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1 Kings 17:1 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:58 mins 36 secs

Living in the Face of Adversity; 1 Kings 17:1

 

Pagans are becoming more and more vocal in their opposition to Christianity and are doing what they can to minimise, marginalise and limit the participation of Christians in anything in relation to our nation. On the other hand so many have bought into an uninformed, non-biblical, theologically anaemic religion that Jesus is coming back and it is going to be in our generation, and so they have sort of given up and sit back and sit on a hillside and watch the whole culture go to hell in a hand basket and clap and rejoice because Jesus will come back and we won't really experience the collapse of the culture. That is as far from being a biblical value as you can possibly get. Only a fool makes decisions in life or, decisions in terms of national policy, based on an assumption that Jesus is coming soon and we are the Rapture generation. We may not be; Jesus may not come back for fifty or a hundred years, or two hundred years, three hundred years. So we have to live our spiritual life in terms of accountability as if Jesus is coming back tomorrow. But we have to work hard, get educated, plan for the future, lay aside money for retirement, health care needs, etc., as if Jesus isn't coming back for a thousand years. That is the path of wisdom, because we don't know. That is the doctrine of imminency—the Rapture is a signless event and no one knows the day or the hour when Jesus is going to return for the church.

 

Elijah isn't confined to just the Old Testament. In Revelation 11 we are introduced to the two witnesses who will come on the scene in the Tribulation period and what is said about the ministry of those two witnesses who stand in opposition to the Antichrist is that they call down fire from heaven and bring down plagues. The two things they are said to do are typical of what Moses did in bringing on the plagues in Egypt and what Elijah did in calling down fire from heaven. So the most likely understanding of who these two witnesses are is that they are Elijah and Moses. One of the first and most important things that we see prophetically related to Elijah is that he is predicted to come, and must come, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord. This is based on Malachi 4:5, 6. This is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 17 after He had been up on the mount of transfiguration when Moses and Elijah appeared glorified to Peter, James and John. Malachi 4:5 NASB "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD." The term "the great and terrible day of the Lord" is a technical term for the final part of the Tribulation period—"day of the Lord" can be just a generic term for a time of divine judgment; most of the time, though, it refers to the Tribulation period. However there are a number of places where there is an intensified description of it as "the great and terrible day of the Lord" and this focuses on the final period of the Tribulation, the last half, the three and a half year period that Jesus refers to as the great Tribulation in Matthew 24.

 

 But what is Elijah going to do? Malachi 4:6 NASB "He will restore the hearts of the fathers to {their} children and the hearts of the children to their fathers…" And what exactly is being said here? This idea of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers etc., indicates harmony being restored to the remnant of believing Jews in the Tribulation period. This is new covenant language. How is Elijah going to do this? How does his ministry accomplish this? We get some illumination on this in Matthew 17:11 NASB "And He answered and said, 'Elijah is coming and will restore all things." The Greek word for "restore" is the verb apokathistemi [a)pokaqisthmi] and it has the idea of restoring or even re-establishing something. Are these two prophets going to restore the Levitical sacrifices? If it is restoration that means to put back in place something that hasn't been in place. Does this have to do with the sacrifices in the temple? Or, on the other hand, it would be establishing new covenant sacrifices. The new covenant is not going to be instigated until the return of Christ, so why would they be starting new covenant sacrifices three and a half to seven years before Christ actually comes back and instigates the new covenant? But then the response to that is, why would they go backward? If the Levitical sacrifices ended with the cross why would they go back and instigate those? It is thought that this doesn't have anything to do with the sacrifices because the Greek word apokathistemi is the LXX translation of the Hebrew word shub used in the Malachi 4:6 passage. Jesus is simply quoting the LXX here from Malachi 4:5, 6. So what Malachi is saying is that there is going to be this impact from Elijah's ministry in terms of the fathers turning to the children and the children to the fathers.  The future tense that Jesus uses in Matthew 17 just simply states a future event. It is undefined future action. It could have the implication that Elijah is coming first and will begin to restore things. That is probably the idea. Elijah is not the one who is going to implement the whole process, it is the Messiah when He returns. The role of Elijah, like the role of John the Baptist, is simply to be the one who prepares the way and is the precursor for that. But Jesus makes it clear that Elijah is still future to His time, and this is about two thirds of the way through His public ministry. That means this hasn't occurred yet.

