Yesterday, I said that the emphasis on the Kingdom of God almost disappeared after the Synoptic Gospels were written. Today's post is entitled "The Kingdom of Heaven," because the Gospel of Matthew presents the Kingdom as such thirty-two times. Either title is accurate, as twelve of the thirty-two are quoted in Mark and Luke, where the writers wrote "Kingdom of God."
Matthew, Mark, and Luke refer to the Kingdom a total of eighty-six times (ninety-three if you count the Book of Acts which was also written by Luke), John only three times (one in Revelation), and the rest of the New Testament writers a total of ten times. Fourteen books do not even mention the kingdom. It is my understanding that Jesus offered Himself to Israel, and when they rejected Him as their king, the earthly reign of Christ was postponed "until further notice." The evidence I gave for this was found in John 1:11-12, where the Apostle informs us that Israel's rejection of their Messiah opened the door for the Gentiles. God, knowing what would happen, included the Church in His plan. Paul's teaching on this is found in Romans, Chapters Nine - Eleven.
The Old Testament prophet Malachi said the prophet Elijah would return to set the stage for the Lord's coming: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD" (Mal. 4:1-5). "Elijah" is presented in Matthew 3:1-12. Jesus said that John (the Baptizer) came in the Spirit of Elijah: "And if ye will receive [Me], this is Elias (Greek for Elijah), which was for to come" (Matt. 11:14). Jesus had this to say about John's potential fulfillment of the prophecy concerning Elijah's setting the stage for Him: "But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of Man suffer of them" (Matt.17:12).
Even today, two thousand years later, the Jewish religious experts still await the second coming of Elijah. And every year at the Passover meal, Jewish mothers, in a time honored tradition, still set an extra place at the table for Elijah hoping that this will be the year when he finally returns to join them.
Because Elijah has to precede the coming of Israel's Messiah, the Christ, I believe one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:3 must be Elijah. I believe the other is Enoch. Enoch and Elijah are seen as possibilities for the two witnesses, because they are the two individuals whom God has taken to heaven apart from experiencing death (Gen. 5:23; 2 Kg. 2:11). The fact that neither Enoch nor Elijah has experienced death seems to qualify them to experience death and resurrection, as the two witnesses experience (Rev. 11:7-12). Proponents of this view claim that Hebrews 9:27 (all men die once) disqualifies Moses from being one of the two witnesses, as Moses has died once already (Deut. 34:5).
More on this tomorrow, Lord willing. God bless.