Home > Hermeneutics > In not a few instances the Scriptures possess both a literal and a mystical force: Example 11

In not a few instances the Scriptures possess both a literal and a mystical force: Example 11

One more illustration of this kind must suffice. When His disciples asked Christ, “Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?” He answered them, “Elias is come already,” and we are told,

“Then the disciples understood that He spake unto them of John the Baptist” (Matthew 17:10-13).

That is one of the passages which Theosophists appeal to in support of their belief in reincarnation, and if our Lord’s words are to he taken at their face value, then we should have to admit that they lend some color at least to that theory. Like the Dispensationalists of our day, the scribes were great sticklers for the letter of Scripture, and insisted that the Divine promise,

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5)

meant just what it said. Here is certainly another case in point where the interpreter is needed, carefully to compare Scripture with Scripture and bring out the spiritual purport of them. That John the Baptist was not the actual person of the Tishbite is quite clear from his own blank denial, for when he was asked, “Art thou Elias?” he expressly declared, “I am not” (John 1:21). The question therefore remains, What did our Lord signify when He said of His forerunner “Elias is come already”?

That Christ was uttering a profound truth, one which could be apprehended only by spiritual and Divinely enlightened souls, when He declared that John the Baptist was Elijah, is very evident from His words to the apostles in Matthew 11:13, 14,

“For all the prophets and the law were prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it [or “him”], this is Elias, which was for to come.”

Those words also contained an indirect rebuke of their carnal beliefs and sentiments respecting the expected kingdom of the Messiah: His added, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (v. 15) confirms what we have just pointed out, for that call was never made except when something difficult for the natural man to understand was in view. John the Baptist was rejected by Israel’s leaders. Herod had beheaded him, and Christ declared that He too should “suffer” (Matthew 17:12), and that was something which ill accorded with their views. A suffering Messiah, whose herald had been murdered, was difficult to harmonize with the teaching of the scribes concerning Malachi 4:5; yet there is nothing in that verse which should stumble us today, for our Lord has made its meaning quite clear.

In addition to the elucidation of Malachi 4:5, furnished above, it should be pointed out that the key passage which opens the mystery is Luke 1:17, where it was announced that John should go before Christ “in the spirit and power of Elias”—language which manifestly signifies that he was not a reincarnation of the Tishbite. The essential oneness of the two men in their character and work rendered the history of the earlier one a prophecy of the other. The latter appeared at a time when conditions were much the same as those which characterized the state of Israel in the days of Ahab. The resemblances between the two men are many and marked. John was essentially a preacher of repentance. He was a man of great austerity, garbed similarly to the prophet of Gilead. Real trial was made of his fidelity also by the hatred and persecution of the ungodly, but he was zealous for the Lord, both in reproving sin in high places and in seeking to bring about a reformation of his nation. Both his mission and his disposition were Elijah-like in character.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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