The Old Testament closes with the prediction that "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" to "smite the earth with a curse," the Lord will send Elijah the prophet with a message that will bring a revival and a reformation in the church and the home, and through them benefit the world. (See Mal. 4:5, 6.) He "shall turn again the heart of the father to the son, and the heart of a man to his neighbour," is the Septuagint translation. The work will be effectual, because it has its source in the heart, out of which are "the issues of life."
This is the last prophecy and message of the Old Testament Scriptures, and like Joel's forecast of the early and latter rain, it has a double application. It was first fulfilled in the mission of John the Baptist, the herald of the first advent of the Messiah. Speaking of John, Jesus said, "This is Elias, which was for to come." (See Matt. 1 1 :14; Mark 9:12, 13.) But Elijah did not appear in person. John was "filled with the Holy Ghost" and proclaimed his message "in the spirit and power of Elias," in order to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (See Luke 1: 15-17)
The second application is to the heralds of the second advent of Christ, of whom both Elijah and John were types.
"As a people who believe in Christ's soon appearing, we have a message to bear,—Prepare to meet thy God.' Our message must be as direct as was the message of John...In order to give such a message as John gave, we must have a spiritual experience like his. The same work must be wrought in us. We must behold God, and in beholding Him lose sight of self."—Testimonies, vol. 8, pp. 332, 333.
We, too, are to "make a people perfectly ready for the Lord." (Weymouth.) The language of the prophecy of Malachi shows that its chief application is to the second advent rather than to the first.
Elijah was a reformer. He has been called the Martin Luther of ancient Israel. He gave his startling message in the time of apostasy and crisis, and was, therefore, an appropriate type of reformer in times of apostasy to the end of time, and especially just prior to the first and second advents of Christ. The antitypical Elijah that appears just "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" is not a single individual as some egocentrics would have 'us believe, but a message by a host of messengers filled with the Spirit of God and preaching in the spirit and power of Elijah and of apostolic days.
The end of all things is at hand, and the predicted Elijah message is being proclaimed to all the world. The prophecy will meet its complete fulfillment when the Lord pours out His Spirit on all flesh during the latter rain and loud cry. "Those who are to prepare the way for the second coming of Christ, are represented by faithful Elijah, as John came in the spirit of Elijah to prepare the way for Christ's first advent."—Ibid., vol. 3, p. 62.
"There is altogether too little of the Spirit and power of God in the labor of the watchmen. The Spirit which characterized that wonderful meeting on the day of Pentecost is waiting to manifest its power upon the men who are now standing between the living and the dead as ambassadors for God. The power which stirred the people so mightily in the 1844 movement will again be revealed. The third angel's message will go forth, not in whispered tones, but with a loud voice. . . . There is constant need of earnest, decided messages of warning. God will have men who are true to duty. At the right time He sends His faithful messengers to do a work similar to that of Elijah."--/bid., vol. 5, PP. 252-254.
Result of Elijah Message
In Prophets and Kings is a chapter entitled "In the Spirit and Power of Elias," in which are the following statements regarding the final crisis and the great ingathering of souls during the latter rain :
"In the closing work of God in the earth, the standard of His law will be again exalted. False religion may prevail, iniquity may abound, the love of many may wax cold, the cross of Calvary may be lost sight of, and darkness, like the pall of death, may spread over the world ; the whole force of the popular current may be turned against the truth ; plot after plot may be formed to overthrow the people of God ; but in the hour of greatest peril. the God of Elijah will raise up human instrumentalities to bear a message that will not he silenced. . . .
"Among earth's inhabitants, scattered in every land, there are those who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Like the stars of heaven, which appear only at night, these faithful ones will shine forth when darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the people. In heathen Africa, in the Catholic lands of Europe and of South America, in China, in India, in the islands of the sea, and in all the dark corners of the earth, God has in reserve a firmament of chosen ones that will yet shine forth amidst the darkness, revealing clearly to an apostate world the transforming power of obedience to His law. , . . The darker the night, the more brilliantly will they shine,"—Pages 186-189.
Then follows an account of Elijah's attempt to number the faithful in Israel in the time of apostasy and crisis. "What strange work Elijah would have done in 'numbering Israel at the time when God's judgments were falling upon the backsliding people He could count only one on the Lord's side. But when he said, 'I, even I only, am left ; and they seek my life,' the word of the Lord surprised him, 'Yet I have left Me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal.' "—Ibid., p. 189. It is impossible at any time for man to number the faithful, and especially so in a time of crisis and judgment. Elijah missed the mark by a very wide margin.
