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Matthew 11:2-15 by Robert Dean
Was Jesus really the Messiah, and, if so, where is the promised kingdom? Listen to this lesson to find out that John the baptist was wondering about this as he was languishing in prison. Hear that based on John’s background, he was not doubting that Jesus was the Messiah. See what it meant for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit from the day of his birth. Find out what his relationship was to the prophet Elijah and why his father, Zacharias, became mute. See that not everyone responds to the gospel until many times of hearing it, if at all.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:57 mins 14 secs

What am I Missing?
Matthew 11:2–15
Matthew Lesson #067
February 15, 2015
www.deanbibleministries.org

There are a couple of things that we need to remember from what we have studied so far in Matthew. First, that Matthew’s Gospel was written to a Jewish audience about the Jewish Messiah, and it is based on an understanding of the Jewish text. So you have to have a pretty clear understanding of the Old Testament because of the many citations of the Old Testament that we find in Matthew. But there is this Jewish orientation to Matthew; and it is related to the Jewish King identified as the Messiah, and His kingdom. The original audience to whom Matthew addressed himself was asking a couple of questions. Remember, he was writing sometime in the late forties, and Jesus has been ascended to heaven for probably 16–18 years or so, and they are asking a double question. This is important to understand in light of what is happening in this chapter. They were asking if Jesus really was the Messiah and if so, where was the kingdom?

That second question is foundational for this study because Jesus came to offer the kingdom. He offered the kingdom, and they expected the kingdom, and the kingdom wasn’t there. That question really is what John the Baptist is asking Jesus. He does not doubt; his faith isn’t wavering; he is asking for more information because he expected the kingdom to come. And he is in prison awaiting execution, and it doesn’t fit the scenario that he expected. So the kingdom message is critical for understanding the background here.

The other thing we have to understand is that as Matthew is writing, he is not giving us a detailed biography of Jesus. We get more information on many of these events from Mark or Luke. We get a little bit of an abbreviated description of these events from Matthew because Matthew is simply presenting these, as it were, snapshots that demonstrate the point that Jesus came to offer the kingdom. He demonstrated His credentials as the King. The people and the leaders rejected Him as Messiah, and from that point on He began to announce that there would be a new entity coming in the distance—the Church—and He was preparing and training His disciples for what would come in between the present time when Jesus was on the earth in the incarnation and the future time when He would return and establish His kingdom.

So we have Matthew presenting Jesus as He arrives on the scene, the presentation of the King, which is very important because that involves John the Baptist. But John the Baptist disappears very quickly by the time we get to Matthew 4 because he is arrested and put in prison. It wasn’t until John was arrested and put in prison that Jesus began His public ministry. Jesus began the proclamation of His kingship and teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5–7), followed in chapters 8–10 by Jesus proclaiming the kingdom; and He is authenticating His mission as the Messiah through the miracles that He performed. They are not given in chronological order. Matthew is simply picking examples of different miracles Jesus performed in order to prove his point that Jesus was the Messiah. In Matthew 10 Jesus then delegated authority to His disciples and sent them out to the twelve tribes of Israel, announcing to Israel—they were not to go to the Gentiles—the coming of the kingdom, the offer of the kingdom, and the people were to repent because the kingdom of heaven was at hand.

That must have been a remarkable time because it was a time of spiritual darkness in Israel, a time of spiritual hunger in Israel, and now there were the twelve disciples who went out in pairs announcing that the King is at hand, the kingdom is at hand; and they are performing these miracles because the power that Jesus had has been delegated to them. They are giving sight to the blind, healing the lame, casting out demons, and cleansing lepers. Word of this is spreading like wildfire throughout both the northern and southern kingdoms.

