Immediately after seeing Elijah and Jesus together on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt. Hermon) the disciples ask Jesus about Malachi’s prophecy concerning the return of Elijah and the Jewish teachers' interpretation of that prophecy.
Jesus’ answer refers to two events in history:
- One is future: “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things.”
- The other has already occurred: “But I tell you, Elijah has already come.”
The coming of John the Baptist was the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy:
“I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome 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 strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
– Malachi 4:5,6
Notice the conditional clause in Malachi’s prophecy – Elijah will come and restore Jewish society
to a right heart before God, but if they do not respond, the land of Israel will be utterly destroyed.
This perfectly describes John the Baptist’s ministry,the lack of response by Israel to repentance,
and the Roman destruction that followed. The angel Gabriel introduces John’s ministry to John’s father Zechariah when Gabriel announced the conception of John:
“He (John) will go before him (God) in the spirit and power of Elijah.” - Luke 1:17
John the Baptist partially fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy, but the people rejected him and the Lord at
that time. This means Elijah will come again before the “great and dreadful day of the Lord”
(Malachi 4:5). Jesus indicates that this second time, “to be sure, Elijah comes and will restore
all things.” In the future Elijah will appear in history and this time Israel will respond with national repentance. At this point in history they will be restored to the Lord’s favor and history will once
again be drastically affected.
Paul writes the logical conclusion concerning the coming days of Elijah and the restoration of Israel:
“If their rejection means the reconciliation of the world (church age, evangelizing of Gentile world), what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead (resurrection, kingdom age)?" – Romans 11:15