The Beasts of Rev. 13 in Context & History

The original catalyst for writing this had been a Sunday School class years ago that, however good it was on other counts, poignantly reminded me of how absolutely one particular interpretation of eschatology has so thoroughly crowded out other viewpoints, including what used to be (until the mid 1800s) the majority orthodox view.

Like a vigorous young cuckoo, having been  laid in an alien nest, it has pushed and pushed many legitimate interpretations clean out of view entirely.

It used to be commonly held (by Reformers, but also Methodists like John Wesley and Adam Clarke, and other denominations)  that the Man on the white horse of Rev. 6:2 was Christ, or at least the Gospel of Christ.

What bothers me most about this situation is not that a view which I believe is foreign to the very spirit of Revelation has usurped center stage (May I be blunt?), but that the other view has been poofed almost out of existence. I remember when I first heard of this view (the one this article espouses)  I thought, “Why have I never heard of this?” And, sure enough, when you go to most Christian bookstores, and head for the sizable eschatology section, you find very little representation of this view. You find a variety of writers: Hal Lindsey, Tim Lahaye, John Hagee, David Jeremiah, John MacArthur, Grant Jeffrey, Jack Van Impe, and many more.

But the variety is mainly in the names; the message of these authors – on this topic, at least –  is essentially the same Darbyite teaching that first sprang up in in America in the 1830s. These teachings of John Darby, after being further refined (especially by C. I. Scofield and Charles Ryrie) has now spread to most churches and schools on every continent. And this view of the future has hidden its own past, giving many the impression that (as I have been told) “Christians have always believed this”

One thing I need to clarify before I get to Rev. 13 is that there is still a wide spectrum of beliefs in what I called the old view. The unifying theme of the old view is that most (and I would say all) of the events in Revelation had fulfillments in what is now history. For instance, the Man on the White Horse went out during the time of the spread of the Gospel in the Roman Empire, the other horsemen following bringing the inexorable consequence of the spiritual conflict that followed.

Revelation 13 can be divided into two parts: The vision of the Beast that rises out of the sea (1- 10) and the vision of the Beast that rises out of the earth (11- 18). There is a certain parallelism in these two sections, which is why, I believe, they should be studied together. Both “rise out of” their respective element. Both have great power and authority, doing great things. Both persecute the saints of God to a great degree. Both sections end with a “Here is” promise of encouragement for the beleaguered Christians:

“Here is the  patience and faith of the saints.” (v. 10)
“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast”, etc. (v. 19 – But that subject would require a different article in itself.).

Just a few general comments on this chapter: The Beast from the sea has animal features which remind us of both Daniel 7:1-7 and Hosea 13:8. The Daniel passage matches the animal-kingdoms fairly closely, the last kingdom not being a specific animal (Compare that “fourth beast” of Dan. 7:7-8 with Rev. 13:1-3), but different from and worse than the previous beasts. The animals of Daniel were, respectively, the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. Characteristics of each of these kingdoms is reflected in Rev. 13:2 but the emphasis is on that last terrible kingdom of Rome.

This is, of course, the kingdom still very much in power in John’s time, the ones who banished him to Patmos. At the time of Revelation Nero’s persecution was raging. It makes very good sense, then, that this book would encourage the saints concerning this tribulation. In our rush to make this whole book be about future events for us we overlook the original readership, those early Christians who were being hounded from their homes and employments by a harshly imposing paganism that was demanding allegiance and worship. If we could ask these first century Christians they would give us a quite different slant on Rev. 13:17.

Application: Why Do Bad Things Happen to God’s People?
Hosea 13:7-8 also recapitulates, in different order, the same named beasts of Daniel and Revelation. (Other themes of Revelation, by the way, are found throughout Hosea 13). In verse 6-8 God warns those who have forgotten Him that He will judge them “like a lion”…”like a leopard”…”like a bear” and, finally, like a “wild beast”. I see here a parallelism with the same kingdoms. In other words the calamities had a purpose. They were punishing rods in the hands of a correcting God (Isaiah 10:5). Although Israel was God’s people – and contained God’s true people, though many were false – they were punished and purified by pagan nations. The same is true in Revelation. Though the Christians in the time of Revelation are a “nation of priests” and they “follow the Lamb wherever He goes”, yet they also have in their midst dross needing to be purged and purified. Then – as now – there were many who talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk.

