The Elijah to Come                                             Study No. 137


alachi 4:5-6 prophesies of an Elijah to come in the end time. Jesus said in Matthew 24:24 that there will be false prophets showing great signs and wonders that will almost deceive the elect. How can we identify the Elijah to come? Let us analyze Elijah of old, noting his characteristics, to see what the end time Elijah will be like.


Elijah the Tishbite


Along with Moses, Elijah is one of the most dramatic characters of the Bible. His name means, “my God is Yahweh.” The Greek form of Elijah is Elias. There are many lessons we can learn from Elijah, as well as an understanding of how the Eternal will deal with the world just prior to the return of the Messiah.

Elijah is called “the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead,” I Kings 17:1. Tishbe is a city of Gilead, on the east bank of the Jordan River, near Jabesh-gilead and Pella, on the Brook Cherith, in the land of Manasseh. A branch of the tribe of Manasseh was descended from Gilead, Numbers 26:29. Elijah unmistakably is associated with the tribe of Manasseh.

Elijah’s physical appearance was striking. His ordinary clothing consisted of a girdle of skin round his loins, which he tightened when about to move quickly, I Kings 18:46. King Ahaziah knew Elijah as “an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins,” II Kings 1:8. In addition to this, Elijah had a “mantle” or cape of sheepskin. Did Elijah have long hair? Not necessarily, for Esau was a hairy person with hair over his whole body, Genesis 25:25. Elijah may have had a garment of hair, like John the Baptist did, Matthew 3:4. Even a prophet with a garment of hair can be a false prophet, Zechariah 13:4 (margin).

Elijah appeared suddenly to King Ahab of Israel, predicting a three year drought from the Eternal. Elijah did not preach smooth things, he told the “plain truth” right to the King. Thereafter, he had to flee for his life. Ahab and his wicked wife, Jezebel, wanted to kill the prophet, blaming him, instead of their own sins, for the sore drought. The Eternal protected Elijah and fed him via ravens by the brook Cherith, until it dried up, I Kings 17:1-7. Elijah did not compromise his message. He did not “beat around the bush.” From the start, Elijah’s message put his life in danger from the top government officials.

God miraculously protected Elijah. The Eternal told Elijah to arise and go to a Zarephath in Zidon, and lodge with a certain widow there. Though at her last morsel of food, the Almighty provided for her, her son, and Elijah for many days. Her barrel of meal did not waste, nor her cruse of oil fail, until the Lord sent rain on the earth. Through Elijah, the Creator healed the widow’s son, I Kings 17:9-24, and renewed her faith in God.

Jezebel murdered many of the Eternal’s prophets, but Obadiah, the governor of Ahab’s house, hid 100 of them in two groups in a cave, and fed them with bread and water. Elijah preached at a time when there was rampant idolatry and open persecution of God’s people. In the third year of the famine, when it was very bad for Israel, God told Elijah to show himself before Ahab, who was out to kill him. When the two met, Ahab accused Elijah of “badmouthing” his country, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” But Elijah answered, “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim,” I Kings 18:17-18. Elijah’s message centered on sin, and he called sinners to repent of breaking God’s commandments and laws. This is the central theme of all the prophets of the Bible. Then Elijah proposed a contest at Mt. Carmel between himself, as representative of the Eternal, and the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the idolatrous groves. All Israel would be witness of this spectacle, to prove who the true prophets were. Elijah did not preach love, he did not try to blend the religion of God with other religions. Instead, Elijah thundered God’s message to all the people:

“How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word,” I Kings 18:21

Two bullocks were selected. Baal’s prophets would choose one, and Elijah the other. They were to be slaughtered and dressed, and laid on wood at an altar. The “god” that answered by fire would be the true God. In all the Bible, there is not such a mighty contest between the forces of good and evil, between truth and falsehood, between light and darkness. Elijah met false religion head on, and confronted it as evil. He expected God to back him up in his contest against false religion. Elijah was fair in his confrontation with false religion. He allowed them the opportunity to first prove their case.

The prophets of Baal had the first opportunity to prove themselves. After half a day of leaping upon the altar, Baal did not answer with fire. Elijah mocked them, and said, “Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked,” verse 27. Elijah ridiculed false religion for its emptiness and uselessness. The prophets of Baal refused to give up. For another 3-4 hours they cried loud to Baal, and cut themselves so that their blood gushed out. And still, “there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded,” verse 29.

