The Birth of John
It appears that Elizabeth was in seclusion for the full nine months of her pregnancy. Luke 1:57, 58 says,
57 Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she brought forth a son. 58 And her neighbors heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.
Luke does not tell us explicitly, but he implies that her total seclusion hid her pregnancy from her neighbors, and that they did not realize she was pregnant until John was born. Perhaps Elizabeth, being an older woman, did not want the neighbors to worry about her or to doubt that the baby would be born alive and well.
It may also be that she took a Nazarite vow for the time of her pregnancy. The law allowed women to be Nazarites (Num. 6:2). Recall that the angel told Samson’s mother that her son would be a Nazarite from birth, and so she herself was to refrain from drinking wine during the pregnancy (Judges 13:4) in order not to feed her unborn son with wine while he was yet in her womb.
Elizabeth found herself in the same position as Samson’s mother, since she too was to give birth to a son who was a Nazarite from birth (Luke 1:15). Essentially, in both cases, the sons were Nazarites not only from birth but even from conception.
The Circumcision of John
Luke 1:59 continues with the account of John’s circumcision on the eighth day,
59 And it came about that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father.
In such occasions, the circumcising priest would say: “Blessed be the Lord our God, who hath sanctified us by His precepts, and hath given us the law of circumcision.” The father was then to respond: “Who hath sanctified us by His precepts, and hath commanded us to enter the child into the covenant of Abraham our father.”
In Gen. 17:10, where God instituted circumcision for Abram and his household, God also gave new names to Abram and Sarai, calling them Abraham (Gen. 17:5) and Sarah (Gen. 17:15). So it became customary to name the sons at the time of their circumcision.
The priest wanted to name the boy Zacharias in honor of his father. Perhaps the priest knew of Gabriel’s visitation in the temple nine months earlier. Certainly, he would have known that this child had been born in a miraculous manner, the mother being past childbearing age.
It was customary to name children in honor of another, whether it was the parent or someone else who had done something extraordinary for the family. Lightfoot gives us such an example:
R. Nathan [that is, Rabbi Nathan] said, “I once went to the islands of the sea, and there came to me a woman, whose first-born had died by circumcision; so also her second son. She brought the third to me. I bade her wait a little, till the blood might assuage. She waited a little, and then circumcised him, and he lived; they called him, therefore, by my name, ??? ???? Nathan of Babylon.” [Commentary, Vol. III, p. 28, 29]
When the circumcising priest named the son after his father instead of John, Zacharias himself was unable to object, because he had been mute since his visitation with Gabriel. In Luke 1:20 Gabriel said to him, “you shall be silent and unable to speak.” So it was Elizabeth who objected to the priest, insisting that his name would be John.
60 And his mother answered and said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. 63 And he asked for a tablet, and wrote as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all astonished.
Here we see that Zacharias was not only mute but also deaf. This is apparently what Gabriel meant when he said “you shall be SILENT.” Not only was his mouth silent, but his ears also. For nine months he walked in a realm of complete silence. That is how Lightfoot took this statement, for he says of Zacharias, “he lay under that divine stroke at present, as to be both deaf and dumb” (p. 29).
Because this condition was prophesied by Gabriel in the temple, there was no doubt a greater truth to be discerned from this than mere doubt on Zacharias’ part. We learn later that John’s ministry was to prepare the way for Christ, and that his message was one of repentance and baptism. It appears, then, that Zacharias himself was called to be a prophetic type of his generation that did not yet have ears to hear the message of repentance. Moses mentioned this condition in Deut. 29:4, saying,
4 Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear.
John’s calling as “Elijah” was designed to reverse this condition, turning the hearts of the fathers to the children (Luke 1:17). In this case, Zacharias was the father who represented the deaf generation turning back to the children (John).
Reversing the Famine of Hearing the Word
As soon as Zacharias was obedient to the instruction of Gabriel, naming his son John, the deafness condition was reversed, and he was able to speak.
64 And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God.
This prophesies of the fact that when the Elijah ministry is recognized and accepted, and when the hearts of the fathers turn to the children (John), the people’s ears will be healed, their tongues will be loosed, and they will speak the praises of God. To some extent this occurred through Pentecost, but there is a greater fulfillment yet to come.
John’s “Elijah” calling was incomplete, for he was killed by Herod, foreshadowing the death of Christ as well. But in our time we are seeing the rise of a new forerunner for the second coming of Christ. This is the “Elisha” ministry, having the double portion to complete the work through a body of overcomers. Hence, when this ministry is released with the double portion into the world, the deaf will hear and the dumb will speak the praises of God in a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The famine of hearing the word will end.