The second thing that we see relating to this is Elijah parallels John the Baptist. The first thing we see that brings this out is when Gabriel appears to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, he defines the role of John the Baptist in this manner: Luke 1:17 NASB "It is he who will go {as a forerunner} before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 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 right out of Malachi 4:5, 6. So from the very beginning there is this connection between John the Baptist and Elijah. They had a similar manner of dress. This is seen in 2 Kings 1:7, 8 where we have a description of Elijah's dress NASB "He said to them, 'What kind of man was he who came up to meet you and spoke these words to you?' They answered him, '{He was} a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.' And he said, 'It is Elijah the Tishbite'." Ahab immediately recognised his unique style of dress that Elijah had. Matthew 3:4 NASB "Now John himself had a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey." He had the same clothes that Elijah had so he is clearly identified by his dress, by the fact that he is a loner out in the wilderness as Elijah was; he was in the same pattern as Elijah. They had similar opposition from the political powers and especially the women. For Elijah the opposition came from Jezebel who had a price on his head and who hated Elijah with every ounce of her being.

Application: If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ the very fact that you believe in God, in the Bible and in the Lord Jesus Christ means that there are some people in this world who are negative to the truth and negative to God who think that the greatest thing that will ever happen in their life is to see you dead, just because your very presence is an affront to their arrogance. And it doesn't matter how nice you are, how right you are, how sweet you are, how you express your beliefs or what you say, those people hate you because your presence and your testimony, without even saying anything, pricks their conscience because they are trying to suppress the truth in unrighteousness and your very presence keeps getting that truth to pop up and irritate them. They hate us, and it is irrational, it is spiritual, and this is the mentality that is seen in the earth dwellers during the Tribulation period. It is the kind of attitude that Jezebel had in the time of Elijah, and Herodias, the wife of Phillip, had it in for John the Baptist. She felt guilty. People who have real guilt and know that they are guilty are going to just hate those whose very presence reminds them of their guilt. Christians will always have that effect on some people.

A third parallel we see between Elijah and John the Baptist is that they both anoint their successors in the Jordan river. Elijah anoints Elisha to be his successor, 2 Kings 2: 9-12 NASB "When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, 'Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.' And Elisha said, 'Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.' He said, "You have asked a hard thing. {Nevertheless,} [This was a test] if you see me when I am taken from you [If he is able to see what is happening in the spiritual realm], it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be {so.} As they were going along and talking, behold, {there appeared} a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. Elisha saw {it} and cried out, 'My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!' And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces." First of all there is the anointing that takes place between Elijah and Elisha and later John the Baptist who baptizes Jesus in the Jordan river. What happens in both cases is the heavens opened and something descends from heaven. In the case of Elijah the chariot descended; in the case of John the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus and God the Father speaks. Elisha asked for a double portion. The double portion is the inheritance that goes to the firstborn son. There were other prophets that were present there and Elisha is saying he wants to be the heir of Elijah's ministry, he wants the double portion. When Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan the Father speaks from heaven and says, "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased." He declares the sonship of Jesus Christ. So there is another parallel that takes place there. 

A fourth point of comparison is Elisha is given empirical validation of his role so that he sees the glory cloud coming down from heaven and the departure of Elijah. In the same way there was empirical validation of Jesus at the Jordan because all those who were standing there who had come down to John to be baptized heard the voice of God from heaven. Then we also have evidence of the glory of Elijah, he is taken to heaven in glory and is glorified. How that happened we don't know. He doesn't die. There are two such instances in the Old Testament, Enoch in Genesis 5 and Elijah in 2 Kings. If Elijah is the one who literally comes back during the Tribulation then he is going to get his physical body back again. Elijah appears in Matthew 17 to Jesus, Peter, James and John. Jesus unveils His glory so that they can see Him in His divine glory. Moses and Elijah are also in a glorified state.

