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|What do you think? |
The statements by William Branham included in these articles are so strong, they force you to make a conclusion.
(a) Will you accept William Branham's statements and conclude that he was God himself - greater than Jesus, equal to the Holy Spirit, infallible, and above reproach?
(b) Or will you conclude that William Branahm was delusional.
There is no middle ground, because to compromise these statements requires you to deny William Branham's own words. It's time to choose: is William Branham's word Infallible, or was his message fallible?
This article is one in a series of studies on the doctrines of William Branham that pointed to himself - you are currently on the article that is in bold:
- Revelation 10:7
- The Fulfillment of Malachi 4:5
- The Laodicean Church Age Messenger
- Matthew 17:11
- Luke 17:30
- Matthew 24:28
- Zechariah 14:7
- Joel 2:25
- 1 Thessalonians 4:16
- The Importance of a Seven-Lettered Name
- The Prophet and The Eagle
- The Sign of the Messiah
- Two major prophets never ministered at the same time
- William Branham's View of Himself
- William Branham and the Nation of Israel
William Branham pointed to Matthew 17:11 as proof that there was to be a Gentile Elijah:
- We're promised in the last days, that he will return to this country too. I know, Jesus, when... Matthew 17, when they asked Him, "Why the Scribes say, Elias..."
- Watch what He said, "Elias truly must first come." Past, present--in the future tense, but then He give John as an example. John wasn't Malachi 4. John was Malachi 3...
Relevant Biblical Passages
The book of Matthew was originally written in Koine Greek. Here are several translations into English of Matthew 17:11–13:
- And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist. 
- He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist. 
- He answered, “Elijah does indeed come first and will restore all things. And I tell you that Elijah has already come. Yet they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wanted. In the same way, the Son of Man will suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.
We also must consider Mark 9:12-13:
- And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought. But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him.
- And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.” 
- He said to them, “Elijah does indeed come first, and restores all things. And why is it written that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be despised? But I tell you that Elijah has certainly come, and they did to him whatever they wanted, just as it is written about him.”
Does William Branham have the proper interpretation?
While William Branham's interpretation does appear to make sense, is it correct?
Improper View of Malachi 4
William Branham’s understanding is seriously flawed because Jesus is clearly referring to Malachi 4 as it is the only reference to Elijah in the entire Book of Malachi. So his statement that Jesus is referring to John the Baptist as fulfilling Malachi 3 and not Malachi 4 is clearly an incorrect interpretation of the passage.
Jesus is quoting directly from the Septuagint
The Septuagint was the Bible of Jesus and the apostles. Most New Testament quotations from the Old Testament are taken from it directly, even when it differs from the Masoretic (Hebrew) Text. On the whole the Septuagint closely parallels the Masoretic Text and is a confirmation of the fidelity of the tenth-century Hebrew text.
The word “Septuagint,” (from the Latin septuaginta = 70; hence its common abbreviation of LXX) derives from a story that 72 (other ancient sources mention 70 or 75) elders translated the Pentateuch into Greek; the term therefore applied originally only to those five books. That story is now acknowledged to be fictitious, yet the label persists by virtue of the tradition.
William Branham puts great stock in the fact the Jesus uses the future tense. However, the verb ἀποκαταστήσει, “will restore,” is drawn verbatim from the LXX of Mal 3:23 (Mal 4:6 in the KJV), where, however, the object clause is “the heart of the father to the son and the heart of a man to his neighbor” (the Hebrew of Mal 4:6 is only slightly different).
The future tense, therefore, does not suggest that Jesus expects a future return of Elijah. The restoration of “everything” (πάντα) must here refer not to the renewal of the present order itself (which would make Elijah the Messiah himself, rather than the forerunner of the Messiah), as, for example, apparently in Acts 1:6 (and compare especially the cognate noun ἀποκατάστασις, “restoration” or “establishing,” in Acts 3:21 in an allusion to the return of Jesus), but to a preparatory work of repentance and renewal (as in the Malachi passage; see especially Luke 1:17).
Only an interpretation of this kind can make possible Jesus’ identification of John the Baptist with Elijah in the verse that follows. In short, Jesus responds initially by fully agreeing with the scribes in their understanding of Malachi’s prophecy that Elijah is to come and accomplish his preparatory work. It is only in his conclusion that the passage is fulfilled with John the Baptist that Jesus parts company with the scribes. 
How did the disciples understand it?
Jesus’ disciples ask why the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come before the Christ. Malachi prophesied that God would send the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Mal. 4:5). By claiming that the restoration of all things by Elijah had not taken place, the scribes could cast doubt on the messiahship of Jesus. Jesus answered that Elijah has already come but was mistreated in the same way that the Son of Man is “destined to undergo suffering at men’s hands.” Then they made the connection. He was talking to them about John the Baptist. John was the Elijah who came first in order to set things in order. The argument of the teachers of the law against his messiahship would not hold. 
