Wakening the Slumbering Saints
By Pastor Doug Batchelor
An Amazing Fact: Studies show that being awake for more than 20 hours in a row is little different than having a blood alcohol level of 0.08, the legal limit in all states. More than 100,000 car accidents each year are caused by drowsy driving and result in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in losses!
Dozens of legends across many cultures of the world tell of sleeping heroes, knights in shining armor, who lay drowsily under vast mountains, awaiting the right moment to arise and save their kingdoms. These snoozing fictional characters are often discovered deep in underground caverns by unsuspecting herdsmen.
In one version, a shepherd finds a great warrior asleep. When the soldier awakens, he asks the shepherd, “Do the ravens still circle the mountaintop?”
The herdsmen answers, “Yes.”
The hero replies, “Go away, for my time has not yet come!”
God’s people, the church—you!—are called to be the heroes in these last days. We have been given a special message to prepare the world for the final battle of the ages and the ushering in of God’s glorious kingdom. But many of these warrior-saints are spiritually asleep. They mumble to others, “My time has not yet come.”
Two inspiring Bible characters are to rouse us from our lethargy, telling us, “The time is now!” Elijah and John the Baptist stand before us as heroes we need to emulate. They both lived in times of serious spiritual decline and were used by God to awaken and prepare others for momentous events. As we look at their examples in these difficult spiritual days, you’ll discover parallels in their ministries that can guide our lives today and awaken us as God’s warriors.
The last words of the Old Testament make known a stirring and powerful prophecy that has often been misunderstood:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5, 6).
In the time of Jesus, many believed that Elijah would literally come down from heaven to live again on the earth, or possibly be reborn into a new man. Jesus asked the disciples, “ ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ So they answered and said, ‘John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again’ ” (Luke 9:18, 19).
The Jews had anticipated that Elijah would soon come to announce the advent of the Messiah. But Malachi’s prophecy wasn’t intended to imply that the Old Testament prophet would return. Instead, it was Elijah’s spirit of revival and reformation that was predicted to return.
Speaking of the birth of John the Baptist, the angel Gabriel said to Zacharias, “He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17, emphasis added). Gabriel was pointing out that John the Baptist fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy.
John was to precede the Lord to do a special work of revival and reformation. Jesus later confirmed, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:13, 14).
But Malachi’s prophecy does not end with the Baptist. Notice: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD“ (emphasis added). This “great and dreadful day,” also called “the great day of His wrath” (Revelation 6:17), is synonymous with the second coming. The final fulfillment of this prophecy happens just before Christ returns!
The Spirit and Power of Elijah
To better understand this prophecy, let’s go back to the time of Elijah. The first person filled with the “spirit and power of Elijah” was not John the Baptist, but rather Elisha, the servant of Elijah. When God revealed that He would soon take Elijah up to heaven, Elisha asked to receive a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9, 10).
As Elisha witnessed Elijah’s rapture, he was baptized with a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. “Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, ‘The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha’ ” (2 Kings 2:15).
What will the spirit and power of Elijah do? “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). True revival transforms our homes and spreads into our communities. The Elijah message regenerates the hearts of families and reestablishes godly relationships.
Notice how Gabriel deepens this prophecy: “He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God” (Luke 1:16, 17, emphasis added). The Elijah message doesn’t just help to reunite families; it also brings disobedient earthly children into connection with their heavenly Father.
In my studies of Elijah and John, I’ve found many interesting parallels. But even more exciting are the ways in which their ministries speak to our day. These ancient Bible heroes have characteristics that need to awaken in our hearts here in these last days if we are to thrive as God’s people. Their work is to be our work.
Bold and Fearless
Elijah and John the Baptist fearlessly stood before kings and spoke a bold message. When King Ahab accused Elijah of creating problems in Israel, Elijah courageously replied, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals” (1 Kings 18:18).
With the same fortitude, John spoke against King Herod’s immoral relationship when he told him, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18). He literally lost his head over this daring charge.
Jesus predicted that His followers would someday preach straight messages in the same way: “Watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them” (Mark 13:9).
Great revivals do not come when messages are aimed to please people (see Galatians 1:10). Bold proclamations of clear, uncompromising truth that defy sin in all its forms awaken the conscience and pave the way for life-changing reforms.
Paul warned of resistance to this work: “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4).