Elijah repaired an altar of the Lord, with twelve stones. He built a trench around the altar, dressed the sacrifice, and had twelve barrels of water poured on the sacrifice and wood. At the time of the evening sacrifice (sundown), Elijah prayed a most powerful prayer:

“LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again,” verses 36-37.

Elijah did not “tarry” long for God’s answer. Immediately, fire from God fell and consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, dust, and water, leaving a crater. The people recognized the hand of God, and shouted, “The LORD, He is the God; the LORD, He is the God,” verse 39. Elijah’s message is that only YHVH is God. Elijah then slew all the prophets of Baal. He told Ahab that the drought would be broken soon with an abundance of rain. God was with Elijah, and in a driving rainstorm, he ran ahead of Ahab’s chariot to Jezreel.

Ahab’s evil wife, Jezebel, was very angry at the destruction of her prophets, and sought to kill Elijah, who fled for his life to Beersheba. With miraculous food from God, Elijah continued to flee, all the way to Horeb (Sinai), the mountain of God, fasting for 40 days and nights. The Almighty did not reveal Himself to Elijah in a storm, earthquake, or lightning. The Eternal is invisible and spiritual, known by revelation, “the still, small voice,” I Kings 19:12. Elijah teaches us that God’s Truth comes not through scholarship, but by revelation, God’s voice. God talked to Elijah, like He did to Moses, and revealed that he was to perform three anointings: Hazael king over Syria, Jehu king of Israel, and Elisha prophet in his place.

Elijah complained to God that, “I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away,” I Kings 19:14. Elijah was wrong in believing he was the only true prophet or believer. God told him, “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him,” I Kings 19:18. God made clear to Elijah that he wasn’t the only true believer! Unknown to Elijah, these 7,000 scattered followers of God were not compromising, but remained faithful to Him.

Wicked Jezebel had Naboth killed so that her husband Ahab could possess Naboth’s vineyard. God sent Elijah to Ahab to pronounce God’s judgment: Ahab’s blood would be licked by dogs in the place where they licked the blood of Naboth, and his posterity destroyed, and dogs would eat Jezebel’s body by the wall of Jezreel. Ahab, although he was wicked and considered Elijah his enemy, had enough sense to fast and walk softly, so God postponed the finality of His curse until the days of Ahab’s sons, I Kings 21. Ahab died and his blood was licked up, as Elijah prophesied, I Kings 22:38. Elijah’s prophesies came true! See II Kings 9:30-37, 10:10, 17. The Eternal let none of the words He spoke through Elijah fall to the earth. In looking for the signs of the Elijah to come, however, we should remember that an accurate prophet who teaches false doctrine is still false, Deuteronomy 13:1-5.

Ahab’s son Ahaziah continued his parents’ Baal worship. When he fell down and injured himself, Ahaziah sent messengers to consult with Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether he would recover. The Lord’s angel sent Elijah to notify Ahaziah’s messengers that because he sought a false god, and not the God of Israel, he would surely die. Three times, Ahaziah sent fifty soldiers to force Elijah to come to the king. Twice, Elijah called fire down from heaven to consume the soldiers. Elijah called fired down from heaven on those who would take his life. The third company had more sense and begged for their lives before Elijah, who was then told by the angel to come down with them. Elijah then delivered God’s message personally to Ahaziah, who died shortly thereafter, II Kings 1.

In II Kings 2, Elijah is taken up into the first heaven in a chariot of fire. His mantle of responsibility fell to Elisha, who performed even greater miracles because a double portion of God’s spirit was given to Elisha. It was obvious to all that the spirit of Elijah was now resting on Elisha, verse 15, who was a faithful prophet of God. God picked Elijah’s successor, who was a righteous, true prophet of God.

Even after his departure in the chariot, God continued to use Elijah’s writings. Elijah was not taken to God’s throne in Heaven. In II Chronicles 21:12-15, a writing from Elijah came to warn wicked King Jehoram of Judah (who had married Ahab’s daughter and forced Judah to commit fornication) that he was going to lose everything and die with a horrible disease of the bowels. After two years of suffering, during which his bowels fell out, Jehoram died of horrible diseases.

In Malachi 4:5, the Almighty predicts the coming again of “Elijah”:

“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.”

Just before the Day of The Lord, God will send Elijah the Prophet. The message of Elijah centers on the rebuilding of family relationships, and returning people to the God of their spiritual fathers.