Zacharias represented all of the deaf people of his day whose ears had been prevented from hearing the word of the Lord. This was a continuation of the condition in Moses’ day (Deut. 29:4), a problem that was brought to light when the Israelites refused to hear the word for themselves at Mount Horeb (Exodus 20:19).
It was the calling of “Elijah” to reverse the generational deafness (and blindness) in order to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. Luke says that Gabriel came to Zacharias prophesying that he would beget a son who would come in the spirit and power of Elijah, one who would “turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children” (Luke 1:17).
But Zacharias was made deaf and dumb in order to represent all the deaf people who were still under that famine of hearing the word. He was in need of the ministry of his own unborn son.
When John was born, his parents brought him to the priest for circumcision. Zacharias was yet deaf and dumb. The priest tried to call his name Zacharias, but Elizabeth insisted that he should be named John, as the angel had told them. The priest asked Zacharias by sign language for his decision, and Zacharias confirmed it on a tablet. Immediately, his mouth and ears were opened, and he began to praise and to prophesy by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Zacharias Filled with the Spirit
Luke 1:65, 66 continues,
65 And fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. 66 And all who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.
Everyone knew that John had a calling of God upon his life, but we are not told if Zacharias informed them of his Elijah calling.
67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
Here, then, is the full reversal of what was first seen nine months earlier in Luke 1:22, when Zacharias had been unable to speak the Israel blessing upon the people when he emerged from the temple. Luke records his words as a Hebrew chiasm, which again shows the central theme in its center. It is about the Covenant. We may outline this prophecy this way:
E…The Covenant (Mercy)
E1…The Covenant (Oath)
Luke records Zacharias’ prophecy as a Chiasm in Luke 1:68-79,
A…Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,
B…And has raised up a horn of salvation [Yeshua] for us
In the house of David His servant—
C…As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—
D…Salvation from our enemies,
And from the hand of all who hate us;
E…To show mercy toward our fathers,
And to remember His holy covenant,
E1…The oath which He swore to Abraham, our father,
D1…To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.
C1…“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways;
B1…To give to His people the knowledge of salvation [Yeshua]
By the forgiveness of their sins,
A…Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high shall visit us,
To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
The most important thought in this prophetic chiasm is “The Covenant” in E, followed by the oath in E1 on which that covenant is based. This was obviously a reference to the New Covenant oath that God Himself made, not only to Abraham (Gen. 15:12-18), but also to Israel and all others in Deut. 29:12-15.
Whereas the Old Covenant (Exodus 19:8) was Israel’s oath to God, the New Covenant was God’s oath or promise to Israel (and everyone else). Because the Old Covenant proved that no man could keep his oath of obedience, God in His mercy made a New Covenant oath that He could not break. This is the central focus of Zacharias’ prophecy.
This prophecy also reveals the One through whom this Covenant is made, for verse 69 says that God “has raised up a horn of salvation.” No doubt Zacharias used the Aramaic word, Yeshua here, which prophesied of Yeshua-Jesus. John’s job description in verse 77 was “to give to His people the knowledge of salvation.” That is, he was to reveal or make known the coming Messiah, whose name was Yeshua.
The people themselves longed for a military messiah, a great general who would come and save them from their great enemy—Rome. Zacharias indeed acknowledges this messianic mission in verse 71, saying, “Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us.” However, before the beast empires could be replaced by the Kingdom of Christ, the Messiah had to bring “salvation” on a deeper level that is seen in verse 77, “the forgiveness of their sins.”
In other words, the problem was not really Rome or any of the beast nations. The problem was the sin of the people, which had brought the judgment of God upon the nation and the whole world. In fact, the prophets showed clearly that all of these captivities since the book of Judges were caused by the sin of the people. God always took credit for empowering other nations to rule Israel and Judah. In fact, these captivities had been prophesied in great detail in Leviticus 26 and in Deuteronomy 28.
Therefore, to end the captivity under Rome (the “iron” beast), the Messiah needed to come first to provide forgiveness of sin. Sin is the hidden master who oppresses all mankind, and until he is dealt with, men will remain in their own prison houses regardless of political rulers.
And so both John and Jesus preached the gospel of repentance, which would prepare the way for the Kingdom of God. Luke 3:3 says that John preached “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus too recognized the importance of repentance, saying in Luke 13:5, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
We recognize, of course, that only God can open blind eyes and heal deaf ears, which alone can give people the ability and power to repent. Yet this was the mission of John, who enjoyed partial success under the spirit and power of Elijah. Under his ministry, many repented and were baptized. However, in the end, his mission failed to turn the hearts of the people, for it was in the divine plan that both he and the Messiah should be killed in order to provide forgiveness of sin in the first work of Christ.
