On Elijah of the Old Testament and John the Baptist and the Elijah or Elias who is mentioned in the New Testament

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Some religious groups have dogmas regarding Elijah. They wait for him to come on the scene, at some future time. What does the Bible actually say about this? We know that Jesus said that John the Baptist was an “Elijah”. So, did John fulfil the prophecy which we find in Malachi 4:5–6, or is there an Elijah yet to come? This article considers that matter.

Luke 1:11–17 records how an angel spoke to a man called Zacharias, concerning a child his wife Elisabeth was to bear. Verses 16–17, “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (ESV01) That was regarding John the Baptist.

Matthew 11:14 records that Jesus said to the Jews, regarding John the Baptist, “and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come” (ESV01). More:

Matthew 17:10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist. (ESV01)

It is in the last verses of the Old Testament that we find a prophecy regarding the coming of an Elijah:

Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (ESV01)

Those verses say that an “Elijah” will come, before the day of the Lord. That appears to be connected to events which have not taken place yet. This indicates that the “Elijah” who is mentioned in those verses, is still to come. Likewise, it appears that Jesus’ words “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things” (Matthew 17:11, ESV01) referred to a future Elias (Elijah), even though also John the Baptist was an “Elijah”.

The following takes a closer look at the first Elijah, what he did and in what manner. This can make it easier to form a picture of what one might expect the coming Elijah to be doing.

1 Kings 17 is the first bible-passage where Elijah is mentioned.

1 Kings 17 records how Elijah told king Ahab that there would be no rain.

1 Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” (ESV01)

The wider context shows that rain was stopped for three and a half years.

(Please note that the earlier quoted Malachi 4:5–6 was written a long time after the events of 1 Kings 17, and contains a prophecy regarding another “Elijah” who was to come.)

In the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the prophet is called Eliyah, sometimes in the form Eliyahu. In the Greek texts of the Septuagint (LXX) and the New Testament, he is called Êlias.

Elijah wore hairy clothing, and so did John the Baptist.

Some have claimed that Elijah was “a hairy man”. One “bible dictionary” claims that Elijah’s “chief characteristic was his hair, long and thick, and hanging down his back”. – Consider this: Does the Bible say that Elijah had that kind of hair? No.

The thought that Elijah would have had “long hair”, might eventually come from translations which have in 2 Kings 1:7 such wordings as “he was a hairy man”. But, it appears that that mention of hair actually referred to his clothing.

2 Kings 1:7 He said to them, “What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?” 8 They answered him, “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.” (ESV01, highlighting added)

Even John the Baptist, who also was an “Elijah”, was clothed in that manner. We read:

Matthew 3:4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. (ESV01, highlighting added)

Add to that: The Greek text of Revelation 11 indicates that even the two witnesses will wear clothing of that kind. There are some notes on those two men, later in this article.

The event when the apostles Peter, James and John saw Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah.

Matthew 17:3 records how those three men, apparently in a vision, saw Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah.

Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. (ESV01)

It was when Jesus, Peter, James and John after that vision came down from the mountain, that they had this conversation:

Matthew 17:9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist. (ESV01)

Again, verse 11 indicates that even though John the Baptist was an “Elijah”, there still remains an “Elijah” to come. Also the earlier quoted Malachi 4:5–6 indicates this.

Similarities between Elijah and the two witnesses.

The former Elijah wore hairy clothing. He could call down fire which devoured his enemies (2 Kings 1:10–14). He shut the skies, so that for a very long time there was no rain (1 Kings 17:1 – 18:41). And, he was taken up to heaven (2 Kings 2:11). Compare those things, with what the book of Revelation says about the two witnesses who are to come:

Revelation 11:3 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” [a] 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. 5 And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. 6 They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. 7 And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, 10 and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. 11 But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. 13 And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. (ESV01, highlighting added)

a Verse 3, “sackcloth” – the Greek text has sakkos, referring to a coarse material made of animal hair. ‘Greek-English Lexicon’ by Liddell and Scott defines sakkos as “coarse cloth of hair, esp. of goats’ hair” and “anything made of this cloth”.