Elijah in the New Testament


In the New Testament, Elijah’s name is constantly used in illustrating spiritual principles. Many people thought, erroneously, that Jesus was the “Elijah to come,” Matthew 16:13-16, Mark 6:15, 8:27-29, Luke 9:7-9, 18-20.At the famous “Transfiguration,” Jesus took Peter, James, and John alone with Him up into a high mountain, and Jesus’ clothes shown white as snow, and there appeared unto them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. It was probably near the Tabernacles season, and Peter offered to make three tabernacles, one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. A voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him,” Matthew 17:1-9 (see also Mark 9:1-10, Luke 9:28-36). Elijah is closely associated with Moses. They both were instructed by God at Mt. Sinai (Horeb). Moses and Elijah are the two central figures of the Old Testament, and are prominently mentioned in the New Testament.

The Transfiguration caused the disciples to begin thinking about the prophecy of Malachi 4:5-6. When they asked the Savior about it, Jesus said that John the Baptist was the Elijah to come, Matthew 17:10-13 (and 11:14), Mark 9:11-13, Luke 1:13-17. John the Baptist, however, denied that he was the Elijah to come, John 1:19-27. At the very least, John the Baptist was a type of the Elijah to come.

Bystanders at the impalement of our Savior misunderstood what He said (“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani”), and thought He was calling upon Elias (Elijah) to save Him, Matthew 27:26-49, Mark 15:34-36. Jesus used the example of Elijah going to dwell with a widow of Sarepta (Zarephath) to illustrate that “No prophet is accepted in his own country,” Luke 4:24-26. Elijah was not accepted by his own people in his day.

The disciples wanted to call fire down from heaven, as Elijah did, when the Samaritans would not receive them, but Jesus rebuked them, saying that the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them, Luke 9:51-56. Paul uses the example of Elijah to show that God today has reserved a remnant of elect according to His grace, who have not “bowed the knee to Baal,” Romans 11:1-5. James uses the example of Elijah’s prayer, which resulted in no rain for 3-1/2 years, and again his prayer, which resulted in a fruitful rain, James 5:16-18. Elijah was a man of prayer.

Aside from Moses, no Hebrew prophet has made such a deep impression upon Israel as Elijah. Even today, at the Jewish Seder (Passover) ceremony, a cup is poured, for Elijah. Jews still look for Elijah to come for the relief and restoration of God’s people.

Elijah’s impeccable character and uncompromising message have left us a faithful witness. The Encyclopaedia Britannica, article “Elijah,” sums up the significance of Elijah:

“His sudden, mysterious appearances remained a symbol of the unfettered initiative of God in history. The remote austerity of his life was an impressive testimony to other-worldly values . . . His work may also be regarded as a protest against every effort to find religious experience in self-induced ecstasy and sensual frenzy rather than in a faith linked with reason and morality.”


Similarities Between John and Elijah


John the Baptist came in the Spirit and Power of Elijah, to turn hearts of fathers to children, and the disobedient to return to God, to prepare a people for the Lord, Luke 1:16-17. There are many similarities between John and Elijah, and a few differences, as the attached comparison shows:


John the Baptist

Elijah the Prophet

Miraculous birth, from tribe of Levi & Judah

Nothing said of his parents, probably

from the tribe of Manasseh

Preached in the wilderness

Lived in the wilderness

Preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins

Preached against sin, called for repentance

Reproved Herod for his breaking God’s law of marriage, in marrying his brother Philip’s divorced wife

Reproved Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram

for their sins

Put to death by Herod at behest of Herodias’ daughter

Spared by God, taken to 1st heaven in

chariot of fire

Had long hair (was a Nazarite, Luke 1:15), was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather skin about his loins (Mark 1:6)

A hairy man, with a leather girdle, II Kings 1:8


Baptized many who followed him and came to him in the wilderness of Judaea Matthew 3:

1-17, Luke 3:1-23

Had only one major follower: Elisha

Preached an uncompromising message

Preached an uncompromising message


Lived in austere circumstances

Lived in austere circumstances

Claimed to be the voice of one crying in the wilderness, John 1:19-23, Isaiah 40:1-10, Matthew 3:1-3

Claimed to be God’s servant, I Kings 18:36



Elijah in Our Time?


