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 (KJV)
Spirit and power of Elias – What is the “spirit of Elijah” and what could he represent? This same spirit was something Elisha sought out and asked a double portion of it from Elijah. Elisha evidently saw the power and desired to serve the LORD with it. But what did it really represent? And how is John associated with it? Furthermore, how is it preparing the way for the Lord?
John the Baptist was not an evident miracle worker that defied authority by means of wiping out armies with the power of God. But Elijah did. John did not raise people from death, but Elijah did. John did not call on fire from heaven to prove the existence of God, but Elijah did. Instead, Luke writes what John was meant to do; to turn the hearts of fathers to the children, turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, and to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
How do these two concepts align with one another? Why did Yeshua consider John as having the spirit of Elijah?
We will begin by studying a particular miracle of Elijah found in the first chapter of 2 Kings. 2 Kings 1:1-18. To summarize, God sends Elijah to meet the messengers of the King of Samaria. He questions why they seek Baalzebub instead of YHVH on behalf of the King, and delivers a message that this King will die. So the King of Samaria sends a captain with 50 soldiers to bring Elijah to him. Elijah calls down fire from heaven and destroys them. Another captain with 50 more soldiers are sent again to bring Elijah back, but Elijah calls down fire from heaven and destroys them as well. Finally a 3rd captain is sent with 50 more soldiers (the King of Samaria is just not getting it). This 3rd captain immediately kneels down to this spirit of Elijah and submits himself beseeching Elijah’s mercy for him and his soldiers. He is spared, and at this moment an angel of the LORD tells Elijah to go with this captain and deliver his message to the King. Elijah does, and the King dies. The end.
I suggest that Elijah represents the law of God. I know this is a leap, but bear with me. Prophets like Elijah were used because they were more righteous than other folk. They held the law more strictly than others which in turn, made them more holy, or separate from the norm. This is true for every prophet. One is not a true prophet if their life is the same as everyone else around them. Prophets are called to a higher standard – that standard being obedience to the law.
So before we explain the underlaying interpretation of 2 Kings 1, let us review the purposes of Elijah’s return.
To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children
The first purpose of Elijah’s spirit manifesting as John unfolds in the relationship between fathers and children. It is directly quoted from Malachi 4:5-6:
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
These words speak about Elijah the prophet, but are also preceded by a very interesting verse; Malachi 4:4.
Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
Remembering the law of Moses is directly tied to Elijah and the turning of hearts. Why? Perhaps because of this verse found in Psalm 78:5.
For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:Psalm 78:5
Teaching the law is a mandate for fathers to do in regards to their children. Walking in the law ensures that the relationship between the father and children is strong. It is a continuation of the instruction found in the shema.
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:Deuteronomy 6:6-7
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
Again we see the parental relationship with children involves the teaching of the law as it passes from one generation to the next.
Turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just
The next purpose bestowed unto John would be to turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just. How does this align with the claim that Elijah’s spirit represents the law of God?
Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.Proverbs 4:1-2
2 For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law.
The law is from where wisdom emanates. Teaching the law is equal to teaching wisdom.
I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.Proverbs 4:11
Disobedient people are those who transgress or forsake the law.
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.1 John 3:4
So turning the disobedient and the lawless to a just and righteous law will provide wisdom, and is yet another purpose of Elijah.
But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right,Ezekiel 18:5
To make ready a people prepared for the Lord
What was John’s primary activity in the Gospels? To bring people to repentance. How does one repent? By returning to obedience to the law. You cannot repent without keeping the law. If sin is breaking the law as defined in 1 John 3:4, then repenting and not continuing in sin is done by keeping the law.
So as John brought people to repentance, he also brought them under obedience and in accordance to the law. This enabled a people willing to accept Yeshua as the Messiah. Remember it is the lawless people that Yeshua will reject.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?Matthew 7:22-23
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
The testimony of Yeshua is deeply tied to the keeping of the commandments. They go hand in hand.
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.Revelation 12:17
Elijah, the law & Yeshua, the testimony
Just as the law and the testimony go hand in hand… so too does the work of Elijah and Yeshua.
Elijah preceded Yeshua just as the law preceded the testimony. Without the law, the testimony affirms nothing. Without the testimony, the law is unfulfilled.
And so we return to 2 Kings 1 where Elijah called down fire from heaven. Those denying the law will never find true healing in the sense of complete restoration similarly to the King of Samaria. Those who stand against the law, will be destroyed by fire. If not now, then surely in the end times when the lawless are denied recognition by Yeshua and are thrown into the Lake of Fire. Those who submit themselves to the law of God will be spared and instead given mercy just as Elijah showed to the 3rd captain.
Repent and return to God’s path – the law. Know that Yeshua is ready to help and sent the Holy Spirit strictly for that purpose.
And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.Ezekiel 36:27