Elijah: Past and Prophesied

Elijah in the wilderness


According to an article about him in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Elijah “is honoured by both the Greek and Latin Churches on 20 July.”   Although many Catholics (and others) believe that Elijah (or a type of Elijah) will be one of the two witnesses, The Catholic Encyclopedia article about him never mentions that role related to him.

The Bible itself tells about the original Elijah in the books of 1 Kings, 2 Kings, and 2 Chronicles.  In his first mention, God has him call for a drought:

1 And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.”  (1 Kings 17:1)

God then had him flee to essentially to the wilderness (1 Kings 17:3; 1 Kings 17:8-10; cf.1 Kings 18:7-14; 1 Kings 19:2-4,15) and he was sometimes a voice in the wilderness.

Elijah sometimes seemed to stand alone for God:

21 And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord…”  (1 Kings 18:21-22)

While he was the top ecclesiastical authority, Elijah did a variety of miracles, such as stopping rain (1 Kings 17:1),  multiplying flour and oil (1 Kings 17:13-16), getting a dry passage over a river, (2 Kings 2:7-8), and calling fire down from heaven (2 Kings 1:10-12).

Elijah, however, over time could have lost the mental/emotional ability to properly lead (cf. 1 Kings 19:13-18).  God later took him and replaced him with Elisha as the top ecclesiastical authority.  Elisha then received a “double-portion” (two-portion literally) of the gift that God had given Elijah:

9 And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?”

Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.”

10 So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” 11 Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

12 And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces. 13 He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan.  (2 Kings 2:9-13)

The recipient of the double-portion, Elisha, was a type of Elijah.  Elisha picked up the mantle of Elijah (2 Kings 2:13) which God wanted him to have (1 Kings 19:16-19), did a similar miraculous dry river crossing (2 Kings 2:13-14), also did other miracles (2 Kings 4:30-35; 2 Kings 10:5-14; 2 Kings 6:16-18), as he replaced Elijah as God’s top ecclesiastical authority on earth (cf. 1 Kings 19:16).

Yet, for several years after picked Elisha up the mantle that Elijah dropped, Elijah was still alive.  While many outside of the genuine Church of God seem to doubt this, the following passage confirms that Elijah was still alive later, even though the main work/mantle had shifted to Elisha:

5 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem…

12 And a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet, saying,

Thus says the Lord God of your father David:

Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah, 13 but have walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and have made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to play the harlot like the harlotry of the house of Ahab, and also have killed your brothers, those of your father’s household, who were better than yourself, 14 behold, the Lord will strike your people with a serious affliction — your children, your wives, and all your possessions; 15 and you will become very sick with a disease of your intestines, until your intestines come out by reason of the sickness, day by day. (2 Chronicles 21:5, 12-15)

The Bible, however, teaches that a voice from the wilderness would come again:

3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert  A highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3)

John the Baptist said that he was fulfilling this (though he did not indicate he would be the only one to do so):

19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”…

23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,”‘  as the prophet Isaiah said.” (John 1:19,23)

Note: In the Greek the word “The” above is not present.

Jesus, Himself, confirmed that John the Baptist, who in not recorded to have done any of the miracles of Elijah, fulfilled an Elijah role:

12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.”  13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.  (Matthew 17:12-13)

But Jesus told of another Elijah to come:

11 Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.  (Matthew 17:11)

That particular Elijah was also prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament).  Here are Protestant, “literal,” and Catholic (note: Catholics often use the Latinized form of Elijah, called Elias below) translations:

4  “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules 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.” (Malachi 4:4-6, ESV)

4 Remember ye the law of Moses My servant, That I did command him in Horeb, For all Israel — statutes and judgments.  5 Lo, I am sending to you Elijah the prophet, Before the coming of the day of Jehovah, The great and the fearful.  6 And he hath turned back the heart of fathers to sons, And the heart of sons to their fathers, Before I come and have utterly smitten the land!  (Malachi 4:4-6, YLT)

4 Remember the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, the precepts, and judgments. 5 Behold I will send you Elias the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.  6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers: lest I come, and strike the earth with anathema. (Malachi 4:4-6, Douay-Rheims).