That is the context. So what Matthew tells us is that after Jesus gave His marching orders to His disciples, “He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities” (Matthew 11:1). This is the third time Matthew has mentioned Jesus going out on a circuit in the northern territory of Galilee to teach and to preach. He abbreviates the statement here because in the two previous statements He says He went to teach in the synagogues and to proclaim. Preach means simply to proclaim, it is not a certain type of oral presentation. Preaching is related to the content, it is the proclamation of the gospel. The gospel proclamation can be academic; it can be a little more emotional; it can be simple; it can be complex. It can be two minutes, five minutes, an hour; it can be to two or three people, or two or three hundred people. Preaching has to do with the content; it is the proclamation of the gospel: that the King is present, and for that time it was proclaiming the need to repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. He is teaching in the synagogues and is going out among the people proclaiming the kingdom. The twelve are going out and doing the same thing. For several months they are traveling, going from Dan to Beersheba, proclaiming the gospel.

Word of this is spreading, John the Baptist hears about this and has questions. Matthew 11:2NASB “Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent {word} by his disciples.” Things aren’t going quite the way he expected, so I am summarizing this in the title: “What am I missing?”

How many times in our Christian life have we gone through situations and are scratching our head: “I don’t know what God is doing in my life, I don’t quite understand, I need a little more information”. We are missing something and are not sure what the Lord is doing. That is where John is. He does not doubt, he has a lack of information and doesn’t understand why he is languishing in prison. Matthew brings into our focus the fact that John is in prison. Matthew 11:3 NASB “and said to Him, ‘Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?’“

The reason he was in prison was because he is not someone who restrained his social critique. When Herod Atipas who was the Tetrarch of Galilee had taken his brother’s wife Herodias to be his wife. Herodias’s daughter was dancing for Herod Antipas on his birthday, and he was so pleased that he said: “I will give you anything that you ask”. Under the influence of her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist. That is a preview of coming attractions, but it is because of his critique of that marriage—that it was unlawful for Herod to take his sister-in-law as his wife—that John the Baptist was thrown into prison. So he is in prison, and he has heard all about the works of Christ, and he sends two of his disciples (there are still some disciples who are following him) for some clarification.

We need a little review of John’s background because of the way we read this, it seems that John is confused. He is confused, but he is not confused about who Jesus is. If we understand John’s family and his background, and how John came to be born, and all the stories of John that we have heard, it is just inconceivable that he is suddenly thinking that Jesus isn’t the Messiah.

Luke 1 one gives us the information about the events related to John’s miraculous conception and birth. We are told that his father was Zacharias and his mother’s name was Elizabeth, and both of them were from the lineage of Aaron, in the tribe of Levi. They were an older couple and they hadn’t been able to conceive. Elizabeth is one of seven women in the Bible where the Bible makes an issue out of their barrenness, and in each of these cases God, miraculously brings life into what was believed to be a dead womb. All of those are pictures of the fact that only God can bring life where there is death, and they are all pictures ultimately of spiritual life—God is the one Who is able to regenerate us and give us life when we are dead. We are born spiritually dead. Paul says we are born in our trespasses and sins. There is no life there. It doesn’t matter how spiritually alive some people might feel; the Bible says no, we are spiritually dead. It is not until we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior, as the one Who died for our sins, that God the Holy Spirit regenerates us so we are born from God. He is the one who makes that happen. But we first believe. It is through faith that we are born again. So the picture of the barren womb is to teach that God is the one who brings life where there is death.

And whenever we read of a barren womb, as we will in our study of 1 Samuel with Hannah, it often depicts the fact that Israel at that time is going through a time of spiritual depravity, and only God can reverse the course. And that is true of our nation. When we go through a time of depravity, it is only God who can bring about a change.

So John’s parents were older; his mother has been barren, and the time has come for his father as a priest to serve in the temple. He goes inside the holy of holies, and suddenly and angel of the Lord (Gabriel) appears to him. Immediately Zacharias is troubled. That means he goes into a state of high anxiety. He falls on his face and is overwhelmed with fear. Luke 1:13 NASB “But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.” Luke 1:15 NASB “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.” He is told that he will have a significant role in the plan of God. He is going to be a spiritual hero, which he was under the Old Testament economy. He was born in the age of the Law. Secondly, he is going to be a Nazirite. This was a particular vow that was part of the Mosaic Law, and as part of that, someone who had taken a Nazirite vow would not touch a corpse, would not cut their hair, and they would not drink alcoholic beverages. That total abstinence for a spiritual reason is only related to taking a Nazirite vow. It was not something that was necessarily expected of everyone. Then we are told that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. This is a really interesting passage because it raises a lot of questions if you are thinking. A lot of people don’t think about the implications of this particular verse and we have to ask some questions.

