Chapter 12: The Return of Elijah
BIBLE TEACHERS AND pastors know there are a few Bible subjects
that always grab people’s attention. Topics like angels, demons, spiritual
gifts, heaven, and hell are always good for crowd interest. Teaching about events
associated with end times also tends to fascinate people. I’ve heard it advised that if
you want to start a church, your first sermon series should be on the last days.
I, on the other hand, just finished teaching verse-by-verse through the book of
Isaiah. It took me well over a year. My method is not one people would generally
recommend for building church attendance, yet I cannot stress how important it is
that each Christian has a full understanding of the Old Testament prophets. Bible
personalities like Enoch and Daniel may be shrouded in mystery, but we must dive
in and dissect them if we hope to understand God and his plan for mankind.
The Prophet That Comes Before the Judgment
Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, promises that God “will send the
prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes” (Malachi 4:5).
Malachi’s promise applies to all “great and dreadful” days of judgment, like the day
in 70 AD
The prophet God sent to fulfill the role of Elijah before that particular
judgment day was none other than John the Baptist.
“The disciples asked him ( Jesus), ‘Why then do the teachers of the law
say that Elijah must come first?’ Jesus replied, ‘To be sure, Elijah comes
and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they
did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In
the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’ Then the
disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.”
Jesus also says:
“This is the one about whom it is written: ‘I will send my messenger ahead
of you who will prepare your way before you!’ (from Malachi 3:1)…and
if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.”
Matthew 11:9, 10, 14
We should not make the mistake of thinking God is talking about sending
Elijah himself back to earth over and over again to warn people. We know that
when Elijah is spoken of in these verses, it’s a reference to the “role of the ministry
of Elijah.” When John the Baptist is asked, “Who are you? Are you Elijah?” he
replies, “I am not” ( John 1:20, 21).
However, when John the Baptist came to
results that Elijah achieved in 870 BC (thus fulfilling the role of Elijah’s ministry).
Multitudes flocked to hear John speak, and many people repented after hearing
his message. John, the Elijah of his time, brought the people back to a correct
understanding of God.
This is the essence of the “role of Elijah.” The original prophet Elijah warned
cycle. The purpose of Elijah’s ministry was to restore the nation’s relationship with
the Lord. He was to teach the people how to live righteously.
“He (Elijah) will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the
hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the
land with a curse.” Malachi 4:6
A person fulfilling the ministry of Elijah is supposed to restore the foundational
principles of God to a nation so they can avoid being overthrown. Doing this
involves, first and foremost restoring the institutions established by God.
The Seven Institutions
There are seven institutions established by God for the welfare of mankind:
1. Individual Volition – is what each person the authority of his/her own
soul. We all have the freedom to respond positively or negatively in all
circumstances. This is what makes us susceptible to God’s grace or his
justice. Man is ultimately responsible for everything he does.
“And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any
tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Genesis 1:16, 17
In this verse, we hear a command from God establishing the fact that
man is free to choose which tree he eats from. Along with this freedom
comes the responsibility to make the right choice. If a man makes the right
choice, he will reap the benefits of his correct decision. If he uses his freedom
to make the wrong choice, he will suffer.
“The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the
wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.” Ezekiel 18:20b
2. Marriage – is the foundation upon which the greatness of mankind can be
developed and expressed in a society. Without marriage, mankind would do
little beyond survive (much like an animal). Marriage is the bedrock of the
family used to produce and train the next generation. If marriage fails, the
family fails, and society will collapse.
3. Family – is the cornerstone of society. Animals only pass down instincts
to their young, but mankind passes down a set of values. Parents are
for training the next generation, just as
teach the word of God to their children.
“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds…Teach them to your
children, talking about them when you sit…when you walk…when you lie
down…when you get up.” Deuteronomy 11:18, 19
4. Government – was established by God to maintain peace and justice on
earth. Men are to hold each other accountable using this institution.
“He is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for
he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of
wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:4
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and
thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority,
that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
I Timothy 2:1, 2
Governmental authorities are God’s servants to establish order in our
societies by punishing those who don’t conform to a specific standard of
conduct. It is the government’s divine mandate to demand justice while
“By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes
tears it down.” Proverbs 29:4
5. Nations – were instituted to preserve the various earthly governments.
God’s plan to prevent absolute world domination involves separate nations.
This concept was established after the one and only government of the
world was overthrown at the
its place, seventy individual nations were formed (Genesis 10).
“The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have
begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for
them… From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole
earth.” Genesis 11:6, 9
God in a dark world of lost nations. God told Abraham, “I will make you
into a great nation…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”
(Genesis 12:2, 3).
It is through
the earth and his plan for mankind. The savior of the world was promised
who came from the nation of
church, were written by men from
writer in the
entire Bible since before Abraham’s time.) Only through
has God revealed future events leading up to the return of the Messiah and
establishment of his kingdom on earth.
to all nations after the church age ends and the world enters a seven year
tribulation period (Isaiah 60:1-22; 61:6).
