This is my first question since joining RZIM Connect. So I will keep it simple. Malachi 4:5 states “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord”. Does this mean the Elijah is coming again just before Jesus returns or is this about John the Baptiste. Thank you
@Alweiche Great question! It is clear from Scripture that Jesus identified John the Baptist with the ‘Elijah who was to come’. I have added a note from the NET Bible below for additional clarity on this point.
Matthew 11:13-14 - For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.
I will send you Elijah the prophet . In light of the ascension of Elijah to heaven without dying (2 Kgs 2:11), Judaism has always awaited his return as an aspect of the messianic age (see, e.g., John 1:19-28). Jesus identified John the Baptist as Elijah, because he came in the “spirit and power” of his prototype Elijah (Matt 11:14; 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36).
Revelation and the Two Witnesses
So, why do some people think that Malachi refers to Elijah returning during the dreadful day of the Lord? Because of a passage in Revelation that mentions two witnesses.
Revelation 11:3-6 - And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” 4 They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.” 5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. 6 They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.
These two witnesses have been interpreted to be:
Moses and Elijah or Elijah and Enoch (Elijah and Enoch are the only two men who’ve never died)
the Church - the witnesses are clothed in sackcloth because the preach repentance and the two olive trees (from Zechariah) represent the royal and priestly functions of the Church
they represent all of the witnesses of the Old Covenant, culminating in John
It is important to realize there are 4 main ways of interpreting Revelation:
1 - Futurist - the idea that most of Revelation will occur at the end of history right before the return of Christ
2 - Partial Preterist - most of Revelation was fulfillment by the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and now we only await the return of Christ and new heavens / new earth
3 - Idealist - Revelation has no historical fulfillment - it is instead a depiction of the great struggle that is ongoing in every generation between God’s Kingdom and evil world empires
4 - Historicist - each section of Revelation represents a different portion of history - so we could break history into chunks of a few hundred years and correlate them to Revelation (Roman Empire, Muslim invasions, Papacy) - this view is not common anymore
The identity of these witnesses fits within the wider framework of Revelation. Here is a thread you may find informative as well as a book by Steve Gregg on the four views of Revelation.
So glad you asked a great question - hope to get some more! Hope that was helpful and may the Lord Jesus grant you wisdom