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Elijah’s End-Time Challenge for the Last-Days

BarnWhen the Green Bay Packers lost a football game they should have won, players expected legendary football coach Vince Lombardi to scold them severely––some more than others. Assembling them as a team, however, he held a football overhead and announced: "Gentlemen, this is a football." Rather than pointing out mistakes or pointing at culprits, he took all his players back to the basics and built a dynasty.

When the Corinthians repeated the mistakes of ancient Israel, the apostle Paul took them back to the basics, too. Depicting Israel’s downfall as a disregard for God’s grace, he announced: "These things happened to them as examples for us, and were written for our instruction" (1 Cor. 10:11). "Examples" translates the Greek word for impressions left for Christians after Israel stamped history with its experiences.The OT Sanctuary offered one of these perfect “examples.” A single family of priests served there, ministering to all those around them. People came to reconcile with God through sacrifices, study, pray, and worship with Aaron and his household. In the same way, a single family of priests ought to minister in every Christian home. Ambassadors for Christ, they should draw friends and neighbors there to reconcile with God, study, pray, and worship with them. Based on Aaron’s house-church model, Jesus trained His disciples to establish homes for end time ministry.

According to Malachi 3:1 and 2, the LORD promised: “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple… He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross.” This prophecy pointed to John the Baptizer, preparing Israel for Messiah’s arrival, saying Christ–the one coming after him––would "baptize with fire" like Malachi’s "refiner of silver." Removing impurities and unwanted elements, He will cause a transformation among God’s people–His "kingdom of priests" (Exod. 19:6)–"purifying the Levites...so that they may once again offer acceptable sacrifices to the LORD” (Mal. 3: 3 and 4). Since Jesus did not come to renew Aaron’s priesthood or to reinstate Old Covenant sacrifices, we can’t take these words literally. Instead, taking it spiritually, Jesus came to raise up a new line of priests, the church (Rev. 1:6) to offer up spiritual sacrifices that please God through His high-priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5).

Inspired by God, Malachi identifies the "messenger" as Elijah in Mal. 4:5 and 6, almost certainly because the prophet was a legend. It would take a tough guy like Elijah to stand up to the smug, self-satisfied people of Malachi’s day. Even so, Jesus did not interpret Malachi literally. Recognizing John the Baptizer as Malachi’s "messenger" in Matt. 11:10, He called him, the "Elijah whom the prophets said would come" in Matt. 11:14. After all, John did fit the description of Elijah, dressing in camel hair, staying in the wilderness, and living off nature––like his spiritual namesake (Matt. 3:1, 4). What’s more, John, like Elijah, questioned the spiritual condition of God’s people, who considered themselves right with God––in order to prepare them for Messiah’s first arrival.

Elijah's spirit lives on in Christ’s disciples, whom Jesus sends to help the world embrace His first coming and prepare them for His return (Lk. 10:1). Like John, they "go ahead" of Jesus "to all the towns and places he plans to visit." Like Elijah, they rely on hospitality and focus on homes to restore “peace” to families (Lk. 10:2-12). Erasing the generation gap so fathers can rule their families well and take care of the church of God in their homes, they can “gain the goodwill of all those around them…[so]…the LORD can add–Ωto their fellowship daily those who are being saved" (Ac. 2:47). Elijah brought peace to the widow of Zarephath’s home when he restored her dead son to her after an extended stay there (1 Kg. 17:17-24). Jesus told His disciples, “Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house,” intending for the peace to last (Lk. 10:5 and 6). He also ordered them to stay in one place–just like Elijah–not to “move around from home to home” (Lk. 10:6). Copies of their Master, Christ’s disciples gave people the impression that Jesus was Elijah, because He trained them to carry out an Elijah-like ministry (Lk. 9:8)

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THE ELIJAH CHALLENGE

Orders tend to lose something in a chain of command. By the time they reach the infantry, they may change so much that the commanding officer would hardly recognize them. That’s why Jesus ordered the Twelve to train new disciples to keep on doing whatever He had commanded them in order to preserve the apostolic way for future generations. This included His plans for evangelizing the world, like Elijah. That’s why He repeated the same instructions to the seventy in Lk. 10:1-12 that He gave to the apostles in Lk. 9:1-6. He wants every believer to stick with the same plan He gave His original followers–until He comes to take us home! How about you? Are you prepared to win the world for Christ–starting with your family? Are you willing to expand your home to include others who want what Christ has given to you? Are you ready to take the Elijah challenge?

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