THE THIRD ELIJAH


One of the major prophecies about the end of the age just before the return of Jesus Christ concerns the coming of the third Elijah. Although most Bible students have read about the prophet Elijah, the office of Elijah, and the prophetic coming of Elijah, few understand that he plays a significant role in preaching the gospel.


There following are the three basic theories as to who the third Elijah will be:

 

  1. Elijah will be a prophet selected from among the elect of God to proclaim the gospel message and perform a work similar to the work of the original Elijah.
  2. Elijah is an office, which will be the collective work of thecongregations of God who will proclaim the gospel message.
  3. The ancient prophet Elijah will be resurrected by God to proclaim the coming of the Messiah.

There are no examples in the Bible of a prophet of ancient Israel being brought back from the dead to begin a public ministry. So it is unlikely that this precedent would change. Because both the first and second Elijah were real people who did an individual work, it seems unlikely that this precedent would be changed. Therefore, this study focuses on the possibility of the third Elijah being a real person who is selected by God for a special task right before Christ's return.


THE MESSENGER


Along with a strong warning for all Israelites to repent, return to God, and begin to worship him in truth, the prophet Malachi was inspired to record many major events that would occur just prior to Christ's return. One of these events was the sending of a messenger to prepare the way for this return:


"See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness" (Mal.3:1-3 NIV).

 

Malachi's prophecy contains information about when and how Christ will return. When the messenger has completed his task, Jesus Christ will come very quickly to his temple. Because he will come to his temple, it should be clear that the sending of the third Elijah depends on the events right before and during the existence of a temple in Jerusalem for the worship of the true God. Moreover, Jesus will return as a refiner of metal, which means he will come with great power and wrath to purge his people and the earth of evil before establishing his Father's government and worship system in Jerusalem:


"Behold I am sending you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with utter destruction" (Mal.4:5-6 Para.).


We are not told how long before the day of the Lord that this Elijah will be sent, or how long his ministry will last. We are only told that he will be sent before this time, and that he is charged with preaching a message of repentance and restoration of the faith once delivered. He is sent to preach this message in order to convince people to return to God, so that God will not completely destroy the earth.


There can be no doubt that the third Elijah has an extremely important responsibility and mission concerning the return of Christ and the survival of humanity. Clearly, the third Elijah is the messenger who is sent to prepare the way for Christ's return and perform a great spiritual work of the restoration of truth.


THE FIRST TWO ELIJAHS


In order to recognize the third Elijah and understand the impact that he will have upon the Jews, the ten tribes of Israel, and the world's inhabitants, it is necessary to review the lives and ministries of Elijah the Tishbite and Elijah in the person of John the Baptist.


THE FIRST ELIJAH


The first Elijah was a prophet to the house of Israel during the reigns of King Ahab (874-854 B.C.), his son Ahaziah (853-852 B.C.), and the beginning of Joram's reign in 852 B.C.. He was also a prophet to the house of Judah sometime after 848 B.C.:


"And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in these years, except at my word" (1.Kgs.17:1 Para.).


Elijah is one of the most dynamic men in the entire Bible, yet in this first mention of him, he is merely introduced as Elijah the Tishbite, an inhabitant of Gilead. As a Tishbite he was from Tishbe, a village in Gilead east of the Jordan River, which was the area originally given to Gad and the half-tribe of Manesseh. This is all of the background information that is given about the original Elijah.


The scriptures do not tell us anything about Elijah's lineage or bloodline, or if he was even an Israelite. However, it seems logical that he was an Israelite because of the importance of his mission to Israel and the negative attitude of Israelites toward non-Israelites at that time.


Elijah Punishes Israel


Through God, Elijah the Tishbite caused a drought in Israel to punish the Israelites for worshipping false gods and to punish King Ahab for allowing Israel to become paganized.


"After a long time, in the third year [third year of drought], the word of the Lord came to Elijah: "Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land." So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria" (1.Kgs.18:1-2 NIV).


Three years after Elijah caused a drought in Israel, God sent him to tell king Ahab to repent. Because it was no secret who had caused the drought and why he had caused it, one would think that Ahab would have known that his actions were not acceptable to God, and that God was punishing him because he was allowing Israel to become paganized. However, the first thing Ahab did was accuse Elijah of being a troublemaker:


"So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, "Is that you, you troubler of Israel?" "I have not made trouble for Israel," Elijah replied. "But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the Lord's commands and have followed Baalism" (1.Kgs.18:16-18).


