This question came after the sermon “God’s Rescue Plan” in our Courage to Obey series on the history of the city of Jericho. In Joshua 6, the city was cursed because of sin, but the story actually shows not just judgment but a recurring picture of God’s plan for salvation and rescue through Jesus.
Q: When talking about how Elijah’s ultimate successor was Jesus, you referenced the end of Malachi and how Elijah would return preparing the way for Jesus, and how Elijah returned in the form of John the Baptist. I’d never heard this before. Could you explain for me where this comes from, or at least where to go so I can learn more about this connection?
A: The Elijah prophecy is from the last verses of the Old Testament — Malachi 4:5-6, “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
This prophecy finds its fulfillment in the coming of John the Baptist according to Matthew 17:11-13, “Jesus replied, ‘To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.”
You can also see Luke 1:17, “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous — to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”