Chapter 2 – Timing
Now that we know the prophet Elijah is coming back again, the obvious question we need to explore is when?
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
I took some time to carefully study Malachi 4:5 in different translations of Scripture. The four other Bible translations that I read had very diverse and rich interpretations. I took the best of all and combined them to get the most complete meaning possible. Here is my compilation:
“See, I will send you another prophet like Elijah to clear the way before the great, dreadful and decisive judgment day of God arrives.Malachi 4:5
Observe carefully the timing of the arrival of the prophet Elijah. He will come before the great and terrible day of the Lord.
That is not the day of the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus. Let us consider two very important Scriptures to conclusively show that the days that the Lord Jesus Christ ministered here on earth was not the “day of the Lord” mentioned in Malachi 4:5.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God;Isaiah 61:1-2
So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.
And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”Luke 4:16-19
After His baptism, the Lord Jesus Christ, lled with the Holy Spirit, went into the wilderness to fast for 40 days. After the fast, while visiting Nazareth – his hometown – on the Sabbath, He went into the synagogue as was His custom.
The rabbi at the synagogue, obliviously guided by the Holy Spirit, took the scroll of Isaiah and handed it to the Lord Jesus to read the Scripture portion for the day. The Lord opened the scroll, His hands carefully guided by the Spirit of the Lord, to the passage of Isaiah 61 and began to read. This incident is carefully recorded in Luke 4:16-19.
By careful comparison, we can see that Luke 4:18 is a direct quotation of Isaiah 61:1. However, observe Luke 4:19: “And to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” After reading that portion of the verse, the Lord Jesus handed the scroll back and sat down. Take a close look at Luke 4:19 and compare it with Isaiah 61:2.
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”Luke 4:19
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God;Isaiah 61:2
Are they two Scriptures the same? No, I hear you say. Why did the Lord Jesus stop before completing the whole verse? Because when the Lord Jesus came the first time, it was not the end of times when the vengeance of God would manifest. It was not the “day of the Lord” spoken of in Malachi 4:5.
The Lord Jesus came to bring grace—the forgiveness of sins. It was not the time of the judgment of the Lord yet. Even the demons knew that. Look at this Scripture where a demon screams at the Lord saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” (Matt 8:29). There is a time for that—the end-times, the dreadful day of the Lord. But that was not the time when the Lord Jesus was physically here on earth.
The Lord Jesus came to bring grace and truth and preach the way by which man can be accepted by God (Jn 1:17). That is why He very deliberately stopped reading Isaiah 61:2 half- way through the verse and left out the phrase “…and the day of vengeance of our God”.
This point is also illustrated by the following incident:
51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,
52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.
53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.
54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command re to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”
55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.
56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.”Luke 9: 51-56
Sensing that the coming of the Lord Jesus as Messiah signaled the end of times, the disciples wanted call down re to destroy the Samaritan village just as the prophet Elijah had done to two separate groups of soldiers (2 Kg 1:10,12). But the Lord Jesus restrained them, saying, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.” By that he was inferring that the Spirit He possessed which was also imparted to the disciples was the Spirit of Grace (Jn 1:16). Then, He said, “For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” To judge and destroy sinners is something that God will do in the dreadful day of His vengeance.
This means that the coming of the prophet Elijah during the “great and terrible day of the Lord” was not the time of the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Dreadful Day of the Lord
The prophet Elijah will come at a time before the great and dreadful day of the Lord. What will be the signs – both in society and in the church – that will signal to us that we are living in those times?
The Bible is full of Scriptures to give us clear sign-posts about that time.
- The Army of the Lord will rise up and do great exploits – Joel 2:1-11
- There will signs in the sun, moon and the stars – Joel 2:31
- The nations of the world will do much harm to Israel – Obad 15
- Idolatry like in the day of the prophet Elijah will increase – Zeph 1:4-7
- The call to repentance (Revelation 14:6-7) will be powerfully preached all over the world – Zeph 2:2-3
- The nations will gather to war against Israel – Zech 14:1-2
- False teachers will be proclaiming that the judgments of God will not come and that we are living in peace and safety – 1 Thes 5:2
- Apostasy and believers falling away from the truth will be rampant in the church – 2 Thes 2:2-4
- Heart attitudes of people in society will change drastically for the worse – Isa 2:12; 2 Tim 3:1-8
What will happen when the dreadful day of the Lord manifests? Let us look at the following Scriptures…
- Destruction will come from the Lord – Isa 13:6-9; Joel 1:15
- God will take vengeance on behalf of His people – Isa 34:8; Jer 46:10
- Despair will come upon the nations – Ezek 30:3
- God will fight with the nations by bringing them together for war – Joel 3:14; Obad 15; Zeph 1:7-18; Zech 14:3-4
- Nuclear war among nations – 2 Pe 3:10
Taken together, all these Scriptures prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the dreadful day of the Lord was not during the time when the Lord Jesus was on this earth. If that is so, then the day of the Lord must be some time in the future—the last days! It is in these last days that Malachi 4:5 is going to be ful lled.