Pure and Humble
There are also strong similarities between the lifestyles of Elijah and John the Baptist. Neither of them grew up in king’s palaces but lived in the wilderness (1 Kings 17:1–5; John 1:23). Both had very simple diets (1 Kings 17:11; Mark 1:6). The unassuming rigors of their lives kept their minds clear and their bodies strong for the special work God called them to do.
Likewise, the church in the last days will be best prepared to share the Elijah message by living the Elijah lifestyle—pure and humble. Our diets and living habits directly affect our ability to discern and communicate God’s truths. Even the power to resist temptation is often traceable to what we eat.
The plain clothing of Elijah and John are also spoken of in the Bible. Elijah is described as clothed with a garment made of hair and “wearing a leather belt” (2 Kings 1:8). Likewise, “John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist” (Mark 1:6).
Modest dress marked these reformers and will be hallmarks for those who carry on the work of revival in our time. People today are obsessed with fashion. Most clothing designers highlight a person’s sexuality. In a search for love we fall captive to looking to others for significance instead of looking to God. The church can give the world a loving rebuke, without saying a word, simply by dressing modestly. (See Ephesians 4:24 and 1 Timothy 2:9.)
A humble spirit was also exhibited by both Elijah and John. The former prophet didn’t hesitate to run before the king’s chariot like a servant. John once said of Jesus, “He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry” (Matthew 3:11). The work of reform is not led by proud workers covered in a false religious cloak. It originates from hearts that “walk humbly” with God (Micah 6:8).
Baptizing and Discipling
We might assume that Elijah and John the Baptist were Lone Ranger types, but that is far from the truth. Elijah visited the schools of the prophets and mentored Elisha to continue his work (see 2 Kings 2:3–7). John also had students (disciples) that he trained (see John 1:35). Both combined spiritual instruction with practical work and service to others.
God’s last great work on earth will not be carried by a few prominent leaders. It is not in the hands of a select group of clergy that the final message is carried throughout the world. Many disciples and laypersons will be trained to proclaim the everlasting gospel. God will use Spirit-filled followers, regardless of social class, to share the Bible. The Elijah message involves both training and proclaiming, both study and service.
It’s interesting that both Elijah and John have connections to the Jordan River. Elijah told Elisha, “Stay here, please, for the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan” (2 Kings 2:6). John, of course, did much of his work by this river. “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:5, 6).
The Israelites miraculously passed through the Jordan after leaving Egypt and the wilderness and before entering the Promised Land. The Jordan symbolized a transition between an old life and a new life. It is a fitting representation of baptism.
When John preached his revival sermons to the crowds, the people were convicted of sin and confessed their transgressions. It was a necessary step before being lowered into the water, which depicts “dying” to self.
So also in the last days, when a message of revival is shared with the world, people will feel the guilt of sin weighing on their hearts and, in response, they will turn to Christ, repenting of their old way of life. Like the early church, the Holy Spirit will be poured out and thousands will be baptized in huge numbers, seeking the cleansing freedom of a new life in Jesus (see Matthew 28:19).
Restoring Worship and Glorifying God
Both Elijah and John the Baptist worked to bring people back to God. This is what Elijah did at Mount Carmel: “Elijah said to all the people, ‘Come near to me.’ So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down” (1 Kings 18:30). The altar was in disrepair because God’s people had turned to the worship of Baal. So also, John gave the Jews a wake-up call, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2).
The focus of these reformers was not on themselves. They pointed others to God. Elijah prayed, “Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God” (1 Kings 18:37). John said of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). He directed people to Christ. “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Those who preach the Elijah message will make glorifying God their top priority. There will be no room for exalting self.
Results of the Work
When Elijah prayed on Mount Carmel and fire came down and consumed the sacrifice, the people “fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!’ ” (1 Kings 18:39). When John the Baptist called Israel to repent, “Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized” (Mark 1:5). These two brave prophets delivered a message that sparked revival and reformation among God’s people.
Today, many Christians languish in spiritual drowsiness and casual sin. Because judgment will begin with the house of God (see Ezekiel 9:6; 1 Peter 4:17), the Elijah message must first go to the church. God’s plan to reach the entire world happens when Christians cooperate with heavenly agencies. Revival begins in the body of Christ. It must begin now!
After Israel repented at Mount Carmel, Elijah prayed for rain and God poured out His blessing. We, too, may receive a latter rain of the Holy Spirit (James 5:7) if we will wake up, for our time has come to arouse from our drowsiness and prepare a people ready to meet our coming King (Luke 1:17).