Does “Temporal Conflict” Explain the Apparent Contradictions in the Coming of Elijah?

>An antagonist wrote: Here is a another view on Matthew 17 and Jesus’ discussion of Elijah who “is coming” and who “already came”:
> Matthew 17:10-12 NASB And His disciples asked Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” (11) And He answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; (12) but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.”
> §My explanation of the future tense:
> –The question is in future tense. The answer corresponded to the question.
> §Question: “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
> §Answer (pt.1): “Elijah is coming and will restore all things”
> –This is from the point of view the O.T.
> §Answer (pt.2): but I say that Elijah already came (i.e., John the Baptist)
> –This is from the point of view of the N.T.
> We can see the same “temporal conflict” in the language of Jesus in speaking elsewhere:
> John 4:23 NASB”But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
> John 5:25 NASB”Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.
> Seeing Jesus use language this way, and seeing the context within Matthew 17, give evidence that there is another interpretation other than Elijah is still yet to come in person.

James replies: If one accepts the position that you have suggested, it leaves the conflct between John’s statement and Jesus’ statement. John said he was not Elijah in the sense of fulfilling the prophecy to which the Jews had reference. Jesus said that John was Elijah in some sense. Either Jesus and John were referring to different things, or there is a flat contradiction between two inspired men. I prefer the former explanation. If you select the former, then it drives you to an explanation of Jesus’ statement in which He was referring to a typical fulfillment of the prophecy regarding Elijah. Obviously, Elijah the Tishbite still existed in the days of Jesus (Mt 17:3), and he had NOT returned in accordance with Malachi’s prophecy (Mal 4:5). And, yes, I know Moses also appeared, and he had been dead for 1500 years, but Elijah had not died (II Ki 2:11), and there are specific prophecies about Elijah’s return at the end of the world (Mal 4:5, Rev 11:3, En 90:31-32, II Esdras 6:25-26, SibOrc II:234-239).

Malachi 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers

The great and dreadful day of the Lord is the last day, the day when Jesus comes to destroy the wicked (Isa 13:6, 9, Jer 46:10, Ezek 30:2-3, etc.). God did not destroy the wicked in John’s and Jesus’ day.

II Esdras 6
[25] “And it shall be that whoever remains after all that I have foretold to you shall himself be saved and shall see my salvation and the end of my world. [26] And they shall see the men who were taken up, who from their birth have not tasted death

Sibylline Oracles Book II Line 234-239
And then the Tishbite, urging from the heaven
235 His chariot celestial, and on earth
Arriving, shall to all the world display
Three evil signs of life to be destroyed [woe, woe, woe—Rev 8:13]
Alas for all the women in that day
Who shall be found with burden in the womb [Mt 24:19]!

About James Johnson

Bible student for 60 years. Preacher of the gospel for over 40 years. Author of commentary on Revelation, All Power to the Lamb. Married with children. Worked in aerospace and computer engineering for over 40 years.
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