Notice that the various translations teach that Elijah is to be on the scene just before the Day of the Lord.  An event that is at least over six years from now.

Various early professors of Christ believed that an Elijah (though Hippolytus in the third century felt it was literally him) would be coming again:

The climax of Elijah’s activity is his appearance shortly before the Messianic time. “He is appointed to lead aright the coming ages, to restore the tribes of Jacob,” says Ben Sira of him (Ecclus. [Sirach] xlviii. 10, 11). In the second half of the first Christian century it was expected that Elijah would appear shortly before the coming of the Messiah, to restore to families the purity…(‘Eduy. viii. 7…) (Elijah.  Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906)

43…For he says, And one week will make a covenant with many, and it shall be that in the midst (half) of the week my sacrifice and oblation shall cease. By one week, therefore, he meant the last week which is to be at the end of the whole world of which week the two prophets Enoch and Elias will take up the half. For they will preach 1, 260 days clothed in sackcloth, proclaiming repentance to the people and to all the nations.46…He says by Malachi and the angel, I will send to you Elias the Tishbite before the day of the Lord, the great and notable day, comes; and he shall turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, lest I come and smite the earth utterly. These, then, shall come and proclaim the manifestation of Christ that is to be from heaven; and they shall also perform signs and wonders, in order that men may be put to shame and turned to repentance for their surpassing wickedness and impiety. 47. For John says, And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. That is the half of the week whereof Daniel spoke. (Hipploytus.  On Christ and Antichrist).

The Church of God position has been that someone would come in the spirit and power of Elijah to “restore all things” and possibly be one of the two witnesses.  While the late Herbert W. Armstrong (died in January 1986) sometimes indicated that he fulfilled that role, he told people that I have personally spoken with that there could be another other than he.  Those with a WCG background might find the following quote from Herbert W. Armstrong of some assistance here as he wrote:

Those called into the Church were called not merely for salvation and eternal life, but to learn the way of God’s government and develop the divine character during this mortal life in the Church age…

Also Malachi 4:5-6 pictures the Elijah to come at the very end of the Church age (Mystery of the Ages. 1985,  pp. 201, 349).

And when was the “Church age” supposed to end according to Herbert Armstrong’s old church:

God has set before us an open door and no MAN can shut it. God can shut it, and He will when the work is finished and the Philadelphia Church goes to a place of safety. …The Laodicean Church is not going to he worthy to escape to a place of safety. When it is too late, they will find that the Church of Philadelphia has gone to safety (What Is the “LAODICEAN CHURCH”? Good News August 1959 Vol. VIII, Number 8).

Now since the Church age has not ended, and the Day of the Lord has not yet come, then it follows that Elijah was to come on the scene publicly after this was written.  His restoring of “all things” means that he is to be restoring information that the true Church of God once understood, but later must have lost or misunderstood.

Those of the true and genuine Philadelphian remnant will pay much attention to his voice.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

The Elijah Heresies Does the Bible teach that there will be a future Elijah? Must it be Herbert W. Armstrong?
Who Are The Two Witnesses? What is their job? What does the Bible reveal? What has the Church of God taught on this subject? Might even Roman Catholic prophecies give some clues here?
The Philadelphia Church Era was predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D. The old Radio Church of God and old Worldwide Church of God represented this, but now it is essentially the most faithful in the Church of God.
There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra This article discusses a biblical ‘place of safety’ and includes quotes from the Bible and Herbert W. Armstrong on this subject–thus, there is a biblically supported alternative to the rapture theory.
When Will the Great Tribulation Begin? 2012, 2013, or 2014? Can the Great Tribulation begin today? What happens before the Great Tribulation in the “beginning of sorrows”? What happens in the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord? Is this the time of the Gentiles? When is the earliest that the Great Tribulation can begin? What is the Day of the Lord? Who are the 144,000?


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