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Literally Figurative July 19, 2010

Posted by theronwatson in Uncategorized.
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Matthew 17:1-13
Here in this passage, Jesus takes some of His closest associates with Him on a journey of miraculous revelation. On the mountain, Jesus was transfigured to reveal something of His true state as the glorious Son of God and resident of heaven. With Him in His Transfiguration appeared two of the Old Testament’s key figures; Moses and Elijah. These two have been and will be the heralds of change. In Jesus’ day, the people were awaiting the coming Messiah. His arrival was expected to be preceded by Elijah. Today, we are awaiting the End Times whose coming will be marked by their appearance as well. Those who claimed to know the sequence of events and all the details accompanying them would be the ones to miss both.
The Bible testifies of itself, “The Word of God is living and active.” (Hebrews 4:12) It applies to the people the words were originally ascribed to. It applies to all people of all time and it applies to us, specifically, today. I take the Bible very literally. The Bible says Jesus walked on water. I cannot explain it. I simply accept it. When the Bible describes an event, I accept it. But, the Bible has some strange passages that are not readily understandable. Perhaps the literal meaning is lost to time, but the truth remains. We cannot pick and choose. What then do we do?
Find the principle.
Sometimes the Bible is very literal. Laws and rules say, “Thou shall not . . .” Others say, “do this . . .” We cannot pick and choose. If there is not a literal translation of the Law in our modern lives then we must search for the figurative or the principle of the Law. Scripture has always been like this. The problem is that people like the Teachers of the Law thought they had it all figured out. When they came upon one they could not figure out they used their best understanding of it and made a new law based upon their own understanding. The problem was that they knew the loopholes in the law and forced everyone else to uphold it while they skated by.
Here, the disciples bring an interesting dilemma. Why do the Teachers of the Law say Elijah must come first? If Jesus is the Messiah, where was Elijah? The answer is; Elijah had come. Elijah had not come in a physical, literal sense, but he had come in a figurative sense. Those with all the answers missed it. It was not Elijah proper, but a likeness of him. It was not Elijah in the flesh and appearance, but it was his attributes. Elijah came in the form of John the Baptist. The two are very similar in terms of ministry and message. They were both sort of odd. They were both outcasts of sorts. Etcetera. There were enough similarities that someone could make the connections. The disciples made the connection, if only in part.
The problem was that the religious leaders of the day had the whole thing figured out. They knew how the Messiah was supposed to come, who he was supposed to be and where he was supposed to come from. When Jesus showed up on the scene they knew He could not be the Messiah. They had not yet seen Elijah. Jesus went against their teachings and some of the Biblical laws and regulations. He healed on the Sabbath for crying out loud. Who does that? They knew where He was from, or they though they did. The ones who should have recognized the arrival of the Messiah missed it.
We should take a lesson from the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. We are once again awaiting the arrival of Elijah to herald in the arrival of the Messiah. This time when the Messiah arrives He will not be bringing peace. He will not be bringing salvation, but judgment. We who wait with anticipation should pay attention. Will there be a literal Elijah? Or will Elijah be a figurative character like John the Baptist was? Do we have it all figured out? Some people claim to know the answers. They claim to know the day. The Bible very clearly says, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36) They claim to know how the events of the Tribulation, the Rapture and the Second Coming will unfold. They do not. They cannot. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had it all figured out too. They missed it and wound up being the ones responsible for crucifying the One who came to save them. Let’s take a lesson from them. Don’t miss it.

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