A Question I Was Asked:

Is Elijah Still to Come - Or Not?

The Actual Question:

I get really confused about this 'Elijah to come' business. First, and for ten years, I went to a church which stressed that one coming 'in the spirit and power of Elijah' will come before the Second Coming of our Lord, even as John the Baptist came before Jesus, but now I go to a church which does not teach this and believes that John the Baptist fulfilled the whole thing. Please clarify this for me, if you will.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Yes, you could say that this whole 'Elijah to come' business is really quite strange. The Jews have taught a very high place for Elijah at the coming of the Messiah, in fact, according to the Mishna, Elijah is the most vital sign of the resurrection of the dead. Of course, the Jews have not accepted the fact that our Lord has already come and have shown themselves to be unable to correctly interpret their own Hebrew Scriptures in this matter so we must be wary of following their line of reasoning.

As Christians we see that the one who would come 'in the spirit and power of Elijah' was certainly John the Baptist. Consult Malachi 4:5, then look up Luke 1:13-17. This is really not up for negotiation since Jesus Himself confirmed it in Matthew 11:10-14 and Matthew 17:9-13. So Malachi 4:5 was all about the ministry of John the Baptist. Let me repeat: Our Lord Himself confirmed this.

The only point left to consider is the concept that a second one will come 'in the spirit and power of Elijah' just prior to our Lord's return to earth. This concept is really 'a new kid on the block' from a theological point of view. As far as I am aware, none of the 'church fathers,' believed this, neither did the reformers believe this, neither did just about anybody until the rise of the 19th century cults and sects, especially Adventism, and until the rise of Dispensationalism at around the same time. The basic idea is that just as one prepared the way for our Lord's First Coming, so will one prepare the way for our Lord's return to earth, or the Second Coming. However, to divide our Lord's 'Coming' into a "first coming" and "second coming" is not a biblical construct at all, rather, it is imposed upon the Scriptures. Of course, we know that our Lord will return but Scripture itself does not talk about a "first coming" and "second coming" in the manner that some Bible commentators have done. So we need to be careful here.

My submission is that Holy Scripture teaches that John the Baptist fulfilled this prophecy, a fact confirmed by Jesus Himself and that there is no necessity to look for another dual, fulfillment. Having stated that, I would not totally rule it out either, but the worrying thing is that this concept usually only accompanies some really strange and way out prophetic calculations and speculations, many of which seem totally divorced from Scripture.
Robin A. Brace, October 29th 2009.