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Will Elijah Come Again?
"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." Malachi 4:5-6, NIV
By Malcolm B Heap, Midnight Ministries
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Many people have wondered whether John the Baptist or Elijah will come again to fulfil Malachi's prophecy about the coming of Elijah before the very end.
John the Baptist will not come again in person, nor will Elijah. 
I once heard a false minister in Birmingham give an articulate, but ridiculous, sermon about Elijah coming again in person. It revealed his utterly simplistic 'appreciation' of scripture, and his abysmal lack of spiritual perception.
Why would God bring back a prophet who has already fulfilled his task on earth? Especially, since he was 'whisked' away in a whirlwind, accompanied by a fiery chariot of the Spirit (2 Kings 2:11). Why would He bring back someone who lived in a totally different society and culture, with a completely different pace of life, from an agrarian economy completely unaccustomed to the technology and industry of our time, to live as a physical human being? If God were to do such a thing, it would be more than unkind and unreasonable to Elijah.
Elijah is moving ahead in the realm of the Spirit and is enjoying part of his reward now prior to his return to earth with all the other patriarchs, prophets and saints at Jesus' second coming.
God has other servants trained to fulfil the tasks of the end-time 'Elijah'. God is not going to bring the prophet Elijah back to earth physically before Jesus returns to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.
That part of Malachi's prophecy is figurative. What Elijah did will be repeated by others, not in exactly the same way, but similarly in principle, according to God's plans and purposes.
What Elijah Did
All these aspects of his life's calling are to be repeated in the end-time counterpart of Elijah's work. His was the greatest, the most celebrated prophetic work of Israel's history before Christ. Similar prophetic boldness and zeal will accompany the end-time 'Elijah' who, incidentally, is not just one man.
Consider the words of Malachi 4:6, where God says:
He [Elijah] will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers (Mal 4:6, NIV).
Besides the obvious meaning that the end-time Elijah's work will do much to restore personal and family relationships there is also a secondary meaning which underlies those words.
Who were the fathers in a Church context? Ever heard of "the Church Fathers" or "the Apostolic Fathers"? These were the men of great spiritual standing in the early Church, particularly after the death of the 12 apostles. Some of these fathers genuinely had great spiritual stature, while others obtained that reputation by deceit. Some were granted great esteem by others and thus exerted considerable influence in matters of doctrine and practice.
Names like Ignatius (AD 67-110), Polycarp (69-156), Papias (70-155), Justin Martyr (100-167), Irenaeus (130-200), Origen (185-254), Tertullian (160-220), Eusebius (264-340), John Chrysostom (345-407), Jerome (340-420), and Augustine (354-430) are the most well known. But, Jesus' warnings to beware of men and the deceptions that they would introduce into the Church (Matt 24:4,5), and similar caveats by Peter (2 Pet 2), Paul (Acts 20:27-30), Judas (Jude 3,4) and John (3 Jn 9-11) were being fulfilled more and more as time progressed. Time is a great tester, and over the passage of time, false brethren were sifted from among the true, and the true from the false. Doctrinal tests, and other tests of loyalty, claimed many victims.
John wrote in his third letter to a true believer: "You know that our testimony is true" (3 Jn 12), but many didn't. Many, even before the death of John, had apostatised to such an extent that they had believed lies, thinking they were truth. No wonder John said he had "much to write to you"! (v 13.) It takes much to unravel error!
John was one of the true 'fathers' of the faith. All the original twelve apostles adhered strictly to the biblical customs that had been passed on down to them from their forefathers, such as keeping Sabbaths, holy days, new moon observances to determine God's calendar for man, not eating unclean meats, etc. These were as integral to true New Testament belief and doctrine as was acceptance of Jesus as the Christ. But, many of the ones who came after the apostles became elevated and venerated as 'fathers', while they no longer believed what Jesus' apostles had taught. Some of these 'fathers' were deliberate deceivers; others were merely duped under the cloak of deception that inexorably spread in the increasing darkness of the times. Regardless of who was to blame, the fabric of true doctrine was cleverly dismantled, to be replaced with heretical half-truths and deceptions which were gullibly accepted by a largely unsuspecting Church.
The true Church 'fathers' – the first apostles – had a complete teaching that could unite and did unite the Church, as we see from the council in Acts 15. They exhibited love and truth which turned the hearts of the 'children' – their converts. True doctrine united them. But what about today?
To take one example: deciding upon the correct times to come together for worship. Should this be on the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, or on the first day, Sunday? Without agreement on that point, there can never be true unity in the Church. So, as long as deception holds sway in people's minds, division is the result. Restoration of absolute truth must of necessity precede restoration of relationships in the Church.
So, how can the hearts of the 'children' today be turned back to the 'fathers' unless there is first a return to the truth which the fathers believed and practiced? Doesn't the wording of Malachi 4:6 embrace the very thing Elijah did when he opposed heretics on Mount Carmel? Why else would God threaten to curse the entire land (world) if not because of the overspreading of abominations and disobedience to God's laws? Curses are the inevitable – often natural – result of spiritual disobedience (Lev 26:14-39; Deut 28:15-68).
Nations came under curses for their failure to heed spiritual warnings and live by God's standards of moral virtue. He 'sent' prophets to forewarn and to exhort them to turn.
Yes, Elijah comes alright! And he restores the way which could banish the curse. But you've got to:
REMEMBER THE LAW of My servant Moses, THE DECREES AND LAWS I GAVE HIM at Horeb for all Israel (Mal 4:4, NIV).
Those laws are not just for Israel. They are for the Church and for the entire world! Jesus said the Sabbath was not just made for Israel, but made for MANKIND (Mark 2:27). He also said that MAN, not just Israel, is to live by every word of God (Matt 4:4).
The question asked should not be "Will Elijah come again?" But, "Will you heed his words?" Malcolm B Heap
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