In this chapter, we will look at how John the Baptist’s inter-generational ministry described in Malachi 4:5-6 paved the way for Jesus’ first coming. Then will we consider whether this passage could also have a special application as we approach His second coming.


Malachi 4:5-6 says:


“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”


This prophecy, fulfilled by John the Baptist (see Luke 1:17), was the last statement of scripture written in the Old Testament. For 400 years, Israel watched and waited with its national destiny hinged upon these words. For some reason, this father-child restoration was foundational to preparing the way for Christ. Why?


Jesus’ coming marked the transition between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. When this transition took place, there were two generations present. John’s ministry acted like a bridge between them. As the last prophet of the Old Covenant, he honored the older generation by leading a revival based on the timeless message of personal repentance and the holiness of God revealed through the law. But he also pointed to another coming revival led by Someone greater than him. This Person would do and teach things no one alive could fully imagine. He would baptize people with the Holy Spirit. He would usher in a new dispensation. He would unveil the long-hidden administration of God’s grace and mercy. This was John’s dual message.  


John honored both what God did in the past and the new thing He was going to do. He prepared fathers and mothers to receive the new, while at the same time helping sons and daughters esteem what God had done in their nation’s history. Thus, John’s revival brought families together in a way that no other message could have. Without John’s message, it is possible that the older generation in its entirety would have rejected Jesus’ ministry, unable to see past the Pharisees’ intense opposition. This could have sowed a deep generational division into the nation, compromising the foundation of the early church.


Jesus’ ministry was going to be difficult for the older generation to accept since it was largely different from anything they had been taught or experienced in the past. However, virtually all of Israel considered John a prophet. They all went out into the wilderness to hear him preach and to be baptized by him. Therefore, John’s declaration that Jesus was the Promised One gave credibility to Jesus’ message. It helped people be open to Jesus who might otherwise have sided with the Pharisees. This is why, when the Pharisees asked Jesus where He got the authority to do the things He was doing, He pointed back to one who prepared the way for Him, saying, “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” (Luke 20:4)


Is There An Application to the Second Coming?

After marriage, the relationship between parents and children is the most foundational building block of God’s kingdom on earth. Parents can only become all they were meant to be by serving their children and helping them lay a strong foundation. And children can only become all they were meant to be by honoring their parents and building upon the foundations they received from them. Parents and children need one another. Therefore, the ministry of restoring the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers could be especially valuable in the years and decades leading up to the Lord’s return, just as it was for His first coming.


In some ways, Jesus’ return will be much more cataclysmic than His First Coming. The outworking of His First Coming took place mostly inside people’s hearts – the indwelling and baptism of the Holy Spirit; the expression of spiritual gifts; the inclusion of gentiles in the salvation plan. Dramatic, yes, but still mostly invisible to the naked eye.


However, Jesus’ second coming, if the futurists are correct, will culminate with an innumerable army of fiery angels and glorified saints descending from heaven in plain sight to take political authority over the whole earth for one thousand years. Can anyone even begin to grasp what this will be like?


Ever since the fall, God’s plan has been that His will would be done and His kingdom would come on earth just as it is in heaven. However, His kingdom has been coming to the earth in stages. The establishment of the Old Covenant under Moses was one stage. The establishment of the New Covenant through the cross was another stage. The next stage will be Jesus returning to rule over the earth as the King of Kings. The final stage (again, if the futurists are correct) will be the Father coming to dwell with mankind on the renewed earth after the 2nd resurrection and final judgment (Revelation 20-21).


Similar to the ministry of John the Baptist, perhaps the church will declare a dual message in the last days that combines the timeless message of the cross with the soon-coming reality of Christ’s political rule over the earth. Of course, there has been a good deal of teaching about this in many generations. Every Christmas when we sing Joy to the World, we are reminded that saints in the early 1700s eagerly looked forward to Christ’s reign just like we do. But perhaps this message will increase all the more as we near His return. Perhaps the message of Jesus’ rule will combat the enemy’s rising counterfeits of a secular trans-humanist utopia or global New Age spiritual leaders or Islamic legalistic conformity.


Beginning with Adam and Seth, the advance of God’s kingdom on earth has often been built upon a foundation of family. There is a powerful spiritual synergy that occurs when generations stand together in unity. Therefore, it would not be surprising if this synergy helps strengthen the church in the years leading up to the Lord’s return, just as it did for His first coming.



We have reached the final chapter of the book. In the last chapter, we will discuss the concept of “sowing generational seeds”. We will learn how this concept impacted the first century and how it impacts the church in our time.