THE COMING OF ELIJAH #2
Malachi 4:5-6 said “Elijah” would come before the Day of the Lord. This is one of the most significant predictions in the Bible, for Jesus clearly said that Elijah came in the first century. This means that the Day of the Lord had to have occurred in the first century as well!
In Matthew 11:9-15, Jesus spoke of John the Immerser and said he was the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1, “Behold I send my messenger before my face, and he will prepare the way before Me.” This is the same as saying that John was Elijah, because Malachi 3:1f and Malachi 4:5-6 are parallel. Jesus goes ahead to confirm that John was the predicted Elijah, “For all the prophets and the Law was until John, And if you are willing, to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (My emp.)
Our premillennial friends like to say that Jesus was saying John was Elijah “contingently”; in other words, he was Elijah only if Israel accepted him as Elijah, but since they didn’t, then he wasn’t! This is not what Jesus was saying!
Note that Jesus said, “He who has ears, let him hear!” This was a call to spiritual discernment. It was a call to look beyond appearances. The Jews expected Elijah to come literally, and to be a dominant force in society, correcting societal ills. However, when Jesus was speaking, John sat in prison, and would soon die due to the wickedness of Herodias. Thus, sitting in prison, John certainly did not meet the preconceived ideas of the day. But Jesus, by using that idiomatic expression “He who has ears to hear,” was telling them that appearances did not determine the truth of who John really was!
In Matthew 17, the disciples, with Jesus, on the Mount of Transfiguration, saw Elijah. On the way down from the Mt. Jesus told the disciples not to tell anyone of what they saw. were Perplexed, they asked, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” (v. 10). They had just seen the “real” Elijah and naturally wanted to tell everyone, but Jesus would not let them! Why? Was it because Elijah would “come again” in the future? No, it was because the “real” Elijah was not what the prophecies predicted!
Jesus continued, “Elijah truly is coming first and will restore all things, But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished.” Then disciples “understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptist.” (Matthew 17:12-13).
Now, if John was Elijah only if the Jews accepted him then Jesus was wrong to say that Elijah had come already, because the Jews had already killed John! According to the “he was Elijah contingently” theory, Jesus should have announced to the disciples that the “real” Elijah would come some day, because the “contingent Elijah” had been rejected. But he did not do this.
Jesus did not look forward to another Elijah, he looked back to the work of John, ignoring the fact that the “real” Elijah had just appeared, and said “Elijah has come already!” This has profound implications for when the Day of the Lord was to come, for when we look at the message of Elijah, aka, John the Baptist, there is no doubt that he preached that the Day of the Lord was near in the first century. If John was Elijah, and if he said that the Day of the Lord was near in the first century, then the Day of the Lord either happened then, or John, as Elijah, failed the test of a prophet! More later.