The Kings Forerunners

The two forerunners of the King are John the Baptist and Elijah. John the Baptist has already come and prepared the way for the King's first advent. Elijah shall come and prepare the way for His second advent. Scripture clearly indicates that John the Baptist was not Elijah, although he came in the spirit and power of Elijah. There are similarities between Elijah and John, especially Elijah's encounter with Ahab and Jezebel and John's confrontation with Herod and Herodias.

The necessity of understanding information conveyed in prophecy is emphasized by prophecy distinguishing the first forerunner from the second. Isaiah predicted the coming of the first forerunner: "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God" (Is. 40:3). Malachi foretold the second forerunner: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Mal. 4:5,6). The ministry of both Elijah and John is confined to Israel. John's coming was during Israel's wilderness condition, and Elijah's coming will precede the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Since John did not restore all things, one must come who will.

The idea of a postponed kingdom is refuted by the prediction of two forerunners. Could a postponed kingdom mean that if the Jews hadreceived the so-called offeredkingdom at Christ's first advent, John would have fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi 4:5-6? God would have sent Elijah instead of John had He purposed to establish the kingdom at His first advent. Both forerunners were in God's purpose. Furthermore, the omniscient and omnipotent God is not so unsure ofthe outcome ofHis purpose that He gave a contingency. John was chosen by God to be a voice shouting in the desert "And saying, you repent: for the kingdom of the heavenshasapproached"(Matt. 3:2—translation).Repentance is a prerequisite to entering or seeing the kingdom (John 3:3-7). Prior to the dreadful day ofthe Lord, John preached the baptism ofrepentance to qualify the elect for the kingdom which will be established. John and Christ were killed at Christ's first advent. A martyred forerunner was an appropriate foreground for the King who would be crucified. On the other hand, preceding the dreadful day of the Lord, Elijah will restore all things for the entrance of the elect into the Kingdom (Matt. 17:11). This is the reason his name is associated with the mount of transfiguration scene which is a foretaste of the coming kingdom (Matt. 17:1-13).

The suggestion of a postponed kingdom casts reflection on the sovereign God who has infinite knowledge. Persons who think the destinies of men lie within themselves must be subjected to the overruling God who is higher than the highest. The sovereign God turns the heart of man wherever He wishes (Prov. 21:1). Do men think God's heart is in their hands to do with as they desire? Rising above human reason is a necessity for man, but it is impossible apart from grace which God alone can give. God who has infinite knowledge needs no backup plan. His understanding is infinite (Ps. 147:5). God sees future, present, and past all at once because He is "in one mind" (Job 23:13). Therefore, God's purpose is fixed and settled. God foresaw no chance of its failure at either Christ's first or second advent. The events at Christ's second coming are as certain as those at His first coming. Nothing in God's providence is by accident. Man alone needs a contingent plan, but he cannot be sure the backup will be successful. No matter how many backups a spacecraft may have, its destruction is sure when God wills it.

A Scriptural view of the kingdom is impossible without a Biblical concept of prophecy. The importance of studying prophecy related to Christ's first advent reveals the necessity of acquiring knowledge of prophecies associated with His second advent. Prophetical Scriptures are part of the word of God entrusted to us. The book of Revelation is basically prophetical. It pronounces blessing on those who read, hear, and keep the words of its prophecy (Rev. 1:3).

The prophecy of Isaiah has two major divisions which correspond with the Old and New Testaments. The first thirty-nine of the sixty-six chapters agree with the thirty-nine Old Testament books; whereas the last twenty-seven are analogous to the twenty-seven New Testament books. The whole prophetical section is a record of the development of evil and the final overthrow of the wicked, who shall be excluded from the messianic kingdom.

Both Isaiah's last major division and the Gospel according to Matthew begin with the introduction of John the Baptist, the first forerunner of the King (Is. 40:3; Matt. 3:1-3). All four of the Gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—

quoted from Isaiah 40:3. Both Isaiah and Revelation conclude with the establishment of the kingdom and the reign of Jesus Christ.

