The Coming of Elijah

by Harold Stough
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The meaning of Elijah, according to Strong's Concordance, is "God of Jehovah", and no one of the men of faith in the Old Testament was more worthy, because of his life of faith and service, than the man who could stand before the priests of Baal, and the King, than Elijah the man. Surely he was the foremost of the prophets, in the strict sense of the word, for prophet means "speaking forth for God". He showed no fear when he challenged and taunted the priests of Baal, and yet he was caring in the raising of the widow's son. In contrast, he was fearful when threatened by Jezebel, fleeing to Horeb, forty days and nights without food, where God spoke to him, telling him that He had seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal. He could rebuke Israel for her sins and, for punishment, shut up the heavens for three and a half years, "that it rained not"! In narrating this James tells us (5:17) that "he was a man and subject to like passions as we are".

Yet he was the personification and representative of the prophets, as Moses was of the Law. "The law and the prophets" is also identified as "church and state", and it was Moses and Elias who appeared with our Lord at the Mount of Transfiguration, representing the "Kingdom of God with Power" as they were all with Holy Spirit power before the eyes of the three disciples.

So highly esteemed was he that the scribes and people generally, based on the prophecy of Malachi, anticipated his return and asked John the Baptist and our Lord if they were Elias. The answer was an emphatic no, but our Lord did say: "If ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come" (Matthew 1 1: 14). In Matthew 17:12 He said 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". So both John and our Lord could have fulfilled Malachi's prophecy had the people repented and heeded John's warning and accepted our Lord's salvation.

In Matthew's Gospel (1 7:1 1) Jesus clearly stated "Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things". That is a firm promise. But which Elijah? The man in Old Testament history bearing the sacred name? Or the Man Himself, the "God of Jehovah ". He is the returning One as He has promised, "I will come again " (John 14:3). He is the Name in reality - not the prefiguring one.

What are the "all things" to be restored? If the Elijah is the Old Testament prophet of Israel, the "all things" were all part of the Israel economy. AND THEY ARE NOT TO BE RESTORED!

For instance:

  1. There is to be no temple (Revelation 21:22).
  2. There is no Aaronic priesthood (Hebrews 7:1 1).
  3. There are no more ordinances of worship (Colossians 2:14).
  4. The Law is not to be written on tables of stone, but in our hearts (Jeremiah 3 1; Hebrews 1 0).
This interpretation is not of the generally taught views of the physical reappearing of the man Elijah, and I am conscious of the fact that I differ from other teachers, including colleagues. Orthodox Jewry also accepts interpretation of Elijah's return, having an extra chair at the Passover Feast, for his use.

Perhaps we should go back to the source of the prophecy and ask Who is Malachi? as he is the only prophet, as far as we can discover, who specifically mentions this expectation. Reference books do not help much as they all resort to probabilities. Lumen, in his "The Date of Malachi", published in 1907, suggests that Malachi was not the last of the prophets, writing in the period of Ezra and Nehemiah, 500-400 B.C.; more likely he was the first! And witnessing at the time of the accession of Rehoboam, and the division of the Kingdom of Israel, "The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi". Not to the House of Israel nor to the House of Judah, and therefore before the division was complete. He argues from internal evidence that there is no mention of the Temple or of its destruction, as there would surely be if the temple of Solomon had been destroyed and Zerubabbel's was a-building, that much mention is made of the Edom might and power, which was destroyed by David and Solomon, but which would be unknown at the time of Ezra. He suggests the date of 960 circa, and that the "man of Judah " who was sent to Jeroboam warning of God's judgements for his making of sacrifices to false gods (1 Kings 13), might well have been Malachi. If Malachi had existed in Ezra's time, united Israel would have been divided and the House of Israel some 300 years into captivity!

Thus Elijah the prophet who had not yet commenced his ministry, must be a type of "God of Jehovah " Who, in both revelations, warns the nation of judgements for unfaithfulness, but it is the "God of Jehovah "who brings restoration, as later prophets confirm.

But much more than that! He is the Creator-God! He is the Triune Godhead! He is the Eternal Son, to be the Word Incarnate! He is the Jehovah-King! He, the second Adam, Who restores all that the first Adam lost. He restores and He makes all things new! He, the Creator-Christ, makes a New Heaven and a New Earth!

How wonderful is this restoration as revealed in the victories of the overcomers as promised in Revelation chapters two and three and the New Jerusalem reign of the One Who upholds all things by the Word of His Power.

The El-God the Creator and Jah the Jehovah-Judge-Saviour returns to bring reconciliation to generations past and present.

Paul's letter to Titus sums it up: "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,. Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (2:13,14).

Harold Stough, Pastor
Orange Street Congregational Church,

Orange Street Congregational Church