First of all, what does he mean when he says, “filled with the Holy Spirit”? This passage is in the New Testament, and the New Testament uses two different words that are both translated “filled with the Spirit”. But they don’t mean the same thing. In this passage, we have the word PIMPLEMI, which means to fill or to fulfill something. It is used some seven or eight times in the New Testament (twice more in this chapter) and it is followed every time by somebody saying something, or a description in the next verse or two where somebody has said something. It has to do with the empowerment of God the Holy Spirit in relation to some sort of verbal utterance. It is a totally different concept from a related word PLEROO, the word that is used in Ephesians 5:18. No one is ever commanded to be “PIMPLEMI’D” by the Holy Spirit, but we are commanded to be PLEROO’D by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). Whenever we have a command, such as don’t do something, we have two options. Either we do it or don’t do it. Somebody says, “Do this”. We have two options. Whenever there is an imperative, it implies a volitional decision. You either do something or you don’t do something. It implies capability on the part of the person to whom the command is addressed.

Ephesians 5:18 is in the context of the spiritual life of the believer. The believer can either be filled by the Holy Spirit in relation to the spiritual life or spiritual growth, or they may not be filled. If you look at all the characteristics described in chapter five, it is comparable and related to the concept of walking by the Spirit in Galatians 5:18–20. If we sin, we stop walking by the Spirit and the Holy Spirit isn’t filling us. What is He filling us with? We often have the idea of content. I have my coffee mug here, and I might say, “fill this with coffee.” So I am talking about the content of what goes in the mug. In Greek I would use a genitive construction—genitive relates to content. If we go back to the kitchen and have one pot that has caffeinated coffee and another pot that has decaffeinated coffee and we say, “fill this with that pot”, we are talking about the means of filling the cup. We are not talking about what goes into it, but about the instrument that is used to fill the cup. In Greek we would use a dative case noun that is an instrumental—talking about the means by which the cup is filled.

In Ephesians 5:18 Paul does not use a genitive. He is not talking about what is in the pot; he is talking about the means by which the pot is filled. What he is talking about is that we are to be filled by means of God the Holy Spirit. But what are we filled with? If we look at the results of that filling in Ephesians 5:19ff, it talks about giving thanks to the Lord and singing hymns and spiritual songs to the Lord, and it goes on talking about relationships and submission to authority. There is a parallel passage when all the details are the same except for the command. In Colossians 3:16ff all of those results are listed, but the command is to let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you—content! What we have in Ephesians 5 is the way we get the content into our soul has to do with the ministry of God the Holy Spirit. We have to be in right relationship to Him, and we need to be filled by means of the Spirit, and we don’t get into a spiritual state by getting drunk.

This is always where people get a little bit off on that passage because Ephesians 5:18 begins by saying, “Don’t be drunk with wine”, and they think it has to do with influence or control. Usually that is the term used. But in the ancient world there was a mystery cult, the cult of Dionysius who was the god of wine. How would you get close to the god of wine? You would go out and drink a lot of wine. They would have these orgies in sacred places up in the woods and the various priestesses would dance in all kinds of emotional and ecstatic dancing in order to get all worked up so that the god would speak to them. They would be drinking a lot of wine and dancing their hearts out; and if they are really lucky, Dionysius is going to talk to them in gibberish. Sounds like tongues!

Paul is saying that that is not the way to spirituality. Wine isn’t going to get you close to God. What is going to get you close to God is walking by the Spirit, and the Spirit is going to fill you with something; He fills you with the Word. So again we see this connection between the Word of God and the Spirit of God in the New Testament. These are interconnected and interdependent; you can’t go anywhere if you just have one and not the other.

