By Eric Wheeler
God told His people, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5). The Gospels indicate that John the Baptist was a “prophetic type” or partial fulfillment of this Old Testament prophecy. Speaking of John the Baptist, Luke wrote: “He will go before Him [Jesus] in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). When John the Baptist was still alive, Jesus told His followers, “If you are willing to receive it, he [John the Baptist] is Elijah who is to come” (Matt. 11:14). But after John the Baptist was executed by King Herod, Jesus told His disciples that there will yet be another “Elijah” who will come before His Second Coming, and that when he does come, he will “restore all things” (Matt. 17:11; Mark 9:12).
Interestingly, the book of Revelation also predicts that another Old Testament character will prophetically appear on the scene. Calling herself a prophetess, the woman Jezebel, who originally was a contemporary of the prophet Elijah, will spiritually permeate the Church and will seduce and deceive the servants of God with her false teachings. Speaking prophetically to the Church down through the ages, Jesus warned, “Nevertheless, I have this against you. You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching, she misleads My servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am He who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” (Rev. 2:20-23).
What do these things mean prophetically? Why is God going to send “Elijah the prophet” to His people before His Second Coming? And why must Elijah first “restore all things”? And who is this “prophetess Jezebel” who teaches and beguiles the Church to commit sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols? What do these things mean? Obviously, they are spiritually important for us to understand, because our Lord admonished us every time that He brought the subject up to “let him who has ears to hear, hear!” (Matt. 11:15; Rev. 2:29).
In order to correctly understand these prophecies, and to properly discern their spiritual significance for us today, we must first see who Elijah and Jezebel were in biblical history and understand what they did.
Elijah was a prophet of God who lived and prophesied around 870 BC. He virtually appeared out of nowhere and was sent by God to prophesy to King Ahab, ruler of the Northern Tribes of Israel, that a severe drought was coming upon them because of their national sins. King Ahab had caused Israel to sin by leading them into gross idolatry by forsaking the commandments and word of God (I Kings 18:18). In fact, the Bible says that Ahab did more evil in the sight of the Lord than all of the kings of Israel before him, and that the pinnacle of his sins was that he married Jezebel, the daughter of the king of the idolatrous Sidonians (I Kings 16:30-31). To please her, Ahab built a temple and an altar to her pagan god Baal which he set up in Samaria the capital city of Northern Israel (I Kings 16:32). He allowed his wife, Jezebel, to persecute and put to death all of the true prophets of the Lord, and to establish and appoint her own pagan prophets in their place, in order to teach and mislead the people of God. By the time that God sent Elijah to Ahab again, three and a half years later, the people of God were so spiritually confused by these false prophets and teachers that they couldn’t even answer Elijah’s question regarding who God really was (I Kings 18:20-22).
By marrying King Ahab, Jezebel was given a position of authority in Israel, whereby she insidiously insinuated herself into the spiritual lives of God’s people controlling them and deceiving them. She managed to silence the true prophets of God by persecuting them, murdering them, and banishing them from the coasts of Israel. But unbeknownst to her and Ahab at the time, the Lord had secretly preserved a hundred of His prophets which He hid in two caves by the hand of His servant Obadiah the king’s own prime minister (I Kings 18:4,13). In addition to these secluded prophets, God informed Elijah that He also had seven-thousand people in Israel who had not succumbed to Jezebel’s great deception by partaking in the false worship of Baal (I Kings 19:18).
It is interesting to note that Jezebel had many more false prophets in power than the Lord had in Israel during this time. For it says that there were four-hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and four-hundred prophets of Asherah (a Canaanite goddess) that ate at Jezebel’s table (I Kings 18:19). Because of this, Elijah felt that he alone was left of the Lord’s prophets (I Kings 18:22, 19:10, 14). All of the other prophets had either been killed or silenced. The one-hundred true prophets of God that were hidden in the caves were out in the wilderness, living in obscurity and in fear for their lives. They were not able to publicly speak the truth of God under Jezebel’s administration. They were greatly hindered from fearlessly proclaiming to the people of God what the Spirit of God was giving them to speak. In other words, they were not truly able to prophesy. Instead, they were forced to keep silent and live in obscurity and fear because of Jezebel’s political influence over Israel.