Counsel mingled with reproof is then given to modern Israel because of attempts to deal in definite numbers regarding those to be saved when Jesus comes. "Then let no man attempt to number Israel to-day, but let every one have a heart of flesh, a heart of tender sympathy, a heart that, like the heart of Christ reaches out for the salvation of a lost world."—Ibid.
It is here indicated that setting a definite and limited number of the faithful during the closing crisis hardens the heart and stifles love and sympathy, and thus limits the saving grace of Christ. It produces the same attitude that prevented the Jews from fulfilling their divinely commissioned task of world evangelism. Its natural result is the spirit of Pharisaism toward those not in the selected number. We must never forget the words of Christ: "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold"; and we must not forget that the "plan of salvation is broad enough to embrace the whole world." Note also the following:
"The Lord does not move upon His workers to make them take a course which will bring on the time of trouble before the time. Let them not build up a wall of separation between themselves and the world, by advancing their own ideas and notions. There is now altogether too much of this throughout our borders. The message of warning has not reached large numbers of the world, in the very cities that are right at hand, and to number Israel is not to work after God's order."—Testimonies to Ministers, p. 202.
It is here clearly indicated that the attempts to number modern Israel build up a wall of separation between us and the world, and that these man-made "ideas and notions" make it difficult to reach "large numbers of the world." It is, therefore, not "after God's order." The only way in which an attempt has been made to number modern Israel is by teaching that the r44,000, selected and sealed for a special work and purpose, constitute the sum total of those to be redeemed from the earth when Christ returns. At one time, some declared that this definite number would constitute the total saved during the proclamation of the threefold message from its beginning. The time has fully come for an enlarged vision which removes all restrictions in regard to the number to be saved when the earth is lightened with the glory of God. Such a vision will greatly increase our love and sympathy, as well as our gifts and labors.
Attempt by Some to Restrict the Spirit
We are told that during the latter rain and the loud cry there will be those who will insist on the work being done according to their own narrow ideas, and will even attempt to control the movements of the Holy Spirit. But it will be demonstrated that the Lord has taken full control:
"Unless those who can help in ______________ are aroused to a sense of their duty, they will not recognize the work of God when the loud cry of the third angel shall be heard. When light goes forth to lighten the earth, instead of coming up to the help of the Lord, they will want to bind about His work to meet their narrow ideas. Let me tell you that the Lord will work in this last work in a manner very much out of the common order of things, and in a way that will be contrary to any human planning.
"There will be those among us who will always want to control the work of God, to dictate even what movements shall be made when the work goes forward under the direction of the angel who joins the third angel in the message to be given to the world. God will use ways and means by which it will be seen that He is taking the reins in His own hands. The workers will be surprised by the simple means that He will use to bring about and perfect His work in righteousness."—Ibid., p. 300.
What these "simple means" are we are not told, but they will be "contrary to any human planning," and therefore a surprise even to the leaders. The reins will be in the absolute control of the Lord through the Holy Spirit. Surely all of Us who hold any reins of control will be glad to release them, and will be eager to be surprised by some simple means of completing the task of world evangelism quickly, so that the work can be "cut short in righteousness."
The best clays for the message we love are still future. During the latter rain the following thrilling statement will meet its complete fulfillment:
"The Lord Jesus is making experiments on human hearts through the exhibition of His mercy and abundant grace. He is effecting transformations so amazing that Satan, with all his triumphant boasting, with all his confederacy of evil united against God and the laws of His government, stands viewing them as a fortress impregnable to his sophistries and delusions. They are to him an incomprehensible mystery. Angels of God, seraphim and cherubim, the powers commissioned to cooperate with human agencies, look on with astonishment and joy, that fallen men, once children of wrath, are through the training of Christ developing characters after the divine similitude, to be sons and daughters of God, to act an important part in the occupations and pleasures of heaven.
"To His church, Christ has given ample facilities, that He may receive a large revenue of glory from His redeemed, purchased possession. The church, being endowed with the righteousness of Christ, is His depository, in which the wealth of His mercy, His love, His grace, is to appear in full and final display. . . . The gift of His Holy Spirit, rich, full, and abundant, is to be to His church as an encompassing wall of fire, which the powers of hell shall not prevail--Ibid, p. 18.
May this beautiful 'promise be translated into a glad reality in the very near future. To this end let us all unitedly and earnestly pray and labor.
(End of series)