2000-05-08 - Preceded by Elijah
The Prophecy Fulfilled Series: Part 13
Malachi 4:4-6, "Remember the Law of Moses my servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with statutes and Judgments. Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse."
Matthew 11:13 For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come.
If you are at all a student of the Bible, you will know that these are the last three verses of the Old Testament. It is interesting that the book ends with a reminder to keep the Law of Moses, and a promise that Elijah would precede the "great and dreadful day of the Lord." This is a hard statement. How can the coming of Christ be termed such?
Well, this was the message of John the Baptist. He spoke with the Pharisees of the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7). And the whole message of Matthew 3 is a kind of changing of the guard. John the Baptist was sent before Christ to give notice. He warned them so that they might get ready for the coming of the one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matthew 3:12).
The day of the Lord was a day of ruin for the Jewish church and nation. John the Baptist came and gave the nation fair warning, but they rejected their Messiah. Speaking of Christ, John the Baptist says, "And his winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:12)
For what reason was the threshing floor cleaned? It is so that the Gentiles might be brought in. John 15 speaks of the old branches that were not bearing fruit being pruned off and the new branches being grafted into the true vine. This is Christ's opening the door to the Gentiles. It was fulfilled in Peter's visits to Joppa and Cornelius in Acts 10.
It still seems kind of harsh. Not bearing fruit means cut off from the Lord. Regardless of how we interpret this concept or lesson from Scripture, there is at least some degree that this application can be drawn from these passages. The branches and by implication, the children of God, who do not bear fruit, are cast away or pruned off.
To some degree this looks like a works based theology, and I firmly believe that God wants us to be working for His kingdom. However, God is concerned foremost with the heart. And it is our heart attitude that we should be focused upon, lest we be like Ananias and Sapphira, who, in doing a good deed, did so with an evil heart and paid the cost, Acts 5.
Sure, we should be doers of the word and not just hearers. But the New Testament Christian should guard his/her heart first and all these other good things will, by God's grace, follow.
Soli Deo Gloria,