This book may actually be more about hermeneutics—the principles and guidelines one employs in the course of interpreting God’s Word, than a strictly eschatological monograph on the Prophet Elijah. It is my lifelong observation that even many of the very best Evangelical teachers, scholars and authors we have been blessed with at certain times, on certain topics (and most often that seems to be eschatology), deviate from the way they ordinarily handle Scripture. I am not talking about outright false teachers or the “hirelings” who are less than wholly dedicated, but to the “good guys”, if you will. And in my estimation, the issue of how Elijah will return is a feature of the eschaton—the overall Second Coming of Christ, which is often found to stray to some degree from otherwise sound exegetical principles of interpretation employed for most other areas of biblical doctrine.

Most of the time, in the specific case of Elijah, this can be seen as a direct result of the teacher, scholar or author making the assumption that the starting place for anything to do with Elijah is the shared vision provided to Peter, James and John on what we commonly label the Mt. of Transfiguration, where Elijah is seen side-by-side with Moses. From there springs the almost near-universal presupposition that this pairing’s appearance unquestionably qualifies them as being the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11. I would respectfully point out that this is not only the wrong place to start when it comes to divining the identity of the Two Witnesses, but in almost any other study involving typology or even an old fashioned character study in the style of a Bible dictionary entry, this beginning is contrary to the normal approach to Scripture.

When a person, place or thing is being studied to the depth of trying to draw together everything Scripture has to say about it, the normal starting point is with whichever passage provides the primary reference and background. One would not assemble a character study of Solomon by beginning with the handful of references to him in the New Testament, nor even by his contributions in the form of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes or Song of Songs; it would naturally begin with the historical accounts in Kings and Chronicles to which these other references and sources would be properly added. If one were studying the Antichrist, before looking at all the biblical examples which relate in some way to him, we would first exhaust the foundational information established in Revelation 13, 1 John and 2 Thessalonians at the least, and probably those passages directly referencing Satan. Just because Judas, like him, is also called the “son of perdition”, we would not center our whole study on that fact, but add it to the mix at the proper time after establishing the baseline material. But what seems to happen quite frequently is that instead of beginning with Revelation 11, the first and foremost authoritative textual basis for the Two Witnesses, the expositor in question treats this almost as an afterthought to what they hold to be the seminal starting point in the vision on the Mt. of Transfiguration. It is the hermeneutical equivalent of allowing the tail to wag the dog.

This is a long-winded way of attempting to communicate that what seems to be so often taught about Elijah—a figure who is expressly stated by Jesus to have not only functioned at His First Coming, but is returning to work again in the course of His Second Coming—rarely treats him as the individual who ministered in a lone capacity historically as Elijah, just as his protégé Elisha ministered singularly and picked up where Elijah left off, or in his spirit and power in the individual role of John the Baptist at Christ’s First Coming. Yet, all of the sudden, Elijah’s final appearance is designated as having to take place as a member of a duo in the form of one of the Two Witnesses. Why does he suddenly break precedent and return the final time as a member of this particular pair?

A sizable issue which we will attempt to address is what happens if instead of starting with the Mt. of Transfiguration and all of the related assumptions from the outset, will that hypothesis still hold true if instead we begin with the foundational Scripture references in Revelation 11, and then explore the other scriptural examples of pairs of witnesses throughout the whole of God’s Word? In other words, what happens if we handle this the way we “usually” handle such things? Of necessity, there will be much talk about the Two Witnesses before we can drill down properly to the topic of Elijah.

However, this is not strictly an academic exercise, because it is this author’s belief that something which was prevalent at Christ’s First Coming is already being woven into the Church’s thinking in the shadow of His imminent Return. The very people who for generations studied and possessed God’s Word had allowed assumptions and presuppositions to so deeply replace the fundamental, plain text meaning of Scripture that most of them could not identify the Messiah, His harbinger in John who prepared His way, nor the fulfillment of most of the more than 325 prophecies which would be resolved before their very eyes in the course of Christ’s First Coming. Even without seeing most of the things related to the Second Coming fulfilled yet, one does not have to spend an inordinate amount of time at an online Christian forum, blog or website dedicated to any issue of eschatology without encountering the same kinds of dogma when it comes to the identity and activities of the Antichrist, False Prophet, Two Witnesses, Gog & Magog, or timing of the Rapture, much less the singular person of Elijah. The results can be devastating for those among God’s people who insist, even in the presence of God’s working, that “this” figure or “that” activity cannot possibly be a prophetic fulfillment of something which is contrary to their preconceived notions.

Let us learn from the collective past mistakes of those comprising our spiritual heritage and persistently seek not just the informational truth God’s Word is intended to convey, but to put it to practice to such a degree that it reshapes our thinking and faith so as to meet the spiritual qualification the Prophet Daniel articulated as necessary for the End Times believer:

3“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever…10Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand. (Daniel 12:3, 10)

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