In Matthew 11:2-15, Jesus said that John the Baptist fulfilled the scripture from Malachi 3:1. John the Baptist was the messenger sent before Messiah’s face, to prepare the way before His coming. An examination of the rest of Malachi 3 shows clearly that the primary fulfillment of a messenger preparing the way of the Lord must be referring to the end time, not the first coming of the Messiah, but the second coming, when He returns in judgment, to “purify the sons of Levi,” verses 2-6. Prophecy, as we understand, is often dual. There is a partial fulfillment before the greater fulfillment. An example is the “Abomination of Desolation.” Antiochus Ephiphanes desecrated the Jerusalem Temple sanctuary in 168 B.C. by setting up an image of Jupiter Olympus in the Temple. Yet Jesus pointed to a future, greater fulfillment at the end time (Daniel 11:31, Matthew 24:15). And so it is with the messenger preparing the way of the second coming of the Messiah to establish His kingdom.

Isaiah 40:1-10 strongly indicates that 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,” verse 3, has an end-time setting, when “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,” verse 10.

Malachi 4 appears to be almost exclusively an end time setting: (1) the wicked will be burned up, verses 1-3, (2) the law of Moses will be remembered and taught, verse 4, compared with Isaiah 2:2-4, and (3) Elijah the Prophet will be sent before the great and dreadful “Day of the LORD,” Malachi 4:5-6.

Although John the Baptist fulfilled the “Elijah to Come” in part, a much greater Elijah is yet to come, teaching the law of Moses with the statutes and judgments. “Turning the hearts of the children to the fathers” has usually been understood by us to refer to restoring family relationships, which may be very true since God’s Law is the basis for strong family ties. But, as the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary notes, Luke 1:16-17 substitutes “the heart of the children to the fathers” to “the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,” implying that the reconciliation needed was between the unbelieving, disobedient Israelite children and their believing ancestors, such as Jacob, Levi, Moses and Elijah, Malachi 1:2, 2:4, 3:3-4, 6, and above all to God their Father, Malachi 1:6. If we as God’s people do not return to our Heavenly Father, then when the Messiah comes, we will be smitten with a curse, Malachi 4:6. The word “curse” in Hebrew is cherem, which means “a ban,” or “utter destruction,” a frightful term applied by Jews to the extermination of the wicked Canaanites. (In contrast to the last word “curse” in the popular order of Old Testament books, the first words of Messiah in the Sermon on the Mount are “blessed.”)


The Two Witnesses


In Revelation 11:1-12 is given the famous prophecy of the Two Witnesses. Frankly (I speak as a fool), God is going to have a hard time filling these two jobs, because there are so many would-be applicants. Some have said, erroneously, that the Two Witnesses are the Old and New Testaments, which makes no sense at all, because the OT and NT do not have bodies, and cannot die and be raised up in three days. Neither can the Church as a whole be the two witnesses. Here are the facts that we do know about the Two Witnesses:

(1)  They are both prophets, and prophesy 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.

(2)  They are spiritually the two olive trees of Zechariah 4:3 (Psalm 52:8), the two candlesticks standing before God.

(3)  The Two Witnesses will be threatened, and literal or symbolic fire will proceed out of their mouths to devour their enemies. Or, this may be a figure of speech indicating they will call fire down from Heaven as Elijah did. Compare Revelation 11:5 with II Kings 1:10, 12 and Jeremiah 5:14, 23:29. Also consider that the two-horned false prophet of Revelation 13:11-18 will make fire come down from heaven on the earth, in the sight of men, and perform deceiving miracles. Do not think it will be easy to distinguish the true prophets (Two Witnesses) from the great false prophet.

(4)  They have power from God to stop the rain during their 3 1/2 year prophecy, turn waters to blood, and smite the earth with plagues as they want to.

(5)  The beast shall kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the main street of Jerusalem for 3-1/2 days. The wicked of the earth shall rejoice and send gifts to one another, because these prophets tormented them.

(6)  God will cause the “spirit of life” to come back to them, and raise them to their feet, causing fear on those that see them.

(7)  A voice from heaven will say “come up hither,” and the Two Witnesses will rise up in a cloud in the sight of their enemies, followed by a great earthquake. This will be at the close of the “Second Woe” of prophecy, the Sixth Trumpet.

Who are the Two Witnesses? We have many clues, but not their names. Notice the striking similarities between acts of these Two Witnesses and Moses and Elijah.


