The Promise of the Arrival of Elijah in Malachi and the Gospels -- By: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 03:2 (Fall 1982)
Article: The Promise of the Arrival of Elijah in Malachi and the Gospels
Author: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.


The Promise of the Arrival of Elijah in Malachi and the Gospels

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

Was John the Baptist the fulfillment of Malachis prediction about Elijah the prophet who was to come before that great day of the Lord comes? The hermeneutical solution to this question is offered in a generic fulfillment, or what the older theologians called the novissima. Therefore, Elijah has comein the spirit and power witnessed in John the Baptist, and will yet come in the future. Generic prophecy has three foci: (1) the revelatory word, (2) all intervening historical events which perpetuate that word, and (3) the generic wholeness (one sense or meaning) in which the final or ultimate fulfillment participates in all the earnests that occupied the interim between the original revelatory word and this climactic realization.

* * *

The NT’s interest in the prophet Elijah may be easily assessed from the fact that he is the most frequently mentioned OT figure in the NT after Moses (80 times), Abraham (73), and David (59); Elijah’s name appears 29 or 30 times.1

Even more significant, however, are the six major and explicit references to Elijah in the Synoptic Gospels. There, some of Jesus’ contemporaries identified our Lord—in the second of three opinions—as Elijah (Mark 6:14–16; Luke 9:7–9). Jesus’ disciples were also aware of this popular confusion, for they too repeated it (Matt 16:13–20; Mark 8:27–30; Luke 9:18–21). This connection between Jesus and Elijah continued to hold its grip on many even up to the time of the crucifixion, for those who heard Jesus’ fourth word from the cross thought he was calling on Elijah to rescue him (Matt 27:45–49;

Mark 15:33–36). And who should appear on the mount of transfiguration but Moses and Elijah, talking to Jesus (Matt 17:1–19; Mark 9:2–10; Luke 9:28–36)?

But there were two other references in the Synoptics which referred to a future coming of Elijah. One came when Jesus’ disciples asked why the scribes claimed it was necessary that Elijah had to come first (Matt 17:10–...

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