The Return of Elijah
Romans 9:4 says emphatically that the promises of God belong to Israel. The Old Testament canon closes out the promises to Israel with one of the most pointed statements to be made in all the Word of God. It is a promise that is yet to be kept by God: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet BEFORE the coming of the great and dreadful DAY OF THE LORD (Jehovah): 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.”
Admittedly, certain aspects of this prophecy are somewhat obscure. Still, the main thrust of thought is quite plain. We are told that BEFORE the great day of Jehovah comes, Elijah the prophet will be sent to carry out a spiritual work of far-reaching effect to all concerned. The prophecy also declares that one of its purposes is to forestall the happenings so aptly set forth in the book of the Revelation: “Lest I smite the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:6).
The phrase “turn the hearts of the fathers,” etc., is also hidden as to its exact meaning. Even so, the context calls for something of high spiritual value. Thus, its main point would seem to have a bearing upon the family unit. Without being argumentative, today, more often than not, the average father has forfeited his headship and has become, as it were, the tail. Not only so, but as we can see, a return to the family unit would also be a confirmation of God’s proper order of things.
Our Lord in the days of His flesh also confirmed Elijah’s future coming and at the same time added further light when He said, “Elijah truly shall first come and restore ALL THINGS” (Matt. 17:11). Please take note, Elijah’s coming is far reaching since it restores not just some things, but “ALL THINGS.” – What are the “ALL THINGS”?
Before proceeding further, may we say we are cognizant of the misunderstandings and even the surface interpretation of these scriptures and desire to deal with them subsequently, but not until we have followed out our enquiry concerning the “ALL THINGS.” Hence, the things to follow will pursue a positive emphasis.
The following subject matters and the scriptural proof texts which fit into the time frame of “Before the day of the Lord” justify their use for the “ALL THINGS” of Matt. 17:11.
- An enlightenment from the Holy Spirit begins with Israel and extends to ALL flesh: “…I will pour out My Spirit upon ALL flesh . . .BEFORE the . . . day of the Lord” (Joel 2:28,31). It is also quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost and had a precursory fulfillment in the book of Acts (Acts 2:17, 20). The pouring out of the Spirit is tantamount to the times of refreshment referred to in Acts 3:19. Please observe that our Lord remains in Heaven at the right hand of the Father until after the restoration and the times of refreshment (Acts 3:21, Psalms 110:1). Moreover, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul says that the perilous last days of the present dispensation will be interrupted by divine enlightenment (II Tim. 3:1-9, see particularly verse 9).
- A restoration of Israel’s proper worship is established with the setting up of David’s Tabernacle on Mt. Zion (Amos 9:11; Acts 15:16, 17; II Sam. 6:14-17). This in turn would also call for the re-establishment of the Levitical priesthood along with the three divisions of the tribe of Levi, etc.
- Salvation would be “of the Jews” (John 4:22; Zech. 8:13, 23; Exo. 19:5, 6), whereas for 1,900 years plus, it has been “among the Gentiles” (Acts 28:28; Col. 1:27). In other words, the Jew will replace the Gentiles as a vessel of blessing.
- The restoration will unite the Northern Kingdom with the Southern, and David will be the King (a vicar of Christ) while Christ will rule from the heavens (Ezek. 37:15-28; Psalms 110:1; 103:19; Hosea 3:5; Jer. 30:9, Matt. 22:44, etc.). Please note that Ezek. 37:27 places the Tabernacle as the center of worship in this time frame.
- The Kingdom (government) of the heavens (Isa. 42:1-4; Matt. 12:18-21; 13:1-52) and its equivalent, the Day of Christ (Phil. 1:6; 10; 2:16) also fit into this time frame, inasmuch as Christ must rule from the heavens until all nations are brought under His subjection (Psalms 103:19; 110:1; Matt. 22:44; Acts 3:21). Please observe it is the revolt “against the Lord (Jehovah) and His Anointed (Christ) saying, ‘Let us break their bands asunder and cast away their cords from us’ ” (Psalms 2:2b, 3) that brings into focus the happenings so aptly described in the book of Revelation and Matt. 24; namely, the great tribulation, the Day of the Lord, the descent of Christ to earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, etc. Obviously, to “break their bands asunder and cast away their cords” speaks of revolt against the restraints of God’s government.
- Logically then, the restoration would bring to light the correct tribal lineage of every Jew. As you can see, this would be necessary because all legitimate records were lost when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. Thus, with proper identification concerning lineage, the lands of inheritance could be meted out according to the promises of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
- Lastly, the restoration would bring peace, prosperity, and great blessing to all concerned, but especially to the obedient (Micah 4:1-5) [Note: First usage of the term “Last Days” has to do with the gathering of Jacob’s sons (Gen. 49:1). Likewise, in the passage of Micah.] At the same time, the book of Revelation, at long last would be made perfectly clear, with a view to forestall its fulfillment and as a reminder and warning against the prophesied revolt of Psalm 2. Much more could be offered, but we feel the things already proffered should suffice for now.
