Harry Whittaker
Five Minutes To Twelve

5. Elijah

In a familiar prophecy about the coming of Christ, there is this explicit detail: "I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord" (Mal. 4:5 RV).

There are those who maintain that this prophecy was fulfilled in John the Baptist. In this they are right. Luke 1: 17, Mt.17: 12 say so. But they are not wholly right, for Jesus also said: "Elias truly shall first come, and restore (Gk. future tense) all things" (Mt. 17:11). John had certainly been beheaded when these words were spoken. So the conclusion is hardly to be avoided that the Lord looked for a further and more complete fulfilment of the Malachi prophecy. This is the more certain since John did not "turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers", for more than once Jesus declared John's mission to be a failure, Lk. 7: 33; Mt. 11: 12. Also, ghastly as were the experiences of A.D. 70 that was not “the great and terrible day of the Lord”, for, as later chapters here will establish, there are much worse sufferings in store for the holy Land and its holy City.

This Last-Day fulfilment of the Elijah prophecy (not necessarily by Elijah himself or by John the Baptist, but by an Elijah-like prophet) helps towards a solution of a somewhat distressing problem.

A good deal of intense expectancy has centred round the year of 1988. The chain of reasoning goes thus:

  1. "This generation (which witnesses the blossoming of the fig tree) shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled" (Mt.24:34).
  2. The N.T. speaks of a generation as a period of forty years (Heb. 3:9,10; Mt. 23:36).
  3. The beginning of this end-time generation can be fairly confidently identified with 1948, the inauguration of the independent state of Israel.
  4. Then ought not the Lord's coming to be expected in 1988?
This may seem water-tight, but it isn't - for two very good reasons:

  1. Chapter 4 here has provided copious Bible evidence for believing that a necessary pre-condition for the Lord's return is that there be repentance in Israel - some sign of "fruit" on the Israeli fig-tree; it was because he found no fruit on it that he abandoned it to its fate (Mt. 21:19,20). Yet in spite of what that chapter has added, can it be said that the year of grace 1988 has manifested real fruit for God?
  2. The repentance, which God seeks in His Israel, He also seeks with at least equal eagerness in His New Israel - and here the same doubt exists. True, prayers are endlessly offered for the Second Coming. A certain academic interest persists. But if the "servants" were eager and watchful, would they show such enthusiasm for the affluent life in which this decadent twentieth century so readily schools them? Would they be content with studies in Bible prophecy which have advanced their understanding hardly at all since 1870? Now, in ancient days when natural Israel displayed no enthusiasm for their Land of Promise, with brusque divine indignation they were packed off back into the wilderness for a further forty (39?) years. There are lots of examples of this divine reaction to human faithlessness. It would be strange, surely, if the New Israel of today were to be immune from the same kind of deserved disappointment. Our Lord said concerning the horrors of A.D. 70: "For the elect's sake those days shall be shortened (made shorter)" (Mt. 24: 22). Could it be that now, for the unfaithfuls' sake (Num. 14: 33,34) these days will be lengthened instead of shortened?
There is also this consideration, Jesus said quite specifically that the tribulation period in Elijah's ministry was precisely "three years and six months" (Lk. 4: 25; Jas. 5: 17), yet this exact period is not to be found in the Books of Kings. Then where did Jesus get it from?

The only place in the O.T. where this precise period is to be found is in the Book of Daniel, and of the three occurrences there, one is outstandingly clear as to its reference: "when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished" (12: 7).

If Jesus quarried his 3½ years from Daniel (and used it over again in Rev. 12: 14; 13: 5; 11: 3,11) in a very similar context, then may it not be inferred that the Last Day Elijah (who may be even now living quietly in some obscure kibbutz in Israel) will be raised up in the last imminent years of Israel's tribulation to turn the heart of the fathers of the nation to be as receptive as children, and to turn the heart of the children (wayward heedless Israel) to their Fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob)?

If so, is it possible to pin-point the beginning of this climactic 3½ years? For suggestion regarding this, see chapter 9.

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