The disciples’ question can be taken in two ways.
- 1. As a chronological problem. If you are the Messiah, what about Elijah? How can you be the Messiah if the teachers are right when they say that Elijah has to come first? How is this to be explained? Most people who read these accounts take the disciples’ question this way because of the word first, which suggests the problem with the sequence.
- 2. As a theological problem. This understanding of the question comes from the anticipated nature of the forerunner’s ministry. Malachi 4:6 taught that Elijah would bring about the restoration of all things (v. 11). But if Elijah was to do that, bringing the people to a right relationship with God as a precondition of the Messiah’s coming, how was it that the Messiah would need to die? Who would reject him in such a happy age?
- Their confusion was not merely chronological—who must come first—rather, it referred back to their fundamental inability to make sense of the combination of glory and suffering. At this stage, their witness of the transfiguration glory of Jesus had if anything confirmed them in their misapprehension.
Whatever their question meant, both these puzzles were answered when Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands” (vv. 11–12).
This means that the scribes were right to insist that Elijah must come before the Messiah, but they were wrong in failing to see that he had in fact come. They were wrong in their interpretation of the restoration too.
They understood this as a promise of a perfect messianic age. But that was not a given fact, even in Malachi, since the last verse says that if the people do not repent at the forerunner’s teaching, then God will return “and strike the land with a curse” (Mal. 4:6). Since Jesus is making clear that the work of Elijah had been done by John the Baptist and that the people had not repented at his teaching, the only thing they could reasonably expect from God now was this judgment.
Moreover, since the leaders had mistreated and killed John the Baptist, why should Jesus expect any different treatment? By calling their attention to this pattern, Jesus was reinforcing his teaching that it was necessary for him to be crucified.
This was the second most important thing he had to teach them after he had taught who he was. Peter, James, and John had been given a glimpse of glory on the mountain, just as we have been given a glimpse of future glory in the last chapters of the Book of Revelation, but that is for later. This is now, and what is needed now is that the followers of Christ deny themselves, take up their crosses daily, and follow him. Before glory there must always be a cross.
It is clear that the disciples did not take Jesus' explanation to mean that there would be another Elijah coming 2,000 years later.
Why did John deny that he was Elijah?
In John 1:19-23, John the Baptist denies that he is Elijah:
- And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
There was a sense in which John was Elijah and a sense in which he was not. He fulfilled all the preliminary ministry that Malachi had foretold (Luke 1:17), and thus in a very real sense Jesus could say that he was Elijah.
But the Jews knew that Elijah had left the earth in a chariot of fire without passing through death (2 Kings 2:11), and they expected that in due course the identical figure would reappear. None of the Gospels supposed that John was literally Elijah (see Mark 9:4; Matt 17:3; Luke 9:30). John was not Elijah in this sense, and he had no option but to deny that he was.
It is true that before John’s birth, an angel prophesied to his father, Zechariah, that John would “go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). John the Baptist denied being “Elijah” to counter the expectation (that was held by the Pharisees in his day) that the same Elijah who escaped death in a fiery chariot would return in like spectacular manner.
What did John the Baptist restore?
Let’s first look at the Greek. The Greek phrase in Matthew 17:11 to “restore all things” is “αποκαταστησει παντα”.
The meaning of αποκαταστησει is to “reestablish, restore; cure, make well; send or bring back”. As a result, we read the following alternate translations:
John Wesley's Translation
- And Jesus answering said to them, Elijah truly doth come first, and will regulate all things. 
Literal Translation from the Original Tongues
- And Jesus having answered, said to them, Elias truly comes first and will re-establish all things. 
God's Word Translation
- Jesus answered, “Elijah is coming and will put everything in order again. 
The restoration of “everything” (πάντα) refers not to the renewal of the present order itself (which would make Elijah the Messiah himself, rather than the forerunner of the Messiah) but to a preparatory work of repentance and renewal (see Luke 1:17).
The restoration that John the Baptist brought was the promised restoration we see throughout the prophets that God – a restoration that would bring the nation of Israel their Messiah. (Jer 15:19; 16:15; 24:6–7; 31:31–34; 50:19–20 [27:19–20 LXX]; Ezek 34–37; Hos 11:8–11; Amos 9:11–15). And Jesus goes on to observe that Elijah’s mission, to restore the people of God, was met with opposition, and that this same opposition will lead to the death of the Son of man.
It is clear that Mark understands John the Baptist to have accomplished his mission successfully, since everyone in Judaea and Jerusalem went to him, confessing their sins and being baptized; the task of the promised Elijah was thus completed, and everything put in order.
The scribes had done their job well in concluding “Elijah must come first.” Their insistence on this point, however, was determined to a large extent by their presupposition about how the prophecy's fulfillment had to occur, and it was probably motivated by their unwillingness to accept Jesus or his message.
