Question: An angel prophesied about John the Baptist, “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1: 17). What is the significance of John the Baptist being likened to Elijah in this verse? Please see the following: (Malachi 4: 5, 6) (Matthew 11: 13, 14) (Mark 9: 12, 13).
Answer: Elijah the prophet was a great reformer in Israel, and John, similar to Elijah, performed an important reform work in Israel prior to Jesus’ ministry. In fact, John was a partial antitype of Elijah on a limited scale. We might say that he was an antitype on a small scale to the little nation of Israel. The Kingdom was offered to natural Israel, but only a remnant of that people heartily repented of sin and were truly ready to welcome Messiah, and the rest were blinded. Those few were received of the Lord at Pentecost and became the nucleus or foundation of the Kingdom. During the Gospel Age, that embryo Kingdom has progressed in development – unborn, unseen of the world, unknown. But soon the Kingdom – the Christ – will be fully established in power and great glory.
The spiritual elect have been called of God to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ in the Kingdom, but additionally, they were privileged of the Lord to be the antitypical Elijah, the antitypical John the Baptist. Throughout the entire Gospel Age the Church in the flesh performed a work toward the world similar to that done by John to the Jewish nation – announcing Messiah, not in the flesh, but the glorified Christ, Head and Body, and the Kingdom which He will set up. This greater John the Baptist or greater antitype of Elijah, the Church in the flesh, has exhorted the world, or as many of them as had ears to hear the message, to repent of sin, to reform their lives (John 16: 8-11), to come near to the Lord in heart, that they may be prepared for the great changes that are imminent, when Messiah shall fully take unto Himself His great power and reign.
Those who accept the message are urged to make a consecration of themselves to the Lord and thus prepare their hearts for His Kingdom. The announcement also is that the great Christ of glory is being revealed and that all in harmony with Him receive the blessing of the holy spirit. On the other hand, mankind is experiencing the great Time of Trouble, a time of discipline and purification, that the whole world may learn the lessons necessary to their harmony with the Lord, that they may be ready to receive the blessing which the Kingdom will put within their reach – the restitution, or restoration, spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets (Acts 3: 19-21).
Though the Church has been completed, we are also privileged to be heralds of the coming Kingdom. May we be earnest and zealous, as was John the Baptist, to announce our heavenly King to all. If faithful to our ministry, we may feel sure of our acceptance with God.