This is the necessary background for this 13th chapter. The Beast who rises from the sea (as well as the later one from the earth), that blaspheming, persecuting monster, is as much an instrument of God as Assyria was. And we know that “all things work together for good” for true Christians. The beastly caesars – most of them – tried their best to rid their empire of this new sect, but God used their very measures against them.

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Christ’s Death: Limited and Thorough Atonement

 “Limited” is not the best way to describe our Atonement, because both those who believe in elective salvation and those who believe in free-will, limit the Atonement in some way. Calvinists limit it by saying that Christ’s death was only for the salvation of the elect. Arminians – and all of those who believe that we have free-will in the matter of salvation – limit the Atonement as well. How so? Sure, the Atonement is for all, they might say, but it doesn’t save any single person. It is limited.

So the Reformed believer limits it by making it refer to relatively few, but saving those few thoroughly. And the Arminian (and all other free-will believers) limit it by not believing the Atonement can save anyone. The Reformed  view sees God’s love to His own as limited in the same way that a husbands love is limited for – and to! –  his wife. The husband’s affection for his wife translates (or ought to, at least) into actual sacrificial actions for his beloved. Or, to use the Apostle’s language, he loves his own wife as himself (Eph. 5:33). Paul, in this very passage ties this marital love together with God’s love for His church, the elect bride. This husband does not love all the women in this very same way! And neither does God.

This is the thorough Atonement of the Reformed believer. But what of the Arminians? Their atonement is not thorough, nor even actual. They  require that the believer reaches up to God with their faith in order to make the Atonement “work”. In other words, their response, their faith, is the active ingredient that makes it all come together. But this makes man, and not God, the deciding factor in his own salvation. Often in the tracts and literature of today you will find some plea to the unsaved that runs like this: “God has done His part. He sent His Son to die on the cross for you. Now you need to do your part and reach out in faith and accept the free offer of salvation.”

By contrast, Reformed believers do not believe that there is a “God’s part” and a “man’s part”: Salvation is all of God. Even the faith to believe was a sovereignly-planned gift given only to the elect so they would believe savingly in the good news. Paul tells us, “not all men have faith.” (2 Thess. 3:2)

The Reformed and, I believe, Biblical position is that every person that Christ died for was/will be saved in the fullest sense of the word (see Romans 6:1- 7). The Atonement in Christ’s death – as far as the elect are concerned – far from being limited, is powerful because of this fact. The imagined free-will Atonement is indeed limited as far as the elect are concerned, because something (our faith) must be added to it to make it reach us.  

Believers in Free-will recognize the incongruity of that teaching with election, but leave it as a mystery. There is indeed mystery in this subject (Romans 11:33), but it isn’t ALL mystery. It is up to us discover where mystery ends and generic illogicality begins. If you believe in free-will – the kind that choose God in any way – it might be good to ask yourself what verse actually proves that.

There are many verses that show that God commands all to repent like Acts 17:30:

“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”

But God saves only some. This is something that is clearly taught in Scripture. The root cause of God not saving all is not because they would not turn to God in repentance. The root cause is that they were not chosen in the first place. They cannot even hear what God is saying because they do not belong to God. This is shown by this passage (John 10:26 – 27):

“but you [referring to unpersuaded Jews] do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

If Arminianism (or any form of Free-willism) was true, Jesus would have reversed the order, saying,

“You are not my sheep because you do not believe”. (Not in the Bible)

All they would have to do would be to believe and they would become His sheep. All they would have to do is believe and the effects of the Atonement would be theirs. This is Arminianism, though it is known under other names. If anyone thinks that I am being unfair to the spirit of John 10, they should read that whole chapter, paying special attention to what Christ says about His sheep. I believe an unbiased appraisal of this passage should begin to get Christians to see that Free-will is not mentioned here at all, and that this is one of the best proofs of God’s election.    