Two Witnesses

Moses and/or Elijah

Wicked world will feel tormented by their preach­ing, Revelation 11:10

Ahab and wicked Israel were troubled by

Elijah’s preaching of Commandments

Message called their “testimony”

Moses gave end time “latter days” prophecy in Deuteronomy 31:16 to 32:1-52, in which he testified as a witness against Israel

Enemies finally succeed in killing them

Enemies tried to kill them many times

Their dead bodies are not allowed to be buried

God buried Moses, God took live Elijah away

Clothed in sackcloth, not rich clothes

Elijah clothed in leather girdle, Moses dressed plain

Fire proceeds from their mouths

Elijah calls fire from Heaven twice, II Kings 1

Turn water into blood, bring plagues on earth

Moses did this through God’s power

Are both prophets

Elijah a prophet, Moses was also a prophet (Acts 3:21-24, Deuteronomy 18:15-19

God protects them in death, takes their bodies away so their enemies cannot touch them

Elijah taken to first heaven, God buried Moses in secret place


The evidence from Malachi 4:4-6 associates Moses very closely with Elijah. The Transfiguration in the New Testament associates Moses and Elijah in a special role when the Messiah returns in glory. After the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John asked Jesus why Elijah must first come. They understood the vision of the Transfiguration to represent the coming of Messiah in His kingdom. Jesus answered and told them that Elijah must first come, and restore all things. John the Baptist was dead at this time, but was a type of Elijah, Matthew 17:1-13. The Elijah to come cannot have been totally fulfilled in John the Baptist, who preceded the first coming of Christ, not the second coming, before the dreadful day of the LORD spoken of in Malachi. There is very strong, but not certain, evidence that Moses and Elijah will be the Two Witnesses.

Zechariah 4 gives us a little more information about these “two anointed ones,” the “two olive trees” standing by the Lord of the whole earth. They are anointed with God’s Holy Spirit (II Corinthians 1:21-22) to witness to the whole earth. They emphasize that only by God’s Spirit can the Temple be built.

As we know, Moses and Elijah are dead. See the Worldwide Church of God booklet, “Where Are Enoch and Elijah?” The JFB Commentary says that the early New Testament Church thought that Enoch and Elijah would be the Two Witnesses. One could object to the possibility of Moses and Elijah being the Two Witnesses by quoting Hebrews 9:27: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” If Moses and Elijah are resurrected to physical life, to be the Two Witnesses for 3-1/2 years, then be killed and raised up to physical life again, this would seem to violate this Scripture. But considering the unusual circumstances surrounding the departure of Moses and Elijah, it may be that the Eternal is not finished using these special servants of His. Time will tell. Another puzzling scripture is that of Jude 9, where we are told that Michael the Archangel contended with the devil about the body of Moses. Why? I do not know.

Hebrews 9:27 cannot mean that no human can experience physical death more than once. Consider the resurrection of the son of the widow of Zarephath, the resurrection of Lazarus, and the resurrection of many dead saints at the death of the Messiah, Matthew 27:50-53. Man is going to die as a natural consequence of disobedience to God’s law, which is sin. I can find no scripture prohibiting Moses and Elijah from being the Two Witnesses. There are, as we have shown, strong indications that Moses and Elijah will be resurrected to perform this end time work for the Almighty. However, we cannot go beyond what God says and declare this to be a certainty.

Perhaps Moses’ death, which prevented him from entering the Promised Land, may preclude him from being one of the Two Witnesses. Some have believed that Enoch (see Jude 14-15) and Elijah will be the Two Witnesses. Regardless of whom God uses, the Two Witnesses will look, act and talk like Elijah and Moses.


Was Herbert W. Armstrong the Elijah to Come?


As believers, we should have an awesome respect for the word of God, and not add nor take away from the Bible. To our regret, others have claimed to fulfill prophetic roles when the facts prove them liars. A prime example is the claim that Herbert W. Armstrong was an end time Ezekiel, Elijah, Zerubabel, or John the Baptist.

In the March 28, 1966, Co-Worker Letter, Armstrong claimed that he and his work were the 20th Century Ezekiel, or John the Baptist, preparing the way for the return of Christ. This was re-iterated in a November 1972, member letter. In a November 30, 1963 sermon, Armstrong proclaimed that, “The very reason for the Church is to fulfill the prophecy of the work of Elijah as in Malachi 4:5 and Matthew 17:11,” that of turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and vice versa, and to restore all things. The Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, Lesson 53 (printed in 1969), pages 14-15, states that the end-time work of “Elijah” was being fulfilled by the Worldwide Church of God, as the “Philadelphia Era” of God’s True Church. “John the Baptist did a one-man work. But today God works through the Body of Christ — the Church composed of many members (Eph. 4:12,16).” The belief that the “Elijah to Come” is identified with a group of people, rather than a specific individual, has no basis in Scripture.