The seven-thousand people that God had reserved, which the Bible refers to as a “remnant” (Rom. 11:3-5) were a very small number indeed compared to the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who were living in Israel at the time. Sadly, most of the Israelites had fallen into great apostasy because of the deceptive idolatrous teachings of Jezebel and her prophets. Very few people in Israel were not deceived. During this time, spiritual restoration and reform were greatly needed in the House of God.
As mentioned earlier, Elijah virtually came out of nowhere. The Bible doesn’t mention anything about who Elijah was or give any of his personal history. It is completely silent in regards to his background, his education, his credentials, or his home life. The only thing that is stated about Elijah is that he was a Tishbite from Gilead. That’s it. This is an important fact to note, because everything that the Bible says, or does not say, is important to consider. We are instructed to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God as recorded in the Bible (Matt. 4:4) and warned to not add one word to its testimony (Rev. 22:18-19). Elijah didn’t go to seminary, or receive his spiritual training at a theological school. He didn’t serve or “eat at Jezebel’s table” with the false prophets. He wasn’t trained at the Temple in Jerusalem. He wasn’t an “ordained” priest, and he wasn’t a professional clergyman. He was simply trained and taught and fed by God out in the wilderness, as we shall see.
Elijah’s Wilderness Experience
After Elijah prophesied to King Ahab about the coming drought in the land, God told Elijah to go and hide by the Brook Cherith where he was going to be supernaturally fed by the ravens. The Hebrew name Cherith means “to cut off”. In other words, Elijah was being sent out into the wilderness to be “cut off” from the religious community – that is, Israel. He also was being personally “cut off” or pruned, just as Jesus said that all of His true followers and servants would be. For Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes [cuts off], that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2). Notice that God supernaturally fed him “bread and meat” there in the wilderness (I Kings 17:4-6). This is the same thing that the Lord did to Israel when He sent them into the Sinai desert when they left Egypt in order to train and to teach them to learn to trust Him (Deut. 8:2-3; Num. 11:31-32; Psa. 78:23-29). In this wilderness, Elijah was learning to rely on God for his daily sustenance. Symbolically, he was “feasting” on Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life (John 6:48-51), and eating spiritual “meat” which God said was intended for the spiritually mature (I Cor. 3:1-2; Heb. 5:11-14). Elijah wasn’t taught by men in the tainted synagogues (churches) of Israel where Jezebel had control, but rather, he was trained by God alone out in the wilderness. As the apostle Paul stated, “The gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ… I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem” (Gal. 1:11-17). Instead, the apostle Paul says that he spent nearly seventeen years in the regions and deserts of Arabia, Syria, and Cilicia being personally taught and trained by Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:12-2:1). Likewise, Elijah too was sent by God out into the wilderness to be humbled, taught, instructed, and tested, as we shall see next.
Zarephath – the place of refinement and testing
Notice that when the Brook Cherith dried up, the word of the Lord came to Elijah again saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” (I Kings 17:7-9). The Hebrew name Zarephath means “refinement” and “to try or to put to the test”. In other words, both Elijah and the widow were going to have to go through a time of proving and testing – a period of spiritual refinement. It was during this time that Elijah and the widow were also going to begin to see and experience the resurrecting (reviving) power of God. When he first met the widow lady (that is, a woman living without her husband – that is, without Jesus Christ), Elijah said to her, “Please bring me a little water in a cup that I may drink” (I Kings 17:10). As she went to get the water, he further instructed her, “Please also bring me a morsel of bread to eat.” But she answered, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar.” (I Kings 17:11-12). Notice that this widow woman didn’t say, “As the Lord my God lives…” She didn’t recognize God as her God, only as Elijah’s God. This is interesting to note, considering the fact that God had already told Elijah earlier that He had specifically commanded her to provide for him before he had even arrived at her house (I Kings 17:9). In other words, she had “ears to hear” and recognized God’s voice, but didn’t yet fully have a personal abiding relationship with Him! That is why she unknowingly prophetically described herself as not having any “bread” (Jesus), but only a little flour and a little oil.