Other “whosoever”-type verses that are often quoted are:

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:18)

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1st John 2:2)

“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1st John 4:14)

This first passage (John 3:16 – 18) shows that the one who believes in Christ is not condemned. “Whoever” or “whosoever” is not in the Greek at all. Even if “whoever” was there, it is not the same as “whoever will” (which is Free-will theology in a nutshell), because it implies -something- good in us, in this case “faith”, that can commend God’s attention toward us in a saving way. “Whoever will”, even if it were in these verses in the sense meant by Arminians, is of no help for anyone. You may as well give smelling salts to a corpse. We are dead in sins. We have no good response in us to the good things of God. God has to give us that too. The faith to believe has to be given by God.

I want to answer the other “world” verses, by first quoting a third “world” verse, also from John, and you tell me if there is a contradiction:

“I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” (John 17:9)

The same John who tells us here that Jesus is not praying for the whole world has, in the verses above, Jesus dying for the whole world. He is willing to die for everyone, but not pray for everyone? This should be a clue right here that there is a faulty presupposition going on. Which would be harder or more costly to do – to die for someone or to pray for someone?

Because we know that nothing that God does will be thwarted (Romans 9:19 “Who resists His will?”) we must understand that for someone to have Christ pay the price for them personally and then reject it, that would be a thwarting of His purpose as far as that individual was concerned. There are many verses that show that God does whatever He wants and succeeds at all that He purposes. His Word will not return to Him void. His death and blood will not have been to any degree wasted or misdirected. Perfect wisdom and sovereign will see to this.

With this in mind, we take a look at 1st John 2:2. Given the verse above and the passage in John 10, we have to reconsider this verse. It is better to say that John was saying that Christ is the “atoning sacrifice for our sins” (“our” meaning John and his hearers/readers), and not only ours but also for the sins of the elect in all the world. This has to be the meaning here or otherwise John contradicts himself.

Unless you are willing to say that it makes sense for Christ to die for everyone – and yet not help everyone to get any Benefit at all out of this dying by His withholding (John 17:9) of the necessary intercessory prayer.

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Kingdoms, Visible & Invisible

The Kingdom of God does not come with observation. The Kingdom of Titus and Vespasian came with observation. The fault of those inside the doomed walls was focusing too literally on the literal kingdom, even though their Messiah explained to them several times the nature of the Kingdom.

Paul said in Ephesians that we are seated with Him in the heavenlies. Are we in that place right now? Is it any less real because it doesn’t show up on Google Earth?

There are some who flinch at the above point, saying that we are “positionally” seated in the heavenlies, but not physically.

But what is the original Bible (Greek) word for “positionally”?

There is none.

But there is an equivalent term: “spiritually”. We are spiritually seated in the heavenlies.

I am not sure, but I suspect that much is made today of positional truth because of doctrinal discomfort with the ramifications of using the word “spiritual”. It has become a dirty word for some: spiritual -> spiritualize -> allegorize -> disbelief.

And yet the main emphasis in the Bible is on spiritual reality.
The kingdom is spiritual, not physical.
The resurrection of believers (Note: I am writing of believers) is spiritual, not physical. This makes it even more real than if it was merely physical. When Christ said:

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

He was emphasizing our spiritual nature, and the spiritual nature of our new life in Him. In a very real sense we will never die. We will only sleep. The disciples misunderstood this very point in this chapter.

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HOLY THING-ISM

that it may save us…

 

And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.”  – 1st Samuel 4 :3

This is the beginning of a very sad chapter in the history of Israel. There could easily be a study in itself in this one verse, and a very rich sermon as well. But the reason this verse came to mind is the contrast of this particular verse with another one three chapters and thirty years later. But first, a little history in-between the two events:

ICHABOD
The outcome of the above battle was not at all what the Israelites had hoped for. Bringing the Ark of the covenant did not help them at all: They lost the battle, many were killed – including Hophni and Phineas, their prominent Levites. Worst of all, they lost their Ark of the covenant. The news of this killed the chief priest, Eli. Also, Phineas’s wife gave birth at this very time. Hearing of this triple disaster (loss of husband, father-in-law, and the ark) hastened her own death. Before she died she told her nurses to name here child “Ichabod”, “The glory has departed”.

