Tuesday, May 03, 2011

John the Baptist - The Spirit of Elijah

When the Ladies Bible study groups completed the study called Jesus the One and Only, we were entering the time of Passover and celebrating the Resurrection...the week of Easter. It was such perfect timing because the study ended with Jesus' death on the cross, His resurrection from the grave and His ascendence into Heaven. God couldn't have planned the timing of this study more perfectly. Beth Moore had such a wonderful explanation of the Passover Meal and what Jesus and His disciples would have gone through at that Last Supper.  I thought that because we were entering Passover now, learning how the Jews celebrated the Passover Meal would be such a great completion to the study. So we invited a wonderful Jewish woman to come and share about the Passover Meal with us.  It was VERY interesting and it gave such incredible insight to the Passover itself, but also to how Jesus and the Messiah is viewed by different people.  It was wonderful to have her!  Through the session, it was pointed out that the Jews are waiting for the 1st appearance of their `Messiah` and Christians are waiting for 'their Messiah`s 2nd coming'.  But what was so extremely heart wrenching for me at the time and during the next couple weeks is that IF people do not accept JESUS as the real true Messiah, then they are actually waiting for the Anti-Christ!  OH that just hit me REAL hard!  I had a cry over it! If the Scriptures, Old AND New Testament are not read, if the Bible is not studied as a whole, then people are REALLY missing out on VERY important truths!

So anyway, during the Passover celebration, many Jews will open their doors to allow the spirit of Elijah to come into their home while they are celebrating the Passover.  The `spirit of Elijah` is looked upon as Christians look to Jesus...as everyone should be looking to Jesus.  Often a special cup is set out with wine in it for the spirit of Elijah to drink.  While the children are out hunting for the eggs in the middle of the evening, one of the adults will drink the wine in the cup so that when the children come back in, it is empty...therefore the children really believe the spirit of Elijah has come and visited them.  It is believed by many Jews that their messiah will come in the spirit of Elijah but they don`t know what form he or she will take.  The idea that Elijah is coming back is taken from the passage in Malachi 4:4-6 which is described in more depth below.
During my devotions one Monday, I came across some verses that I`ve read many times before but this time they just jumped out at me anew and with fresh meaning after having experienced the Passover celebration.  I was so excited and just couldn't keep it to myself so I sent these scriptures to  my Bible study ladies on that Monday:
Good morning ladies,
as I was having my devotions this morning, I came across some GREAT verses that reminded me of our time last week reviewing the Passover.  Many Jews, while they are going through the Passover Meal each year, they have a cup for the spirit of Elijah, and during the meal, they open the door to allow his spirit to come in and be present with them. This raised many questions among us as to why many Jews hold the Prophet Elijah in such great esteem, and why they look to him in the same way that we look to Jesus. I just HAVE to share these verses and study notes from my Bible with you!!  :-) (scriptures are taken from the New Living Translation)
The passage that my devotions from the Daily Bread began with this morning was Malachi 4:4-6 "Remember to keep my commandments of my servant Moses, all the laws and regulations that I gave him on Mount Sinai for all Israel. Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the heart of children to their parents. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse."
'Elijah (1 Kings 17-2 Kings 2) was one of the greatest prophets who ever lived. With the prophet Malachi's death, the voice of God's prophets would be silent for 400 years. Then a prophet would come, like Elijah, to herald the Messiah's coming (Matt. 17:10-13, Luke 1:17). This prophet was John the Baptist. John prepared people's hearts for Jesus by urging people to repent of their sins. Christ's coming would bring not only unity and peace, but also judgment on those who refused to turn from their sins.'
So reading this passage and the study notes, sent me on a search with all the verses that cross referenced it....and again, I am so excited to share it with you!!
Luke 1 begins with an angel promising the birth of John to Zechariah. "Elizabeth will bear a son and you are to name him John....many will rejoice with you at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord....he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. And he will persuade many Israelites to turn to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah, the prophet of old. He will precede the coming of the Lord, preparing the people for his arrival. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will change disobedient minds to accept godly wisdom." (v. 13-17)
'John's role was to be almost identical to that of an Old Testament prophet; to encourage people to turn away from sin and back to God. John is often compared to the great prophet Elijah, who was known for standing up to evil rulers (Mal. 4:5, Matt. 11:14; 17:10-13). In preparing people for the Messiah's arrival, John would seek to take stony hearts and exchange them for hearts that were soft, pliable, trusting, and open to change (Ezekiel 11:19, 20 & 36:25-29).'
In Matthew 11:11-14 as Jesus was teaching about the Kingdom, he says "I assure you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet event the most insignificant person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is! And from the time John the Baptist began preaching and baptizing until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people attack it. For before John came, all the teachings of the Scriptures looked forward to this present time. And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come. Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand!"
In my study notes, it says 'no person ever fulfilled his God-given purpose better than John. Yet in God's coming Kingdom all members will have a greater spiritual heritage than John because they will have seen and known Christ and his finished work on the cross....John was not a resurrected Elijah, but he took on Elijah's prophetic role---boldly confronting sin and pointing people to God (Mal. 3:1)'
In Matthew 17 Jesus, Peter, James & John were on the mount of Transfiguration and Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus.  After Moses and Elijah left, in verses 11-13  "Jesus says, "Elijah is indeed coming first to set everything in order. But I tell you, he has already come, but he wasn't recognized, and he was badly mistreated. And soon the Son of Man will also suffer at their hands." Then the disciples realized he had been speaking of John the Baptist."

