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The Last Days Duncan Heaster  
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CHAPTER  16-1:  The Coming Of Elijah

We have frequently commented in the earlier studies upon the major role of the latter-day Elijah.   There is every reason to think from the typology studied so far, that we are intended to connect Elijah's 3.5-year ministry (James 5:17) with the 1260 days/42 months (i.e. 3.5 years) of the tribulation of God's people spoken of in Daniel and Revelation. The description of the whore of Babylon in Revelation is based upon Jezebel as a prototype. As she ruled over Israel through her puppet Ahab during Elijah's ministry, so latter day Babylon (through a puppet Israeli leader?) will dominate Israel during Elijah's future ministry.  Whilst it is quite possible that Israel's holocaust will last for a literal 3.5 years, during which time 'Elijah' will be among them, it may be that the similarity of the time periods is just to indicate that the work of the latter-day Elijah will coincide with the holocaust period.

There can be no doubt that 'Elijah' will come in some form:  " I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord...lest I come and smite the earth" (Malachi 4:5,6). The coming of the Lord must therefore be preceded by Elijah's work. His mission will be to direct Israel's attention to God's Word, " lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:4,6).   This was evidently not fulfilled by John the baptist, seeing that the land was smitten after A.D. 70 due to Israel's failure to repent.   " Lest I come..." is clearly referring to God's manifestation in Christ's second coming - it is associated with the arising of " the sun of righteousness" (Malachi 4:2,6).   Whilst John fulfilled the role of the Elijah prophet to those who truly repented (Matt. 11:14), he emphatically denied that he was 'Elijah' (John 1:21,23).   This can only mean that the Elijah prophet is yet to come.   Our Lord silences all doubt about this:  " Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things" (Matt. 17:11).   Elijah's work will be to turn the hearts of Israel back to the patriarchs in repentance (Malachi 4:6 cp. 1 Kings 18:37), so that Christ comes to an Israel who have turned away from unGodliness (Isa. 59:20).

The prophecy of Israel's latter day repentance in Zech. 13:8,9 is based around the events in Elijah's time. As he destroyed two thirds of the apostate Israelites sent to take him by fire (2 Kings 1:10), so " in all the land" there will be a similar proportion of destruction. The third who come through the fire will say " Yahweh is my God" - i.e. they will exclaim the name 'Elijah', as they did after Elijah had induced their rejection of Baal in 1 Kings 18:39. Yet the destruction of two thirds of Israel in Zech. 13 sounds as if this is the result of their latter day invasion. It may be that the latter day Elijah works through this in order to bring about their repentance.

John being a mini-Elijah prophet, it is to be expected that the broad features of his ministry will be repeated in the work of the final Elijah prophet. John was called " the baptist" , so evident was his emphasis on water baptism. Indeed, the name 'John' and the image of water baptism are hard to separate. There is fair reason to think that 'Elijah' will also literally baptize.

For Israel to call upon themselves the Name of the Lord when they repent, it is fitting that Elijah baptizes them into His Name. Zech. 13:1 may hint at latter day baptisms among repentant Jewry: " In that day thre shall be a fountain opened to the house of David...for sin and for uncleanness" . Israel will call upon themselves the Name of Yahweh our righteousness by being baptized into the Name of the Father and Son (Jer. 33:16). " That (Christ) should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water" (Jn.1:31) seems to make baptism a pre-requisite for accepting Christ. Indeed, Jewish theology expects baptism to be associated with the coming of Messiah and the Elijah prophet. Therefore the Jews asked John: " Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias?" (Jn.1:25).

Literal Elijah?

If literal Elijah is to fulfil Malachi's prophecy, then presumably he must be resurrected before the second coming.   Whilst one exception to the doctrine of resurrection after Christ's return can be countenanced, it seems likely that an Elijah-like prophet is a more reasonable possibility.   John the baptist was 'Elijah' in some ways (Matt. 11:14), although his was only a primary fulfilment of the prophecy (John 1:21;  Matt. 17:11).   He was also an initial fulfilment of Malachi 3:1:  " I will send my messenger (John/Elijah), and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple" .   This had an even earlier fulfilment in Malachi as the messenger ('Malachi' = 'messenger'), preparing the way for Nehemiah's coming to the temple.   In similar manner, Isa. 40:3-5 is applied to the Elijah prophet in the form of John, although it has an initial application to Isaiah speaking words of comfort to Jerusalem in his time. Mk.1:3 implies that the message of the Elijah prophet was the coming of Elijah; it does not therefore have to be delivered by Elijah himself. Previous 'Elijah' prophets have had his characteristics but not been him personally.   The ultimate fulfilment of the 'Elijah' prophecy may therefore be along similar lines.

No dew, no rain

An examination of the record of Elijah can now be undertaken with the conviction that there must be many details which have relevance to the latter-day Elijah.

The dramatic entrance of Elijah upon the scene with his decree that " there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word" (1 Kings 17:1), may suggest a similar sudden revelation of the Elijah prophet in the last days.   As Jeremiah typified the Elijah prophet's relationship with the Jewish leadership of the last days, represented by flexi-minded Zedekiah, so Elijah appealed to an equally vacillating Ahab.

Elijah's withholding of dew and rain resulted in a chronic lack of pasture for the cattle, so that they desperately sought some in vain (1 Kings 18:5).   This must connect with the identical scene prophesied in Joel 1:18,20, concerning the dire physical state of the land and animals during the final Arab holocaust.   We have previously shown how the climatic and agricultural problems within latter-day Israel will bring the country to its knees.   Presumably this will be ultimately due to the words of the Elijah prophet.   " There shall not be dew...but according to my word" hints that if Israel repented, Elijah would pray for rain and be heard, which is what eventually happened.   It would therefore appear that 'Elijah' will make an appeal to Israel at the beginning of the tribulation period, to which they will refuse to respond.   Due to this, the dew and rain will be withheld.   Lev. 26:19 and 1 Kings 8:35, both previously considered, mention this as a curse which will come upon latter-day Israel.