A LOSE-LOSE SITUATION
But if this was such a tragic loss for the people of God it was not the victory that it seemed for the Philistines. They brought their trophy (the ark) to the temple of their god, Dagon. But God demonstrated his holiness to them by breaking the idol of Dagon. More overwhelming than this largely symbolic judgment was the outbreak of the plague (probably bubonic, judging by 1 Sam. 6:4- 5) among the Philistines. Wherever the ark went the plagued followed; first Ashdod, then Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath and, finally, Ekron. The men of Ekron demonstrated greater wisdom than those of Ashdod – and of Shiloh, for that matter. They gathered all the Lords of the Philistines together and insisted (5:11):

 “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go back to its own place, so that it does not kill us and our people!”

The  priests and diviners knew that they could not send the ark back empty and insisted that it be sent back with “five golden tumors and five golden rats” (6:4). In their limited way, and seemingly by divine counsel, the Philistine priests had a higher perception of God’s holiness than the hardened Israelites at the eve of the battle. Of course, experience had taught them that God’s presence brings judgment.

THE ARK RETURNS TO ISRAEL. ISRAEL RETURNS TO GOD.
To make a long story short, the ark is returned to the land of Israel – though not without additional disasters and painful lessons learned (6:19- 21). After twenty years Samuel admonishes Israel

“If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreth (goddess images) from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”

And they did. And He did. But not before they had a serious scare.

SAME ENEMIES, DIFFERENT RESPONSE
Samuel had called all of Israel to Mizpah *, where he would pray for them, fast with them, and sacrifice on their behalf **. So, Samuel goes up to Mizpah. All Israel goes up to Mizpah. And the Philistine go up to Mizpah!

Did the Philistines go up to Mizpah to repent of their idols? Not at all! They had heard of Israel’s gathering together and, whether they sensed danger, or merely opportunity, they camped nearby in battle-readiness.

This distressed Israel greatly. History was repeating itself. This was very similar to Samuel 4:3. But this time their response shows true repentance from their idolatry and living faith in God. Seeing the Philistines camped nearby, they turn to their intercessor Samuel, and urgently request of him:

“Do not cease to cry out to the Lord our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines.”

No appeal to the ark to be brought. Rescue must come from the Living (but invisible) God, who awards naked faith with grace and victory.

Samuel, as priest, offers the unblemished lamb as a whole burnt offering to the Lord, and prays to Him. And God granted the victory.

HOLY THING-ISM TODAY
That is the contrast that I thought of when I read this passage this morning. Israel had learned a valuable lesson to not trust to visible assurances of God’s blessings, but to nobly rely on His Name, and on His promise. But it also occurred to me that the sin that Israel fell into here (and would again in just the next chapter) is a cautionary tale for us today as well. In many ways we seek to have the same visible assurances from God, asking not for Him, but for some “it”. For the Israelites the “its” have been the ark, a visible king (Saul), the brazen serpent (that thing of brass), etc.

But our “its” today are different. But if they sever faith in our living God and His Word, then it is idolatry just the same. Our forms of “it” can be:

The Lord’s Supper,
Baptism,
A church building or other “holy place”,
Prayer (“praying through”),
Walking the aisle,
Special music (whether listening, singing or performing),
Being “in the ministry”,
Revered writers or preachers,
Etc.

The list goes on. All of these “its” have Bible verses that show just what naked contrivances they are if God is not in them. None of these should take the place of true faith and fellowship in Christ.

A person can have all of the above on their Got-it List and be as far from God as north is from south.

