Central to this question of will Elijah return is a prophecy given by Malachi. Elijah was a prophet that lived during the final days of the judges, just before the first King Saul was installed over the twelve tribes of Israel. He lived roughly seven hundred years before Malachi, yet Malachi prophesies that Elijah will return. The prophecy is from Malachi 4:5-61 and represents the very last words in the Old Testament:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.

The attention that this question gathers in broader “end times” discussions is rather significant. For example, David Jeremiah asks if Elijah returns during the Tribulation in his blog. He says, “Elijah will return according to Malachi’s prophecy” (note the future tense) and goes on to speculate that Elijah will be one of the two witnesses from Revelation 11 and asserting that “most scholars believe one of the two witnesses will be Elijah.”

So will Elijah return? Does Scripture concur with David Jeremiah and “most scholars?”

How Scripture answers "Will Elijah return?"

Elijah has already come, and it was John the Baptist2,3,4. This is made clear by both an angel of God2 and Jesus Himself3 in a straightforward and perfect example of Scripture interpreting Scripture. In fact, even if we only had Malachi to consider, when looking at its broader context4 we can see the hint at this answer. It’s not a mystery! It doesn’t need to be difficult; God has answered it. And isn’t it fitting that in the very last verses of the Old Testament, before roughly four hundred years of silence from God, the Testaments are connected by a promise from God4 and His fulfillment of it2,3!

David Jeremiah in his blog linked above never even mentions these passages2,3. He doesn’t bother to reconcile for his readers why Elijah is coming after Jesus2,3 has already confirmed for us that he came and it was John the Baptist. Surely a committed Bible student and teacher like David Jeremiah knows about these passages? Why would he choose to ignore them? Instead, he chooses to speculate and conjure vague and misguided explanations from unrelated texts. It’s as if Jesus3 was speaking directly to David Jeremiah when, after He confirms that the Malachi prophecy4 was about John the Baptist, says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15)

Answer built on scripture-blocks below

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Elijah has returned…