Wait a minute, I hear you say; What about the Lord Jesus’ references to John the Baptist being Elijah? Let us look at the following Scriptures…
7 As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?
8 But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.
9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.
10 For this is he of whom it is written: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’Matthew 11: 7-10
Verse 10 is a quotation from Malachi 3:1. The Lord was testifying that the “messenger” prophesied in Malachi 3:1 is none other than the prophet John the Baptist. The Lord Jesus further stunned His hearers when He said: “And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matt 11:14).
What did the Lord Jesus mean by that statement? Surely He is not referring to reincarnation, is He? Certainly not! What did He mean, then? The answer is found in the following passage:
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be lled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.
16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
17 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: 13-17
The angel Gabriel appeared before the priest Zechariah and said that his wife will conceive and give birth to a son. This boy will be of special birth because “he will go before [the Messiah] in the spirit and power of Elijah.” What does that mean? It means that the anointing and the grace of God that was upon the prophet Elijah will now come and rest in similar degree and fashion upon the prophet John the Baptist.
We read of a similar incident in the Old Testament when the Lord God took the Spirit that was upon the prophet Moses and laid it upon the elders of Israel.
16 So the Lord said to Moses: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and of cers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you.
17 Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.Number 11: 16-17
Because the spirit of Elijah was upon the prophet John the Baptist, his lifestyle and mannerism was similar to the prophet Elijah. The prophet Elijah was “a hairy man, wearing a leather belt around his waist” (2 Kg 1:8). Like his predecessor, the prophet John the Baptist was dressed in camel’s hair, which would make him look “hairy”, and wore a leather belt around his waist (Matt 3:4; Mk 1:6). Though the prophet John the Baptist did not perform any miracles like his predecessor, yet the fearless power of the prophet Elijah was upon the prophet John the Baptist to denounce sin and rebuke kings.
We also read of another incident where the prophet Moses laid his hands upon Joshua, his successor, and the Spirit of Wisdom that was upon the prophet Moses came upon Joshua (Deu 34:9). Not only that, even the honor, power and authority that was upon the prophet Moses came upon Joshua, the new leader (Num 27:20).
Furthermore, before the prophet Elijah was to be caught up to heaven, his designated successor, Elisha, asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kg 2:9). When the prophet Elisha received the mantle of his predecessor, he wanted to test it (similar to how many Christians pray for second, third, and even fourth con rmations today).
When he came to the Jordan river, he smote the river with the mantle that fell from the prophet Elijah. Immediately, the water piled up and stopped owing. The prophet Elisha walked on the dry water bed back home (2 Kg 2:14). When the sons of the prophets saw the miraculous act done by the prophet Elisha, they exclaimed in unison “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha” (2 Kg 2:15). This is similar to the spirit of Elijah resting upon the prophet John the Baptist.
As I was fasting and praying on December 24, 1983, the Lord Jesus appeared before me. Seated beside the Lord I saw the saint Sadhu Sundar Singh. Both the Lord and the saint were seated about 10 feet away from me. The Lord Jesus then explained to me the ministry of Sadhu Sundar Singh. I had been reading many books about the ministry of Sadhu Sundar Singh since May 1982. I still have in my collection many of his books. But what the Lord explained to me that day I had never read anywhere in any book.
After explaining the details of Sadhu Sundar Singh’s ministry, the Lord asked me a question: “Will you continue his work?” In my youthful zeal I answered immediately, “Yes, Lord, I will do it.”
The Lord cautioned me, saying, “Wait, don’t rush.” He explained, elaborating in greater detail, the many sufferings, trials and tribulations that this saint had gone through in his ministry in Tibet. Then the Lord asked again, “Now tell Me, will you continue his work? Think carefully.” I was about to say yes, when the Lord cautioned me again, saying, “If you accept this call, you will have to walk the same path of tribulation, trials, pain, hunger, suffering and persecution that he went through.”
