Paving the Way: John the Baptist
A very solid Christian blog I follow, CloudIn, made a post on John the Baptist as Elijah. I heartily recommend reading it.
I don’t wish to detract from their work, but expand upon one of the prophecies of John the Baptist’s coming (that comes from 2 different places): that John would prepare the way for the Christ. Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1
3The 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.
1Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
Other prophecies refer to the fact that the messenger would be Elijah, and Jesus himself confirmed that John the Baptist was Elijah in Matthew ch 11:
10For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
11Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
But how did John prepare the way for Jesus? John was Jesus’ seemingly crazy cousin. A guy who wore camel skins, ate locusts and honey, didn’t drink alcohol, and cried out for the people to repent. So how did this prepare the way for Jesus?
John did have an effective ministry. John did make it clear by his mannerisms that he was very similar to Elijah, which would make people on the lookout for the coming Christ. Both are part of the way John paved the way for Jesus, but I don’t think they are the only way.
John the Baptist personally denied being Elijah (John 1:21). Which was true in a sense. He wasn’t literally Elijah. He had earthly parents, and he was conceived by Elizabeth after John’s father Zacharias returned from his duties as the temple priest. Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind centuries ago. But he was a type of Elijah. He came in the spirit and power of Elijah. This is very important.
Jesus came and established a new covenant by fulfilling the old one. Many of the Old Testament commandments under the old covenant were to the Israelites and anyone else with them forever. Forever means forever. The grain offerings, the wave offerings, the Passover, the atonement sacrifices: they were a commandment forever. Jesus is all of those things, but he’s not literally wine, water, grain, bulls, goats, or lambs. He was fully man and fully God, and is fully God.
The fact that John both was and wasn’t Elijah paved the way for Jesus. He made it clear that although not literally Elijah, he was Elijah in a sense. Just as Jesus is not literally any of those things, He is in a sense. He is our eternal Passover Lamb, atonement sacrifice, etc.
The things of the old covenant were shadows of the new. They were types. God made it clear with John both being in the spirit and power of Elijah and not Elijah in the flesh that he was fulfilling the old covenant just as He had promised, with something new and eternal. The things of the old covenant were not the physical manifestation of the things of the new.
The manifestation would change. The spirit and power would not, as even the faithful of the Old Testament are saved by Jesus’ power through their faith. God made that clear with John, and that paved the way for Jesus.