In reality you can have it BOTH ways:a literal Elijah and a symbolical Elijah.There is a prophecy in the book of MALACHI,the last prophet of the OT. He wrote around 400 BC.With him ends the OT. The NT began 450 years later.
ELIJAH COMING BACK
“I will send you ELIJAH,the prophet,before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.” In Judaism it is understood to mean that before the coming of the Messiah Elijah will reurn to the earth. So they say that since he did NOT come before Jesus then Jesus was not the Messiah.
Who was Elijah?
He lived around 930-850 BC,is famous for resurrecting a widow’s son,and did NOT die.He was taken to heaven.
TAKEN TO HEAVEN ALIVE
2 Kings 2:1-11:
“When the LORD was about to take Elijah UP TO HEAVEN in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the LORD has sent me to Bethel.”…When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?””Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.”You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise not.”
As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and ELIJAN WENT UP TO HEAVEN in a whirlwind.Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart.”
In Luke 1:13-17 it is said that Elijah was in reality meant to refer to John the Baptist,and it wasn’t meant to be taken literally. Zechariah is told that he will have a son,even though his wife Elizabeth is sterile,in LUKE 1:17:”It is HE(John-Baptist) who will go as a forerunner before him in the SPIRIT and POWER of ELIJAH (note:in other words,be like Elijah in a great way,but not literally be Elijah) to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children,and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous,so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Jesus and Elijah
Jesus says in Matthew 11:12-15 that John the Baptist was the Elijah to come:”From the days of John the Baptist till now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence,and violent men take it by force. For all the prophets and the Law prophesized till John. And if you are willing to accept it,JOHN himself is the ELIJAH who was to come. He who has ears to hear,let him hear.”
JOHN THE BAPTIST
Taking the “Elijah to come” as symbolical explains why JOHN-BAPTIST himself said he was NOT Elijah:
“Now this is the testimony of John,when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”And they asked him, “What then? Are you ELIJAH?”He said, “I am not.”“Are you the Prophet?”And he answered, “No.””
David literally as the Messiah?
One might say:”How CONVENIENT,to say it is not to be taken literally,when the prophecy said clearly it would be Elijah,this proves the NT is false and Christianity is out.” That is one argument used. But the case is that in the OT we have the SAME situation where we have such prophecies. How can I explain myself? In the OT is it said the Messiah would be a DESCENDANT of DAVID:
a)Three times in Jeremiah
b)And also a descedent of Jesse,who was the father of David: Isaiah 11:1-2/11:10.
DAVID HERE,NOT “SON OF DAVID”:
They lived hundreds of years AFTER the death of David.For example,in Jeremiah 30:9 the reference is to the Messiah gathering all the Jews to live in Palestine(all agree on that,Jews and Christians),yet the Messiah is called “DAVID THEIR KING”. Now no rabbi has ever said that DAVID would resurrect from the dead and rule over the Jews who had been gathered from exile.
A METAPHORICAL DAVID
Also the passages in EZEKIEL are about the gathering of the Jews from all over the world,and the rabbis interpret that to refer to the time of the rule of the MESSIAH and there the messiah is called “David”. Obviously it means somebody who would be like David,who would be a king,who would come in the “spirit and power of David”,and be a descendent of David.
Some Orthodox Jews are against the State of Israel
That is why some Orthodox Jews are against the state of Israel,they say the gathering of the exiles can only be done by the messiah,and that the creation of the secular state of Israel only retards the appearence of the Messiah. Other religious Jews say that most of the Jews today are outside of Israel and so the prophecy only means that when the Messiah comes ALL,literally ALL the Jews of the world will go to leave in Palestine.
Argument from Preceden ( 4 Cases )
As you can see,here we have not one,but FOUR cases of a PRECEDENT where the name mentioned (David) was NOT to be taken literally. So the Christian belief is that the Malachy prophecy refers to a symbolical Elijah,and for that we have the authority of Jesus.
No,I disagree,it is still about a Literal Elijah
For those who say ELIJAH himself had to come then the question is,is Malachi 4:5: “I will send you ELIJAH,the prophet,BEFORE the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes,” where “THE GREAT AND DREADFUL DAY OF THE LORD COMES” can mean:
1.The Atonement and Resurrection of the Messiah,or
2.The Second Coming?
So in Mark 9:2-8/Matthew 17:1-9/Luke 9:28-36 Jesus goes with some men and there he has the TRANSFIGURATION,where Moses and ELIJAH appear with him:
” After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them ELIJAH and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.”
So ELIJAH did appear in the time of the first coming after all.If MALACHY was referring to the second coming he also appeared BEFORE it.Again,Elijah NEVER died,so in the Transfiguration Jesus was with a flesh and blood man,not a ghost.