There are people or Christians religious groups who teach a third Elijah because it fits their understanding that Elijah must come first before our Lord Jesus Christ will return at the end of the world, the judgement day. The Church of Christ doctrines fits the teaching that the judgement day is near. What the INC members do not question is the Church has been teaching the judgement is near since 1914. It is always near. It was near in 1914, it is nearer now in 2017. What the bible teaches though is that even in the time of the Apostles, they are already in the last days. Notice how James used “last days”.
James 5:3 (NKJV) – 3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.
Let us read it again in RSV
James 5:3 (RSV) – 3 Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days.
Firstly, who was James speaking to? Audience relevance, the book of James was written for the twelve tribes of Israel. The bible is not written to us, it is written for us because it is profitable for us to learn about the words of God. Never in the bible says “to the people of the Philippines in the far east” or “to the American people” or “to the people of the 21st century“.
James 1:1-2 (NKJV) – 1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad:
If the last days, is our time, why would the twelve tribes of Israel laid up treasure for the last days? It make sense if they laid up treasure for the “last day” which is the judgement day. It does not make sends on the “last days” which in Church of Christ calendar, 1914-2017 is part of the last days until the end of the world, who knows maybe it will be in year 2018 or maybe year 3017 (I am not predicting, I choose 3017 randomly).
Another reason the INC is wrong on the use of “last days” is that our Lord Jesus Christ is actually the messenger of the last days. The book of Hebrews described this:
Hebrews 1:1-2 (NKJV) – 1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
God spoken to the audience of the Hebrews through His Son. We can now say our Lord Jesus Christ is the messenger of God. The statement indicate “has in these last days” indicates the writer of the Hebrews and the audience both lived in the first century which is already “last days”. More about the last days in part 1 and part 2 of “Racing Against The Time In These Last Days“.
I think knowing the true “last days” is key to understanding of John the Baptist as the forerunner for our Lord Jesus Christ. However we also need to know when is the last days ended or when it is ending?
The Prophesies for the Second [or third] Elijah
According to several references the prophesy for the next Elijah is
Malachi 4:5-6 (NKJV)
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
And he will 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 is prophesying the return of Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. It is important to know what is “great and dreadful day of the Lord“. I believe this is apocalyptic language which is important to understand.
Malachi 3:1 also refer to John the Baptist as a Messenger who will prepare the way for the Lord.
Malachi 3:1 (NKJV)
3 “Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me .
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,”
Says the Lord of hosts
NASB is better to understand so let us read again
Malachi 4:5 (NASB) – 5 “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. 6 He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”
Malachi 3:1 (NASB) – 3 “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.
The Jews believed that the actual Elijah who had been translated into Heaven (2 Kings 2:11) was the one who would return to earth physically to be the forerunner of the Messiah. If not because of Jesus, the disciples and us wouldn’t know that this prophecy was referring to John. Believing [Jews] Elijah will come physically, same as most Christians today believe Christ will come back physically, the same person who ascended to heaven. I think this is an important point because Elijah did not come back physically. But Elijah did not come physically, he came in the spirit and power of Elijah in the person of John the Baptist.
Luke 1:17 (NKJV) – 17 He will also 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.”
Now we must ask, will the same Christ who ascended to heaven comeback to earth? That is another story.
Let us go back who is the future [second or third depending what you believe] Elijah. I think it is important to learn what his role and timing of his return.
- clear [prepare] the way
- restore [turn] The hearts of the fathers to the children And the hearts of the children to their fathers
- Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
We will explore the role and timing in details in the later part.
So far, i could not find any other reference of future Elijah prophesies other than Malachi 4:5 and 3:1 so clearly to me there is only one future Elijah. If Christ testified John the Baptist is the fulfillment of (second) Elijah, then if you are willing to believe Christ, then there is only a second Elijah and that’s it. The only possible reference for the third Elijah is from the New Testament in Matthew 17:11.
Matthew 17:10-13 (NKJV) – 10 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
11 Jesus answered and said to them, “ Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. 12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.
