An Elijah Work

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD : And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
—Malachi 4:5,6

THE EXPRESSION OF these verses is peculiar. The thought seems to be that Elijah’s work was to be one of reconciliation, or conversion, likened to turning parents to a humble, childlike condition, and after thus making them teachable as little children, to turn their hearts from error, sin, and unfaithfulness, and lead them back into harmony with their ‘fathers’—a term given by Hebrews to their faithful patriarchs and prophets.


Malachi’s prophecy was the last message sent by Jehovah to the people of Israel, and it seems to have deeply impressed them—especially the last two chapters. These particularly refer to Messiah’s coming, and to the special trials which the day of the Lord’s Presence would bring upon the nation. Gathering from this that their testings would be of a special character, they took courage from these last two verses of the prophecy, which promised that Elijah the prophet—who had once converted the entire nation from the worship of Baal back to the worship of Jehovah—would come again to prepare them for the special experiences associated with the coming of their Messiah.

This prophecy was only partially fulfilled at the First Advent of our Lord. It evidently had special reference to the time of his Second Advent. True, John the Baptist and his disciples engaged in a reformation work in an attempt to convert Israel and thus prepare them to receive their Messiah. Concerning this, Jesus said to his disciples that to those who could receive it, John was the promised Elijah. That is, John was the Elijah of promise to those in whose hearts and lives the foretold work of reformation had been accomplished.—Matt. 11:14


John was merely a type of the real Elijah, the true church in the flesh. The Lord’s faithful people throughout the age have been performing a similar work, and on a worldwide scale; a work which should have prepared the people to receive the Lord of glory at his Second Advent. But like the work of John the Baptist, this wider effort has also failed.

John the Immerser—in the spirit and power of Elijah—failed to reform Israel. As a consequence, the nation rejected Jesus in the flesh, and this resulted in a great ‘day of vengeance’ which destroyed the nation in A.D. 70-73. Thus the alternative fulfillment of the prophecy came upon this backsliding people, that is, the foretold ‘curse.’

Likewise, on a much larger scale, the work of the greater Elijah—the true church—has failed to prepare the world to receive the King of glory; and now, as a consequence, the beginning of the great day of wrath is upon all nations. The purpose of this is to melt and mellow, humble and prepare all to cry out from the heart: “Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!”—Mark 11:9


The true church in the flesh (the body of Christ) is the Elijah, or forerunner, of the church in glory. Their mission is to reprove error and sin, and to point to the Messiah, the Savior of the world, and to the kingdom of glory. The work in which the church is now engaged is merely preliminary to its future work so far as the reforming of the world is concerned. In its kingly office the church shall accomplish what it failed to do as the Elijah teacher in the flesh. And it will do much more. The dead billions of earth will be awakened, and the earthly phase of the kingdom will be victoriously established.

Let us not be misunderstood in this matter. God’s plan has not extended to the converting of the world during the Gospel Age. He designed the selection and trial of the church now, and the blessing of the world through the glorified Christ, in the next age. There is no contradiction to this when it is stated the ‘Elijah work’ has been an effort to convert mankind, even as John the Baptist tried to reform Israel.

God knew that this Elijah work of the church in the flesh would largely fail, yet he commissioned his people to let their light shine in the world; to hold forth the Word of life, and to proclaim the true Gospel, for he knew that this effort would react favorably upon them in their preparation to reign with Christ in glory.

With this proper viewpoint in mind, we are able to rejoice even while viewing what many have regarded as the failure of the church to convert the world during the past twenty centuries. We realize that the labors of the true ‘Elijah’ class have not been in vain, but have served the Divine purpose in developing the true church, and that even the world will, in due time, be benefited by the witness now given.


While the work of John the Baptist as a prototype of the promised Elijah was largely a failure—and this has likewise been true of the church’s work in the flesh—this does not mean that the world will never be converted. Pointing out John’s failure to fulfill the prophecy concerning the Elijah work, Jesus said, “Elijah indeed comes, and will restore all things.” (Matt. 17:11, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott) Evidently Jesus had in mind his own thousand-year reign in which his glorified body members would be associated with him. He was thus looking beyond the veil to the Millennial Age, and to the glorious work of reformation and restitution then to be accomplished.

As far as the present age is concerned, it is the alternate part of Malachi’s prophecy which is actually being fulfilled—‘Lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.’ But even in this, let us not draw before our minds too dark a picture, but rather, let us think upon the glory to follow the present great ‘day of wrath,’ and upon the joys of the incoming Millennial Day.

It is essential, however, that we be aware of the significance of present world events, and of the impending complete collapse of “this present evil world.” (Gal. 1:4) Otherwise we might become disheartened and alarmed. To know the meaning of the time in which we live is also an additional incentive to continue working diligently in the Master’s vineyard, “while it is day: [for] the night cometh, when no man can work.”—John 9:4

Concerning the true Gospel, the world is indeed in darkness, and the darkness of the night is becoming even more dense. At present, however, there is a little season before the darkness of trouble becomes too great when the Lord’s people have a favorable time to continue the Elijah work. It is also a favorable time for personal growth in grace and knowledge.


During John the Baptist’s closing experiences his influence diminished, even as he had testified that it would, saying of Christ, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) So it is with the true church in the flesh in these last days, it will continue to decrease until the last member has been faithful unto death and has received the crown of life beyond the veil in the heavenly phase of the kingdom. This does not mean that as the ‘remnant’ of the saints this side the veil ‘find’ one another, and associate in fellowship in groups, that new classes may not be formed, and some of the old ones become temporarily larger. This could be true while, at the same time, the total number of the saints this side of the veil would be diminishing.

In these closing days of the church’s earthly pilgrimage we should be so prepared, so armed, and so thoroughly furnished with the invincible Truth, that opposition and persecution would move us only to greater zeal and increased determination to hold high the standard of Truth. Let us continue faithfully to witness to the true Gospel, seeing that God has very graciously granted us this privilege as his servants and ambassadors.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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