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Someone Cares Series
We are now beginning our third step to eternal life--finding and joining God's true church, the body of Christ (Colossians 1:24). Let us begin by studying a fascinating prophecy about how Elijah is going to return to earth!
1. By what name did Jesus refer to John the Baptist?
"For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come" (Matthew 11:13-15).
John came in the spirit and power of Elijah, to do such a work as Elijah did. If the Jews had received him, it would have been accomplished for them. But they did not receive his message. To them he was not Elijah. He could not fulfill for them the mission he came to accomplish. In the spirit and power of Elijah, John denounced the corruption of the Jews, and raised his voice in reproving their prevailing sins. His discourses were plain, pointed and convincing. Many were brought to repentance of their sins, and as evidence of their repentance were baptized of him in Jordan.
2. Was John the Baptist really Elijah?
"And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No" (John 1:19-20).
In every stage of this earth's history God has had His agencies to carry forward His work, which must be done in His appointed way. John the Baptist had a special work, for which he was born and to which he was appointed--the work of preparing the way of the Lord.
3. If John the Baptist was not really Elijah, why was he given that title?
"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).
John's singular appearance carried the minds of his hearers back to the ancient seers. In his manner and dress he resembled the prophet Elijah. With the spirit and power of Elijah he denounced the national corruption and rebuked the prevailing sins. In this age, just prior to the second coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven, God calls for men who will prepare a people to stand in the great day of the Lord. Just such a work as John did is to carried on in these last days. The Lord is giving messages to His people through the instruments He has chosen, and He would have all heed the admonitions and warnings He sends.
4. Does the work of some messengers from the Lord include more than the word "prophet" signifies?
"But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he" (Luke 7:26-28).
In preparing the way for Christ's first advent, John was a representative of those who are to prepare a people for our Lord's second coming.
The heart of the lonely exile was filled with the glorious vision. He looked upon the King in His beauty, and self was forgotten. He beheld the majesty f holiness and felt himself to be inefficient and unworthy. He was ready to go forth as heaven's messenger, unawed by the human because he had looked upon the Divine. He could stand erect and fearless in the presence of earthly monarchs because he had bowed low before the King of kings.
5. Elijah, like John the Baptist, did not write a book of the Bible. He was a "reformation" prophet, sent to bring the people back to the true worship of God. What was Elijah's message?
"And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word" (1 Kings 18:21).
Unashamed, unterrified, the prophet stands before the multitude, fully aware of his commission to execute the divine command. His countenance is lighted with an awful solemnity. In anxious expectancy the people wait for him to speak. Looking first upon the broken down altar of Jehovah and then upon the multitude, Elijah cries out in clear trumpet-like tones, "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow Him." The people answer him not a word. Not one in that vast assembly dare reveal loyalty to Jehovah.
6. What had Israel forsaken that demanded a reformation?
"And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim" (1 Kings 18:18).
Through faithful messengers the Lord sent repeated warnings to the apostate king and the people, but in vain were these words of reproof. In vain did the inspired messengers assert Jehovah's right to be the only God in Israel; in vain did they exalt the laws entrusted to them. Like a dark cloud, deception and blindness had overspread Israel. Not all at once had this fatal apostasy closed about them, but gradually as from time to time they had failed to heed the words of warning and reproof that the Lord sent them.
7. With the Christian world trampling on God's Sabbath and forsaking His commandments as Israel was doing in Elijah's day, will God again send another trumpet-like message calling upon people to choose between God and the Beast, as Elijah called Israel to choose between God and Baal?
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:6-12).
Christ is coming the second time, with power unto salvation. To prepare human beings for this event He has sent the first, second, and third angel's messages. These angels represent those who receive the truth, and with power open the gospel to the world.
Why are the messages of Revelation 14 given? Because the principles of the churches have become corrupted. Apparently the whole world is guilty of receiving the mark of the beast. But the prophet sees a company who are not worshipping the beast, and who have not received his mark in their foreheads or in their hands. "Here is the patience of the saints," he declares; "here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."
8. Will God send another "Elijah-prophet" to go along with this "Elijah" message of Revelation 14?
"When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first" (Luke 11:24-26).