Remnant of a remnant

We have earlier demonstrated that the Jews who returned from Babylon are typical of those under Arab persecution in the last days.   To encourage this group to more completely dedicate themselves to God, Haggai called for the dew and rain to be stopped, clearly alluding to Elijah having done this earlier (Hag. 1:10,11).   As a result, " the remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet...the Lord's messenger" (Hag. 1:12,13).   We see in this another hint that only a remnant of the remnant who returned from Babylon were truly pleasing to God, as only a remnant of the latter-day Jewish " remnant" will be.   Haggai being " the Lord's messenger" connects him with the Elijah prophet, who fills the same role (Malachi 3:1; 4:5).   It should be noted that David connects a lack of dew with apostate Israel being slain by their Arab enemies (2 Sam. 1:21). As Haggai achieved only limited success, only achieving anything with a tiny remnant, so it may be with the latter day Elijah prophet. Ultimately, " he shall smite the earth (land) with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked" (Is. 11:4)- although Elijah will plead with Israel to repent lest this happen (Malachi 4:6). Presumably, the majority will not respond, and therefore the threatened judgment will not be averted.

Jeremiah and his school of prophets witnessed to Israel before and during the Babylonian invasion (2 Chron.36:15), as Elijah and his helpers will do at the time of the invasion by latter-day Babylon. Joel prophesies how Israel will be exhorted to howl in their prayers, clothing themselves with sackcloth (Joel 1:13); exactly as Jeremiah had pleaded with Israel in the last moments before the Babylonian onslaught: " Gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl" (Jer.4:8).

Rain and repentance

The giving of dew being a sign of God's blessing (Gen. 27:28;  Deut. 33:13), this can only occur upon Israel's repentance.   Thus after the time of the Arab holocaust, when there was no " peace to him that went out or came in because of the affliction" , God " will not be unto the residue (remnant) of this people as in the former days...the heavens shall (now) give their dew;  and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things" (Zech. 8:10-12).   The dew will come upon the whole land, because only this righteous remnant of Israel will be left alive.

Deut. 33:26-29 speaks of God's dramatic intervention to permanently save Israel from their enemies in the last days, and associates this with the heavens dropping dew upon the land.   Seeing this is a normal thing to happen, the implication must be that during the time of their enemies' domination the dew had not come.   This may be one of the reasons why the Arabs will be content to plunder the land rather than settle in it.

Hos. 14:4-8 speaks of the latter-day repentance of Jewry, resulting in God being " as the dew unto Israel" .   There follows an eloquent description of how this will enable Israel to grow and blossom in spiritual beauty.   This spiritual growth of Israel during the early years of the Millennium will truly be a wondrous sight.   Dew being symbolic of doctrine (Deut. 33:2), this may be a direct result of our teaching them.   Israel will then be as the dew to other nations (Mic. 5:7), insofar as they spread this doctrine to them.

Miraculous gifts

Several times during his ministry Elijah did spectacular miracles to confirm the validity of his message.   The fact that " John did no miracle" (John 10:41) is perhaps recorded in order to show that he was not the supreme fulfilment of the prophet who would come " in the spirit and power of Elias" (Luke 1:17), i.e. doing similar miracles to those of Elijah.    Elijah's miracles resulted in the poor widow woman (perhaps typical of the latter-day remnant) accepting him and his message (1 Kings 17:24).

Elijah being sent " before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Mat. 4:5) seems to consciously connect with Joel's prophecy that some among latter-day Israel will possess the Spirit gifts " before the great and terrible day of the Lord come" (Joel 2:31).  It would therefore appear certain that Elijah and his group of prophets will possess the Spirit gifts in the last days.   The two witnesses of Rev. 11:5,6 have power to shut heaven and bring fire upon their enemies - clearly alluding to Elijah.   His bringing down fire was against people of his own Jewish race who were persecuting him (2 Kings 1:9-12), confirming our previous suggestion that the Elijah ministry will be bitterly opposed by many Jews, after the pattern of Jeremiah's persecution during the Babylonian invasion. The beast " maketh fire come down from heaven" (Rev.13:13), just as Elijah did. The inference is that the latter day miracles of the Elijah ministry will be matched, to some degree, by the false claims of the beast. The miracles performed at Israel's deliverance from Egypt were likewise mimicked by the persecutors of God's people. Our Lord ascended to Heaven so that opportunity of repentance might be given to Israel (Acts 5:31), and so that He might give the Holy Spirit gifts to men (Eph.4:8-13 cp. John 14-16 explaining how Jesus departed in order to receive the Comforter). It follows that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were given largely in order to convince Israel of the Gospel; and so too around the period of the second coming?

Ahab's denunciation of Elijah as " he that troubleth Israel" (1 Kings 18:17) effectively accuses Elijah of being like Achan, the troubler of Israel (Josh. 6:18).   As Achan brought about Israel's defeat at the hand of her Arab enemies, so latter-day Israel will blame their similar defeats and the strange drought which will afflict them, upon Elijah.   Elijah's response to Ahab's accusation is typical of his theme of the need to throw off the worship of Baal and the other local gods, for that of Yahweh:  " I have not troubled Israel, but that ye have...followed Baalim" (1 Kings 18:18).   The stress upon this may indicate that the latter-day Elijah will seek to turn Israel away from a devotion to Islam - the idol of the surrounding nations.