Reading through the Bible together
“’See, I will send the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes’” (Mal. 4:5).
In Malachi 3, God promised to send a special messenger to prepare the people for His own personal coming. So who would this messenger be?
Malachi 4 identifies him. “‘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’” (Mal. 4:5).
God’s messenger is identified as Elijah, the great prophet of Israel. But what did it mean that God would send Elijah? Was God sending back Elijah from heaven, where he was translated? How were the people supposed to know who this Elijah figure was? What would he look like?
What did the real Elijah look like? “The king asked his servants, ‘What kind of man was it who came to meet you?’ “They replied, ‘He was a man with a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist.’ “The king said, ‘That was Elijah the Tishbite’” (2 Kings 1:7-9).
The prophecy of Elijah’s return became very important to the Jews. In fact, at every Passover meal, the Jews began leaving an extra place setting at the table, in anticipation of the return of Elijah.
Following the book of Malachi, there would be no prophets in Israel for a long time. For 400 years, no prophet would speak. God seemed to be silent. But the silence would be broken by the miraculous birth of the son of Zacharias the priest (Luke 1:5-25) who would cry out in the wilderness, wearing a garment of hair and a leather belt. When asked if he were Elijah, John the Baptist would simply answer, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord’” (John 1:23-27). He would speak in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17).
This has a last day application as well, preparing the way for the Second Coming of Christ by preaching the Three Angels’ Messages to the whole world, to every nation, tribe, tongue and people (Rev. 14:6-7).
Andy Nash, Professor
Southern Adventist University