As they saw nothing in John’s fate in Herod’s prison that corresponded with their expectations of Elijah, so also they saw nothing in Jesus’ claims or in his humility that corresponded with their conception of the Messiah. And when he was crucified, that served only to confirm that he could not have been the Messiah.
Thus their rigid, preconceived notions tragically caused them to be blind to the very heart of God’s mission in his Messiah. What was required of them was to revise their preconceptions and to understand, with Paul among other Jews, that “Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23), rather than being a self-contained and intolerable contradiction, is the glorious high point of God’s promises to Israel—and through Israel to the nations of the world.
Followers of the message have similar pre-conceptions to the Pharisees. They see the truth only unfolding in one way and thus miss what God is doing in the world today.
Do message followers think William Branham restored all things?
While message ministers used to say that William Branham "restored all things", they generally have tempered this statement significantly. They now say things such as:
- Bro. Branham brought a restorative message to our generation by pulling the loose ends together...
The above is a direct reference to repeated statements that William Branham made about himself:
- But, God comes in the Power of His resurrection! And who is going to speak against It? If Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, He does the same that He did yesterday, today, and forever. That’s what this angel is supposed to do, take them mysteries, them loose ends that people run out on.
- Now watch. There is a lot of Truth lost out there, (why?) where others compromised on Truth. But this seventh angel don’t compromise on nothing. He gathers up all the loose ends, gathers them all up. And at his sounding, “All the mystery of God should be finished.” Oh! God, send him. All of the hidden mysteries was finished when, he, It was revealed to him. By what? If these are hidden mysteries, the man will have to be a prophet. And didn’t we just get through and see that the prophet, that would come in the last age, would be that great Elijah that we been looking for? Because, these mysteries that’s hid, through the theologians, will have to be revealed; to God. And the Word comes only to the prophet. [“Amen.”] And we know it. He will be the second Elijah, as promised. Oh, my! The Message he—he’ll bring will be the mysteries, all, all these things.
- Now is It plain? When the First Seal was opened, the Seals that was inside the Book, these mysteries that was sounded forth: justification, sanctification, Roman Catholic church, Protestants! And when all their little battles and things left these loose ends in the Word of God, the seventh angel comes on and gathers them all up and explains them. See? And then, he finishes, Seven Thunders utter out.
- These stars falling into their constellation back yonder! That Angel coming, and said, “As John was sent to wind up the Old Testament and to bring forth the introduction of Christ, a Message will wind up the loose ends and will introduce the Messiah just before His Coming, the Message of the last days.”
- And at the end of the Pentecostal age, we are supposed to receive, according to the Word, as God help me tonight to show you, through here, that we are to see, receive a messenger that will take all those loose ends out there and reveal the whole secret of God, for the rapturing of the Church.
But did William Branham restore anything?
We believe the evidence shows that he did not. What he brought was such confusion that his followers constitute a bizarre legacy of multiple fractured sub-cults that all think they have the truth.
- JEZEBEL.RELIGION_ MIDDLETOWN.OH V-6 N-14 SUNDAY_ 61-0319
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Mt 17:11–13 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009).
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Mt 17:11–13 (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001).
- Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible, Mt 17:11–13 (Biblical Studies Press, 2006).
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Mk 9:12–13.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mk 9:12–13.
- Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2005), Mk 9:12–13.
- Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library, 552 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999)
- Melvin K. H. Peters, "Septuagint", in , vol. 5, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman, 1093 (New York: Doubleday, 1992).
- Donald A. Hagner, vol. 33B, Matthew 14–28, Word Biblical Commentary, 499 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998).
- Robert H. Mounce, Matthew, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series, 169 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2011).
- D. A. Carson, God with Us: Themes from Matthew (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1985), 106.
- James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, 323-24 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001).
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Jn 1:19–23.
- Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 119.
- Andreas J. Köstenberger, John, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 60.
- Barclay M. Newman Jr., A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft; United Bible Societies, 1993), 21.
- John Wesley, Explanatory Notes upon the Old and New Testament: Translation (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012), Mt 17:11.
- Julia E. Smith, trans., The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments; Translated Literally from the Original Tongues (Hartford, CT: American Publishing Company, 1876), Mt 17:11.
- GOD’S WORD Translation (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 1995), Mt 17:11.
- Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 14–28, vol. 33B, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1995), 499.
- David Turner and Darrell L. Bock, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 11: Matthew and Mark (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005), 476.
- W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison Jr., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, vol. 2, International Critical Commentary (London; New York: T&T Clark International, 2004), 715.
- Morna D. Hooker, The Gospel according to Saint Mark, Black’s New Testament Commentary (London: Continuum, 1991), 220.
- Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 14–28, vol. 33B, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1995), 500.
- William Branham, 62-1230E - Is This The Sign Of The End, Sir?, para. 268, 289, 353, 363
- William Branham, 63-0318 - The First Seal, para. 74