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 when Jerusalem was destroyed at the hands of the Romans.

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.”

Matthew 17:10-13


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 Israel in 29 AD, he achieved the same

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

Israel about a soon-coming famine in the days of King Ahab’s rebellion. Elijah was

supposed to lead Israel out of Baal worship and help reverse the four generation

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

responsible for training the next generation, just as Israel was commanded to

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

ruling justly.


“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

ancient world was overthrown at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9) and, in

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


6. Israel – is the nation chosen for the purpose of preserving the knowledge of

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 Israel that we have the recorded history of God’s work on

the earth and his plan for mankind. The savior of the world was promised

by prophets who came from the nation of Israel. Jesus Christ himself was a

product of Israel. The New Testament scriptures, which are the foundation

of the church, were written by men from Israel. (Luke is the only Gentile

writer in the entire Bible since before Abraham’s time.) Only through Israel

has God revealed future events leading up to the return of the Messiah and

the establishment of his kingdom on earth. Israel will again represent God

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

of your youth. ‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel, ‘and I hate a

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 Israel with the ministry of Elijah. His

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:


 “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.”


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 Judah will be destroyed in forty years (70 AD) despite

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 Israel. Jesus presented himself as a deliverer, and

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

fourth generation in Israel. Jerusalem was going to be destroyed by the Romans in

just forty years.


In the middle of the first generation, (63 BC), Pompey, the Roman general stationed

in the East, invaded the land of Palestine. The Romans set up their standard with the

SPQR insignia and the golden Roman eagle—meaning Israel was officially under

occupation from the rising Roman Empire. The SPQR insignia

was a Latin phrase meaning “Senatus Populusque Romanus

or “The Senate and People of Rome.” This referred to the

government of the Roman Republic, and it appeared on all

Roman coins, documents, monuments, and public works. The

Roman occupation of Israel was a manifestation of the first

cycle of judgment (Leviticus 26:17). The first generation had

been issued a warning. Israel would be given four generations to

respond to this warning. By 70 AD, their time would be up.