In the Bible, flour and oil represent being in a poor and humble flattened state, void of any leavening or yeast. In the Old Testament, flour and oil were offered to God as grain offerings and peace offerings (Lev. 2:1-11; 7:11-12). Flour and oil were also used to consecrate new priests to God and to spiritually signify their readiness for service to Him (Exod. 29:1-2). Symbolically, flour and oil picture a prepared heart that is contrite, humble, and submissive, and one that is waiting to be lifted up and revived by God. The Bible describes leavening or yeast as an agent that is added to a mixture of flour and oil in order to “lift it up” or “puff it up”. Sometimes in the Bible, leavening or yeast is given a negative connotation, such as when it is used to describe sin or pride (see Matt. 16:6-12; I Cor. 5:2-8). At other times, it is used in a positive way to describe a quickening agent that gives life and revives. Jesus referred to leavening in this positive light when He said that the Kingdom of God is like leaven, which a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour, and it rapidly spread until the whole dough was leavened (Luke 13:20-21).
This widow from Zarephath was in a lowly contrite state waiting for the quickening and life-giving Spirit of God and Word of God to lift her up. She was obviously tired, discouraged, running low on oil (the Holy Spirit), and in great need of personal comfort and edification. She desperately needed to be lifted up and revived! She was spiritually dying. In fact, that is exactly what she unknowingly prophetically stated! She said that she and her son had lost all hope and were preparing to eat their last meal and die (I Kings 17:12). Her spiritual “lamp” was going out due to a lack of available oil and spiritual resources (Matt. 25:7-9), as a result of the prophesied drought and subsequent famine in the land (I Kings 17:1; 18:2). That is why God, in His infinite mercy, sent Elijah to her. He was sent to her to “revive” her in the name of the Lord by helping her to realize that God is more real and personal than she knew and believed. He was sent to spiritually help her by encouraging her, strengthening her, and comforting her by giving her the words of life from God – that is, by prophesying. She, in turn, was commanded by God to help him during their spiritual “refinement period” by physically sustaining him through the remainder of the drought. This is in accordance with what the Lord commands: “If we [servants of the Lord] have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? … Do you not know that those who work in the temple eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (I Cor. 9:11-14).
Receiving a prophet and disciple of the Lord
Elijah told the widow woman to not fear, but to put her trust in God and honor the Lord by honoring His servants by putting their needs first. He told her to make a cake for him first and then to make one for her and her son (I Kings 17:13). In other words, the test was, did she believe and accept him as a prophet and a messenger from God? And would she honor God by honoring and obeying His servant? For Jesus said, “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones [of Mine] only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.” (Matt. 10:40-42). That is why Elijah initially said to her when he first met her, “Please bring me a little water in a cup that I may drink.” (I Kings 17:10). It really was a test to see whether or not she would receive him as a disciple and as the Lord’s messenger and servant. Elijah then said to her, “For thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth.’” (I Kings 17:14). Notice that she believed the Lord’s prophet, because she immediately went in faith and did what Elijah told her to do.