So when we read in Luke 1 that “he is filled by the Spirit”, this has to do with the Old Testament concept called enduement. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit didn’t indwell believers. The Holy Spirit came upon believers and to believers; the Holy Spirit empowered believers in relation to a specific function. For example, 2 Peter 1:21 NASB “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” That was part of His ministry to the writers of Scripture and to the prophets. He revealed God’s will to them, and then they communicated that to the people. There were other leaders. Exodus tells us about two craftsmen Aholiab and Bezaleel who were given the Holy Spirit to give them the skill for manufacturing all of the artifacts, articles of furniture for the tabernacle. So it wasn’t related to the spiritual life; it was related to giving them the spiritual skill in making the curtains, the walls for the tabernacle, the bronze altar, etc. Later on there were judges like Deborah and Gideon, Jepthah and Samson who were all empowered to fulfill their leadership missions by God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit wasn’t given for anything to do with their spiritual life. They had nothing like our walk by the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.

This ministry of the Holy Spirit to John the Baptist was like that of the Old Testament because he was under the dispensation of the Law in the age of Israel. The Holy Spirit hasn’t been sent yet. There were fewer than 100 people in that entire Old Testament period who had some kind of relationship at all with the Holy Spirit, and that relationship had nothing to do with their spiritual life; it has to do with empowering them to fulfill their ministry within God’s plan and purpose for the theocracy and the kingdom and the leadership of Israel. That is critical because when we read this about John the Baptist who is going to be the last prophet from the Old Testament, this gift of the Holy Spirit is not related to his spiritual life, but related to his leadership and his role as a prophet.

Another thing we need to understand is this translation where it says he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. That is an extremely strange statement. From the womb doesn’t mean in the womb. From the womb was the only way that a Hebrew writer or speaker could say “from birth”. In English we have this phrase “from birth”. It is a prepositional phrase, no verb. It is just the preposition “from” and the noun that is the object of the preposition. This is really important. If you are a Hebrew speaker, you have to say “from birth”. You have to have a preposition and a noun that means birth. Guess what! There is no noun in Hebrew for birth. So you have to use what is called a circumlocution or an idiom. They would say, “From the womb”, and in the Old Testament they talk about the parameters of life being from the womb to tomb. So it is birth.

The NIV and some other translations accurately translate this “even from birth”. Now I have a problem with that and I don’t know what the solution to this is. We don’t have another example anywhere in the Bible of somebody getting any kind of relationship with the Holy Spirit until they are saved, until they are regenerate, until they are born again. So how can John have a relationship with God the Holy Spirit if he hasn’t believed the promise of salvation? I don’t think he can. This phrase probably also has the idea of “from an early age”. That doesn’t necessarily mean from the instant of his physical birth. He has to grow to a certain level of development to trust in the messianic promise in the Old Testament to be regenerate before God the Holy Spirit will work with him.

Luke 1:17 NASB “It is he who will go {as a forerunner} before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah…” This is what Gabriel is announcing, connecting his ministry to Elijah. But he is not saying that he is physically, bodily the reincarnation of Elijah. He says he is going to be like Elijah. He is going to have the same kind of ministry as Elijah. He is going to be out in the wilderness; he is going to dress in extremely rough garments; and he is going to have a confrontational ministry with the leadership and the rulers of Israel and Judea just like Elijah did. His role is “TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” That is a direct quote that comes out of Malachi.

This is really miraculous. An angel appeared to his father with special revelation about John’s life and his mission, and that his mother is going to have a miraculous intervention from God to allow her to conceive and to give birth. Zachariah just doesn’t believe this and his response is: “How will I know this {for certain?} For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” So the angel says, “You didn’t believe it, so now you are not going to be able to talk again for the next nine months”. So here is another miraculous intervention.

Six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Mary is going to have a visit from that same angel Gabriel to announce the fact that she is going to as a virgin conceive and give birth to the Messiah. And we learn in that episode that Mary and Elizabeth are relatives. We know because of the genealogy that Mary is a descendant of David from the tribe of Judah. Elizabeth is from the tribe of Levi. So there is probably a relationship by marriage in there somehow where one person from the tribe of Levi married somebody in Mary’s family from the tribe of Judah, so they are probably second, third, or fourth cousins, something like that. When Gabriel announces the conception and birth of Jesus to Mary, he reminds her specifically of Elizabeth and tells her that Elizabeth has become pregnant. This is about six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy, so John the Baptist is about six months older than Jesus. Mary, realizing that she is going to be pregnant, rather than dealing with that in a public situation in Nazareth, goes to stay with Elizabeth for three months. Then she goes home.

