This is written to counter a recent article circulating the net claiming the people of God should expect Elijah to come back to earth before the Return of Christ. It is not the first time I have heard this teaching, and it is false! Realize, it is important to challenge such teaching, for if we are not grounded in truth, we make ourselves vulnerable to deception in the end times.
Here is the background. At the beginning of Matthew 17, Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John. They witnessed Him transform into His true, glorious form, where Scripture tells us ‘His face shone like the sun and His clothing became white as light’.
Appearing alongside Jesus were the spirits of Moses and Elijah. Peter in his enthusiasm offered to make booths for each of them, momentarily failing to realize Who should have been his only priority. God’s voice came from heaven in response, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”
So often, just like Peter, we slide off point in attempting to interpret the will of God and His Word. The focal point, the bullseye if you will, is always Messiah. Any movement, however slight, off center of Him misses the mark.
You see, Moses and Elijah appeared along with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration to make a point. The most revered prophets of Judaism were with Jesus! Then God made sure everyone present understood which of them was solely Lord and Master: His Son!
The circulating article I mentioned at the start, conjectured that when Elijah returns in the end times, he will likely ‘restore’ traditions of Judaism before the return of Christ. Oops, he missed the mark and the priority, that being Christ, not Judaism!
Now, I love teaching that helps us understand our Hebraic roots and connects Old and New Testaments. It helps us put all the pieces of the Scriptural puzzle together, and when it is done right, it points us to our Savior again and again. This is already happening through great scholars today like Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, for one.
But, any teaching that the people of God must return to traditions or especially laws of Judaism is strictly false and misleading. The New Testament declared the law obsolete. Paul explained it once served as a ‘nanny’ to the ancient people of God, and was retired at the cross. We now have our Bridegroom and His Spirit to guide us. To crawl back to the nanny is absurd and offensive to Him!
Back to Elijah. Should we expect him to come again, to restore Judaism and usher in the end times before Christ returns? No. Jesus, in Matthew 17, makes it very plain that Elijah already came a second time, and His mission was none other than to point the way to Christ.
Listen in to His conversation with the disciples:
His disciples asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say Elijah must come first?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘Elijah certainly comes first, and restores all things. But I say to you, Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, and have done to him what they wished. Likewise also the Son of man shall suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptist.
Friends, I do not pretend to fully understand how John the Baptist echoed Elijah. Was he a literal reincarnation of the ancient prophet? Or, did he possess a symbolic spirit of Elijah, bring back the same message as Elijah? I have heard it taught different ways.
John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit from the womb of his mother, Elizabeth.
13 But the angel said to him, Fear not, Zacharias: for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elisabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you shall have joy and gladness; and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and will drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. Luke 1:13-15
And it happened, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe (John) leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit… Luke 1:41
John the Baptist’s birth and life was indeed unique. The Spirit and hand of God were powerfully upon him.
But, John the Baptist denied being Elijah in John 1:19-23. So, that leaves us to believe he was not a reincarnation of Elijah, but rather an echo of his voice, his teaching.
Back to our question, will Elijah come yet another time? From the Matthew 17 passage, the core message is clear. Jesus informed us no matter how you look at it, Elijah’s message already echoed on earth a second time through John the Baptist before the ministry of Christ began.
This leaves us with a solid conclusion: Elijah is not coming yet another time. For, the focal point in time for which the prophet Elijah and John the Baptist were prepping us was Jesus’ ministry/death/resurrection, not His end-time return.
The time of the cross was the most important moment in human history! Within that pivotal event lies the identity of our Savior, that He gave everything for us, and that He became the only way through Whom we can be restored to the Father.
Once more, hear the words of God the Father, and then listen to those of His Son, as He instructed!
This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him! (God, the Father; Matt 17:5)
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (Jesus; John 14:6)
Before closing, let’s reflect once more on the message of John the Baptist, for it is most certainly needed today!
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’ This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him’.”
John did what was prophesied and prepared the way for Jesus to be received by His people. And Jesus brought the kingdom of heaven to earth, as John declared.
Will you recognize the focal point of the entire Bible, and of history: Jesus our Redeemer and Messiah, and know and trust Him today?