7. Church – is the institution set in place by God to proclaim the finished
worked of the Messiah and invite people from all nations to join his
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey
everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19, 2
The church has received the completion of God’s revelation to man. This
revelation was first exposed by the apostles and now comes from people in every
“The commission God gave me to present you—the word of God in its
fullness—the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations,
but is now disclosed to the saints.” Colossians 1:25
“The church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
I Timothy 3:15
“Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you.” II Timothy 1:14
We have seen in our own culture that there is a chain reaction when
foundational institutions established by God start to collapse. When individuals
fail to live with integrity, it affects marriages. When marriages fail, families break
up, and thereby neglect to teach the next generation about morality and selfcontrol.
Because children from these families don’t make the best citizens, the
government must spend more effort on enforcing laws and creating social service
programs. When these immoral children grow up and take over the government,
the government becomes corrupt. A weak nation with bad leadership can be easily
overtaken by its enemies.
More About the Institution of Marriage
When individuals misuse their volition and make selfish decisions, they become
unfaithful covenant breakers. This sin deeply affects the institution of marriage.
Whenever people are immoral or perverted, marriages will breakdown. Honoring
the institution of marriage is necessary for the health of mankind.
Malachi addresses this:
“So guard yourself in your spirit and do not break faith with the wife
your youth. ‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of
man covering his wife with violence as well as with his garment,’ says the
Lord Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit and do not break faith.”
Malachi 2:15, 16
Malachi points back to the first institution of individual volition as a means
for strengthening the second institution of marriage. For a marriage to be strong
and enduring, Malachi tells each partner to “guard yourself in your spirit.” This
admonition is stated twice in two verses. If a man fails to guard his spirit, he
dishonors his individual volition—the first institution given to him by God to
control his life and his eternal destiny.
This same warning is given by Solomon in Proverbs 4:23:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
My wife has often quoted these words to our six sons to prepare them for future
life assaults that will challenge their character. Failure to properly guard the heart
will end in the soul’s corruption. Someone with a corrupt soul sees little harm in
violating covenants and encourages others to do the same.
Malachi 2:13, 14 says:
“Another thing you do: you flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep
and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts
them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, ‘Why?’ It is because the
Lord is acting as witness between you and the wife of your youth, because
You have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the
wife of your marriage covenant.”
Marriage is to be honored by all men, not just believers. Hebrews 13:4 says:
“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed
kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually
Marriage is not just an institution of the church. It greatly benefits the
entire society. For a culture to be strong, marriage should be honored by all people.
When a culture stops honoring marriage, they commit cultural suicide.
Malachi 4:6 closes by saying:
“He (Elijah) will turn the hearts
of the father’s to their children and the hearts of the children to their
fathers or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
It was Elijah’s duty to restore the family. Families can only be restored when
marriages are restored. If individuals use their volition to act honorably, marriages
will again thrive. But if a society doesn’t respond to the ministry of “Elijah,” God
says he will strike the land with a curse. This refers to the fifth cycle of discipline—
the overthrow of a nation.
Around 30 AD, John the Baptist came to
nation was entering the fourth generation and facing the fourth cycle of discipline.
They did not turn from their sin and moved into the fifth cycle of judgment. Forty
years later, in 70 AD, their society was overthrown.
The angel Gabriel announces the birth of John the Baptist to his father
Zechariah in Luke 1:16, 17:
of the people of
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.”
It’s interesting to note a few things in this verse:
1) John will bring many back to the Lord.
2) John will successfully execute the ministry of “Elijah.” Gabriel says John
will go “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” (not as Elijah himself ).
3) The nation of
the fact that John will fulfill his ministry.
4) There is a clear connection to Malachi’s prophecy when Gabriel quotes
the phrase, “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children.”
5) The ultimate purpose of Elijah’s ministry is to prepare people to meet
the Lord. This refers to the Lord’s coming and the twofold results that
will follow: salvation or damnation.
Malachi 3:1 says,
“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.”
The Lord’s coming will be both a day of great joy and a day of great terror.
The next verse asks, “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when
he appears?” How the people responded to John the Baptist prepared
them to meet the Lord either as their savior or as their enemy.
In 30 AD, Jesus Christ came to
many responded. But even those who rejected him had been prepared beforehand
through the ministry of John the Baptist.
John the Baptist and Jesus both came on the scene at the beginning of the
just forty years.
In the middle of the first generation, (63 BC), Pompey, the Roman general stationed
the East, invaded the
insignia and the golden Roman eagle—meaning
from the rising
was a Latin phrase meaning “Senatus Populusque Romanus”
“The Senate and People of
Roman coins, documents, monuments, and public works. The
cycle of judgment (Leviticus 26:17). The first generation had
issued a warning.
respond to this warning. By 70 AD, their time would be up.