There are three “Elijahs” that the bible recognises. There is Elijah the Tishbite (1Kings 17-19), there is Elijah in the form of John the Baptist and there is Elijah who Jesus said will come after John the Baptist (Matthew 17:1-13, 11:1-15, Luke 1:10-17, 3:3-14, Acts 3:21, 3:19, Mark 9:11-13).
Elijah the Tishbite
He epitomises the power ministry, causing a nation to confess: the Lord, He is God.
The nation of Israel had bent away from God in their spiritual allegiance; Elijah held the whole nation of Israel hostage for three and a half years, holding the rain, causing unprecedented drought. When that caught their attention, he called the nation to contrast between Baal, a foreign god and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He said to that nation: the God who answers by fire should be recognised as God.
At the end of the day the whole people worshipped God saying the Lord, he is God, because Elijah was able to get fire to come down from heaven when the hundred of prophets of the other gods could get the slightest response from their deities.
Elijah was single-mindedly focused on the glory of God. He has no social life to talk of. His assignment did not warrant such pleasure, neither did he have any children, based in the record of the bible, and he probably did not live for long. He was still agile, walking several kilometers in a day when chariots of fire came down from heaven to take up him to heaven (2Kings 2:1-15).
Elijah in John the Baptist
According to the prophetic word to his (John the Baptist) father Zachariah the priest, he will go forth in the spirit and power of Elijah before the Lord Jesus, preparing his way.
Interestingly we did not see John call down fire, but he called people in Israel to repentance, as the first Elijah did. He did not have much of a social life also. He was isolated in the wilderness for a long time, with mere frugal existence and clothes made of Carmel’s hair (Mark 1:1-6). Not the most comfortable of clothing, I can assure you. He lived in harsh environmental condition of the wilderness and was in fasting often (Matthew 9:14).
There was a special circumstance surrounding his birth and he was full of the Holy Spirit from birth. He had a special commission from God to reveal Jesus to the nation of Israel (John 1:29-34) (and he did) just as Elijah the Tishbite revealed the true God to Israel in his time. John called people to repentance just as Elijah the Tishbite did.
Jesus took the John, James and Peter to a mount, and Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke to Him; the voice of God also confirmed Jesus as the Son of God, to be heard more that Moses and Elijah. It was a special occasion and it left a strong impression of how special Jesus is on them. It was clear to them that Jesus was the man Israel was waiting for, the Messiah.
So they asked about what some bible interpreters said: that Elijah will come again before the Messiah, in a reference to the focus verse. Jesus agreed with those interpreters.
But note what Jesus said. He said: Elijah has come and he is coming, referring to two more Elijahs after the first, making three.
Jesus said Elijah the 2nd had come and was treated him anyhow, with disdain, with disrespect. As at this time, John the Baptist had been beheaded (Matthew 14:1-12). The scribes and Pharisees, who decoded that Elijah was coming before the Christ did not recognise the Elijah in John the Baptist, nor recognise the Christ.
Jezebel the wife of Ahab the king of Israel threatened to kill Elijah because of his prophetic ministry, while the second Elijah in John the Baptist was imprisoned and had his head removed for speaking out against the sins of the political leadership of his time.
Elijah the third
When Jesus answered the question of James and John and Peter about the coming Elijah, He said though Elijah has come (in John the Baptist), Elijah is coming and he will restore all things.
Who is this Elijah? I believe the Holy Spirit is Elijah the third.
The force of the Holy Spirit is the force of restoration. From the focus verse, the mission of the John the second Elijah is to foster repentance; while it was Jesus who gives the further definition of the purpose of the still coming Elijah (yet to come as at the time he was making that statement), which is restoration of all things. However, the Holy Spirit’s ministry also calls to repentance (John 16:7-9). So the three Elijahs are similar on that point. The three of them are also prophetic.
There is no activity of God that is not by the Holy Spirit. Even the mark of Elijah that was on John the Baptist is the Holy Spirit. His father prophesied that he would go before the Lord as the forerunner in the Spirit and power of Elijah. John was Elijah undercover. (The Holy Spirit is more undercover as Elijah the 3rd than that because you can’t even see him. He is in us as Christians.)
It was the Spirit with which he operated that marked him apart, that showed he fulfilled that prophecy that Elijah will come.
At the time Jesus answered the question of Peter, James and John, the Elijah the third, the Holy Spirit had not come. But He came on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1). Jesus told the disciples before he ascended to heaven that they will receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon them (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit is the spirit and power of Elijah.
The Holy Spirit had come and is still coming because God said through Joel: I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh in the last days. These are days in which the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is taking place. It started on the day of Pentecost (Joel 2:28-29).
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the people in the upper room as fire from heaven in the shape of tongues. Does that not remind you of Elijah the first bringing down fire from heaven? No other person is remarkably associated with fire coming down from heaven in the bible.
That the Holy Spirit is a person was not lost on the New Testament Christians. He is more real that any physical being. Peter rebuked Ananias for lying not only to him but to the Holy Spirit also (Acts 5:1-3). In another place, James a leader of the church in Jerusalem sent a letter to the Antioch church, telling them the resolution the church eldership. Part of the letter read: it seems good to us and to the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:28). In another place Peter said that the Holy Spirit is a special witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:32).
The Spirit of Elijah is always prophetic. Elijah the first is a prophet, of Elijah the second, Jesus said that he is more than a prophet. Elijah the third is higher still; he makes all operation of the gifts of prophecy possible.
Paul says that everyone can desire to prophecy (1Corinthians 14:1), it means everyone can be prophetic. For Elijah the 1st, it was one person who was prophetic; he was a one-man prophetic army. John, before the manifestation of Jesus, was a one man prophetic army. But now the potential army is every Christian by the operation of the Holy Spirit, who is Elijah the third.
- Spiritual Conflicts – How long will you falter between two opinions? (dailyonepearl.wordpress.com)
- Elijah (biblicalpeople.wordpress.com)
- Elijah and Mount Carmel (salucofs.wordpress.com)
- The Holy Spirit – Our Helper (sundayschoolbiblestudy.wordpress.com)
- Holy Spirit. (bummyla.wordpress.com)