As you can see, there are many similarities between Elijah of the Old Testament, and the two witnesses who are to come. Even the latter will close the skies so that there will be no rain. Even they will wear clothing made of animal hair. Even their enemies will be consumed by fire. And, even they will be taken up to heaven when their work is finished.

The article nta010.htm has more on the two witnesses.

Moses-related things.

As was noted earlier, Jesus let Peter, James and John see Moses and Elijah, apparently in a vision.

Above, it was shown that there are several similarities between the two witnesses and their work, and Elijah and what he did. There are also similarities between the two witnesses and Moses.

The Bible tells us that the two witnesses will be able to smite the earth (or, “the land”) with plagues, and turn water into blood. That is also what Moses and his brother Aaron did, in the past.

And, comparing Moses and Elijah: Moses met the Lord at Horeb (Mount Sinai). Also the Elijah of the Old Testament went to that mountain, to meet the Lord there, see 1 Kings 19.

Preparing a people for the Lord.

Luke 1:17 shows that John the Baptist was an “Elijah” who “made ready a people prepared for the Lord”. There are similarities between that, and Moses and the two witnesses.

Moses brought a people to meet the Lord, at Horeb (Mount Sinai). Regarding the two witnesses: A number of things indicate that it is during their work that the great, innumerable multitude of people who turn to God, will come into being. If so, then even they will be involved in “preparing a people for the Lord”.

The article nta010.htm considers the two witnesses and their work. The article nta030.htm has some notes on the great, innumerable multitude, and also on the 144000, and the difference between those two groups.

‘Turning the hearts of the children to the fathers’, Malachi 4:5–6.

We read:

Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (ESV01)

The meaning of verse 6 is not fully clear, but it is quite obvious that that talk about “fathers” and “children” is not about relations between members of individual families but something else. It may be that in that passage, the word “fathers” refers to the patriarchs (such men as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and those patriarchs’ “hearts” – their ways and manners and their faithfulness towards the Lord.

In other words: It appears that in the future, the hearts of those patriarchs’ descendants will be “turned to the fathers” (to the patriarchs), and that those people will be given “hearts” of the kind the patriarchs had.

Elijah destroyed the priests of the sun-god Baal.

One of the things that Elijah did, was that he showed to the Israelites who is the true God. This is recorded in 1 Kings 18. That event was at the end of the 3½ years when it did not rain.

1 Kings 18:21 – “‘And Elijah came near to all the people and said, How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.’ And the people did not answer him a word.” (ESV01) Then Elijah (actually the Lord) gave those people a sign that all could understand. After this (verse 40), Elijah said to the people, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” This was then done, and the priests of Baal were executed by the Brook Kishon.

In that way, Elijah turned many Israelites back to the Lord, away from idols. You can read the full story in 1 Kings 18.

In short.

There is an “Elijah” yet to come. It appears that he will be seen and heard and known by the whole world. Further, it seems likely that the “Elijah to come” is in some way connected to the two witnesses, or is identical with them or one of them.

See also the “recommended reading” section, below.

Please send or mention the address to this site to others. You can also link to these pages. The address to the table of contents page is biblepages.net/articles.htm

Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters

An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa090.htm

The two witnesses of the book of Revelation. Also: Similarities between their work and that of Moses, Elijah and John the Baptist. → nta010.htm

Who are the 144000 and the great multitude of Revelation 7? And, who are the first-fruits or virgins of Revelation 14:1–4? → nta030.htm

Moses – Jesus the Second Moses – parallels between Moses and Jesus – the seat of Moses – Jesus, Moses and Elijah. → noa080.htm

What does the Bible say about the “great tribulation”? On Matthew 24:21 and Revelation 7:14. → nta040.htm

What does the Bible say about authority? Who has biblical, spiritual or religious authority? Who can speak for God? → nsa060.htm


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