In the WCG booklet, “Where are Enoch and Elijah?” (1957, 1973), Herman Hoeh wrote this:

“An Elijah is yet to come, however, said Christ — after John was already dead. So just as John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus Christ at His first coming, another is to come before the great and terrible Day of the Lord, as a forerunner of Jesus Christ at His second coming. He, like John, will come in the spirit and power of Elijah to fulfill the commission of Malachi 4:5, 6, ‘lest I come,’ says God, ‘and smite the earth with a curse.’

“The world of Christ’s day did not recognize John as coming in the power and spirit of Elijah. And neither will the world today recognize the one whom God sends in the spirit and power of Elijah shortly before the terrible Day of the Lord, when the Jesus Christ of your New Testament will intervene in world affairs to set up the government — Kingdom — of God on earth.” (page 24).

Malachi 4 is clear that God will send Elijah, not someone in the spirit and power of Elijah.

Herbert W. Armstrong, in his final book, Mystery of the Ages (paperback, 1985), identified himself as the end-time Elijah:

“Both of these prophecies [Isaiah 40:3, 9-10 and Malachi 3:1] have a dual application. First, they refer to John the Baptist, who prepared the way before Jesus’ human ministry more than 1,900 years ago. BUT, as a prototype, or forerunner, these prophecies foretell one to prepare the way before Christ’s Second Coming as the King of kings and Lord of lords to rule all nations! . . . a human messenger preparing the way before Christ’s now imminent Second Coming . . . . a voice ‘lifted up’ (greatly amplified by modern printing, radio and TV), crying out in the midst of today’s spiritual wilderness of religious confusion, announcing the immanency of Christ’s Second Coming . . . . Malachi 4:5-6 pictures the Elijah to come at the very end of the Church age . . .” (pages 8, 285-286).

A recent break-away group from the Worldwide Church of God, the Philadelphia Church of God, presents in their book, Malachi’s Message to God’s Church Today, by Gerald Flurry (1990), bold support for the theory that Herbert W. Armstrong was the Elijah to Come:

“Just as one John the Baptist prepared Christ’s way the first time, so one messenger (HWA) has prepared the way for Christ’s Second Coming,” (page 8).

Flurry decries the WCG leader, Joseph W. Tkach, for changing this “foundational belief” (page 9). Further, Flurry identifies HWA as the modern Zerubabel. Joseph Tkach, according to the Philadelphia Church of God (PCG), is said to be the man of sin, and HWA until his death held him back according to II Thessalonians 2. Rather than appeal to subjective emotion and feeling, like Mr. Flurry does, we should stay with the Bible and the objective facts of history. Does the over-all life and ministry of Herbert Armstrong bear any resemblance to that of Elijah and John the Baptist? Let us compare them without prejudice.


Elijah / John the Baptist

Herbert W. Armstrong

Both lived plainly, John drank no wine

Lived richly, sometimes drank too much

Took no titles

Assumed titles: Apostle, Elijah, Zerubabel, etc.

Humble men

Proud man, feared by his associates

Preached repentance and God’s ruling King­dom

During his last nearly 15 years, preached “give and get,” often preached about world news, prophetic speculations

John baptized many

Baptized few

John established no Church, told people to look for the soon-coming Messiah

Established centralized church organization, with tight central control

Lambasted false worshippers

Withdrew anti-Catholic material, gained Catholic/Protestant support in California lawsuit

Told followers to follow Christ, not him

Formerly said this, but in later life said, “Follow me into the Kingdom of God”

John lost his head for telling unconverted Herod that his marriage to a divorcee was unlawful

In 1974 and 1979, said that God doesn’t hold unconverted responsible for their sinful divorce and remarriages

Elijah’s life was continually threatened for telling the truth; John was martyred for telling Herod to repent of divorce

Died of old age, gave gifts to wicked rulers, never produced the fierce opposition from public leaders like the preaching of Elijah and John

Jesus said John was an Elijah, John said he

was not Elijah

HWA claimed that he himself was Elijah

None of Elijah’s prophecies ever failed to come to pass

Many of HWA’s prophecies failed; he labeled himself a false prophet (see our article, “Herbert W. Armstrong: 1892-1986,” and numerous WCG publications)

Restored God’s Truth in a corrupt generation

Restored much of God’s Truth in a corrupt generation

Elijah and John the Baptist were consistent throughout their ministry; they never had doctrinal error and never changed doctrine.  Jesus said John the Baptist was not a reed shaken by (doctrinal) wind.