With these things behind us, we are now ready to address ourselves to the negative; that is, to the objections concerning the coming of Elijah and the pre-second advent restoration:
(1) There are those who believe one of the two witnesses described in Revelation 11:3-6 has reference to Elijah, the prophet. Therefore, they reason that the happenings of this passage must be the fulfillment of Malachi 4:5, 6 and Matt. 17:11.
The Answer: Since no name is ascribed to either witness, it is, therefore, pure speculation when it comes to their true identity. However, whether or not one of the two witnesses happens to be Elijah is beside the point, because the context of Revelation 11 is IN THE DAY OF THE LORD, WHEREAS, THE PROPHECY CONCERNING Elijah’s coming is BEFORE THE DAY OF THE LORD. Not only so, but the no-name witness of Rev. 11:6 is empowered to smite the earth, while the very purpose of Elijah is to avoid our Lord’s smiting, etc. To be logical then, this straw man must be put to rest for all time by those who bow to the Word of God.
(2)There are those who believe that John the Baptist was Elijah, and/or that his ministry fulfills the prophecies concerning Elijah.
The Answer: Since some aspects of the subject matter at first glance seem to be contradictory, it follows we must address ourselves to each scriptural fact that bears upon the inquiry, for it is written, “-no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation” (II Peter 1:20). In other words, no one text can be properly interpreted apart from a consideration of all the texts which have to do with the subject, that is, the general context.
(a)There is John’s testimony concerning himself when the Levites and priests asked John, “ART THOU ELIJAH?” – He (John) said, “I AM NOT” (John 1:21). Surely John knew who he was!
(b)The purpose of John’s ministry is “He shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 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” (Luke 1:17).
(c)Our Lord’s comment while John was still alive: “If ye will receive it (John and his ministry), this is Elijah, which was to come” (Matt. 11:14). John died at the hand of Herod and not one word of protest was raised.
(d)We note our Lord’s comment after John’s death: “His (Jesus’) disciples asked Him, saying ‘why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come?’ And Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Elijah truly shall come and restore all things. But I say unto you that (an) Elijah is come already’ – then the disciples understood that He spake of John the Baptist” (Matt. 17:10-13).
These several proof texts taken from the Word of God should suffice to remove all honest differences: namely, that John was not Elijah; that John’s coming in that day had in view a similar purpose like unto Elijah’s future ministry; that the ellipsis (an) of Matt. 17:10-13 [Note: Please observe the law of interpretation: “No Scripture is of private interpretation.”] must be included in the texts, that is if we are to reconcile all the facts. To do otherwise is to create a direct contradiction between our Lord’s word and John’s testimony. This, of course, cannot be, since it would employ one truth to the destruction of another. In a word, it would break the Word of God. Moreover, it would allow the teaching concerning the heresy of reincarnation to have validity, for we know who John’s parents were. Lastly, John did not restore ALL THINGS, nor did he succeed in turning Israel to repentance (Matt. 11:16-18).
Needless to say, we do believe that our Lord will be faithful to His Word and send Elijah back to earth, that Elijah will be the channel whereby Israel will be turned to God, etc., even though such a thing would be an embarrassment to many prophetic teachers. Perhaps we should add that a rethinking of traditional positions is far better than contemplating a future embarrassment.
At the outset, lest there be any misunderstanding, may we say with all clarity that we are “pre-millennial” in our belief. That is, we believe that Christ will return in bodily presence BEFORE the millennium. But by the same token, may we say with equal force that all aspects of His coming in whatever degree are, and will remain, in abeyance UNTIL all nations are brought into subjection under Him (Matt. 22:44). Therefore, the coming of Elijah, the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, the government of the heavens, the restoration of Israel, etc., must be faced. These facts can no longer be ignored, nor can anyone set them aside by saying “They are a problem,” and yet continue to teach otherwise.
To say the least, the popular “any moment” theory of traditional, pre-millennial teaching will no longer prevail in the hearts of those who are not brainwashed with the wish.
You see, if one were to follow the “any moment” position and Christ were to return to earth today, He, according to His Word, would “take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thess. 1:8). There is no question about it, this would include most of humanity; not only so, but, by and large, the plurality of those have never heard the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the “any moment” theory at this time would appear to make God a sadist (humanly speaking), for how could a man obey instructions he has never even heard? How dare we allow such a low appraisal of God to emerge when such an attitude is contrary to His character? Time and time again, throughout the Old Testament, the lesson is replete, for when He brought judgment to pass, He first brought to light, over and over again, the things He eventually carried out. Will He do less at the close of this, the Dispensation of Grace? I think not, for Scripture and the very character of our great God demand otherwise: namely, the pre-second advent happenings which have been proffered from Scripture throughout this treatise.
Thus, at this point in history, we await the real “Blessed Hope” (Titus 2:13): namely, our Saviour’s Divine intervention, the hidden meaning behind the Greek word, “ephiphaneia” ( translated “appearing.”) In closing, may we add that His Divine intervention does not require His personal bodily presence on earth in order that we Christians be manifest with Him in glory (Col. 3:4, R.S.V. 1901).
Obviously, these happenings concerning the Kingdom (government) of the heavens when Elijah comes, are precursory and have their true fulfillment in the millennial government.