When one is fully emptied of self, when every false god is cast out of the life, the vacuum is to be filled by the Holy Spirit; otherwise Satan will return to obtain seven times the power over the life. We are to be conformed to the Spirit, and mind the things of the Spirit. All confidence in self is gone and Christ becomes all in all, as we receive with meekness the truth as it is revealed to us. The Holy Spirit recreates, refines and sanctifies human beings, fitting them to become members of God's family.New Life Through Jesus.
9. The end product of conversion is a new life of righteousness. How can we live this new life?
"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Romans 8:2-4).
God has power to help even the weakest sinner to resist all temptations to sin. When Christ dwells in our hearts by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are free from condemnation. Ever since Adam's sin, humanity has been cut off from communion with God, but when Christ came God communicated with us through Christ. He came as one of us, and showed how we could live a victorious life. We are to look to Jesus and believe that He can save us only through His grace. Through faith we can receive the grace of God, but faith is not our Saviour.
10. Who showed us the way to live this new life of righteousness?
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).
Jesus is the assurance of every promise, the surety of our deliverance from sin, the assurance of our power to obey the Law of heaven. He suffered the death which was ours that we might receive the life which was His. He was treated as we deserve that we might be treated as He deserved. He was condemned for our sins in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness in which we had no share. It is only through Christ that we receive pardon and cleansing from sin.
11. In demonstrating a righteous life, Jesus showed us three things we can do to enable the Holy Spirit to give us this new life. What is one thing Jesus did, and taught us to do, to live the victorious Christian life?
"And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:34-36).
We need to be careful that in this life we are not caught up with all kinds of festivities and cares of this life so that the day of God creeps up on us before we know where we are. We have reached the period foretold in the Scriptures. The time of the end is come, the visions of the prophets are unsealed and their solemn warnings point us to the fact that our Lord's coming in glory is near at hand. Today the desires of this world absorb man's thoughts and they take no note of the rapidly fulfilling prophecies and the tokens of the swift coming kingdom of God.
12 A second thing Jesus did was to study the Bible and to resist temptation by quoting Scripture. What will regular Bible study do for us?
"According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:3, 4).
When we study the Bible daily, the Holy Spirit fills us with holy thoughts and gives us strength to resist temptation. If we will fill our minds with texts of the Bible our minds will not be so affected by sin. In His Word God reveals what He can do for human beings. He molds and fashions us after His likeness. Through His power we are made to partake of Jesus' divine nature and thus are enabled to overcome all temptation. It is God who gives us power to overcome.
13. Thirdly, after receiving spiritual strength through prayer and Bible study, Jesus mentally and consciously resisted Satan and his temptations, and chose to do right (see Isaiah 7:14, 15 and Luke 4:8). What should we do when tempted?
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded" (James 4:7, 8).
When faced with temptation we need to submit our will to the will of God and do things His way. The moment we feel the power of temptation we need to flee to the Lord for strength to resist the temptation. God will come to our aid and Satan will have to flee. As we draw near to God, He draws near to us. He lifts up a standard against the enemy and the enemy cannot pass this standard. The closer we are to God, the safer we are, for Satan hates and fears the presence of God.
14. These three things--Prayer, Bible study, and exercising our will in refusing to sin and choosing to do good with the spiritual strength we have thus received--are the secrets for victorious Christian living. We must combine divine power with human effort. But we must do this every day, even moment by moment. How can we have a growing Christian experience?
"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:" (Colossians 2:6).
As we first received Jesus by faith, so we live day by day through faith in Jesus and His cleansing blood. Each day, as we are born anew and consecrate our lives to the Lord Jesus, He renews us by His Holy Spirit. As we daily resist temptation through the power of Jesus, so we will become stronger to resist and overcome. As we study God's Word we get to know His will, we claim His promises, and through prayer we speak to God and receive from Him strength to choose His way at all times.15. When we have been truly born again, what will happen to us?"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Anyone who has chosen to follow Jesus and has surrendered his life to Him will have the Holy Spirit come and live in His heart, making him a new person and giving him new desires and inclinations as well as cleansing away cherished ideas and opinions. All the old ways and habits have passed away and the person lives as Jesus lived, obeying the heavenly Father in all things.
Is it your desire to be born again into a spiritual life of righteousness, with Jesus as your example? Will you spend time with Jesus every day in prayer and Bible study, and with the strength you thus receive from God choose to resist sin and to follow the Lord Jesus Christ?
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Page created: 7/26/98, Updated: 11/24/2006
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