The Elisha Ministry
The second coming of Christ is preceded by the Elisha ministry—that is, the double portion of Elijah, which is destined to succeed where John failed. (John succeeded to the extent that his anointing allowed, but God intended for him to fall short of the final goal.)
The story of Zacharias and John not only tell us of the ministry of John and Jesus, but also foreshadows the double-portion ministry of “Elisha” that precedes the second coming of Christ. This ministry began on the day of the wave-sheaf offering, April 12, 2009, with the Elisha decree in Manassas, Virginia.
Manassas is the Greek form of Manasseh, which means “forgetfulness” (Gen. 41:51). But the name Zacharias (Heb: Zachariah) means “Yahweh remembers.” Hence, the location of this meeting prophesied that God has “remembered” His covenant while we were in the place of forgetfulness. The Elisha decree, then, marked the beginning of the time when God would empower an Elisha company to prepare the way for the second coming of Christ.
Background to the Elisha Ministry
We first received prophetic notice of this at the Feast of Tabernacles meetings in Hilo, Hawaii on September 26, 2007, when a young woman at the conference prophesied and seemed to give birth to a ministry, complete with the travail of labor pains. Fred discerned that “John” was being birthed. Pam was filled with the spirit of laughter, which showed an “Isaac” connection (Gen. 17:17). The name Isaac, means “laughter.” Later, it was discerned that this “birth of John” was applicable to the following year, according to the prophecy of Isaac in Gen. 17:21.
We waited a full year until the Feast of Tabernacles of 2008. We then met at Sweetwater, Tennessee, which was near the headquarters of the “Trail of Tears,” wherein the Cherokee in the 1830’s were forced to move west to Oklahoma. Many died along the way as they were relocated a thousand miles away.
Some who attended the conference had been led to drive to Sweetwater from Oklahoma to reverse the curse of the Trail of Tears. They also were led to plant barley along the way. When I heard of this, I knew that we would have to wait until April for the barley to ripen before seeing the start of the ministry of “John.”
During the six-month interim, Ron received the revelation that this was no longer an Elijah ministry, but that God was establishing an Elisha ministry to prepare the way of the second coming. And so, by the time we met in Manassas, Virginia in April of 2009, we finally had the full revelation to know what to do and how to make the Elisha decree. It often happens that revelation is incomplete until the time of its fulfillment draws near.
From April 12, 2009 until July 15, 2010 we saw events running parallel to the first eight miracle-signs of Elisha. These eight equaled that of Elijah, who also performed eight miracle signs during his ministry on earth. But then the signs ceased for three years. We did not know the reason until 2013, when a group of intercessors in Mankato, Minnesota began to prepare for a 40-day intercessory prayer campaign from August 6 to September 14, 2013.
The purpose of this prayer campaign was to reverse the curse upon Mahkato for the 1862 hanging of the 38 Dakota Indians that occurred in the aftermath of the Dakota uprising. In the broader sense, this was a time of repentance for all of the 400+ treaties that the US government has made and broken over the centuries with the Native Americans.
Breaking the Famine
We then understood that we were re-living the “famine” that had occurred in the time of King David in 2 Samuel 21:1 on account of the broken treaty with the Gibeonites. That, too, was a three-year famine, and it prophesied of the “famine of hearing the word” (Amos 8:11) that the prophet said would come to a future generation. It is the same “famine” seen in Zacharias inability to speak the word or to prophesy until he affirmed the name of John—in effect, “recognizing” the ministry of his son.
It is plain, then, that there was a connection between the Trail of Tears and Mankato, and that God required us to reverse these curses before we could move on into the double-portion ministry of Elisha. Reversing the curse of the Trail of Tears in 2008 was necessary to BEGIN the Elisha work in April 2009; but the intercession in Mankato in 2013 was necessary to CONTINUE the Elisha work some time after September 2013.
Hence, as we began the new Hebrew year in September of 2013 the way was cleared now for the Elisha ministry to move beyond the single-portion anointing of “Elijah.”
John’s Early Years
The last verse of Luke 1 says about John,
80 And the child continued to grow, and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.
John’s ministry began when he turned thirty years of age. It is likely that he remained at home in Hebron until he grew up. Then, perhaps around the age of twenty, he went into the wilderness to live until the time of “his public appearance,” that is, the start of his actual ministry. He turned thirty around the time of Passover of 29 A.D. Some day we will have to ask him if he came to someone’s home and sat in “Elijah’s chair” at Passover that year.
Inquiring minds want to know.