HWA changed doctrine many times. E.g., in the 1940s he disfellowshipped members for keeping a Sunday Pentecost (when he kept Monday), and in the 1970s, he disfellow­shipped others for keeping Monday Pentecost when he changed to Sunday.

Elijah and John lived moral lives, were of impeccable character.

HWA was accused of sexual sins. He “married” a divorced woman, and corrupted God’s laws of marriage. He wasted (stole) God’s tithes by lavish living and gifts to wicked world rulers.


There are other comparisons one could make between Armstrong and Elijah/John the Baptist, few of which show any similarity. In fact, Herbert Armstrong’s ministry generally stands in stark contrast to the preaching witness of Elijah and John the Baptist. There are many facts which make it improbable that Herbert W. Armstrong was the end-time Elijah the Prophet. The best that we can say about Armstrong idolaters such as the PCG is that they are deceived and do not follow the Bible.

In the July, 1991, issue of The Philadelphia Trumpet, published by the Philadelphia Church of God, Gerald Flurry states that:

“HWA didn’t preach that Petra was going to be the ‘place of safety’ . . . He never said 1975 was to be the end of man’s reign. . . . Of course HWA did make some mistakes before and during World War II. . . . [but] Mr. Armstrong was ALWAYS right in the overall master plan of prophecy. ALWAYS!” (pp. 11-12).

When someone is aware of the facts, and still persists in his or her erroneous way, then you really have to feel sorry for them. This confusion and clouded thinking is the result of idol worship. The Creator said that no liars and idolaters will be in the Kingdom of God. If there is any reader of this article who has not seen proof that Herbert W. Armstrong made false prophecies, please write for our article, “Herbert W. Armstrong: 1892-1986” (suggested donation, $2.00). Curiously, the most convincing presentation we have seen of false prophecies of HWA and the WCG, was distributed by Mr. Flurry himself, along with The Philadelphia Trumpet. I am referring to the Vol. 8, No. 5 issue of the Watchman Expositor, published by the Watchman Fellowship, Inc., an anti-cult organization. On pages 6 and 7 of this issue are quotations from WCG publications ranging from 1950 to 1968. Mr. Flurry calls these quotations “lies,” but you should read them for yourself and see who is lying. For your copy of this revealing issue, write the PCG or Watchman Fellowship, Inc., P.O. Box 13251, Arlington, TX, 76094-0251, USA. Let’s face the facts: HWA was a false prophet!

According to the beliefs of Flurry (PCG), Dankenbring (Triumph) and Herbert Armstrong (WCG), it is alright to make dogmatic prophetic statements that are later proven false. Do you believe Deuteronomy 18:20-22, or do you believe the heresy that it is O.K. to utter false prophecies? I am fearful to disobey these words of God. That is why, even though I see much evidence that Moses and Elijah will be the Two Witnesses, I cannot dogmatically say this is so, because God has not told me this, and the Bible does not say this for a fact. I am from Missouri, you must “show me.”

We ought to learn from a history of gross false prophetic speculation, that we should not do this. However, Mr. Flurry in another issue of his magazine, said that the 1990s California drought was punishment from God for the California state lawsuit against Worldwide Church of God financial corruption in the late 1970s. Will we ever learn?

We should remember and respect Herbert W. Armstrong, for the doctrinal truths he taught us. But we should not ignore, or gloss over, his prophetic failures, his support of divorce and remarriage in his later years, opulent and wasteful lifestyle, not practicing what he preached, gross doctrinal perversion of the early 1970s, weak gospel message of give and get, gifts of Steuben crystal to wicked officials, etc. “Malachi’s Message” applies to the PCG and WCG ministry, who both support unscriptural divorce and remarriage (see Malachi 2:11-17), and who waste God’s tithes, corrupting the laws of God.

For some people, it may be unsettling to realize that their man-idol has flaws. They may begin to wonder if the Sabbath, Holy Days, Tithing, Healing, Clean and Unclean Meats, etc. are true doctrines or not. As surely as idolatry clouds one’s thinking, so does turning away from idolatry make one a little confused and bewildered. We need to put our faith in the Bible, the Word of God, alone. Then, we will never be disappointed or disillusioned when men, even dynamic leaders, fail miserably. My faith is not at all shaken by the realization that the man who taught me so much of God’s Truth failed so miserably to live up to what he taught me, from the Bible. God is Mr. Armstrong’s judge. I am responsible to the Almighty for holding fast to the Truth I have been taught, even though it was through frail and weak human instruments.


