Listen: 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Excellent question!  In Matthew 17:1-9, we have the account of the Lord’s transfiguration.  Peter, James, and John were privileged to have a preview of the Lord coming in power and glory.  The Lord Jesus had told them in Matthew 16:28, “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”  Mark 9:1gives us a little more information about the Lord’s words.  That says, “And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.”  So, the disciples were blessed to see these things, but they were aware of the scriptures dealing with the return of Elijah the prophet. 

We read in Matthew 17:10, “And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?”  Obviously, by asking this question, they were thinking of the words of Malachi in Malachi 4:5-6which says, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 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 smite the earth with a curse.” 

The Lord agreed that this prophesy was true and would be fulfilled.  We read in Matthew 17:11, “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.”  The word ‘restore’ here means that he would be the instrument of restoring the people, and that by pointing them to the Lord Jesus as the Messiah.  Now let’s read Matthew 17:12-13, “But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.”  The disciples understood the words of the Lord Jesus and realized that He was speaking of John the Baptist when He said that Elias, or Elijah, had already come.  Of course, John the Baptist was not literally Elijah, even as he himself stated in John 1:21, “And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not…”  However, John did come in the ‘spirit and power of Elijah.  Let’s consider the words of the angel to Zacharias, the father of John, as he spoke of the birth of John the Baptist.  Luke 1:15-17 says, “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  The Lord Jesus, speaking of John the Baptist, said in Matthew 11:14, “And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.” 

Of course the nation of Israel did not receive John the Baptist; neither did they receive the One of whom John preached…the Lord Jesus Christ.  Since Israel rejected John, will Elijah return before the Lord returns to establish His kingdom on the earth?  It is quite possible that one of the two witnesses that come during the seven-year Tribulation period might be Elijah.  I encourage you to read Revelation 11:1-13 for that account.  (152.4)