What people did is created a third Elijah to fit their doctrines using this part of the Matthew 17:11 “ Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But Christ said “but” in verse 12 “12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already”. Why can’t they just believe our Lord Jesus Christ?
Elijah to clear the way
The role of the future [I am referring future to the Jews in the time of Malachi] Elijah is to clear the way for our Lord.
Isaiah 40:3-4 (NASB)
A voice is calling,
“Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness;
Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
“Let every valley be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill be made low;
And let the rough ground become a plain,
And the rugged terrain a broad valley;
There are not so many articles about John the Baptist just how many he actually baptized. In part one of this series I described the importance of “wilderness“. Now we need to focus of the “desert highway“.
Isaiah 49:11-12 (NKJV)
I will make each of My mountains a road,
And My highways shall be elevated.
Surely these shall come from afar;
Look! Those from the north and the west,
And these from the land of Sinim.”
Isaiah 40:3 speaking of smoothing a highway for our Lord. Isaiah 49:11-12 speaking of “My highways” making mountains a road (Isaiah 40:4, 49:11). Notice also people will come from afar, mostly from north, west and the land of Sinim.
[Side topic: “the land of Sinim” is debated by many. Some claim it is China, some claim it is Australia. So far I never heard it is Philippines. The land is clearly far off, and some scholars says it must be sought either in the South or in the East. Now the word “afar” in Isaiah 49:12 sounds like another keyword for INC. But these keywords: “mountain”, “wilderness”, “highways” are not used for the INC prophesies].
John fulfilled the role of Elijah in the spirit and power by clearing the way for the Lord. John perform the baptism of repentance so that people will be prepared for our Lord Jesus Christ. Read how many people came to John in the wilderness.
Mark 1:5 (NKJV) – 5 Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.
What is the significant of Mark 1:5? “all the land” means many people across the land of Judea and Jerusalem.
First John denied to be a prophet because the Pharisees and Sadducees are expecting a physical appearance of the prophet Elijah. Remember in Malachi “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet….“. John also denied he is Elijah (the physical original person Elijah).
John 1:21 (NASB) And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
But this does not change what Christ testified that John is Elijah, he is fulfilling in the spirit and power of Elijah. John is clearing the way for the Lord who is coming after him. This is part of clearing the way.
John 1:25-27 (NASB) And they asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. 27 “It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
John’s role is to clear the way to our Lord Jesus Christ who comes after him. Jesus baptism, though He has not sinned, is to fulfill the righteousness.
Matthew 3:13-17 (NKJV) – 13 Then Jesus *arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
If we compare Mark 3:7-8 verse from Isaiah 49:12.
Mark 3:7-8 (NASB) And Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples; and a great multitude from Galilee [North], followed; and also from Judea, 8 and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea [South], and beyond the Jordan,[East], and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon,[West], a great multitude heard of all that He was doing and came to Him.
[Side topic: do not confused “afar” from Isaiah 49:12 and what I described “east“, “west“,”north“, “south” from Mark 3:7-8 to the INC claimed prophesy from Isaiah 43:5-6. That is a different prophesy so they are unrelated. However noticed the usage of “afar” . It is used commonly to places in the ancient world of the Old Testament].
John’s role who is to clear the way for our Lord Jesus Christ is now decreasing, and Christ role is increasing
John 3:26-30 (NASB) – 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.” 27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
Clearly, followers of John who met Jesus started following Jesus
Luke 11:1 (NASB)- 11 It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.”
Other John followers who have not met Jesus will later follow Him through the preaching of Paul by being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Please read “Baptism By Water or By Holy Spirit?” if you have not done so.
So far we have covered some many related topics about the role of the second [or third if you believe so] Elijah. So far i have demonstrated there is only a second Elijah and that is John the Baptist as testified by our Lord Jesus Christ. The Old Testament did not prophesied of third Elijah. The new Elijah’s role is to clear the way for our Lord Jesus Christ.
We touched on the role of new Elijah as clearing the way but we will clarify again the role of John the Baptist, who is the fulfillment in the spirit and power of Elijah. Till the next time.