Before we proceed, it is important to note that Zarephath is located in the region of Sidon outside of Israel. Jesus referred to this as spiritually significant because He used it to illustrate His point that “a prophet is only without honor in his own country and among his own people” (Luke 4:24-26). The widow of Zarephath was considered a gentile, that is, she was a non-Israelite woman. In other words, she was outside the house of Israel – outside the people of God – that is, outside the church system. Jesus clearly makes this point when He said that there were “many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah …but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow” (Luke 4:25-26). With these words, Jesus was indicting the people of God. He was addressing the members of a church congregation in Israel, and told them that they were the ones who were spiritually poor, blind, captive and oppressed (Luke 4:17-21). When the proud disbelieving people in the synagogue (church) heard these words, they became angry at Him and cast Him out of their church and out of their city (Luke 4:16-30). In contrast, the gentile widow of Zarephath was humble and teachable, and readily received the Lord’s prophet and his message. Therefore she received from the prophet what the Lord had given to the prophet – that is, the “prophet’s reward” (Matt. 10:41). What Elijah was given, and what the widow woman received, were words of encouragement, edification, and truth directly from God! “For he who prophesies [that is, speaks by divine unction and influence] speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.” (I Cor. 14:3). But the Bible also says that “prophesying is not for unbelievers, but for those who believe.” (I Cor. 14:22). That is why Elijah was sent by God to the widow in Zarephath, and not to the widows in Israel. Because as Jesus said, the disbelieving people of Israel (the Church) would never have accepted Elijah or received his message (Luke 4:24; Acts 7:52). Sadly, this is still true today. Unfortunately, many people in the Church don’t believe that God sends prophets and messengers to His people. Therefore, like the Israelites of Jesus’ day, they too, never receive the prophet’s reward – that is, they never receive what God gave the prophet to share with them and give to them. Unfortunately, Jesus told us in the Bible that it was going to be like this. For He said, “Behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and others you will flog in your churches and pursue from town to town.” (Matt. 23:34). Sadly, the people of God haven’t changed.
After the widow woman received these words of encouragement (promises) from the Lord, and was personally edified (“lifted up”) by Him through her faith and obedience, she then experienced His supernatural provision. In other words, God supernaturally and miraculously provided for her and sustained her through her “desert wilderness experience” because of her faith. Israel and the surrounding areas were still experiencing drought and famine during this time. However, God promised her that “the bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the Lord sends rain on the earth” (I Kings 17:14). Like all true servants of God, she too, had to learn to trust and rely on God to supernaturally sustain and feed her through her “desert wilderness journey” while she patiently waited on the promises of God to be fulfilled – that is, for the rain to come (Deut. 8:1-9). Notice that it says that she endured and persevered in this way for “many days” (I Kings 17:15). But because of her faith and trust in God, she was also able to witness the miraculous signs and wonders of God and experience His awesome resurrecting power in the meantime (Mark 16:17; Phil. 3:9-11). When her son died as a result of serious illness, God brought him back to life. This prophetically illustrates the fact that God even shows His mercy to the family members of those individuals who believe and put their trust in Him. For it is written, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31). Upon receiving her son back to life, the widow woman exclaimed to Elijah, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is the truth.” (I Kings 17:24).
The work and ministry of Elijah
After three and a half years, God told Elijah to go to King Ahab again and tell him that He was going to send rain upon the earth (I Kings 18:1). But before this was going to occur, God was going to first turn the hearts of His people Israel back to Him by revealing Himself to them in a miraculous and astounding way. They had been ensnared and enslaved by Jezebel’s deceptions long enough! It was time for God to deliver His people from their spiritual ignorance and sinful ways, and to turn them back to Him, by revealing Himself through His awesome power. Jezebel and her wicked prophets were now going to be exposed for the frauds they were! God, through His prophet Elijah, had King Ahab gather all of the people of Israel together with the false prophets of Baal and Asherah to Mount Carmel (I Kings 18:19). The Hebrew name Carmel means “fruitful field”. God was now going to make His people (the Church) “a fruitful field”, instead of the barren waterless desert which they had spiritually become through their idolatrous worship and false practices which they had deceitfully learned under Jezebel’s supervision. They had become so spiritually corrupt and confused that they didn’t even know who God really was anymore. But God was now going to show them the Truth – He was going to reveal Himself to His people through His servant Elijah just as He had done to the widow lady a year or so earlier when she confessed to him, “Now I know that the Word of the Lord in your mouth is the Truth!” Jesus, the Word of God, is the Truth (John 14:6) and He was in the mouth of His servant Elijah! In other words, God reveals Himself to His people through the mouths of His servants. This will be clearly demonstrated by Elijah’s prayer.
When it was Elijah’s turn to call upon God and to publicly reveal Him to the people, notice what he prayed. After the false prophets had been crying out to their gods all day long and couldn’t get a heavenly response from them, Elijah simply said to God, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel, and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.” (I Kings 18:36-37). Notice that Elijah prayed for four things: 1) That God would reveal Himself to His people. 2) That God would reveal to His people that Elijah was His servant. 3) That God would let the people know that Elijah was only doing what God had commanded him to do. 4) That God would turn His people’s hearts back to Him again.
