This will be the third posting for the discussion I am presently having with a young man by the name of Arthur. He holds to a teaching that considers the ministry of John the Baptist a failure, and that because John failed to prepare a people for Jesus, Jesus had to go to the cross. Our discussion began HERE, and I have posted my replies in the form of blog postings HERE, HERE and in this posting as well. I will put Arthur’s words in this discussion in bold italic, so that no one will confuse his words with my reply. In my earlier reply I made the statement that when asked whether or not he was literally Elijah, John replied he was not. Arthur responded with:
I know that John was not the ‘literal’ Elijah of 900yrs earlier. The Jewish people were not asking John if he was the literal Elijah. Malachi had said that Elijah MUST come before the Messiah, John was dressed as Elijah, saying the same words as Elijah, and had testified to Jesus at the river Jordon, it was a natural question for them to ask if John were that Elijah.
…The Jewish people were asking John if he was the fulfillment of Malachi. Not if he were the actual literal Elijah.
Well this is not the understanding of the speaker in the video on your website. He says about 5 to 10 minutes into his lecture: “…Hey, Zach, get it? Elijah, your son is the Elijah! Now, according to the traditional belief, of which Zechariah was certainly an arbiter of that belief as a chief priest. Their expectation was that the literal prophet Elijah would return out of the sky, and that would be the sign of Christ’s coming.”
His understanding also agrees with what I have been able to find about the Jewish beliefs of that period: “that in the second year of Ahaziah, Elias was hid; nor will he appear, till the Messiah comes; then he will appear, and will be hid a second time; and then will not appear, till Gog and Magog come.” [Seder Olam Rabba, p. 45, 46]
In my opinion when John was asked if he were Elijah (John 1:21), he responded according to the intent of their question. If they mistakenly understood a literal interpretation of Malachi 4:5, as seems to be the case according to the Seder Olam Rabba quotation above, then John should have denied he was that Elijah. John and Elijah the Tishbite were two different people. Therefore, the doctrine that John the Baptist was confused about his calling is a false doctrine. The teaching that John the Baptist was a failure at his ministry is also a false doctrine, because he was great in the sight of the Lord, according to the Scriptures, and Jesus had only praise for him. As far as I am concerned, the gentleman in the video is confused about John, his ministry and its value in the sight of God.