Elijah/Eliyahu

elijahcomes before the great and terrible day of the LORD

Is Elijah one of the Witnesses?

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.” Mal. 4:5-6

Each year, the Jews hope that Elijah will come again to announce the return of Messiah. All Passover services have a break where the children leave that table go to the door and call out to see if Elijah is there. The Rabbis have very elaborate views of Elijah. They teach that his major concern, both in heaven and on earth, is with the fate of the Jewish people. While many Christians mistakenly teach that he will return as one of the two witnesses of The Revelation 11. A careful reading of which shows that there are actually four witnesses. See Also Two Witnesses

What John Said

“And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, he did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” And he answered, “No.” They said to him then, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” John 1:19 -23

John is quoting Isaiah.

“A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” Is. 40:3-5

The confusion come from not understanding what John said of himself. Now at the time the Rabbis where teaching that when Elijah came back to announce the Messiah he would be fulfilling this Isaiah 40 prophecy. So John tells them truthfully that he is not the actual person of Elijah, but  he also makes it quite clear that he is fulfilling the office of Elijah, and doing the things that they expected that Elijah would do.

Lest one think that John didn’t do a very good job at turning the hearts of the people, Matthew records that ALL Jerusalem and Judea and the whole region followed him.

“Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” Matt. 3:5-6

What Messiah Said

Our Lord clearly taught that John the Baptist fulfilled the Malachi prophecy.

For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Matt. 11:13-15

This was the same John who declared:

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29

So why are we sending our children out to call for Elijah/Eliyahu at the close of our Passover service? Mostly because they need to wiggle. They have sat still for far too long. Elijah is not there. He will never be there. He has already come and done his duty, one for which he lost his life.

The Messiah, Himself said of John:

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?”  4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:  5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.  6 And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.” 

7  As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind?  8 Why then did you go out? To see a man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses.  9 Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.  10 This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.’  11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force.  13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John;  14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.  15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Matt. 11:2-15

This all happened before the great and terrible day of the LORD came. The great and terrible day of the Lord was the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. When it was over, the land most certainly was under a curse. (See Also: The Olivet Discourse)

See also: Matt. 3:1-4; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:3 -6

See also our post  Two Witnesses:

If you want to read more about what the Rabbis teach about Elijah read:
The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim 1883
Appendix 11 . ON THE PROPHECY, IS. 40:3

The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim 1883
Appendix 8 RABBINIC TRADITIONS ABOUT ELIJAH THE FORERUNNER OF THE MESSIAH

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