Look, I will send to you
Eliyahu the prophet
before the coming of the great
and terrible Day of ADONAI.
He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children
and the hearts of the children to their fathers;
otherwise I will come and strike the land
with complete destruction.
God has a plan. He tells us in Jeremiah that it is a good plan.
For I know what plans I have in mind for you, ‘says ADONAI,’ plans for well- being, not for bad things; so that you can have hope and a future. Jer 29:11
He has made us in his image – he better have a plan. Especially since he knows the end from the beginning, and therefore knew very well what would happen within days in the paradise. And we know he had a plan. A plan to restore all things.
He answered, “On the one hand, Eliyahu is coming and will restore all things. Mat 17:11
So Jesus answered when asked whether Elijah had to come first before the Messiah could come. The disciples asked him because they knew the verses in Malachi. Just in the chapter before Jesus had asked them who he was in their eyes, and Peter had answered: you are the Christ. Six days later, Jesus had taken three of them, including Peter, on the mount of transfiguration during the feast of Tabernacles, and they had seen Jesus with Moses and Elijah.
This might have triggered their memories for the verses we speak about today. If Jesus was the Messiah, didn’t Elijah have to come first? Or did they misunderstand the scripture? Let’s ask Jesus.
The answer Jesus gave them at first seemed non-satisfactory: yes, Elijah will come. Future. Could it then be that Jesus was not the Messiah? Or would Elijah come soon?
But then Jesus went on to say:
On the other hand, I tell you that Eliyahu has come already, and people did not recognize him but did whatever they pleased to him. In the same way, the Son of Man too is about to suffer at their hands. Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. Mat 17:12-13
Jesus likes those answers. He likes to show us that prophecies have multiple fulfillment usually. Or that things are processes. The Kingdom is here and is yet to come. On one hand, Elijah will come, on the other, he was here already.
We therefore know, and that is interesting for us, that Elijah will come yet again.
Well, it is prophesied that he will come to turn the hearts of the fathers to the sons and of the sons to the fathers.
Does that hold true for John the Baptist?
His message: Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near.
He called the children of Israel, the people of God to turn their hearts towards the father, because the father was in the midst of doing the same. He was to give himself, his son, for all of humanity, his children. No better way to turn ones heart to somebody than this.
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
Why is it interesting for us, though?
Since at least the industrial revolution we live in a fatherless world. The industrialization had many fathers leave home and work in factories, mines, companies, away from home. Sons lost a great deal of the example they had seeing their father’s daily dealings and living. And since then, things have only grown worse, with marriages being ripped apart, usually leaving single moms raising sons. Depending on the maturity of the mom, the picture those sons get about men is either pregnant with hurt and disappointment or full of romantic hope and dreams. But it for sure is more about what a mom sees in men than what men really are.
It therefore is paramount that a restoration of the relationship between fathers and sons will take place. Yet not only in the natural.
In a spiritual sense, sons are descendants that have part in the inheritance. This is no gender thing and does include daughters as well. A father is somebody leaving an inheritance, including moms. If you like, you can talk about spiritual fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. For biblical alignment, I will stick to fathers and sons.
The church for a long time has been a mirror of society – or the other way around, if you like. I actually like to think that society mirrors the church, even though for centuries we have allowed society to spill into church life. Why do I hope we set the pace? Because then there is hope for the future, isn’t there?
So we mirrored the fatherlessness of society for a long time. Generations fought more than worked together. Young people were too wild, too worldly, too little appreciative and respectful towards traditions and values. Old people were stiff, religious, non-inclusive, and did not give a chance to young people before – well, before they were old. Wisdom was regarded as antiquated, and we have to admit that many times, what was portrayed as wisdom was frustration. Strength and strive was seen as lack of subordination, and to tell the truth, it often was.
So the church needs a restoration of fatherhood, sonship, and intergenerational cooperation as much as the world. And since God starts his restoration with the church, we need it first.
There is an even more pressing reason why we need it. If the fathers’ and sons’ hearts were not turned towards each other, God would have to come and destroy the world.
And one can easily see why.
In the beginning there was one relationship. God was a father that had a son, and he was a son that had a father. If for one moment this relationship had been broken, God’s plan with humanity would not have worked – there would have been no sinless, spotless lamb to give his life for us. From this we derive that it is paramount that the relationship between our heavenly father and us is restored – and so it is. This is why Jesus gave his life.
James tells us that we cannot love God whom we do not see and hate our brothers we can see and touch. Likewise, it is hard for us to imagine the character of God without – of course imperfect – examples of his traits. in his love, God gives us examples of his being a father. When Jesus came to earth, he not only showed us how to be a perfect son – my food is to do the will of the father – but also how to be a father. One of his names is eternal father, and he became a father to the twelve and some more – and through them for us all.
We know that the old creation, the one apart from God, will be destroyed, the curse we read of in Malachi executed. Only the new creation will survive – the ones that turned their hearts to the father as sons. Learning to do so with human examples.
Ok, now that we know the plan of God, how do we go about it?
We can do what the church has done for the last 180 years or so. Since Darby, Scofield, and Larkin large parts of the church have mainly waited for God’s plan to unfold. They looked to the external, to news papers and world affairs to interpret what happened as fulfillment of biblical prophecy, waiting for rapture to happen. In the meantime, they passed the time guessing when Jesus would return, despite of what the bible says about this:
But when that day and hour will come, no one knows- not the angels in heaven, not the Son, only the Father. Mat 24:36
Or we can wait actively. We understand that Jesus telling us that the Kingdom is here and yet will come spoke of an ongoing revelation of the Kingdom, of growth and continuous forthcoming. He was speaking of two dimensions of growth, with more and more people, but also with our thinking more and more portraying heavenly thinking patterns and paradise breaking forth from us into the world. A process.
What if Jesus meant the same when talking about the spirit of Elijah having come and yet to come?
When Elisha asked for the double portion at the end of Elijah’s life, he did not ask God for it – he asked his father Elijah, and God gave. Timothy received his anointing and gifts when Paul laid his hands on him at the end of an extensive time of fathering. I believe that we miss out on most of our blessings if we do not turn our hearts to each other, father to son and son to father.
Maybe we have been waiting for God while all the time he was waiting for us. Our restoration to the heavenly father only took a decision from our side. A decision to trust God and believe in what he had done on the cross. Since earthly relationships are signs and shadows of our heavenly relationship, could it be that it only takes a decision from our side to become a son? A son of a father God is pointing us to? How about the pastor of your church? You trust him with so much already – spiritual nourishment for one thing – why not go the extra step? Pray, and God will point out whom he has anointed to father you.
And to you fathers I write – well, maybe you don’t think of yourself as a father yet, so let’s rephrase that – to you mature christians, to you ministers in the fivefold I write: father sons. This is what it means to make disciples.
What are we waiting for?