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 Elijah is not John the Baptist

The Old Testament promised that Elijah would come to the Jewish people. Some who believe in reincarnation think this is what occurred with John the Baptizer being the fulfillment of Elijah's coming.

The Angel Gabriel announced to Zecharias that his son's name would be called John in Luke 1:13. He goes on to say in verse 15 that he will be great in the sight of the Lord and “shall drink no wine or strong drink and will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb.” Verse 17 says of John, “he will also go before Him (The Lord) in the Spirit and power of Elijah,” which is a ministry of reconciliation, would have the “hearts of the fathers turned to the children and children turning to their fathers.”

To claim that Elijah is John the Baptist is to teach reincarnation. The premise is that a spirit in a former body comes back to be born in another body. At the very least, it is transmigration. The Bible has never taught this.

In Matthew 11:13, Jesus states: “For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.” (Jesus calls him “John” not “Elijah.” Elijah is included with 'all the prophets' who came before John. In verse 14, Jesus says “and if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.” John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt and preached in the wilderness. This was the same attire that Elijah wore (2 Kings 1:8), bringing attention to the Jews of the similarity of John's mission to that of Elijah's. Prophecy has many patterns and sometime dual or more fulfillments.

Malachi had predicted that before the Messiah's appearing, Elijah would come as a forerunner (Mal. 4:5-in relation to the day of the Lord). If the people had been willing to receive Jesus as the Messiah, then John would have filled the role of Elijah. Jesus then tells them to heed His words. If John fulfills Elijah's coming then Jesus is the Messiah.

Jesus pointed to John the Baptist as a type of fulfillment of Elijah's coming but he was not a reincarnation.

This is proven in John 1:20 when the Jews sent out the priests and Levites to investigate John's ministry. They ask him if he is the Christ. He states emphatically “No!” They ask him again if he is Elijah, John answers “I am not.” This is not a temporary memory loss for John that Jesus has to correct later. In verse 25, John the Baptist is asked, ‘Why do you baptize if you are not the Christ nor Elijah nor the prophet?’ In verses 25-27 John points to the Messiah who is coming after him. He states that it is he who is the forerunner of Malachi 3:1. In Luke 1:76, we see that John's father, Zecharias, is filled with the Holy spirit and says that his child will be called the prophet of the highest and will “go before the face of the Lord and prepare His ways again.' This relates John's ministry to Mal. 3:1, 4:5, and Luke 1:17. John labored in the same Spirit and power of the former prophet by calling people to repentance and he was preparing them for the salvation that Christ would later bring.

Both are Elijah and John the Baptist are forerunners. Elijah was promised to come for the second coming not the first, therefore he is not John the Baptist. Mal.3:1 promised an unnamed forerunner Mal.3:1: “Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom you delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” Malachi speaks of two messengers one that will prepare the way for the Lord, this is none other than John the Baptizer who is foretold in Isa.40:3-4 as “The voice crying out in the wilderness: prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

  In Mal 4:5-6 he is named “ Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.  We are told the prophet Elijah will come before the great and terrible day of the Lord (the tribulation). In Luke 4:18 when Jesus stood up in the temple and quoted Isa.61:1-2 he stopped at proclaiming the acceptable year of the lord and did not read of the day of vengeance of our God. This is reserved for the tribulation period in which Elijah will preach before the day of the Lord! Which makes it clear that John could not be Elijah for it was not the Day of Vengeance; it still is in the future. Again, if we go back to what the angel Gabriel said: he (John) would come “in the spirit and power” of Elijah (Luke 1:17), coming in this ministry does not make him literally Elijah the prophet.

One of the strongest testimonies that John is not Elijah is on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:3; Luke 9:30; Mark 9:4-5). Elijah and Moses appear and Jesus talks to Elijah. The disciples recognize him as Elijah in his original form, not as John the Baptist. One must either concede that they are 2 different people or that John the Baptist turned back into Elijah. Again, this would promote reincarnation or transmigration of a spirit going from one body to another. The Bible does not teach either. If one insists on this view then they must deal with II kings 2 where in vs. 9 Elisha asks for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit upon himself. He is promised this will be so if he sees his mentor taken to heaven. In vs. 11-12 he does see this event and Elijah's mantle falls on Elisha. In vs. 14 he struck the water and it divided just as it did before with Elijah. The Sons of the prophets see this and say, “The Spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” If Elijah’s spirit was upon Elisha then he was not taken to heaven! John had the same Spirit upon him that Elijah did. This did not change Elisha to be Elijah but gave him the same authority through the ministry of the Spirit. If one is going to use the Scripture that John the Baptizer literally came in the Spirit and power of Elijah then how did he rest on Elisha and become a double portion no less. Obviously verse 9 this means in like ministry, and function, to having authority. John came “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” the similarity being his fiery preaching and being in the wilderness (Luke 1:17; John 10:41). There are patterns that repeat themselves in the scriptures as a certain aspect is expressed in different people.

Let’s now sum up this unbiblical view. In II Kings 2:1, we find Elijah taken bodily into Heaven. For one to enter Heaven they must be transformed (1 Cor. 15:50-54), changed to an immortal body, a body which is no longer subject to death since corruptible flesh cannot enter into Heaven. If Elijah came back as John the Baptist, and was killed, this would be impossible according to Scripture. For one who has had a changed body to be equipped for Heaven, does not turn back to mortality. If we look at it more carefully in II Kings 2:11 Elijah never experienced physical death so for him to come back in another body means he reincarnated not only in Spirit but in body too, and the Bible never teaches either one of these. Elijah did not die, so the Scripture is not talking about his reincarnation as John the Baptist (2 Kings 2:1,11).The Bible teaches resurrection, a totally different concept.

It's obvious that when Jesus spoke in Matt. 11:13-14, concerning John being “Elijah who is to come.” He was not speaking in a solid, literal sense. Jesus was metaphorically comparing 2 different things that also shared some similarities and functions. The Jewish scriptures always taught resurrection, not reincarnation. Each person is given 1 body to live in and will be reunited with that same body in the resurrection. When one takes the whole body of scripture instead of isolating verses, we find the consistent teaching that refutes any concept of Elijah becoming John the Baptist and then becoming Elijah again.



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