'Based on Malachi 4:5-6, the teachers of the Old Testament law believed that Elijah must appear before the Messiah would appear. Jesus referred to John the Baptist, not to the Old Testament prophet Elijah. John the Baptist took on Elijah's prophetic role, bolding confronting sin and pointing people to God. Malachi had prophesied that a prophet like Elijah would come (Mal. 4:5).
In Mark 9:11-13 at the Transfiguration, it says this "Now they began asking him, "Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?" Jesus responded "Elijah is indeed coming first to set everything in order. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer and be treated with utter contempt? But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and he was badly mistreated, just as the Scriptures predicted."
'When Jesus said that Elijah had already come, he was speaking of John the Baptist (Matt. 17:11-13), who had fulfilled the role prophesied for Elijah. It was difficult for the disciples to grasp the idea that their Messiah would have to suffer. The Jews who studied the Old Testament prophecies expected the Messiah to be a great king like David, who would overthrow the enemy, Rome. Their vision was limited to their own time and experience. They could not understand that the values of God's eternal Kingdom were different from the values of the world. They wanted relief from their present problems. But deliverance from sin is far more important than deliverance from physical suffering or political oppression. Our understanding and appreciation of Jesus must go beyond what he can do for us here and now.'
In John 1:19-26, the Jewish leaders were asking John who he was; if he was the Messiah, or Elijah, or the prophet.  John's reply was from the words of Isaiah 40:3 "I am a voice shouting in the wilderness, 'Prepare a straight pathway for the Lord's coming!'"
'In the religious leaders' minds, there were four options regarding John the Baptist's identity: He was (1) the Prophet foretold by Moses in Deut. 18:15, (2) Elijah from Mal. 4:5, (3) the Messiah, or (4) a false prophet. John denied being the first three personages. Instead, he called himself, in the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, "The voice of someone shouting "Make a highway for the LORD through the wilderness. Make a straight, smooth road through the desert for our God" Isaiah 40:3.  The leaders kept pressing John to say who he was because people were expecting the Messiah to come (Luke 3:15). But John emphasized only WHY he had come---to prepare the way for the Messiah. The Pharisees missed the point. They wanted to know who John was, but John wanted them to know who Jesus was.'
So there's the proof!!!  Oooooh! If only people would see it and understand!!  The Jews don't need to wait any longer for the 'spirit of Elijah' or the one who will be like him.....he's already come, in the form of John the Baptist...and so has Jesus Christ the Messiah!  Oh how we need to pray for people's eyes to be opened and that they would see Jesus Christ as the ONE TRUE Messiah!

Jesus is the Way the Truth the Life! He is the ONLY way that we can enter into eternity with God.  In Acts 4:12 Peter tells the Jewish council in Jerusalem "There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them."  Many people do not react well to this, they want to "prove" there is another way into heaven...but there's not!  Only Jesus can save us! God designated Jesus to be the Savior of the world and there is nothing that anyone can do to ever change that! We can be open minded to many things, but this is the ONE thing that we can never be open minded about. There is no other way that we can be saved from sin. 'No other religious teacher could die for our sins; no other religious teacher came to earth as God's only Son; no other religious teacher rose from the dead. Our focus needs to be on Jesus, whom God provided as the way to have an eternal relationship with himself. There is no other name or way!'  There will come a day when EVERY PERSON on this earth will acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah, God's One and Only Son. Philippians 2:8-11 tells us that Jesus humbled himself obediently by dying on the cross and "Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  Oh I can't wait for that day!!  Hallelujah what a glorious day that will be!!

Jesus is the One and Only, thee true Messiah who is returning.  Oh that we would have the heart of John the Baptist....wanting others to know who Jesus is!  That is my prayer for us dear ones.

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