(This is a general interpretation on Holy Scripture. Please read the scriptures for yourself, atone, pray and enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. G-D will give you knowledge if you ask. Do not take our word as law.)
This is a lesson on one of the most contentious subjects in the New Testament, that subject being; was John the Baptist Elijah? Most Christian teachers will certainly say NO because it would imply that the Bible supports reincarnation, which the Bible does not. Actually to be very technical with regard to the reincarnation question, it would not be reincarnation seeing that Elijah never died an earthly death, he was called up to Heaven alive.
We can look at this question in two ways; first; was John the Baptist actually Elijah in the flesh? or did the power and spirit of Elijah rest upon John the Baptist?
Lets look at the scripture in Matthew 17:
10. And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
11. And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
12. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
13. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.
Now was Christ Yeshua actually declaring that Elijah returned in the flesh? No he did not. Lets look at Luke 1 to gain a better understanding of how Elijah is to return.
Luke 1:17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
As we can see John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, not Elijah in the flesh. Even John the Baptist himself denied being Elijah in the flesh in the Gospel of John chapter 1.
Lets look a little deeper into the prophecy that declares Elijah must return and why he must return. There are two prophecies, which may be one and the same, that pertains to John the Baptist.
1. For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
2. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.
3. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.
4. Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
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, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
This prophecy is most certainly pertaining to the Son of G-D our Christ Yeshua. Some would speculate or interpret this scripture as being strictly for the end times as the scripture does say "great and dreadful day of the LORD". But it quite literally states that he will come before, it doesn't indicate how many years, decades and or centuries before, it simply says before.
We now go to Isaiah 40 and read about the prophecy of the voice crying in the wilderness which John the Baptist certainly fulfilled..
Please take 2 minutes and read this entire chapter...
1. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins.
3. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
5. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
6. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
7. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.
8. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
9. O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
10. Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
11. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
12. Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?
13. Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?
14. With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?
15. Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.
16. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering.
17. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.
18. To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?
19. The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains.
20. He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved.
21. Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22. It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:
23. That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.
24. Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble.
25. To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
26. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.
27. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?
28. Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
29. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
30. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
31. But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
We can clearly see that the prophecy stating " verse 3. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." is exactly what John the Baptist fulfilled as he declared that the Kingdom of G-D was at hand and he declared the coming of the Messiah and Son of G-D Christ Yeshua. He taught with fire and did not hold back, he targeted the unrighteous of his day and he spoke the literal truth, even though that truth offended many.
The Church in the John the Baptist's day was corrupt, decaying from within because of extra-Biblical traditions and teachings. It had become a hollow representation of what G-D intended and what Moses established. John the Baptist came to set the "path" straight for the coming of the Lord, he announced his coming, he warned the masses.
But we must remember that Elijah will return again as one of the Two Witnesses or two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing in front of G-D. This is not clearly defined in the Bible it's my opinion. These two golden candlesticks or two olive trees are defined in Zechariah 4 and are explained as the two anointed ones, which anointed would literally mean Messiahs. We will cover this in a lesson to come.