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“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5, 6).
Jesus gives the answer to this question saying, “But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands. Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist” (Matthew 17:12, 13).
John the Baptist represented Elijah but not in a literal sense because, “And they asked him (John), “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” (John 1:21). So, in what way was John like Elijah? The scriptures explain, “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘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” (Luke 1:16-17).
The ministry of John was to be in the “spirit and power” of Elijah. John’s baptism was a “baptism of repentance” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; 19:4). Repentance, or turning from sin, was the goal of his message. Men must repent if they would be “prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17) and if they would enter His kingdom (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7). John’s work was to convince men to forsake their sins and to invite them to seek the Lord their God. This was the work that Elijah accomplished in the Old Testament (1 Kings 18:37).
The same work accomplished by Elijah and John the Baptist will be carried out again just before the second coming of the Lord. In these days of moral corruption and spiritual blindness, the Holy Spirit will raise voices that will proclaim God’s final message of repentance to the world.
In His service,
The BibleAsk Team