Luke 1:57NASB “Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son.” They all wanted them to call the baby Zacharias, but she refuses. She said his name was John. Zacharias asked for a writing tablet and wrote down that he was going to be called John. As soon as he did that, his mouth was opened and he could talk once again. Luke 1:67NASB “And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit …” That is that word PIMPLEMI. And what does he do? He starts talking right away and offers praise to God. This indicates that John the Baptist had a miraculous birth and miraculous circumstances surrounding his birth. And also he would have been told the stories about his cousin Jesus and what happened to his distant cousin Mary: that the same angel that appeared to his father appeared to Mary also. From the time that he is old enough to understand, he has been told these stories over and over again, and there is no reason for him to doubt who Jesus is. What he doesn’t understand is that he doesn’t have the right picture as to what is going to happen with Jesus, because they are proclaiming the kingdom, and the kingdom is supposed to come in. But he is in prison, and it is not happening.

Jesus gives him an answer. What is John’s basic question? He says to Jesus: “Why?” Jesus doesn’t answer his question. He is saying basically, “I am Jesus. Look at what is going on; don’t worry about it; this is the plan; just trust me and everything is going to work out”.

We have a quote from the Old Testament. Matthew 11:4 NASB “Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: [5] {the} BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and {the} lame walk, {the} lepers are cleansed and {the} deaf hear, {the} dead are raised up, and {the} POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. [6] And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” This is from Isaiah 35:4ff. This is evidence of the Messiah; this is what to expect; this is the Messiah’s calling card. This is establishing His credentials, and this is what is going to be normative in the kingdom. But we are not in the kingdom yet; the kingdom is simply being offered. So Jesus gives him His credentials and says to relax, don’t worry about God’s plan, He has everything under control and you don’t need to ask why anymore.

“And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” There is a great point of application here. What was the warning in Matthew 10 to the disciples? You are going to go out and find some people receptive to your message, but there are going to be a lot more that are going to be hostile to your message. And the point is still true for all of us as church age believers. There are a lot of people we are going to give the gospel to, but they are not going to be receptive. We never know how long that is going to take. To expect somebody to immediately respond to your gospel invitation is I think the height of arrogance. Most people need to hear the gospel six, seven, eight, nine or even more times. It takes some people a long time before they are finally willing to be humble and recognize that they are a sinner. We have to be patient and gentle, and give them opportunities, making our points here and there along the way, and not just think that we can steamroll them into the kingdom of heaven.

A lot of people are going to react negatively, and that is what Jesus alludes to here in His warnings about opposition and persecution in chapter ten. And in this chapter what we are seeing is the response of a number of different groups of people to His ministry, and it culminates in chapter twelve with the official rejection of Jesus as the Messiah by the people. So we see these foreshadowing techniques of Matthew indicating that things are getting ready to take a negative turn; and things are going to get pretty nasty because there are a lot of people who are going to be scandalized because of Jesus. That is the word here SKANDALIZO from which we get our word scandal.

A scandal for us is something a little bit different because it usually relates to somebody who we see functioning at a high level of integrity, only to discover that they are doing something immoral or nefarious in the background. Then that is discovered and we have the eruption of a scandal. The word comes from a Greek noun that refers to a trap, the word SKANDALON. It entraps. They looked at something that was not on the up and up, and it entrapped people, so it also became used as an idiom for a temptation or a test. But it has to do with an offence.

In Jesus’ answer to John, He is alluding to an Old Testament passage. John the Baptist knew a lot of the Old Testament. Observant Jews at that time had most of the Scriptures, if not all, memorized. He would have been familiar with all of the messianic prophesies, all the kingdom promises, all the promises in Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel that talked about the Jews’ return to the land and the future glories of the Davidic kingdom. He would have followed those, but he might have missed this one passage, the one Jesus is alluding to here when He uses this word “offence” [SKANDALIZO]. This word is also picked up in the same passage as quoted by Paul in Romans 8:33 NASB “… BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” This comes out of Psalm 118:22, which says that the stone that the builders rejected—it is looking at Israel as a building and that the builders, the leaders, reject this stone. The stone refers to the Messiah—would become the chief corner stone.