With the close of Malachi's predictions, there was a silence for 400 years. No voice of a prophet was heard until John the Baptist came forth shouting in the desert. He stood in a unique place in human history. As the God-ordained clasp of two Testaments, John was content to be a "voice" declaring the object of all prophecy, the end of all sacrifices, and the hope of all the elect. Thus, the true Shepherd who stood at the door waiting to be admitted was introduced by John. He bowed low as Jesus of Nazareth passed through the door; and he shouted, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

John was the bright and shining light who must fade into insignificance in the light of Him who is the Light of the world (John 5:35; 8:12). He who spent thirty years preparing for one year of service became a martyr soon after he introduced Jesus Christ. Some think they can prepare in one year for thirty years of service. They can, if they are nothing more than the servants of men. However, God's servants cannot be too careful about the way they handle the Holy Scriptures. They are not like the schoolteacher who applied for a teaching position and stated in her interview that she had twenty years of experience. The principal asked her if she had twenty years of experience or one year of experience that had been repeated twenty times. Continuous study is necessary for growth.

John the Baptist became a terror to Israel. His preaching was like a succession of lightning flashes. His proclamation of the kingdom passed into a denunciation of his hearers, warning them of wrath about to come (Matt. 3:3,7). He called his congregation of Pharisees and Sadducees an offspring of snakes and demanded fruit from them to prove their repen-

That congregation of hypocrites to whom John preached boasted of their religious heritage as the seed of Abraham. Therefore, John demanded that they prove their spiritual descendance from Abraham. Similarly, people today boast of certain religious ties. Since John was independent of the offspring of snakes, he boldly renounced them. Every man of God should be so independent of religious connections that he will speak the word of God uncompromisingly. At the same time, he should be cognizant that he must give account before God. Hierarchies of religious denominations often support religionists while seeking to hinder men of God from boldly proclaiming the word of God. John the Baptist stated his belief in the absolute sovereignty of God: "...God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham" (Matt. 3:9). John's message was declared in order that those persons to whom God granted repentance might be qualified for entrance into the kingdom of the heavens. He warned his listeners that "already the ax is being laid at the root of the trees" (Matt. 3:10—translation). Every person who does not bring forth fruit as proof of his repentance shall be judged and cast into the fire, regardless of his ancestry.

John's imprisonment and death prove that instead of a present kingdom, suffering is the portion that God's providence has assigned to every Christian. The forerunner was rejected and slain (Matt. 14:1-12). Likewise, the apostle Paul was stoned, and men supposing him to be dead dragged him out of the city. However, he was not dead. He continued proclaiming the gospel, confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and reminding them that they must go through much tribulation to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:19-22). Their entrance into the kingdom was future. If the assembly of Christ and the kingdom were synonymous, Christians would be entering that which they have already entered. Christians are subjects of the assembly Christ is building and heirs of the kingdom.

John's confrontation with Herod resulted in his martyrdom. A martyred forerunner was an appropriate foreground for the crucified, not reigning, King. The state put John to death, and the religious leaders by their traditions perverted the word of God preached by John. The brevity of John's ministry proved Israel's unfitness for the kingdom.

John the Baptist was appointed by God to preach in the desert of Judea to prepare for the beginning of Christ's public ministry. He prepared the people for the Messiah and introduced Him to Israel. John's commission was stated in the angel's words to Zacharias prior to John's conception: "And he shall go before him [Jesus Christ] in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn [epistrephai, aorist active infinitive of epistrepho, which means to turn back, to cause to return, or to bring back] the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready [hetoimasai, aorist active infinitive of hetoimadzo, which means to prepare or make ready] a people prepared [kates-keuasmenon, perfect passive participle of kataskeuadzo, which means having been prepared] for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). John the Baptist was commissioned to prepare those already prepared by the Lord. He could prepare no one who had not been previously prepared by God. The preparation of one's heart by God prior to his preparation by the gospel emphasizes the distinction between regeneration and conversion.

Paul's record of his regeneration and his testimony of his conversion experience (Acts 9:3-6; 22:6-10; 26:12-18) illustrates that John the Baptist's preaching was not to regenerate anyone, and his baptizing those who repented and brought forth fruits of their repentance was not for the purpose of regenerating anyone. In Paul's third account of his having been quickened by God and his conversion experience, he stated that God had sent him to the Gentiles: "To open their eyes, and to turn [epistrephai, aorist active infinitive of epistrepho, which means to turn back, to cause to return, or to bring back] them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me" (Acts 26:18). Paul, like John the Baptist, was sent to prepare a people God had already prepared for Himself. God's man cannot help people to be ready who have not first been made ready by God. This is the same principle set forth in Jeremiah 31:18-19 concerning Ephraim: "...turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented "

Isaiah prophesied, "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God" (Is. 40:3). Matthew referred to the first forerunner of Jesus Christ as a "voice" without saying anything about the announcement of his birth by an angel, his priestly descent, or the thirty years of preparation for such a brief ministry (Matt. 3:3). When John the Baptist was asked who he was, "He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias" (John 1:23).