Notice that the four things that Elijah prayed for are the same things that were prophesied about John the Baptist’s ministry: “For He [God] has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us… And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest. For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins…To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:68-79). “And he [John the Baptist] will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 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 1:16-17). Notice these four things: 1) God raised up a horn of salvation unto His people. 2) He would be known as a prophet of the Most High. 3) In doing so, God would again visit and redeem His people through His servant. 4) And consequently, God would turn their hearts back to Him again. This is the work and ministry of the prophet Elijah.
As was mentioned above, John the Baptist was sent by God approximately eight-hundred years later to spiritually do the same work that Elijah did during his ministry. Their message and mission were the same. They were sent before God to turn His people’s hearts back to Him in preparation for the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit (pictured by the promised “rain coming upon the earth”). That is why Jesus called John the Baptist “Elijah” (Matt. 11:14). It was because John the Baptist had an “Elijah-type” ministry and work to do in preparation for His coming.
Both Elijah and John the Baptist were sent by God to prepare His people and warn them that they had better repent (turn around) and make their “paths” (spiritual walks) straight before God (Matt. 3:1-6). Both of these prophets rebuked the religious leaders and teachers of Israel who had spiritual control over the people of God and who had enslaved them by their false teachings and traditions. Just like Elijah, John the Baptist wasn’t trained at the Temple in Jerusalem either. He lived in the desert wilderness for most of his life in relative obscurity away from the religious community, and like Elijah, was not accepted by his own people (Matt. 11:18). The Bible says that John was “in the deserts till the day of his showing unto Israel” (Luke 1:80). Curiously, the Bible even says that Elijah and John dressed alike. They both wore coarse animal hair coats tied together with a leather belt around their waists (II Kings 1:8; Mark 1:6; Zech. 13:4).
Elijah the prophet must first come to the people of God
Jesus said that it was necessary that “Elijah” must first come and “restore all things” before His coming (Matt. 17:11). During Elijah’s day and in John the Baptist’s day, the people of God had shifted so far away from the Truth, and away from the Light, that they didn’t even really know God or realize that they were spiritually “sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79). They had a form of godliness, and they had God’s words with them, but their hearts had been so far removed from God because of their false teachers and leaders, that they couldn’t even recognize God anymore or His servants. They had become so spiritually blind that they rejected His messages, persecuted and murdered His prophets, and ultimately, even killed His Son – all the while thinking that they were right with God! That is why God said that He must first send “Elijah the prophet” to His people before the rain comes upon the earth! In the Bible, “rain” pictures two things: The great out-pouring of the Holy Spirit upon those who are ready to receive it (Hos. 6:3; Joel 2:23); and divine judgment upon those who are not (Gen. 7:12; Ezek. 38:22; Matt. 7:25-27).
The Bible is clear that once again, the prophet “Elijah” is going to have to be sent by God to His people (the Church) in these latter days to spiritually prepare them for His coming – the Holy Spirit being poured out upon them. He is going to need to spiritually set straight the “crooked paths” of God’s people so that He can come to them again and walk among them. As it is written: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord. Make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled [lifted up] and every mountain and hill brought low [humbled]; and the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation [saving power] of God.’” (Luke 3:4-6).
In Biblical times, when a king was planning to visit a certain place, his messenger was sent before him to “clear the land” and to prepare His subjects to meet him. This messenger was sent before the king to clear the king’s path of any stubble, debris, or impeding objects, so that the “king’s highway” was straight and unhindered for his arrival. This is the same metaphor that is being used here in the Scriptures. Christ the King is soon coming back to this earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Therefore, He is sending His messenger(s) before Him who shall clear His way and spiritually prepare His people to meet Him! That is why we must be sure to have our proper “wedding garments” on when we meet the King. Otherwise, we will find ourselves cast out of His sight (Matt. 22:1-14). We can’t meet the King in spiritually filthy, dirty, rags or spiritually naked. We must be clothed in white raiment (Rev. 3:17-18). Elijah’s job is to spiritually clear the way before Him and to prepare His people for His visit – that is, Christ’s coming! Notice these verses:
“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His Temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in Whom you delight. Behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. He will purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness… Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him. For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven. And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts…Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” (Mal. 3:1-18; 4:1-5).