Without any hesitation or second thought I humbly answered, “Yes, Lord, I will do it.” The Lord Jesus then got up from where He was seated, took the shawl—or mantle—from Sadhu Sundar Singh’s shoulder and walked straight towards me. When He came near me, He said, “Kneel down.” When I knelt before the Lord, He laid Sadhu Sundar Singh’s shawl on my shoulder and said, “From this day onwards continue his work.”
Ever since then, for the 20 years that the Lord had me do this ministry in Tibet, every time I would pray for Tibet and each time I would go to Tibet, I would see in the spirit the saint Sadhu Sundar Singh accompany me. His ministry to me was like that of an angel sent to help the heirs of salvation (Heb 1:14). When the spirit and power of Sadhu Sundar Singh was upon me – which I received through the laying on of his shawl – I felt some of my mannerism and style of ministry and preaching become like his.
Let’s get back to the question whether the birth and ministry of John the Baptist was the fulfilment of the return of the prophet Elijah. Let us consider the following passage:
1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves;
2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.
3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.
4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”
6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid.
7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.”
8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.Matthew 17: 1-8
After seeing the vision of the glori ed trio of the Lord Jesus and the prophets Moses and Elijah transfigured, the disciples asked the Lord about the teaching concerning the prophet Elijah having to come before the Messiah could appear:
9 Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”
10 And his disciples asked him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come rst?”
11 Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming rst and will restore all things.
12 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.”
13 Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptist.Matthew 17: 9-13
The Lord Jesus’ answer to their question revealed the dual aspect of this prophecy. Most of the prophecies recorded in the Bible have at least two major ful lments, and this one does also. As the Lord Jesus showed that the prophet John the Baptist was the “Elijah who was to come” before His rst coming, there remains yet another appearance of the prophet Elijah before “the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5).
Some have been confused regarding this passage, because the prophet John the Baptist himself denied to the Jewish leadership that he was the expected Prophet Elijah:
19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”
23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,”’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
In a sense, the prophet John’s denial was accurate, because he was not the final, full realisation of this prophecy. But the prophet John clearly identifies himself with the prophesied messenger who was to come before the Messiah by quoting from Isaiah 40:1-5. Let’s examine this passage in detail to see if it was only for the prophet John the Baptist’s time:
1 “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God.
2 “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”
3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth;
5 The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all esh shall see it together; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”Isaiah 40: 1-5
This prophecy, which the prophet John the Baptist quoted only in part, speaks of the coming of a messenger who heralds the imminent redemption of Jerusalem and the coming of the Messiah in glory. This complete salvation will only occur after the end-time messenger, whom the prophet Malachi identi es as Elijah, has “turned the hearts of the children back to the fathers” just “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Mal 4:5-6).
On September 17, 2017, while praying in the afternoon, I found myself, in the Spirit, in heaven before the Council of the Prophets. The Lord Jesus chaired the meeting. He asked me: “What is the sign of Elijah’s coming?” I stared at the Lord with an I don’t know Lord – please teach me kind of look.
The Lord continued, saying, “It will be during a time of disaster; a time when there will be gross darkness. There will be confusion in society. Children—including young and inexperienced ministers—will be going their own way and doing their own thing. The fathers—older ministers—will be settled in their own old ways, though grieving over the waywardness of the young. The fathers and the children—the old and the young ministers—will be divorced from each other, each going their separate ways. They need to be reconciled. The old need the strength of the young and the young need the matured ways of the old.
It will be during a time when an idolatrous generation will seek witchcraft and demon worship by building altars of Baal all over the world. False prophets and prophets of Baal will rise and set up their bases of operation even in churches.”
Isn’t such a time as this in which we are living ripe for the prophet Elijah to come?
I was working on this book on November 4, 2017 when I had a strong stirring and impression in my spirit of the presence of someone standing behind me. When I turned around I was pleasantly surprised to see the saint Elijah standing there with a benign smile. I knelt before the presence of God and greeted the saint. Looking at me with a father’s delight, he said, “I have brought something for you.”
Upon saying that, he placed a small green box on my chair. It looked like the kind of small box when you buy a ring from a jeweler. When I looked at the box, a Scripture – Malachi 4:5 – was seen oating in it. The saint Elijah said to me, “Say boldly: the time has come for the ful lment of Malachi 4:5. Do not be afraid.” This Scripture says, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”