The prophet of the Highest asserted that he was only a voice. The voice of the messenger was for a fleeting second, but the content of his message was eternal. The truth that has been voiced and not the voice of a highly trained orator should be remembered. The "voice" for God is a witness of Christ, not a witness of nature, reason, philosophy, science, politics, or religion. A mere voice is insufficient for religionists, but it is enough for the elect of God. The "voice" declared, "...Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). True humility is manifested in John's statement, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness."

John the Baptist had nothing about his person to attract anyone. His raiment of camel's hair, leather girdle, and diet of locusts and wild honey manifested the austerity of his life. He was a self-disciplined man who lived in solitude. He received in solitude the spiritual strength that would enable his candle to shine more brightly when he came forth to preach. Solitude has its place in the Christian life, but one must not remain in seclusion. It is a good school, but the world is the arena in which the good fight of faith must be fought. Privacy is best for communion with God, but society is where the message learned in seclusion with God is to be proclaimed.

John the Baptist, like Elijah, was prepared for his ministry while alone with God. Elijah had a solitary grandeur that was all his own. He was called a Tishbite, but no one knows the location of Tishbe. The prophet's earnestness in preaching was demonstrated in his message on Mount Carmel (I Kings 18). The preparation for that preaching must not be overlooked. The Lord told Elijah to hide himself by the brook Cherith that was before Jordan (I Kings 17:3). The person who takes a high place before men must take a low place before God. Time in secret must exceed time in public. After preparation in solitude with God, the Lord told the prophet to "Go, shew thyself unto Ahab..." (I Kings 18:1). John the Baptist is spoken of as going before Jesus Christ "in the spirit and power of Elias" (Luke 1:17). Matthew gave no information about the previous history of John the Baptist. He assumed the Jews to whom he wrote understood from the prophecies of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 who he was. The early life of John was as obscure as the Christ of whom he was a forerunner.

Elijah went forth to meet King Ahab. On his way, he came in contact with Obadiah, Ahab's governor, who was a good man employed by the wicked king. Obadiah did not extend the Christian cordiality that might be expected. The governor's greeting was one of cold formality. This should not be surprising because Obadiah's mission was in keeping with the place from which he had come. Serving Ahab was doubtless not his correct ministry. Some today would consider it another form of ministry. His service to Ahab was not the result of solitude with God. Although Elijah was providentially forced to own Ahab as his king, he would not own him as his master. Subjection to "the powers that be" and cooperating with them differ (Rom. 13:1-7). The missions of Elijah and Obadiah were different. Obadiah was sent by Ahab to find grass for the livestock, but Elijah was sent by God to call the nation of Israel back to God.

The nation of Israel had been without a voice for God for four hundred years when John the Baptist came. Hence, the spiritual condition of Israel was so degenerated that the prophet of the Highest preached in the desert of Judea. The Pharisees and Sadducees continued with the old forms of Judaism, but there was no spiritual power in their forms. John the Baptist, like the one in whose spirit and power he had come, was sent forth to call some out of Israel back to God by "saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of the heavens has approached" (Matt. 3:2—translation).

Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal and of the groves who feasted at the table of Jezebel. The altars of Baal and Jehovah cannot stand side by side. False religion is always attractive to the natural man, whether it is the false religion of Elijah's day or of the twentieth century. Many want to worship God and Baal simultaneously. However, things that are contradictory cannot be reconciled. Free grace can never be reconciled with free will. If man's will is sovereign, God is not. Since God alone is sovereign, free will is heretical. When the Pharisees and Sadducees, the greatest enemies of Messiah, came to John's baptism, he identified them with vipers, the most dangerous of serpents: "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come" (Matt. 3:7). Both the message of John the Baptist during the transitional period and the message of the apostles after the transitional period refute the belief by religious liberals that the spirit of the New Testament differs from that of the Old Testament. The statements by the Psalmist are as true today as the day they were penned: "...thou hatest all workers of iniquity" (Ps. 5:5). "Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end God is angry with the wicked every day" (Ps.

