that passage where the context is talking about John the Baptist, this is where it looks back to the death of John the Baptist, and Jesus quotes from Malachi.
He says, “For this is he”—that is referring to John the Baptist—he says, “this is he of whom it is written”—and there’s no wiggle room there in that statement. Jesus is definitely saying that John the Baptist is the one that Malachi is talking about—“ ‘Behold I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ ”
He is saying that John the Baptist fulfills that messenger role as the forerunner of the Messiah, the one who announces His coming.
Now I pointed this out in our study in Samuel, that there’s a pattern that we see in the Old Testament, and it starts with Samuel. When God is going to give Israel a king, the first person to show up is going to be Samuel the prophet, because Samuel represents the authority of the throne of God, and Samuel as the prophet is the one who anoints the king, indicating that the king is under the authority of God. The king is not autonomous.
You have to have the prophet anoint the king. You see this throughout the Old Testament. The prophet anoints the king. Jesus doesn’t just show up as the king independent of prophetic announcement and prophet authority.
It is a prophet who anoints Jesus for the beginning of His role as the Messiah. So John the Baptist shows up.
That has impacted American government. Where do we see an analogy to that in American government?
It is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who takes a Bible, and the President must put his hand upon the Bible and swear that he is going to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
It places the authority of the Executive Branch under the Word of God and under the Constitution of the United States. It is not an autonomous power, though recent Presidents have tended to abuse it and use it that way.
That’s a violation of their oath and a violation of the Constitution.
Now in Malachi 3:1 we read that Malachi prophesized, “Behold I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, Behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”
“But who can endure the day of His coming: And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap.”
The point is that there’s this messenger that’s going to appear before the Messiah, and He’s the One who will cleanse the temple.
How is that seen in the life of Jesus? He cleanses the temple twice: at the beginning of His ministry and at the end of His ministry.
So John the Baptist fulfills that role. That’s clearly what Jesus states in Matthew 11:10.
The other passage we go to here is in Malachi 4:5. This is at the very end of Malachi. The last verse in Malachi 4 is Malachi 4:6.
The next verse is going to be Matthew 1. This is the last thing that God says to the Jews in the Old Testament.
And then He’s going to shut down revelation for almost 400 years.
The last thing that He tells them has to do with Elijah. He says two things here at the end: He says, “two things you need to do: Remember the Law of Moses and look for Elijah.”
Now who shows up on the Mount of Transfiguration? Moses and Elijah. That’s part of the reason those two are there.
Malachi says, “Remember the law of Moses,” and in verse five he says, “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
That phrase “day of the Lord” refers to a time of divine judgment. If you just see the words “day of the Lord,” then that could probably include all of the seven years of the Tribulation, the period of Daniel’s 70th week, the period also known as the “time of Jacob’s trouble.”
But in both Joel 2:31 and here, you see a reference to the “day of the Lord” as being great and terrible. That’s a reference to the campaign of Armageddon, the military campaign.
It’s not one battle; it’s a series of battles as we’ve studied. That occurs at the end of that seven-year period.
This reference in Malachi 4:5 is that He would send Elijah the prophet sometime before the “great and terrible day of the Lord.” That would be the Second Coming when Christ defeats the antichrist, the false prophet, Satan, and the armies of the kings of the earth in the campaign of Armageddon.
What’s the role of Elijah? What is his role? That’s the last verse of the Old Testament:
“And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”
Now it’s interesting that if you look at this verse, “he will turn” looks like it refers to the Lord because that seems to be the most immediate antecedent to that pronoun. But when Jesus quotes it, He uses it to refer to Elijah.
This is the role of Elijah. His ministry will turn.
That word in the Hebrew is the word shub, which is a key word throughout the Old Testament. Sometimes it’s translated “repent,” sometimes it’s translated to “turn back to God.”
This is what Israel must do according to Deuteronomy 30 in order to be restored to the land and for the kingdom to come, as they must turn back to God.
Elijah will come preceding the coming of the “great and terrible day of the Lord,” and his mission is to turn the people back to the Lord.
There’s a reference here, the phraseology here “to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers” is reminiscent of the command given in Deuteronomy 6 and 7, where the Lord says, “These words I command you today. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk in the way, when you lie down and you rise up.”
So it is a reference to the fact that they are turning back to God, and that the Word of God is believed and becoming vital in the social structure and the life of Israel.
