Q. The prophecy of Malachi 4:5 referring to Elijah coming to this earth again has always been a puzzle to me. Do you think this is a literal coming? Do you think this would be before the rapture or before the second coming of the Lord Jesus? I have looked in your archives for information on this but I don’t seem to locate anything you have written on this. If you have written an article on this please let me know how to locate it.
A. The full prophecy includes verse 6 and says,
“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 4:5-6)
This is a confusing prophecy because the last part of verse 6 says that if Elijah’s visit didn’t produce the desired result the Lord would strike the land with a curse. Although John the Baptist denied being Elijah, Jesus said that if they accepted him as such he would be. But they didn’t and so the people were driven from the land. For nearly 2000 years it was barren and dry, nearly devoid of habitation. This tells us that there was at least a partial fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy at the time of the 1st Coming.
Many people see Elijah coming again as one of the two witnesses of Rev. 11. If so his visit will occur sometime before the Great Tribulation begins in Rev. 13, and he’ll have to be killed before it ends. This tells us that the ministry of the two witnesses, although 1260 days long, will not coincide with either half of Daniel’s 70th week but will be offset to occur before the Abomination of Desolation takes place.
As for a literal visit, Gabriel said that John the Baptist would minister in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17). To me this says Elijah’s spirit was given a new body. I think that will happen again and that’s why John didn’t just call the two witnesses by name. Remember, he saw both Moses and Elijah on the Mt. of transfiguration and Peter called them both by name, so the disciples obviously recognized them.