The expectation that Elijah
will come back is based on a prophecy in the Book of Malachi. God said, “Behold,
I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful
day of the LORD. And he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,
and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the
earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6).
The Jews put out a cup for
Elijah at the Passover Meal because they are so sure that he will literally come
back. After the meal, they say a prayer and ask a family member to open the door
to see if Elijah the prophet has arrived.
Jesus was talking about His
Second Coming when He told His disciples, “The Son of man shall come in the
glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man
according to his works. Verily I say unto you there be some standing here, which
shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom”
(Matthew 16:27-28). Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James and John up on the
Mount of Transfiguration where they saw Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah
(Matthew 17:1-4). This is important because it shows that Elijah did show up in
a vision (Matthew 17:9).
As they were coming down
from the mountain, Jesus asked His disciples not to tell anyone about the vision
until He had been risen from the dead. This puzzled the disciples. They asked,
“Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come” (Matthew 17:10)? In other
words, they were asking Jesus, “If you are going to die before Elijah shows up,
why do the scribes say Elijah will come first?” They didn’t understand that
there Jesus would come twice (first and Second Coming). And they didn’t
understand that Elijah will show up before the Second Coming.
Anyway, this puzzled the
disciples. “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” (Matthew 17:11-12). Jesus was saying the
disciples were right. They rightly understood what the scribes were saying.
Elijah will show up before the great and terrible day of the Lord or before the
Tribulation Period. He will show up before Jesus comes in His glory which means
before the Second Coming of Jesus. This is one reason why some think Elijah will
be one of the Two Witnesses that will preach during the first half of the
Tribulation Period and before the Second Coming.
Now, here is the problem:
“Jesus said Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him
whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall the Son of man suffer of them.” The fact
that Jesus said “Elias is come already” sounds very much like Jesus was saying
John the Baptist was Elijah.
But this is explained in
Matthew 11:14. Concerning their coming King, the kingdom and
John the Baptist, Jesus said, “IF
ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.” He was saying, “IF
you will accept the fact that I am your King and believe that the kingdom has
come, I will accept John the Baptist as a fulfillment of the prophecy about
is a big word. It is a conditional word. And the point is that the Jews didn’t
accept the fact that Jesus was their King and they didn’t believe that the
kingdom had come so Jesus didn’t accept John the Baptist as a fulfillment of the
prophecy about Elijah.
Luke 1:17 reveals more.
When the angel Gabriel told Zacharias about the birth of John the Baptist,
Gabriel said John the Baptist will come in the spirit and power of Elijah. John
the Baptist didn’t come as Elijah. He came in the spirit and power of Elijah.
Jesus would have accepted
John’s coming in the spirit and power of Elijah as a fulfillment of the prophecy
if the Jews had accepted Jesus as their King and believed that the kingdom had
arrived. But the Jews didn’t do that. The
“IF” didn’t happen.
John the Baptist was killed. Jesus was killed. And the kingdom wasn’t
So Jesus didn’t accept John
the Baptist as the coming of Elijah. And that’s exactly what John the Baptist
said when the priests and Levites asked him “Art thou Elias” (John 1:21). He
said, “I am not.”
Prophecy Plus Ministries
Daymond & Rachel Duck