I send you Elijah the Prophet – Bible Research Tools
ne of the most commonly misconstrued passages in the scripture is Malachi 4:5-6,
“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 heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” — Mal 4:5-6 KJV
Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, foretold the fulfillment:
“And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” — Luk 1:16-17 KJV
We know that John was the Elias foretold in Malachi, because Jesus said he was:
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” — Mat 11:12-15 KJV
“And asked him, saying, Why say the scribes that Elias must first come? 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.” — Mar 9:11-13 KJV
“And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? 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.” — Mat 17:10-13 KJV
Make note that Jesus said Elias had already come, and that Elias was John the Baptist. The disciples also understood that Jesus was speaking of John the Baptist as the foretold Elias. I don’t see how it can be written any clearer than that.
These are other prophecies foretelling the arrival of John:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God.” — Isa 40:3 LXX
“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.” — Mal 3:1 KJV
And these are the fulfillments:
“For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” — Mat 3:3 KJV
“And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind . . . For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” — Mat 11:7,10 KJV
“As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee . . . The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” — Mar 1:2,3 KJV
“And came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” — Luk 3:3-4 KJV
“This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” — Luk 7:27 KJV
One of the arguments against John being Elijah was that John came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luk 1:17), whatever that means. That issue was addressed in the 2nd century by one of the earliest church fathers, Justin Martyr.
In Justin’s “Dialogue with Trypho the Jew”, Trypho understood that the Messiah could not come until Elijah came first:
“And Trypho said, ‘Those who affirm him to have been a man, and to have been anointed by election, and then to have become Christ, appear to me to speak more plausibly than you who hold those opinions which you express. For we all expect that Christ will be a man [born] of men, and that Elijah when he comes will anoint him. But if this man appear to be Christ, he must certainly be known as man of men; but from the circumstance that Elijah has not yet come, I infer that this man is not He .'”
Justin explained that John the Baptist was indeed the Elijah that was foretold, and that he had received Elijah’s spirit in the same manner in which Joshua had received Moses’ spirit:
“Wherefore also our Christ said, on earth, to those who were affirming that Elijah must come before Christ: ‘Elijah shall come, and restore all things; but I say unto you, that Elijah has already come, and they knew him not, but have done to him whatsoever they chose’ (Matt 17:12.) And it is written, ‘Then the disciples understood that He spake to them about John the Baptist.’ And Trypho said, ‘This statement also seems to me paradoxical; namely, that the prophetic Spirit of God, who was in Elijah, was also in John.’ (Num 11:17) To this I replied, ‘ Do you not think that the same thing happened in the case of Joshua the son of Nave (Nun), who succeeded to the command of the people after Moses, when Moses was commanded to lay his hands on Joshua (Num 27:18-20,) and God said to him, ‘ I will take of the spirit which is in thee, and put it on him?'”
One might think that would be a non-issue since Christ was unambiguous about John being Elijah. Perhaps the problem many Christians have in accepting John as Elijah is based on their interpretation of the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5) as some future event. But even with that interpretation, John is still a viable candidate since the scripture does not say whether Elijah came immediately before that “day”, or long before.
However, if you believe that great and dreadful day was the time of the horrors of Jerusalem’s internal civil war and the city’s subsequent destruction by the Roman armies, combined with the slaughter of Jews throughout Judaea and the Roman Empire, not to mention the destruction of the temple and the elimination of the bonds of the old covenant, then believing John to be Elijah is a simple task.
Of course, if you believe the plain words of Christ when he said of John, “this is Elias, which was for to come“, then there is no doubt in your mind that John was the Elijah foretold by Malachi.
1. Roberts & Donaldson,, Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, “Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol 01: Apostolic Fathers.” Charles Scribner’s Sons, Amer Ed, 1913, Ch.XLIV, p.219
2. Roberts& Donaldson, Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, “Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol 01: Apostolic Fathers.” Charles Scribner’s Sons, Amer Ed, 1913, Ch.XLIX, p.220
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