This is quoted in Luke. Remember the last thing that God says to Israel in the Old Testament is “Look for Elijah, and he’s going to turn the people back to God.”
The first person that shows up in the Gospel of Luke isn’t Jesus. It’s Zachariah the high priest, and he’s going in for his scheduled service in the temple. As he walks into the Holy Place, he is astounded to see an unexpected figure there:
It’s Gabriel, who announces to him that he is indeed going to have a son.
He describes this son in Luke 1:16–17. Zachariah is going to be the father of John the Baptist.
And he says regarding this son that Zachariah is going to have, he says, “He will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah.”
Now notice when you read Malachi 4:5, you think that Elijah himself is going to come back, but the Bible doesn’t hold to reincarnation.
What we learn from the progressive revelation of Luke 1:17 is that the language of Malachi 4 wasn’t to be understood literally, but there would be someone coming who followed in the kind of ministry of Elijah.
Elijah was one who came and confronted the powers of his day in the person of Ahab and Jezebel and the false teaching that they promoted, their hostility to Christians. They sought to destroy them.
Of course we all remember the great confrontation that occurred on Mount Carmel between Ahab and the priests of Baal and the priest of the Asherah, where they spent all day dancing around and cutting themselves and doing all kinds of things to get Baal to wake up and to burn the sacrifice. Baal never did.
Then Elijah had copious amounts, gallons and gallons of water thrown over the sacrifice until everything was completely soaked, and they had a ditch that they had dug around the altar, and it overflowed with water.
Then Elijah called upon God to accept the sacrifice, and a bolt of lightning came from Heaven and consumed everything instantly. It just incinerated.
The legend is, the story that comes down, is that that fire that came down from Heaven was so bright and so large and so powerful, it wasn’t just a narrow little bolt of lightning, but it was seen throughout Israel.
It lit up the land, and everybody knew that the God of Israel had defeated the prophets of Baal and the Asherah.
This is the type of ministry that this person is going to have, and he’s going to fulfill that prophesied role of Malachi 4:5 to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children.
But that failed in the ministry and the life of John the Baptist. His message was rejected. So he’s going to end up not being the fulfillment of that prophecy.
In Malachi 3:1, the Lord said this was His messenger, but what happens later is He says something different. He puts a condition on it.
In Matthew 11:9, talking about John the Baptist, Jesus said, “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold I send My messenger’ ”—so He’s clearly talking about Malachi 3:1 is fulfilled in Elijah.
But He goes on to say, “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there have not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist!” He’s the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, because he’s the one who had the privilege to announce the Messiah!
“Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence.”
So the religious leaders are violently opposed to it, and they are trying to shut it down, which is what they did in beheading John the Baptist.
Then in verse 13, Jesus says, “For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And”—look at the language—“if you are willing to accept it”—in other words the “it” is the messenger of the kingdom—“if you’re willing to accept it”—this is in Matthew 11 before the official rejection in Matthew 12—“if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.”
But it’s conditioned on accepting. He would be the one who would fulfill all of that if his message had been accepted.
So back to Matthew 17 when Peter says, “Well, what about the scribes who say Elijah must come first?” Then Jesus’ answer is, “Indeed, Elijah IS coming first and will restore all things.”
Elijah hasn’t come. It’s not past tense. It’s present tense, but it’s a future sentence. He is coming. It’s future, and he will restore all things when he comes.
That word for “restore” is the word APOKATHISTEMI, which was a phrase that was also used to describe the restoration that would come in the end times when the kingdom is established.
That is the role of Elijah. But it’s put off. There’s somebody who’s going to be that Elijah, fulfill that ministry in the power of Elijah, and there will be a future restoration.
There will be a future time when there’s a utopia on this earth, but it’s not going to be brought in by the Democrats. It’s not going to be brought in by Bernie Sanders and socialism. Socialism is terrible!
Socialism has never worked anywhere. Capitalism is pretty terrible, too. Everybody wants to jump on how bad capitalism is and all of the inequities and everything else. I always love the quote from Winston Churchill where he said, “Capitalism is a horrible system, but it’s better than any of the alternatives.”
Everything else steals from the rich to give to the poor, and that violates Scripture. So you always have people who’ll come along and say—oh, I think somebody tried to say this last week—that if we’re going to be biblical, we need to share the wealth. That’s not being biblical—that’s being criminal, and it’s not being very bright either.
There will be a utopia. There will be time when there is peace on earth, and that will come when the Messiah comes. Their swords will be beaten into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, but that doesn’t come until the Messiah comes.
