WARNING!!! Before you read: the views expressed Here are personal and not those of the Synagogue Church of All Nations, or TB Joshua. Reader’s discretion is strictly advised.
Though Jesus emphatically stated that no one knows the time or the hour of His second coming, there was a very good reason why it was believed that He would return in the year 2000. Many theologians and bible scholars predicted his return in that year through careful study and interpretation of difference in time between the appearances of Major Prophets and the messiah, but were later disappointed in the end when they didn’t see Jesus in that year coming in the clouds of heaven.
But it perhaps never occurred to them that the biblical expression: “coming in the clouds of heaven was a parable and not literal in context” and that they were right in their presumptions but were confused by the manner of His coming because it differed from the way they expected it. This wouldn’t be the first time. Its a common trend in scripture that it establishes itself as a rule.
Two thousand years ago the Jewish people were expecting to see Elijah literally return from heaven to announce the appearance of the Messiah as was written in the scriptures. At one time the rabbis had asked Jesus’ disciples to explain how Jesus could possibly have been the Messiah when it was obvious (to them) that Elijah had not returned from heaven yet. The Apostles couldn’t answer this question, so they asked Jesus: “Why do the Jewish leaders insist Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?”
Jesus answered by first affirming that this question was valid and that this prophecy indeed was true. He said: “They are right. Elijah must come and set everything in order…”But then, to everyone’s surprise, Jesus explained:
“In fact, he [Elijah] already has come, but he wasn’t recognized, and was badly mistreated by many… Then the disciples realized he was speaking of John the Baptist.”-Matthew 17:10-13 (this account can also be found in: Mark 9:11-13) Clearly, Jesus taught that this was a true prophecy. Jesus agreed that Elijah indeed “must return before the Messiah comes.” But then, to the surprise to everyone there, Jesus claimed that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of this prophecy.
Jesus’ explanation was not well received by the Jewish religious leaders. Instead of Elijah personally returning from heaven, what the rabbis actually got was John… a dirty looking fellow, who wore a leather loincloth, a camel’s hair robe and who ate locusts for lunch. John the Baptist actually ate grasshoppers! John did not fit any picture that the rabbis might have had of what the spectacular second coming of Elijah was going to be like. John the Baptist didn’t come floating down from heaven. Instead, he came into the world in the same way as everyone else. John had a mother. He had a father. John had been born as a child and he had grown up just like everyone else. The rabbis might have also pointed out that even John himself had said that he was not Elijah. At one point, early in his ministry, John the Baptist was asked whether he was Elijah. He answered that he was not. (see John 1:21)
In what way could John the Baptist have been the return of Elijah? Certainly not literally. This apparent contradiction can be resolved by a statement made at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke where it explains that. John went “on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah.” -Luke 1:17 (KJV)
Elijah had returned from heaven in the “spirit”. John went “on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah.”-Luke 1:17 (KJV) Viewed this way, both John and Jesus were right. The man named Elijah who had lived eight hundred years earlier had not literally, physically returned from heaven in the flesh as just about everyone expected. Instead, the fulfillment of the ‘return of Elijah from heaven’ prophecy had nothing to do with Elijah’s physical body. It was the return of the same “spirit and power” of God that had animated Elijah eight hundred years earlier that had returned to also animate John the Baptist. The reality of Elijah’s return was the appearance of yet another totally separate and distinct Prophet of God.
Ask yourself… if you had lived 2000 years ago do you think that you would have been one of the few who had the insight to recognize John the Baptist as the fulfillment of the ‘return of Elijah’ prophecy? Chances are, you would not have understood how this prophecy had been fulfilled until after it had been explained to you.
The Christ First Coming
One day as Jesus was speaking to his disciples (along with a group of other people) he was heard to say: “I have come down from heaven…” A number of rabbis were present in the crowd and when they heard Jesus claim that he had come down from heaven, they “began to grumble about him” and they asked
“Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?’ How can he now say, “I came down from heaven?” The rabbis had known his mother and his father. They knew that he had been born as a child just like everyone else. Some of them might even have known him as a young boy and might have watched him grow up over the years. How could Jesus possibly have come “down from heaven”? When his disciples heard Jesus claim that he had come “down from heaven” they too were extremely skeptical. They said
“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” And then this passage says that “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”-John 6:41,60,66 (NIV)
It was the “Spirit” of God which dwelled in him that had descended from heaven… not his physical body. The same thing was true of John the Baptist. Jesus said that John too had come down from heaven.
Have people today learned anything from these important lessons from the past? Two thousand years ago people were expecting to see a spectacular, supernatural event which no one could mistake or misinterpret. What they actually got was the appearance of an entirely new Prophet… one who appeared with the same “spirit and power” of God which had, in centuries past, also descended upon Elijah. Is the Bible consistent? Yes. Does God change? No. but there a lesson to be learned here that most people haven’t grasped yet.
Who is TB Joshua? To be continued… Watch this space.