Elijah tells Ahab that his departure from the way of God is the reason for the drought and famine. Elijah brought a very clear message to the civil leader of Israel concerning his and Israel's sins before God and the subsequent punishment for their wicked and rebellious behavior.


Ancient Israel and its leaders had a proclivity to forget God's laws, precepts, and principles and to accept and worship false gods. Today, the same situation exists among the Israelitish peoples; they have forgotten their God and are steeped in many different worship systems that are in opposition to God the Father and Jesus Christ.


God's Instrument Against Evil


"Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, [850 pagan prophets and priests] who eat at Jezebel's table" (1.Kgs.18:19 Para.).


At Mount Carmel, with Ahab and 850 pagan prophets and priests present, Elijah tells them to prepare a sacrifice and ask their gods to show that they are true by consuming the sacrifice. After many hours of incantations, crying, yelling, leaping, dancing, and cutting their flesh in order to get their gods to respond, their sacrifices remained untouched.


When it was evident that the pagan prophets and priests had failed to summon their gods, Elijah prepared a simple rock altar, placed the wood and bullock on it, and had four barrels of water poured on the whole thing. After all of this preparation, Elijah asked God to show these people that he was the true God and that he had sent him to say and do the things that he did:


"And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the sacrifice, that Elijah came near and said, Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me; and this people shall know that you are the Lord God, and that you shall turn their hearts back again. And fire fell from the Lord God and consumed the burnt offering, and the wood, and the stones and the dust, and the water that was in the trench was licked up by it. And the people saw, and fell on their faces, and said, The Lord, he is God! the Lord he is God!" (1.Kgs.18:36-39 Para.).


With a demonstration of great power, God showed his acceptance of Elijah's offering. God also showed that when Elijah asked something of him, he would take action to fulfill his request. Elijah had a tremendous amount of authority and power from God, which he could use at his discretion for the purpose of turning the Israelites away from evil and toward righteousness.


"Then Elijah commanded them, "Seize the prophets of Baal [all these religious leaders, all 850 of them]. Don't let anyone get away!" They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered them there" (1.Kgs.18:40 NIV).


Elijah did not hesitate to use his authority and power as a prophet of God to punish wicked and rebellious behavior in order to proclaim the message of repentance that God had given him. He aggressively reprimanded both civil and religious leaders who were in opposition to the true God and he eliminated those he perceived as a threat to his mission. See 2.Kgs.1:1-12.


Selected by God


From what is recorded about Elijah, it is clear that God selected him as a prophet and communicated directly with him. At Mount Carmel, Elijah announced that his authority and power to do the things that he did came from the Creator God. Moreover, one of Elijah's responsibilities was proclaiming God's message of repentance, so God could turn the Israelites from paganism to his teachings.


Elijah the Miracle Worker


Elijah had a very powerful ministry and worked many miracles through the awesome power that God gave him. The following are some of those miracles:

 

  1. He caused the rain to cease for three and a half years.
  2. He caused it to rain after three and a half years of drought.
  3. He created food as an act of mercy.
  4. He resurrected a dead child as a very special blessing.
  5. He caused God to consume his offering with fire as a display of his authority.
  6. He caused fire to consume two different groups of soldiers that came to arrest him.
  7. He parted the Jordan River at the completion of his active ministry in Israel.

Where Did Elijah Go?


After Elijah had finished his primary work in Israel, he was sent to the house of Judah to continue his ministry as a prophet. It was then that Elisha assumed the responsibility as prophet to Israel.

A Letter From Elijah.


After Elijah left Israel, he sent a letter to king Jehoram whose reign began in 848 B.C. This letter stated that punishment would come upon Jehoram and the nation of Judah for their wickedness and rebellion against God:


"Also, he had made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the people of Jerusalem to commit fornication, and led astray Judah. And a writing came to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, So says the Lord, the God of your father David, Because you have not walked in the ways of your father Jehoshaphat, and in the ways of Asa the king of Judah, and you walk in the way of the kings of Israel, and caused Judah and the people of Jerusalem to commit fornication like the fornications of the house of Ahab; and also you have killed your brothers, the house of your father, who were better than yourself; behold the Lord shall strike with a great destruction among your people, and among your sons, and among all your goods; and you, with many sicknesses, with disease in your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the sickness, day by day" (2.Chron.21:11-15 Para.).


Elijah's letter to King Jehoram shows that, after Elijah's departure from Israel in a fiery chariot, he was still alive and actively preaching a message of repentance to the covenant people.