Notice that it says that the proud and all those who do wickedly will be as “stubble” – that is, as worthless debris! They will be taken out of the way – removed – spiritually burnt up – destroyed! For the Bible says that God is a consuming fire, and that nothing unholy and profane shall stand before Him – that is, in His presence (Deut. 4:24; Deut. 9:3; Heb. 12:29). Notice that it also says that He is coming to His Temple! He is not coming to the gentile world at this time. He is coming to His Temple – that is, to His own people! For it is written to the Church: “Do you not know that you are the Temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the Temple of God, God will destroy him. For the Temple of God is holy, which Temple you are.” (I Cor. 3:16-17). He is coming to refine His people and to purify them – to clean them up with “launderers’ soap” as He puts it (Mal. 3:2)! To wash them with the “washing of water by the Word that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:26-27).
Notice also that it says to the Church, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord”. The day of the Lord will be both “great” to some in the Church, and “dreadful” to others. Let me explain. This is the same type of description that Jesus used when He referred to this time period of judgment and refinement in the Church – the House of God. For it is written: “The time has come for judgment to begin at the House of God” (I Peter 4:17). During Jesus’ ministry, He repeatedly warned us that there was going to be both “weeping and gnashing of teeth” within the Church during this refinement/judgment period (Matt. 8:12; 13:42; 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). In other words, some will be broken and humbled by the Rock, and will weep when they realize that they have been misled and that they truly don’t know God. When they hear the truth and realize that God is more real and personal than they believed, they will fall upon the Rock and be broken just as Jesus said that they would be as they begin to recognize their spiritual poverty. For Jesus said, “Whoever falls on this Stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” (Matt. 21:44).
Just like the poor humble widow woman of Sidon who recognized her spiritual poverty, and confessed, “I don’t have any bread [Jesus Christ], but only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar”, some of the people in the Church will become broken and humbled when they realize that they don’t really know Jesus Christ and will consequently fall upon Him (the “Rock”) and be broken (humbled). And then God will quickly revive them and exalt them as He promised, just like He did to the widow woman. For it is written, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time” (I Peter 5:6). And again it says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10). Christ will immediately exalt everyone who humbles himself by filling that man or woman with His Holy Spirit, so that “the oil in their jar” will never run out! For it is written, “He who eats of this Bread and drinks of this Water will never hunger and will never thirst. For the water that I shall give him will become a fountain of water springing up out of him into everlasting life” (John 4:14; 6:48-51). And again it says, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his own belly will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38). Yes, whosoever humbles himself in the Lord, God will surely lift them up and revived them with His quickening Spirit and comforting truths, just like He did to the poor widow lady and her son. For it is written: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek [humble], for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matt. 5:3-6).
Sadly, on the other hand, there will be many Christians during this time who will harden their hearts against Him in their self-righteous arrogant pride, and try to oppose Him and His servants, and consequently, they will be smashed and “ground to powder” (Matt. 21:44). As Jesus said there will be both weeping and gnashing of teeth in the Church! As was mentioned earlier, there is coming a great out-pouring of the Holy Spirit upon the people of God again – that is, the “latter rain” is surely coming upon the Church (see Hosea 6:3; Joel 2:23; Acts 2:17; James 5:7). To some in the Church, this rain will be exciting and great, absolutely refreshing and invigorating! To others, it will be dreadful and a time of great crisis. Instead of the “rain” bringing life and revival to them, the coming of the Spirit will only bring judgment and great upheaval! In other words, these individuals will be “gnashing their teeth” in anger, resentment, and resistance against God!