It’s certainly not the UN. The UN has that verse emblazoned over the entryway to the UN building, which shows that they claim a religious function, that is to be the Messiah. That certainly isn’t going to happen.
It’s not going to be brought in by the Roman Catholic Church. I don’t care what the Pope says.
None of this is going to happen until Jesus returns. Until then, as Jesus said, there will be wars and rumors of wars. There will be famines. There will be trends of economic prosperity and economic collapse, and it’s not going to change until we get a perfect king, a perfect kingdom, a perfect government, and the bureaucracy is overseen by a perfect people—Church Age believers and Old Testament saints who are resurrected to rule over the planet during the time of the Millennial Kingdom.
So this is the future.
In Mark 9, Mark adds something. He says in Mark 9:12, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt?”
Mark adds that. Peter is saying, “Why do we have to keep talking about your suffering? I don’t want that yet.”
He finally got the point though, and in Acts 3:18–19 in his second major sermon in Acts, he again is offering the kingdom to Israel.
He talks about it under the phraseology of the times of refreshing. He tells the Jews that if they want the kingdom to come, they’re going to have to repent, change their mind, turn to God, “that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”
Now that is a verse that’s addressed to Israel, because repent means to turn. That’s the issue for Israel—is to turn back to God.
This is not a salvation verse saying that if you want to be saved and go to Heaven, you need to repent and believe. Only if you understand that repent is changing your mind.
The Gospel of John is written to tell people how to be saved, “These are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and by believing you might have life in His Name.”
Based on that, John says you must do what to believe, to be saved?
Believe. Nothing else.
95 times the verb for believe is used in the Gospel of John. Zero times is repent mentioned. Not once! So if somebody had the Gospel of John, they would say, “All I have to do is believe, and I’ll be saved.” That’s it! Nothing else!
Repentance was a code word coming out of the Mosaic Law, directed specifically to Israel at this time—that they needed to turn back, because that was the condition of Deuteronomy 31–32—that they needed to turn back to God so that He would restore them from all the nations from which they had been scattered.
Then in Matthew 17:12, Jesus goes on to say, “But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished.” They arrested him, they put him in jail, and they cut his head off. That’s what they did, the powers that be. The kingdom of God suffered violence as Matthew 11 says.
There He recognizes John the Baptist was Elijah, contingent upon His acceptance. He was not accepted, so that will be fulfilled in a person in the future kingdom—maybe one of the two prophets that show up on the scene at the beginning of the Tribulation period and are executed by the antichrist halfway through the Tribulation period.
Then it finally dawns on them in verse 13, “Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.”
The issue that confused them is one that still confuses people today. It especially confuses those who are of a Jewish background because it says that the Cross is foolishness to them in the Scripture, because they don’t understand the distinctions between the suffering Messiah and the glorified Messiah—the difference that the Cross had to come before the crown.
But this is what had to take place, because the sin problem had to be solved. Jesus had to pay that penalty for sin, so that redemption was accomplished that we could be freed from the penalty of sin, and we could be regenerate so we then could go into the kingdom that would come.
Because what did Jesus says to Nicodemus? You cannot see the kingdom of God unless you are born again. And that comes only by trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study these things this morning and to be reminded of Who Jesus Christ is—as the promised and prophesied Messiah from the Old Testament, the One who would be Your Lamb, the One who would be without spot or blemish, the One who was absolutely perfect, the One who never sinned, was born of a virgin birth.
He didn’t receive the transference of the sin nature. He didn’t receive the imputation of Adam’s original sin. He committed no personal sin, so He’s perfectly qualified to die as our substitute, to be the sacrificial lamb that would bring atonement to all the world.
Father, we pray that if there’s anyone who is listening to this message, that if they’ve never trusted in Christ as Savior, if they are unsure about their eternal destiny or uncertain about their salvation, that right now they would trust in Christ alone for their salvation.
At that instant of faith alone in Christ alone we have eternal life. We don’t need to raise our hand or walk an aisle. We don’t need to commit our life to Christ or do any of these other things that are so often stated today, but simply what the Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
Father, we pray that You would challenge each of us with the fact that we have a role and a mission that is the same as that given to the disciples in Matthew—that we are to go into all the world making disciples and teaching Your Word, explaining the Gospel to our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, anyone who will listen that Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life.
Father, we pray that we might be mindful of that challenge at all times. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”