Elijah The Herald (“The King Is Coming”)
The next shattering event in the history of our earth will be the arrival of God’s prophet Elijah. His mission: to announce the approach of the coming King of the World, Jesus Christ. This is the promise of the Word of God, and its fulfillment is as sure as that day follows night and summer follows winter.
Breaking the Silence
We today find believing hard because we are so far removed from any open demonstrations of Divine power. We have never seen fire come down from heaven and devour a sacrifice. We have never seen the sick healed or the sight of the blind restored. We have never seen an unbeliever struck dead, or a dead person restored to life. Why? Because we live in a time when God is silent. We have seen no signs from heaven nor any open manifestation of Divine power. Neither did our grandparents, or great grandparents, or our great-great grandparents. For many years now, God has been silent.
But He will not always remain silent. He will speak again, and when He speaks, all who live will hear Him. Says His prophet Joel, “The LORD will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble” (Joel 3:16 NIV).
Prophecies of the Herald
When any famous person is visiting, someone is responsible for making advance preparations. Just so, God has arranged that the prophet Elijah will prepare the way for the approach of Jesus Christ. These are the words of His prophet Malachi:
“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He 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” (Mal 4:5-6, NIV).
Is this all we are told? No, Jesus Himself confirmed the promise when He said: “Elias [the Greek form of Elijah] truly shall first come, and restore all things” (Matt. 17:11). And Jesus spoke these words after John the Baptist was dead.*
Christ’s Coming Foretold
Of all subjects of Bible prophecy, one stands out in sharpest clarity: that Jesus Christ is coming back. His own words spoken before He ascended state the promise emphatically: “I will come again” (John 14:3).
The disciples who stood by as Jesus ascended into heaven heard the comforting words of “two men” clothed “in white apparel”—angels—who said, “This same Jesus,… will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11, NIV). The promise is definite: “This same Jesus … will come.”
Jesus’ own words confirm the promise: “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done” (Matt. 16:27, NIV)
The promise is repeated more than 300 times in the New Testament alone. Jesus Christ will come.”
Someone might object: Is this all—only two obscure prophecies of the event in the whole Bible, and we are expected to take it seriously? Well, just how many times should God have to speak before we believe it—three times, five times, ten times…?
The Mission of the Herald
What will Elijah’s advance arrival accomplish?
1: A Warning
The primary mission of Elijah will be the task of warning the people of earth.
It has always been God’s pattern to warn of approaching judgments. If Christ were to walk into our world today and begin pouring out judgment on all immoral and unchrist-like behavior, how many would survive? Would not the earth quite literally be smitten “with a curse”?
But God is longsuffering. This is why He warns, and warns, and warns. Before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, He sent His angels with a warning. Before the flood, He sent Noah. Before the destruction of Jerusalem, there was a time for the people to escape. Before the kingdoms of Israel and Judah fell into captivity, there was a long period of warning.
And before He sends Jesus Christ with judgments upon all sin and iniquity worldwide, He has arranged that there be worldwide warning.
Malachi’s prophecy, though not specific, suggests this warning, along with a revolutionary change in the thinking of large numbers of people: “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” The result will be an averting of more severe judgment: “Else I will come, and strike the land with a curse.”
2: A Restoring
Jesus says of Elijah’s coming that he will “restore all things” (Matt. 17:11). What might a prophet of God restore? What was present or available at a former time, then was removed? Most notable is the power of the Holy Spirit—power dispensed to a limited number on the Day of Pentecost. Those who had it were able to heal, to raise the dead, to teach by divine knowledge, to foretell future events, to speak in a tongue they never learned, and so on and on. This power, was vital in confirming the message of the Apostles and in spreading the gospel during the first century. Then, suddenly, according to the plan of God, it ceased.
This power will be dispensed worldwide when Christ returns, for we read that “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18 NIV). Is it not fitting that Elijah should restore such power, in preparation for the arrival of Jesus Christ?
Two facts stand out about Elijah in history: 1) He is mentioned by the New Testament writers more than any other Old Testament prophet; and 2) Elijah was seen in vision on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-9). Is it not appropriate that he should be given the task of announcing the second advent of Jesus Christ?
And why was Elijah “translated that he should not see death” if God had no further work for him? The account reads that “Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (II Kings 2:11). Now heaven is an immense realm. It includes, literally speaking, all of creation that is not the earth. In our own galaxy, the Milky Way, scientists estimate that there are 100 billion stars, and that many of these stars have dark planets circling them, much as we circle the sun. Could there not easily be, in some such vast area, a planet where Elijah has been usefully employed, some habitable island where God’s work is not yet complete?
Elijah is one of the most remarkable figures in Bible history. And he is living evidence that when God has a work to be done, He finds the right man to do it.
Elijah was a person of dynamic suddenness. Suddenly he appeared in Israel as the crisis Prophet, with thunder on his brow and tempest in his voice. Just as suddenly he disappeared, swept skyward in a chariot of fire, taken away by the chariots of God.
But Elijah’s greatest distinction was his unswerving character and high moral courage. See him confronting the wicked King Ahab with the fearless words: “There shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1). If Elijah had any popularity, here was the finish of it. But subsequent events proved Elijah’s God living, and true to His Word. And when fire was needed to consume the sacrifice on the altar, Elijah’s God brought the fire.
Today, when traditional moral values have vanished, when family structures have deteriorated and thousands and millions of men and women living without thought of God, bent only on pursuing their own selfish pleasures and comforts, is it not time for God to send the one He has been preserving and preparing for this very mission—to shock the world out of their lethargy before He smites the earth with a curse?
It takes more than a little imagination in the 21st century to picture all people everywhere living uprightly and peacefully and bowing to King Jesus. The transition from what the world is now to what it will be when Christ takes full control is without question the greatest transition in the history of the earth. For who wants to give up their own cultures, ambitions, and plans to be part of something new and unknown?
Our Creator knows this. That is why He has arranged for the mission of Elijah, to warn the world of what is coming, and to give everyone an opportunity to repent and turn to Him, “lest,” says God, “I smite the earth with a curse.”
*If Elijah’s coming was still future in Jesus’ time, why did Jesus say in the very next verse, “But I say unto you, That Elias is come already,” inferring that John the Baptist was the promised Elijah? Jesus explained Himself: John the Baptist had already come, and they did “unto him whatsoever they listed” —they killed him. But even with this event in the past, Jesus says “Elias truly shall first come” —future tense—”and restore all things.”