As was stated earlier, John the Baptist warned that “every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low” (Luke 3:5). The “valleys” being referred to here are every lowly person who is humble before God and in a lowly contrite state. In other words, every humble person will be exalted and lifted up by Him. Consequently, every mountain and hill will be abased. In the Bible, “mountains and hills” typically personify kingdoms, governments, hierarchies, self-righteous individuals, and everything that exalts itself above God (Isa. 2:12-18). Yes, God is going to humble everything and everybody that “stands” before Him beginning with His own people – the Church. For it is written: “And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His Temple… But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears?” (Mal. 3:2). And again it says to those in the Church, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (I Cor. 10:12). God is going to test and to prove all of us in the Church to see whether or not we are built on man’s traditions and doctrines or upon the Rock – His Word. He is going to see what our “foundation” truly is built upon. For it is written: “Yet once more, I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens. The words, ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain” (Heb. 12:26-27). “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ [the Word of God]. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames [of refinement].” (I Cor. 3:12-15). God is truly going to purify and refine His people in fire as He prophesied. They are spiritually going to be sent to Zarephath – the place of refinement and testing once again!
As a result of this refinement period, the Church will then spiritually become a “fruitful field” again just like they were in the days of Elijah at Mount Carmel. The false prophets and teachers, and all those who oppose God in Israel, will be exposed for what they are and “put to death” so to speak, by His discerning Spirit and by His powerful Word which is sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12; Rev. 1:16). For “then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the spirit of His mouth, and destroy with the brightness of His coming.” (II Thes. 2:8). Notice, after God supernaturally revealed Himself to His people through Elijah, it says that all of the people of Israel fell on their faces (humbled themselves) and cried out, “The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!” Whereupon, Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!” So they seized them and took them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there according to the commandment of the Lord (I Kings 18:39-40; Deut. 13:5; Deut. 18:20). The Hebrew name Kishon means “curving or turning”. In other words, the people of God were being “turned” back to God. Their hearts were turning back from following after the false practices and traditions of men as taught to them by their false leaders and teachers, and were now being turned back to God and to the truth of His Word. For this was Elijah’s work and ministry! To expose and destroy the works and teachings of Jezebel and her false prophets, and to turn the hearts of God’s people back to Him in truth!
The Spirit of Jezebel teaching and ruling in the Church
As was mentioned above, Jezebel exercised great influence over the people of Israel (the Church). She instituted and ordained false prophets and pastors over the people, in order to deceitfully lead them away from the truth of God’s Word, and to teach them the ways of Baal, a pagan god. In Hebrew, the name Baal means “lord, possessor, and/or husband”. This is why the Bible prophetically says that Jezebel “teaches and beguiles the servants of God to commit sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols” (Rev. 2:20). The Bible says that Jezebel has once again taken an administrative position in the Church, by calling herself a prophetess, and is causing the Bride of Christ (the Church) to cheat on her Husband – that is, to cheat on Christ, who is the Word of God – the Truth, by cavorting with liars, and embracing the doctrines and false teachings of men. The apostle Paul said that these false doctrines and teachings are actually “doctrines of demons” – which are false gods (I Tim. 4:1). By embracing and adhering to false teachings and doctrines of men, the people of God (Christians) are actually serving and worshipping (“sacrificing to”) false gods! Notice these Scriptures:
“My beloved, flee from idolatry… Are not those who eat of the sacrifices participants of the altar? … I say that the things which the gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.” (I Cor. 10:20-21).
“For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial (the Devil)? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the Temple of God with idols? For you are the Temple of the living God. As God has said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore, ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. And you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’” (II Cor. 6:14-18).
“In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition…Making the Word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Mark 7:7-13).
“The Lord says, ‘These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. Their worship of Me is made up of rules and commandments of men.” (Isa. 29:13).
“Do you not know that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, you are [and have become] the servants of that one that you obey?” (Rom 6:16).
In other words, if you follow man’s teachings and traditions which the Bible calls “doctrines of demons”, you are no longer serving God, but serving idols (false gods). This is why God says that Jezebel is once again teaching and beguiling His servants to “commit sexual immorality and to eat things offered to idols” (Rev. 2:20). The people of God have left their “first love” (Rev. 2:4) – that is Christ, the Truth, the Word of God, and have instead now embraced lies – that is, the teachings and traditions and commandments of men. “Baal”, which was an idol made by men, has once again become the wicked “lord, possessor, and false husband” of the people of God in place of Jesus Christ – the Word of God! God says that they are again serving lies created by men and not serving and abiding in the Truth. This is what the Bible spiritually calls “sexual immorality and eating things offered to idols” (Rev. 2:20)!
