Time for a Change

KEY VERSE: “This is he that was spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” —Matthew 3:3


MANY Jews from Judea and the region round about Jordan went out to hear John, who was indeed a voice crying in the wilderness! He apparently did not go from place to place in the conduct of his ministry, but instead, the people went to him. They found a man with “raiment of camel’s hair and a leathern girdle about his loins, and his meat was locusts and wild honey.”—Matt. 3:4

Jesus made a revealing observation concerning John’s desert ministry, and his clothing. He said concerning him, “What went ye out to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet, for this is he, of whom it is written, Behold I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” (Matt. 11:7-10) John called upon his hearers to repent, and those who did he immersed in water as a symbol of their cleansing from sin.

“The Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem” to ask John, “Who art thou?” (John 1:19) He made it clear that he was “not the Christ.” (vs. 20) Then they asked, “What then? Art thou Elias? [Elijah in Hebrew]” Again his answer was, “I am not.” Their final question was, “Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.”—vs. 21

The question they asked John, “Art thou Elias?” was based on the prophecy of Malachi 4:5,6, which reads, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful Day of the Low; 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.” This prophecy describes a work of reformation such as John was conducting in Israel, and it was natural that he should be asked whether or not he considered himself to be this foretold “Elijah.”

John denied that he was “Elijah,” yet Jesus said to his disciples, referring to John, that “Elias is indeed come.” (Mark 9:13) This does not contradict John’s statement concerning the matter. The more complete viewpoint is expressed in Matthew 11:14, where Jesus is quoted as saying to his disciples, “If ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.” This means that to those who repented under the ministry of John, and were prepared to accept Jesus, he was the promised Elijah, for he had accomplished the foretold work of reformation in their hearts and lives. His service accomplished the introduction of God’s program for a new age—the Gospel Age—and that is why Jesus referred to John as “more than a prophet.”

This prophecy of the coming Elijah suggests an alternative fulfillment—“Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” In other words, if the attempted work of reformation failed, the foretold curse would come upon the nation of Israel. This curse was in reality what John referred to as “the wrath to come.”

Since John himself denied that he was actually the foretold Elijah, we are warranted in looking for a larger fulfillment. The voice crying in the wilderness, starting with John, has continued throughout the age, first by our Lord Jesus and his apostles, and subsequently by every disciple who has given voice to a vision of the kingdom to come. And while it might seem to have failed of its purpose in worldwide conversion, quite the contrary is true. The voice has been instrumental in the development of the complete Elijah—the church—through whom the full Elijah work of worldwide repentance and reformation can and will prosper in the Millennial Age.

Jesus assured us that the work of the Elijah will not fail, when he told his disciples, The “Elijah will indeed come and restore all things.” Malachi’s prophecy is just as reassuring when it uses the word “shall” in describing the reformation work of the antitypical Elijah: “He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers.”

John was a faithful voice. His faithfulness inspired Jesus to say of him: “Among those born of women [up to that time] there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist!”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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