Peter is going to learn from this episode, and he refers to this in 1 Peter 2:8 NASB “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this {doom} they were also appointed.” He is talking about Jews who rejected Jesus because He was a stumbling block to them. It entraps them. He didn’t fit their idea of what the Messiah was going to do, so that becomes a trap that ensnares them in their rebellion. Paul says the same thing in 1 Corinthians 1:23 NASB “but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness.” So Jesus says, tell John what you are seeing. Then He says, “Blessed is the one who is not offended or scandalized because of Me.”

Matthew 11:7NASB “As these men were going {away}, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?’“ Three times He asks, “What did you go out to see?” A reed shaken by the wind could mean a couple of things. Just on the face it could be, did you just go out to observe nature? Rabbis also used the term “shaken by the wind” to refer to somebody who didn’t have a correct prophetic ministry. But all Jesus is saying here is, you didn’t go out just to observe nature.

The second time He asks the question: Matthew 11:8 NASB “But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft {clothing?} Those who wear soft {clothing} are in kings’ palaces!” The word “soft” has a couple of interesting connotations. The first is really fine garments, someone who is dressed in the finest of refinery. It also refers to effeminate garments. I don’t think that is what the focus is because of the phrase in the next sentence, “are in king’s houses”. He is saying that if you are in the palace and have audience with someone of some dignity you wear the finest of clothes. John the Baptist didn’t wear that kind of clothing. He dressed in camel’s hair, had a leather belt around his waist (Mark 1:6), and he ate locusts and honey. He lived off the land.

The third time He asks the question: Matthew 11:9 NASB “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. [10] This is the one about whom it is written, ‘BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.’”

Now He applies prophecy specifically to John the Baptist and says that He is the fulfillment of Matthew 3:1. There was to be a forerunner. Not just anybody could pop up and say he was the Messiah; there had to be a forerunner that fitted the pattern of the Old Testament. Malachi 4:5 specifies that this is in the pattern of Elijah: NASB “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.” That is during the Tribulation, the time preceding the battle of Armageddon. The “great and terrible day of the Lord” refers to that intensified period at the very end of the Tribulation period.

Matthew 11:14 NASB “And if you are willing to accept {it,} John himself is Elijah who was to come.” “If”—there is a condition; if you are willing to accept it. So he ends up not being the fulfillment of Elijah. That is the role of one of the two prophets/witnesses that come up in Revelation that appear during the first half of the Tribulation. In Mark, Jesus is asked why He says that Elijah may come first. Jesus said, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things.”

Mark 9:12 NASB “And He said to them, “Elijah does first come and restore all things. And {yet} how is it written of the Son of Man that He will suffer many things and be treated with contempt? [13] But I say to you that Elijah has indeed come, and they did to him whatever they wished, just as it is written of him.” Again, Jesus is connecting John the Baptist to Elijah.

So there is this element of contingency in God’s plan. John the Baptist would be Elijah and fulfill that if the people accept him, and if they accepted Jesus as the Messiah. But because they didn’t, it was turn to plan B, and another person will come to fulfill that mission, and that will be one of those future witnesses. This is what Jesus refers to in Matthew 17:11, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things.” So John the Baptist is Elijah, if you accept him; but you didn’t accept him. Now there will be a future messenger who will come to fulfill that role.

Matthew 11:15 NASB “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” In other words, if you are really positive and really want to know the truth, if you really want to understand the message, then you are going to respond and apply it. You are going to trust in Christ as Savior; you are going to accept the message of the gospel of the kingdom. The gospel of the kingdom was related to that kingdom proclamation at that time. Today the gospel is the gospel of the cross: that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. He paid the penalty in full and the only way to apply that to your life is to trust in Him as Savior. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). John 14:6 NASB “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me’.”