Elijah must confront Jezebel before the rain comes
Once again, the spirit of Elijah is going to visit the Church in order to prepare the way of the Lord by turning His people’s hearts back to Him before God sends the great out-pouring of the Holy Spirit upon the earth! God is getting His people ready to receive Him. For it is written: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy. Your young men shall see visions; your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath. Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and notable day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:17-21).
Just as in times past, God’s people have again collectively spiritually strayed from Him (the Truth) and have been serving other gods and idols which were made by “men’s hands”. In other words, they have replaced God’s Truth with fables and lies, and have embraced traditions and doctrines that were instituted by men rather than remaining faithful to their spiritual Husband, Christ – who loved them, and gave Himself for them, and bought them with His own precious blood, sanctifying them, and “cleansing them with the washing of water by the Word” (Eph. 5:25-26). Collectively, they have been deceived and bewitched (Gal. 1:6; Gal. 3:1), and have become spiritual children again who are “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14). They have become dull of hearing and have become babes in need of milk instead of solid food which is for the mature (Heb. 5:11-13). They have lost their way, and have left the precious oracles of God to embrace fables and fairy tales just as Paul said that they would do (II Tim. 4:3-4).
Because of the wicked deceptive “prophetess Jezebel”, the people of God today, Christendom as a whole, have once again lost sight of who God really is. They don’t really know Him. Under Jezebel’s wicked influence, they have again cast off His prophets and silenced them, just as Jesus prophesied that they would (Matt. 23:34), and have appointed unto themselves false preachers and teachers who tell them what their “itching ears” want to hear instead of the precious Truth of God’s Word (II Tim. 4:3-4). Their hearts have been deceitfully led astray, and they are ensnared by the lies and doctrines of men. They trust in their vain customs and traditions. They don’t know God or His delivering power and feel that their religious observances and ritualistic church attendance will save them. Not realizing that they are truly “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked”, they grope in the dark believing that they are spiritually rich, and in need of nothing (Rev. 3:17). Because of this, God, in His infinite mercy, is going to visit and redeem His people once again (Luke 1:68). For He says, “Return to Me, backsliding Israel, says the Lord. And I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful, and I will not remain angry forever… Return, O backsliding children, says the Lord, for I am married to you…And I will give you pastors according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding… Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, so have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, says the Lord… For you have perverted your way, and you have forgotten the Lord your God. Return, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings, says the Lord.” (Jer. 3:12-22).
God loves us. He loves His people. That is why God said that He will send us Elijah the prophet again before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Mal. 4:5). In His mercy, and for His great name’s sake, God will once again send forth the “spirit and power of Elijah” to be upon His servants, and they will show the people of God the Truth and reveal to them the power of God. The Lord will once again bring forth His prophets “out of the caves” where He has hidden them during Jezebel’s current administration (I Kings 18:4, 13), and will expose the false prophets of Baal that she has set up in their place. Those people in and around Israel (Christendom) who are humble and teachable, like the widow of Sidon was, will be spiritually fed and revived in the Lord, and will indeed once again find God’s truths in the mouths of His servants the prophets (I Kings 17:24). These coming “Elijahs” will truly point the people of God who are now currently “sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death” to the Way of Peace (Luke 1:79). They will prepare the Way of the Lord before Him (Luke 3:4), and will “slay” (discredit) all of the false prophets of Baal with “the sword” – that is, with the Word of God (Heb. 4:12). They will turn the hearts of the people of God (“the children of Israel”) back to the Lord their God and back to “their forefathers” – that is, back to the Biblical patriarchs of old (Mal. 4:4-6; Luke 1:16-17). These Elijahs will expose the wicked spirit of Jezebel that now permeates the Church with her false teachings and lies. For they will surely “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17).
And then all of Christendom can truly say, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready!” (Rev. 19:7).
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