The appearance of Elijah in the transfiguration scene does not invalidate his future coming as Christ's forerunner (Matt. 17:1-13). Christ had reason for likening John the Baptist to Elijah. He called John "Elias" because he had come "in the spirit and power of Elias." Three passages of Scripture that mention John the Baptist connected with Elijah should be considered in their chronological order: (1) Gabriel did not say that John the Baptist shall be Elijah himself but "...he shall go before him [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elias..." (Luke 1:17). (2) During the time of John's ministry, the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask John who he was. When asked if he was Elijah, John replied, "I am not" (John 1:21). (3) After the death of John the Baptist, Jesus Christ gave the disciples a preview on the mount of transfiguration of the coming kingdom. The transfiguration scene was both a reality and a figure of Christ's future advent. Elijah, who had been seen, disappeared. This brought the question, "...Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come" (Matt. 17:10)? The scribes held that Elijah would be a forerunner of the Messiah before "...the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD" (Mal. 4:5). The disciples, on the other hand, saw Elijah coming subsequent to Jesus Christ. Elijah's departure from them caused the disciples to question the scribes. The answer to their question is found in the fact that the scribes taught correctly. Christ answered the disciples, "...Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist" (Matt. 17:11-13).

John the Baptist was called Elijah by Jesus Christ because he had qualities like Elijah. The Lord had sent Gabriel to announce that he would come " the spirit and power of Elias." Elijah had turned the hearts of some to the Lord and had preached repentance and judgment in difficult and dark days. Conditions were the same when John preached repentance and pointed out the Lamb of God, who was rejected by the nation of Israel. John's message was not destined to "restore all things," but Elijah was destined to be successful: "...Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things" (Matt. 17:11). The nation of Israel will not receive the message of repentance, which is prerequisite to the kingdom, until she is made willing in the day of God's power (Ps. 110:3). That day will not come until the coming of Elijah, the forerunner of Christ's second advent. John came in the spirit and power of Elijah but was rejected and killed. Christ was also rejected and killed. Elijah shall also be killed (Rev. 11). However, Christ will not be rejected by Israel when He comes the second time. The nation will repent and receive the Lord Jesus as her Messiah: "All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's winepresses. And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but

Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited" (Zech. 14:10,11).

John the Baptist was not Elijah. When asked if he was Elijah, John said, "I am not" (John 1:21). His reply does not contradict Matthew 11:11-14 or Matthew 17:1-13. The word "come" in Matthew 17:11—"...Elias truly shall first come..."—is erchetai, a futuristic present middle indicative of the Greek verb erchomai, which means to come. The verb is connected with the words "and shall restore all things [kai apokatastesei panta]" (translation). The verb apokatastesei is a future active indicative of apokathistemi, which means to restore a thing to its former place or state. Hence, the futuristic present verb indicates a future ministry of Elijah. Following the futuristic present verb for "come," Christ used a predictive future verb for "restore."

Christ's statement—"But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them" (Matt. 17:12)—does not contradict what had been said. What about Elijah having already come? The verb "come" (elthen) is the aorist active indicative of erchomai, which is used culminatively. The culminative use of the aorist emphasizes the end of the action. The other aorist verbs "knew him not," "done unto him," and "whatsoever they listed" are used constatively. The constative action is viewed in its entirety. All the verbs point to the past when Christ spoke to the disciples who were unfamiliar with the double fulfillment of prophecy. In verse 13, they understood that Christ was speaking about John the Baptist who had fulfilled his role in prophecy.

All things were not restored by John the Baptist, but they will be restored by one who shall come. Therefore, the prophecy of Malachi 4:5-6 has not been fulfilled, and this proves John the Baptist was not Elijah. At the time Christ spoke these words to His disciples, John the Baptist had already come and died a martyr's death. Elijah is called "the prophet" (I Kings 18:36), but John is designated "more than a prophet" (Matt. 11:9). Therefore, John is not Elijah. Christ talked about John the Baptist and Elijah in Matthew 17:11-13 when He referred to Elijah. One had already come, but the other was yet to come. If John the Baptist was Elijah, one is forced to believe in reincarnation (the soul coming back in another body).

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