THE SECOND ELIJAH—JOHN THE BAPTIST


"In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly" (Lk.1:5-6 NIV).

 

John's mother was of the Aaronic bloodline and his father was a priest of the course of Abijah, which means that he was also of the Aaronic bloodline. Therefore, both of the parents of John the Baptist were of the tribe of Levi.


Selected by God


Before John was born, his father was told that he would have a son, and that this son would herald the coming of the Messiah who would bring salvation to the world.


"He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. . . and he will be filled with the holy spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Lk.1:14-17 NIV).


John was selected before his conception to announce the advent of the Messiah. He was also chosen to turn the hearts of the people to righteousness, just as the first Elijah did.


"And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest [God the Father]: for you shall go before the face of the Lord [Jesus Christ] to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation to his people by the remission of their sins,. . . To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" (Lk.1:76-77,79 KJV). See also Matt.1:18-22.

John the Baptist was a representative of God the Father, whereas the first Elijah was a representative of the Creator God who became the Messiah. This is an important understanding, because the third Elijah will represent and have authority and power from both God the Father and Jesus Christ.


John's Mission


"As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before my face, which shall prepare your way before you. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Mk.1:2-3 KJV). See also Isa.40:3-5; Matt.11:7-10; Lk.3:2-4.


John's mission was to lay the foundation for God the Father's messenger (the Messiah) to build upon. John was to make the announcement of the coming message and the messenger and to set the boundaries of the message that the messenger would give—"make his paths straight." Therefore, John's message contained the foundational elements of the things that Jesus Christ would teach, such as repentance, forgiveness of sin, baptism, and the Kingdom of God:


"John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission [pardon or deliverance] of sins" (Mk.1:4 KJV).


"In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, And saying, Repent you: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt.3:1-2 KJV).


Jesus did not deviate from the message that John announced that he would proclaim. From the beginning to the end of his ministry, Jesus explained in great detail the things that concern repentance, pardon of sin, baptism, and the Kingdom of God.


THE WORD AND THE LIGHT


"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him [The Word, The Logos]; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shined in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not" (Jn.1:1-5 KJV). See our study concerning the identity of God for details pertaining to the relationship between the Creator God and God the Father.


"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world" (Jn.1:6-9 KJV).


The apostle John clearly says that Jesus was the Light of God who came to illuminate the world with spiritual insight, and that John the Baptist was the one who God sent to prepare the way for the coming of the Light (i.e., Jesus Christ).


Religious Leaders


"But when he [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees [the religious ruling class and those who were priests] coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham" (Matt.3:7-9 NIV).


When John tells these religious leaders that they need to repent, he knows that they think they are righteous because they look to the teachings of the Patriarchs (the spiritual fathers of Israel). This is why John says what he does about their reliance on Abraham. He tells them that they cannot rely on Abraham for their salvation.


A Great Man


"Jesus said of John the Baptist, what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you. I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist: yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matt.11:9-11 Para.).


John was a great man. He had impeccable character and performed a great work for God. The birth and ministry of John the Baptist was the second most important birth and ministry that has ever happened on earth, because John made the announcement of the coming of the Messiah who would reveal and proclaim the good news from God the Father.


How did John the Baptist prepare the way for the first advent of Jesus? John made the announcement of the coming of the Messiah to redeem humanity. Among other things, John's message contained the foundational elements of the things that Jesus Christ would teach, such as repentance, forgiveness of sin, baptism, and the Kingdom of God.


MISSIONS OF THE FIRST TWO ELIJAH'S

 

The following are some of the similarities between the missions of Elijah and John the Baptist:

 

THE THIRD ELIJAH


Why Elijah Must Come


The disciples were well versed in the prophecies as many of their day were; however, they did not understand them. They knew that the prophet Malachi foretold that God would send Elijah before the advent of the Messiah, which is the reason for their question concerning Elijah:


"And his disciples asked him, 'Why do the Scribes say that Elijah must come first? Jesus replied, Elijah truly will come first and restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him what ever they wanted to do. Likewise shall the Son of Man suffer at their hands.' Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist" (Matt.17:10-13 Para.). See also Matt.11:10-14; Mk.9:11-13.


