One of the prophecies in the Hebrew Bible is that Elijah, the prophet, must come prior to the Messiah. When Elijah arrives on the scenes, we know that the time is close when Jerusalem will finally have her future king.
- ““For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts. 4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules[b] that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. 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.”[c]” Malachi 4:1-6
The Jewish leaders were asking Jesus about this prophecy in Malachi to see if he knew the reason why Elijah would come before “The day.”
- “11 And they asked [Jesus], “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 12 And [Jesus] said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”” Mark 9:11-13
We covered what the “son of man” actually is in another post, so we won’t cover that here. The next point we will cover is that Jesus said that Elijah did come, which means that the promised prophet had come to turn hearts towards each other and to ‘restore all things’ as Jesus states. Jesus makes this statement to state that John the Baptist was that prophet, but Jesus states that Elijah, aka, John the Baptist, was suppose to be beheaded according to the prophecy in Malachi. I’m not exactly sure if this is what Jesus was referring to, but what else happened to John at the hands of others besides being thrown in prison. The prophecy states no where that Elijah would be either thrown in prison or beheaded and killed.
Matthew seems to agree that John the Baptist is in fact the prophet Elijah from Micah.
- “11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence,[d] and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear,[e] let him hear.” Matthew 11:11-15
But oddly, John the Baptist, himself, says “I am NOT Elijah,” So, from his own mouth, he denies it. So, according to Matthew, since John said “I am not Elijiah”, then John would not ‘have ears to hear’ because he didn’t agree with Matthew. Obviously, John didn’t really know who he was then… identity crisis, I guess.
- “19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight[h] the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”” John 1:19-23
So, what does all this mean?
- John doesn’t think he is Elijah
- Both Jesus and Matthew state that John is Elijah
- Prophecies about Elijah quoted by Jesus did not exist in Malachi, and so were either made up by Jesus, or the writer of Matthew made up the quote. Those seem to be our only two options.
Obviously, if the Malachi prophecy is true and we are awaiting a prophet to restore the children to their fathers and visa versa, this has not happened, and thus Elijah has not yet come according to Malachi. And, if Elijah has not yet come, then the Messiah has also not yet come.