Be sure to read the first installment of this short two part series on the importance of John the Baptizer and his message.
I have been saying for years now that John the Baptizer is, beside Jesus and Paul, the most significant and yet, most ignored, eschatological figure in the New Testament. According to Jesus himself, John was the long anticipated fulfillment of Malachi 4 and the promise that Elijah would come before the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, the time of the resurrection. I have an 11 lesson series on John that you will find full of information that you will not find anywhere else. You can order that here.
The implications of John’s utilization of the imagery of the winnowing fork / fan and the threshing floor are absolutely stunning– and fatal– for all futurist views of eschatology. To drive this home, we need to look closer – albeit briefly– at who John was.
John was, according to Jesus in Matthew 17:10-12, the fulfillment of Malachi 4:5-6, which predicted the coming of Elijah before the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord. That coming of the Lord foretold by Malachi was to be the time when YHVH’s book of life would be opened and God would make up the jewels of his crown (3:15-16). This is, of course, nothing other than the prediction of the “great white throne judgment” of Revelation 20:10-12, at the end of the millennium resurrection.
So, Malachi foretold the coming of Elijah to prepare for the end of the millennium, white throne judgment–the resurrection– at the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.
John was Elijah predicting that the time of the climax of the harvest– the resurrection– was near. Jesus already had the winnowing fork of that consummative threshing in his hand!
This could mean nothing but that the great white throne judgment at the end of the millennium resurrection of the dead was objectively imminent!
Unless, the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, to be heralded by Elijah / John was not the time of the end of the age harvest / resurrection, then the harvest of the message of John- as Elijah- in Matthew 3 was the end of the age harvest / resurrection. (Of course, Jesus’ discussion of the end of the age harvest in Matthew 13 is nothing but the reiteration of John’s message, as virtually all scholars agree).
But, the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord, to be heralded by Elijah / John was clearly the end of the age harvest / resurrection of Revelation– the time of the opening of the book of life and the rewarding of the saints (Malachi 3:15-16–> Revelation 20:10f).
Undeniably, John posited the consummation of the harvest as near, imminent, and not far off when he said that the winnowing fork– the image of the climax of harvest– was already in Jesus’ hand.
There is no way, logically, textually and contextualy, to divorce John’s referent to the winnowing fork from the consummation of the harvest and thus, the resurrection of the dead. And since, to reiterate, John undeniably taught that the consummation was at hand, this amounts to prima facie proof that the resurrection of the dead was imminent, at hand, in the first century.
Jesus’ identification of John, as Ellijah, clearly has profound eschatological implications. Elijah was to come before the Great Day of the Lord, the kingdom and the resurrection. Thus, since Jesus identified John as the anticipated Elijah, and since John- as Elijah patently said the Day was near, the harvest was near, this demands that the time of the end of the age resurrection was the first century. There are only so many ways to mitigate the force of this:
1.) Deny that John was Elijah– in denial of Jesus’ words.
2.) Claim that John was mistaken about when the Great Day was to come, thus, his four fold statements about the imminence of the wrath, i.e. the Day of the Lord were wrong. Of course, that view denies the doctrine of inspiration and makes John a false prophet.
3.) Claim that John, while identified by Jesus as Elijah, was in fact, merely a shadow or type of the “real” Elijah that must yet come before the “real” Day of the Lord. This raises some interesting issues.
Dispensationalists sometimes admit that there were first century “man of sins” and even that John was “Elijah” in some sense, but, only as a foreshadowing of the real Elijah. Normally, Dominionists (Postmillennialists) decry such interpretive hermeneutics, calling them un-warranted and un-Biblical. However, if in fact, Elijah was to come as herald of the consummative Day of the Lord, the kingdom and the resurrection, as is indisputably true, then the identification of John as Elijah demands one of two decisions by the Dominionists:
1.) They must abandon any futurist eschatology. If- as Jesus declared– John was Elijah, and Elijah was to come before the resurrection, then John’s message that the kingdom (and thus the resurrection) was at hand, undeniably posits the resurrection for the first century. Clearly, this falsifies Dominionism, Amillennialism, Dispensationalism, and any and all futurist paradigms.
2.) The Dominionist can give up their rejection that John was not typological, and join with the Dispensationalists in claiming that although Jesus identified John as Elijah, that this was not definitive, and that John was, after all, a mere shadow of the future coming of the “real” Elijah.
It is, of course, interesting to see the twisting and turning of the Domionists in this regard. On the one hand they like to claim that the end of the age coming of Christ in AD 70 was a type of the real end of the age that is yet future. For instance, Gentry says: “I wholeheartedly concur that A.D. 70 and the destruction of the temple is a ‘proleptic, typological fulfillment of the final judgment.’” (Thine Is the Kingdom, (Vallecito, Ca., Chalcedon, 2003)159f).
On the other hand, the Dominisionist totally reject the Dispensational claims that the first century appearance of the anti-christs (1 John 2:18) was a foreshadowing of a future anti-christ.For instance, Joel McDurmon, in a 2011 speech at the American Vision lectureship, called the Dispensational hermeneutic a theollogical “double cross.” And yet, when it comes to Elijah, the Dominionists are logically forced to adopt this theological double cross hermeneutic.
This “pick and choose” approach to what was and was not typological in the first century, end of the age events is purely arbitrary, totally capricious, and totally specious. See my book AD 70: A Shadow of the “Real” End? for a thorough refutation of these claims.