Matt 17:10-13 NASB "And His disciples asked Him, 'Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?' And He answered and said, 'Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already [John the Baptist] came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands'. Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist."

In Matthew 11there is another interesting interchange which occurs between John the Baptist and Jesus. John is Jesus' cousin, he has heard the story of Jesus' birth many times from his mother Elizabeth. But like all of us, when things aren't quite working out the way we expect them to we need a little reconfirmation from somewhere to make sure we got it right and that we really understood it. Matthew 11:2 NASB "Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent {word} by his disciples [3] and said to Him, 'Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?' [4] 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." Normally in most places people will say this is a reference to Isaiah 61:1-3 NASB "To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn {in} Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified." Do we see any reference in those three verses any reference to the blind, to lepers, or to bringing the dead to life? There is only a reference to good tidings to the poor. The reference here ius actually a connection to Elisha and Elisha's ministry. Elisha is the one who performed these miracles in the Old Testament. He gave sight to the blind in 2 Kings 6:18-20; he cured leprosy in 2 Kings 5; he restored the dead to life in 2 Kings 4:32-37; 8:4, 5; 13:21; He brought good news to the poor in 2 Kings 4:1-7; 7:1, 2; 8:6. So what is going on here? Jesus is identifying Himself with Elisha, the successor to Elijah, just as Jesus is the successor to John the Baptist. So He is saying in effect to John the Baptist, "I am doing the same kind of things that are evidence of the Messiah who is to follow you as the one who prepared the way." The pattern was Elijah and Elisha in the Old Testament.

Then in Matthew 11:6ff Jesus goes on to talk a little more about the ministry of John the Baptist. Matt 11:7 NASB "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? [8] But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft {clothing?} Those who wear soft {clothing} are in kings' palaces! [9] 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.' [11] Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen {anyone} greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. [12] From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force." That means that there is a battle going on, a spiritual warfare taking place, and as long as you are following the Lord the world system is going to have a target on your back and is going to come after you with violence. [13] "For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. [14] And if you are willing to accept {it,} John himself is Elijah who was to come." He says this before the rejection by the Pharisees in Matthew 12. What Jesus is saying is that in the plan of God if the Jews had actually accepted the offer of the kingdom John would have been Elijah.

That raises questions. Does that mean that in the end times there is going to be a literal return of Elijah or just someone in the spirit of Elijah? We are not sure. But the "what if" is related to human volition. If they had accepted Jesus as Messiah the kingdom would have come in, John the Baptist would have fulfilled that role as Elijah as Malachi had prophesied. But that didn't happen, so that means there is a yet future fulfilment on the Malachi passage which means either Elijah or someone coming in the spirit of Elijah is going to fulfil that Malachi passage at the time of the great and terrible day of the Lord. That puts us into Revelation chapter eleven and the two witnesses. The point that we see here is that if we are taking a stand for truth, a stand for God, we will be targeted. And the more pagan the culture becomes around us the more we are not going to be able to run and hide. They are going to come after everybody simply because those who have rejected the truth cannot stand to have anybody present who affirms truth.

We can take a lot of instruction from Elijah because Elijah is confronting them, and God is confronting them through Elijah. Everything that we are going to see in this chapter and the following ones is God tweaking the nose of the pagans. God isn't politically correct and He isn't going to just sit back and let it happen. He is going to provide evidence of the guilt of the pagans and at the same time He is providing that evidence He is also reaching out to prove who He is. As he brings judgment against them he is also extending to them the offer of grace and salvation. Elijah is dealing with the false system of Baal worship which was ultimately a devotion to a false god, a false system of thinking that Baal would provide prosperity, rain weather, and everything that would provide for the prosperity of the crops. Everything that we see here is a polemic, a challenge to the belief in Baal. That is important for us to understand because we are so divorced from the culture and what is going on in the worship of Baal that often we don't understand how active God is in attacking the presuppositions of the false religious systems around him. God is on the offensive through the prophets and through the church, but it is how we engage that is important. A lot of people want to get out there using wrong ways to engage so we have to clarify that as we go through these studies.   

Illustrations