Notes
* Why Mizpah? This is the place, centuries before, associated with Israel’s previous putting away of idols, Judges 10: 10- 17. This may be why Mizpah was chosen by Samuel. The Jews found themselves in the same predicament: idolatry.

** Interesting note: Samuel is not from the house of Levi, but from Ephraim. Why is he sacrificing? The fact that he is able to minister as priest seems to prefigure another Priest who also is not of Levi, but of the tribe of Judah and the order of Melchizedek.

 

 

 

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Historical Blessedness and Present (and Future) Irrelevance of Jewishness

Rom. 3:1-2:
“What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of
circumcision?

Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed
the oracles of God.”

Rom. 10:12-13:
“For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the
same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

We often tend to shy away from what appear to us as Bible contradictions. Though we assume that there is a reconciliation we tend to just move on to other less difficult passages. But it is in these surface contradictions that we very often have important truth brought to focus.

Consider these two passages in Romans. In the first being a Jew is deemed an “advantage”. In the second there seems to be no advantage. How are these two to be reconciled? The answer, as always in these cases, is to look more closely at the text. The chief advantage for the Jew in Romans 3 is that they had the “oracles of God”. This is, of course, the Old Testament, the inspired writings that pointed Jews to, and prepared Jews for, the long-promised Messiah. This advantage ended when the purpose ended.

In the second passage we see that there is no difference between Jew or non-Jew (here, “Greek”, standing for all the rest of the Gentiles). The passage goes on to say that God will respond to those in both groups who call upon Him.

Have you noticed a key difference in both of these passages? One looks to the past,

“unto them were committed (past tense) the oracles of God.”

The other looks to the future,

“For whosoever shall call (future tense) upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (future).”

Of course, the future here is not, strictly speaking, our future; the calling [on the name of Jesus] – and the saving – of verse 13 were already happening in the time of the New Testament.

Here is a strange development: Much of Futurism does not follow this Scriptural principle. Instead many of them view Jewishness as a future (and present) advantage. They see this advantage eventually crytallizing into, among other things, reenactments of Temple sacrifices and rituals, reimposing of Levitical separations. By contrast, this same group, downplays or neglects the Jews’ historical advantage, the Oracles of God.

If they would have truly appreciated the first they would not have falsely construed the second. Not understanding properly the Old Testament, seeing its relation to the New, they do not recognize the divine deprecation of an instrument that, however blessed in it’s time, no longer has specific purpose. Both Gentiles and Jews, the Israel of God, have gone on to the better, prepared place their mutual Messiah had promised.

This is not anti-Semitism. It is realized Semitism!

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Is Christ Lord of a Kingdom He cannot Enter?

How exactly do we reconcile Luke 24:39 with 1 Cor. 15:50?

“Look at My hands and My feet. It is I Myself. Touch Me and see—for a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.””

“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”

Now unless we see the two underlined phrase as not being synonymous we have a serious problem; Christ is Lord of a Kingdom He cannot enter.

But I believe the answer is actually clear. The body Christ had post-resurrection was still part of His Incarnational mission.

But there is no reason now for Him to put on that body. It was part of His humiliation according to Phil. 2. He is glorified now, not humiliated, with the same glory that He had with the Father before His Incarnation, per His prayer in John 17 .

Acts 1:9 – 11 is a favorite passage for those who believe Christ returns in a physical body. But it shows the manner Christ went and was to return. Manner, not form.

He went in a cloud. And in the cloud He was then out of their sight. There is no explicit mention of a corporeal (flesh-and-bones) body.

If we do imagine that this passage teaches a physical return of Christ we will have a hard time reconciling this with other cross-references like the two above.

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Wisdom is Justified by her Children: Matthew 11:19

Wisdom is Justified by her Children: Matthew 11:19
A Lesson in Discernment: The same wisdom that recognized the Christ in Jesus,
likewise, discerned in John the Baptist Elijah already come
.



Here is the background text, Matthew 11:2-19. Please see further comments below.

