Elijah is one of the key components to the end times and yet, today in the church the spirit of Elijah is seldomly preached. If the matter concerning Elijah is brought up, it is commonly with minimal understanding of what role Elijah primarily plays for the church. Why is this topic so important? Because Elijah prepares for the coming of Messiah in such a way, that if we fail to understand, we will not be ready. When we understand what the Ante Nicene Fathers said about Elijah, his role for the End Times, his characteristics and what exactly he will do, our eyes will be opened to know what to expect.
In Matthew 17:10-13, Yahushua illuminates Peter, James, and John concerning the two comings of Elijah. He initially describes that Elijah will come (future tense) and will restore all things. He then continues by explaining that Elijah had already come in John the Baptist and they did what they wanted with him. There are some schools of thought that say Jesus is stating that the spirit of Elijah had already come. However, Christ Himself said that Elijah will come and “restore all things”, a prophecy John the Baptist clearly did not fulfill. Here are two questions that we need to ask ourselves: 1) What does it mean to “restore all things”? and 2) If Jesus was only speaking of a first advent of Elijah, and that had already taken place with John the Baptist, how did he [John] restore all things?
Restore in the Greek is apokathistēmi (G600, ἀποκαθίστημι) it alludes to bringing something back to its former state, before the fall of Adam to be precise. John the Baptist did not accomplish this. We can clearly observe all the chaos that is encompassing the world and the unquestionable division within today’s church. Let’s explore the two advents of Elijah through the writing of Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) in his Dialogue with Trypho.
“If therefore Scripture compels you to admit that two advents of Christ were predicted to take place, — one in which He would appear suffering, and dishonored, and without comeliness; but the other in which He would come glorious, and Judge of all, as has been made manifest in many of the fore cited passages, — shall we not suppose that the word of God has proclaimed that Elijah shall be the precursor of the great and terrible day, that is, of His second advent?”(1)
The book of Malachi chapter four foretells of the coming of Elijah before the Great and Dreadful day of the Lord, which speaks of the second advent. The first advent is mentioned in chapter three. There is always a forerunner sent to His bride to prepare for Christ’s coming. It is a pattern that is never broken. So, in what way will Elijah prepare the church and for what exactly? What will be the message that he will bring? Origen speaks of preparing a chosen people to receive the glory of God. That is a high priestly ministry. The High Priesthood were the only people out of the whole nation, who understood how to operate and dwell in the glory of God. Here is what Origen says concerning this preparation:
And it seems to be indicated by these words, that Elijah was to prepare for the glorious coming of Christ by certain holy words and dispositions in their souls, those who had been made fittest for this, which those upon earth could not have endured, because of the excellency of the glory, unless they had been prepared beforehand by Elijah. And likewise, by Elijah, in this place, I do not understand the soul of that prophet but his spirit and his power; for these it is by which all things shall be restored, (Mat_17:11) so that when they have been restored, and, as a result of that restoration, become capable of receiving the glory of Christ, the Son of God who shall appear in glory may sojourn with them. (2)
Origen is explaining that only those who are fit to be prepared by this Elijah will be prepared in their souls to be able to “endure” the glory of God. This is exactly how the High Priests were prepared- not everyone qualified to come into God’s glorious presence. Consider King Uzziah (3) who tried to burn the incense (create a cloud) before the Lord. The High Priest was the only person who was anointed and prepared to enter the Holy of Holies, where the glory of God dwelled, by creating a cloud of incense. Uzziah, who was not equipped as a High Priest, was struck with leprosy and was cast out of the temple. There are serious consequences for not being prepared for this glory, as it is the very presence of the Lord. Origen goes on to say how the glory of Christ will be received by those whom Elijah prepares. Thus, we can see the significance of knowing who Elijah is. He is to prepare a people to be restored to the original state that Adam had lost. So, what other roles does Elijah play at the end of the age? He returns to seal a people before the Antichrist takes power and manifests on the earth. There are two seals that occur at the end of the age, but this seal of Elijah is to protect a people from the Antichrist. Commodianus said,
“He himself will divide the globe into three ruling powers, when the Antichrist will be raised from Hades. Elijah will first come to seal the beloved ones.” (4)
Elijah is hidden in the book of Revelations and interestingly we don’t hear many people teaching this today. Victorinus, in his interpretation of the book of Revelations says the following.
“And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God”] He speaks of Elijah the prophet, who is the precursor of the times of Antichrist. (5)
“whence in the last times a hundred and forty-four thousands of men should believe on the preaching of Elijah” (6)
Another important trait that Elijah has, is that he carries the Fear of the Lord. Justin Martyr explains this in his Dialogue with Trypho (Ch. LXXXVII, Vol. 1). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). It’s to prepare us for the coming glory of our King, Yahushua HaMashiach. Without being prepared by this Elijah we will not be sealed or prepared for the glory of Christ; we will miss it! Interestingly, even the 144,000 are the those who are taught by Elijah (Revelations 7:4). The 144,000 is not a bodily number of people, as commonly misconceived, they are a people who are becoming the New Jerusalem (12 gates, 12 levels, 12 angels and 12 stones, etc.).
The Early Church understood the importance of Elijah at the end of the age. They understood what his role is and what to look for in his second coming. They understood that Elijah would come to prepare a people for the coming glory and to be sealed in order to be protected from the Antichrist. Other than the Messiah Himself, the most important figure we are to be on look for is Elijah. The message is clear, we are to be prepared by Elijah for the triumphant return of our Beloved Yahushua. If we overlook this essential messenger, we would be no different that the Jews who missed the Messiahs first coming, as the messenger, John the Baptist, who was to prepare the way, was beheaded. They knew 2,000 years ago that the Messiah would come as prophecy foretold, which is the reason why King Herod had so many children killed at the threat of the King of the Jews was to be born, yet they still missed Him. Let us not follow that same error and become so prideful that we would be cut off and the natural branch be re-engrafted, for it would be much easier.
1) Justin Martyr- Dialogue of Justin with Trypho Ch. XLIX, Vol. 1
2) Origen-Gospel of Matthew Bk. 13 Pt. 1 Sec. 2 Vol. 9
3) 2 Chronicles 26:16-23
4) Commodianus-Instructions Ch. XLI, Vol. 4
5) Victorinus- On the Apocalypse of John Vol. 7; interpreting Revelations 7:2
6) Victorinus- On the Apocalypse of John Vol. 7; interpreting Revelations 12:6