Jesus clearly says that John the Baptist was the prophetic Elijah who was to come before the Messiah. When he says, "Elijah truly will come first and restore all things," Jesus reveals that Malachi's prophecy concerns yet another Elijah to come after John the Baptist. The reason another Elijah must come is that John the Baptist did not come to restore anything; however, when the third Elijah comes he will be involved in the restoration of all things, but what are these things that he will restore?


The Prophecy


The only clear prophecies concerning Elijah's ministry during the time just prior to Christ's return as Lord of lords and King of kings are found in the prophecies of Malachi and Matthew:


"Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me. . ." (Mal.3:1 KJV).


"Behold I am sending you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with utter destruction" (Mal.4:5-6 Para.).


"And Jesus replied, Elijah truly will come first and restore all things" (Matt.17:11 Para.).


Within these three prophecies are the keys to understanding the ministry of Elijah during the end of the age. Notice that he will prepare the way before Christ's return, and that he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the sons and the sons to the fathers.


The Fathers and the Sons


The prophetic reference to fathers and sons by Malachi is a reference to the fathers who taught the truth of God: the Patriarchs, Moses, the Aaronic priesthood, and later, the Apostles. The sons are a reference to those who are taught the righteous ways of God through these teachers of righteousness.


The Things to be Restored


The prophetic reference by Jesus of the restoration of all things is a reference to the restoration of God's worship system. The restoration of God's worship system includes the sacrifices and Jesus' teachings concerning the salvation of humanity and the spiritual relationship between God the Father and his elect children. See our study papers concerning the covenants and the sacrificial system that will be established after the return of Christ.


The message of the third Elijah is centered around the restoration of the truth of God. Therefore, we should expect the third Elijah to restore an understanding of how the worship system that God instituted at Mount Sinai and the worship system that Jesus Christ instituted at Jerusalem work together in the salvation of any who will believe and worship God the Father in truth.


When these two aspects of the Father's worship system are restored and understood in the light of his plan for the salvation of humanity and are believed by those whom he calls to salvation, it can truly be said that the hearts of the fathers are turned to the sons and the sons to the fathers, because belief in and adherence to God's true worship system results in a return to a harmonious relationship between the fathers who taught righteousness (i.e., the Patriarchs, Moses, Aaron, the Apostles, and others) and the sons (i.e., those who are taught righteousness and believe).


To Whom is the Third Elijah Sent?


The first Elijah and the second Elijah (John the Baptist) were both sent to the covenant people (Israelites). All the prophecies concerning national Israel just prior to Christ's return clearly show a powerful warning and witness message being given to the house of Judah (the Jews) and the house of Israel (the ten scattered tribes of Israel). From these prophecies, we can see that the third Elijah will also proclaim God's message to Israel.


If indeed the third Elijah is sent to modern day Israel, his message will be heard loud and clear in the Jewish nation of Israel as well as the Israelitish nations, which include the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Northwestern European nations.

 

The Third Elijah's Message


When we review the ministries of the first Elijah and the second Elijah (who came in the spirit and power of the first), we find that both had one major thing in common—the proclaiming of a powerful warning message of repentance to God's covenant people and calling for them to ed for them to return to the uncorrupted worship of the true God to avoid his wrath.


The primary emphasis of the ministries of the first two Elijahs concerned the establishment and/or restoration of a spiritual relationship between God and his chosen people. It is also evident by what is said of the third Elijah's ministry that this will also be one of his messages.


A Warning of Punishment


Before God administers punishment, he always sends a prophet to warn his covenant people that he is about to punish them for their wickedness and rebellion against him. Therefore, because the third Elijah will be a prophet, it seems logical that, he will give Israel a warning message concerning the consequences of not repenting along with his call for Israel to repent and return to their God.


If the third Elijah comes with the same type of authority and discretionary power as the first Elijah, he will more than likely use this power like the first Elijah did in the performance of his responsibilities.


How Will Elijah be Recognized?


Because the second Elijah was not recognized until Christ revealed that he was John the Baptist, it is logical to ask how the third Elijah will be recognized for who and what he is. There are three major things that will help one to recognize the third prophet Elijah:

 

  1. His message of the restoration of the spiritual truths concerning God's first covenant with national Israel and the new covenant that God the Father established through Jesus Christ.
  2. His call for the civil and religious leaders and the people of the houses of Judah and Israel to repent and return to the true worship of God.
  3. His knowledge, understanding, and proclamation of the true gospel message as set forth by Jesus Christ, the apostles, and the unified spirit-filled body of Christ.


By B. L. Cocherell and Charles E. Barrett

File b2w6 7/07