2. And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples
3. and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
4. Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:
5. The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
6. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
7. As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?
8. But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.
9. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.
10. For this is he of whom it is written:

‘ Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’

11. Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
12. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.
13. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
14. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.
15. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
16. But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions,
17. and saying:

‘We played the flute for you,
And you did not dance;
We mourned to you,
And you did not lament.’

18. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’
19. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

Is Elijah still coming? Consider the following:
Having heard once again, in a recent sermon, that Elijah is still coming I thought about this very passage in Matthew. There is here a connection that is often overlooked, an application that deals both with Elijah and with the very nature of God’s fulfillments.

A little overview first. Christ, in the passage above, commends John the Baptist and his ministry. He also shows the limitations of the dispensation under which he labored: the Old Covenant. It was in the very nature of John’s occupation that he would “work himself out of a job”, so to speak. His purpose was to announce the coming of the Messiah. This was foretold in Malachi, the very last of the Old Testament prophets.

It is interesting that Christ’s scenario here contrasts two events; the one with mourning, the other with joyful music and dancing. Some commentators have seen in this references to, respectively, a funeral and a wedding. A few commentators (Godbey’s is one I happened to see recently) even go so far as to say that the funeral is that of the Old Covenant, personified as a woman; and the wedding as that of the New Covenant. That does seem appropriate, though perhaps it is reading too much into the text.

Much more could be written about this passage, but I want to focus on what I believe is all too often overlooked today. Two points:

1. The “wisdom is justified by her children” metaphor has to do with both Christ and John the Baptist.
2. There is no need for any other Elijah to come in the future. This passage, in fact, does away with the possibility of that.

1. The same wisdom that recognizes Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, also recognizes John as Elijah. To recognize the fore-runner, the messenger – John – is to also recognize the Person of his message – Christ.

John proclaimed loudly, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Once Christ came and completed His mission there was no need anymore for that particular messenger, because that message has already been given. The message now is the Gospel. The messengers now in need are Christians. That’s us!

Anyone who has any doubt about Elijah’s ministry being completed in John needs only to read Malachi’s prophecy concerning him, Malachi 4. Or one can consider the Transfiguration, that dramatic demonstration of the passing of the Old and the visible establishment of the New Covenant, shown by Christ’s transcendency of the ministries of both Moses and Elijah: the Law and the Prophets. They faded away – just as did the Law they were associated with – only to be replaced by Christ. Hear the Father’s finalizing words: “This is My Son. Hear Him.”

2. No need for a future Elijah.
Wisdom is justified by her children. We are the children of the God of all wisdom. As such, we have the ability now to recognize the things of God. We need only to fix our attention on the guidance in His Word and the illumination of His Spirit. The reason why there is not more unanimity among Christians in these things, I am convinced, is because we are so prone to lean on tradition and human authority. And tradition – at least the tradition of the last two hundred years – has led us to expect another Elijah (superfluous, according to Scripture) to perform a ministry (contrary to Scripture).

Not recognizing Elijah and Christ are part of the same spiritual problem.
Another reason why this topic is important is that the church nowadays, to a degree unrecognized, has taken up with the very spirit of the first-century Jews.  Those Jews let their Messiah pass through their midst unrecognized because their eyes were fixed on the physical, to the exclusion of the spiritual.

They waited for a physical Messiah: A powerful and beneficent Savior.
They waited for a physical largesse. The feeding of the 5000 greatly prompted their desires for Him as king – on their terms.
They waited for a physical deliverance from Rome’s galling dominion.
They waited for a physical salvation, involving an Earthly Kingdom, grandiose worship with visible and magnificent assurances and favor.

This is what they wanted. But what did they get?

A Messiah that not only did not deliver them from Rome, actually taught the necessity of going the extra mile with them. One who not only did not deliver Israel from them, but was seemingly unable to save Himself by coming down from the Cross.
A Messiah who taught the necessity of eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
A builder of an invisible Temple.
An inauguration of an invisible Kingdom, one that “comes not with observation”.

Should it be any wonder that they – like many today –  did not have the wisdom to recognize Elijah?

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