Coming Soon (Matthew 17:9-13)

Photo by Grant Durr on Unsplash

The Old Testament ends with ends with these words from Malachi;  “Remember the law  of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. 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’s prophecy confirmed what Moses had said in Deut 18:15-19, when the Lord promised to send another prophet. As this was widely taught in the Synagogues (and is to this day), all Israel understood that this coming prophet (Elijah) would herald the appearing of the eternal Kingdom. 

Of course, Peter, James and John have just seen Elijah and Moses speaking with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. That raised serious questions in their minds, because Elijah should’ve been easily visible prior to Jesus’ appearing. So they asked Jesus about this, “As they were coming down the mountain […] The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 

The disciples had forgotten what Jesus had said earlier. For when He was asked about John the Baptist, Jesus had said, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear.”  Of course, Jesus was right. “Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.” 

One wonders why the teachers of the law didn’t recognize John the Baptist as Elijah. After all, he dressed like, spoke like and called the people to repentance just as Elijah did. 19th century theologian Otto von Gerlach remark[ed]…“In this sense, Elijah had reappeared in John and in the same sense will another Elijah precede the second coming of the Lord…. in every age, the Lord has His forerunners of the order of Elijah, and especially before His final appearance.”  

So it will come to pass that before His second coming that two witnesses appear, and the Lord Himself testifies, “I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. […] These men have power to shut up the sky so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying.” There are only two people in all of Scripture who did not taste death before ascending to glory. One is Elijah and the other is Enoch. We do not know much about Enoch, but Elijah was dressed in sackcloth and specifically prophesied to shut the sky for 3 and a half years. Perhaps Enoch was the same. Nevertheless, just as John the Baptist was killed by evil edict, so will Jesus, and so will His two witnesses (see Rev 11:6). 

Elijah and Elijah-like characters aside, Jesus’ point is clear; Misunderstanding and suffering is the common path of all who prophetically live the Christ-life. 

Those who live in the hope of the coming of the Lord to judge the world and deliver the believers will prepare themselves spiritually for that day.

Allen P. Ross

APPLICATION: Intentionality

If Christ were to return today, would you have any regrets? What would do you need to do if He were to return tomorrow?