Waiting for Elijah


The opposite of bold, unsubstantiated claims that a certain minister is Elijah, is the belief that we should bank our tithes, do nothing in a work for God, and “wait for Elijah.” One man we know of saved tens of thousands of dollars of tithes, hoping some day to give them to the end time Elijah to come to do God’s Work.

However, the Elijah to come, as the Elijah of old, will not need or require money to perform God’s Work. Elijah had “divine transportation” to place him immediately, unhampered by security guards, before great leaders, to thunder God’s message to repent. No, the work of Elijah does not need your money. The end-time Elijah does not need a support group to finance his work, with publications, and a paid radio and television ministry. Elijah’s power from God will gain free worldwide publicity.

If you do nothing with the tithes now, you may well find yourself in the position of the wicked and slothful unprofitable servant of Matthew 25:24-30. You may find the real “Elijah to come” pointing a finger at you, saying “REPENT!” Don’t just wait for Elijah and do nothing. God may not have called us to be an Elijah or one of the Two Witnesses. But, He has called us ALL to have a part, however small, in fulfilling His commission to the Church, Matthew 24:24, 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-20.

Recognizing the Elijah to Come


The first commandment, idolatry, is flagrantly violated by those who worship a man. The “Elijah to Come” will undoubtedly confront the leaders of the world with their sins, and modern worshippers of Baal with the choice to either serve God or Baal. The Eternal, He is God, not a man. This is basic “Elijah Doctrine.”

This wicked world needs an Elijah, and/or Two Witnesses to condemn sin and “lay it on the line.” But how will we recognize the true “Elijah to Come,” and/or the Two Witnesses? By what they look like, and what they say. II Kings 1:5-8 gives us the yardstick. Elijah said “Thus saith the LORD,” and told what God told him to say. No prophetic speculation, no scholarship about Greek and/or Hebrew words. Elijah condemned sin, in this case seeking a false god for healing, which is idolatry. He told the king he was guilty of sin, fearing no man, not fearing to be taken off television or radio for telling God’s Truth. His physical appearance was striking: a hairy man with a leather girdle, not an expensive tailored suit and a Rolex watch. King Ahaziah did not have any doubts: “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”

How did Peter, James and John know that they were seeing Moses and Elijah in vision during the Transfiguration? Moses and Elijah did not have name tags on them. Either God revealed it to them, or their character, message and appearance made it clear. The first word of the Gospel, the first word of every prophet of God, is one word: REPENT! John the Baptist and Jesus Christ preached repentance, Matthew 3:1-2, 4:17. The true gospel puts the lives of God’s prophets in jeopardy. And such will be the case with the “Elijah to Come” and/or the Two Witnesses. Use the “duck principle” to identify the end time Elijah. If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, acts like a duck, chances are, it is a duck!

May our Heavenly Father send Elijah, the Two Witnesses, and a faithful remnant who have not bowed the knee to Baal.


Postscript: The Works of Moses And Elijah


Herbert W. Armstrong, in the June-July, 1934 issue of The Plain Truth, page 7, discusses the Two Witnesses. He shows that the Two Witnesses preach a final warning to the world for 1,260 literal days. They end their 1,260 days after the “times” of Israel’s and Judah’s punishment have ended. At the end of their testimony, the beast ascends out of the bottomless pit and kills them. This re-establishment of the Roman Empire, does not take place until the time of the first woe. After the death and resurrection of the Two Witnesses, the second woe is past, Revelation 11:14, so therefore the 1,260 days are during the second woe. Who are the two witnesses? Armstrong says,

“Therefore it seems that the most logical identification of the Two Witnesses is the one generally accepted — Moses and Elijah. They do the works of Moses and Elijah. Malachi says (4:5) Elijah shall come BEFORE the “Day of the Lord” commences. It was Moses and Elijah who appeared with Christ in the Transfiguration on the Mount (Matthew 17:1-8). . . . So it is likely the two witnesses will be two men who will come in the power and spirit of Elijah and Moses, or Enoch.”

The world has never had such a powerful witness as it will receive from the Two Witnesses. The Almighty is a fair God. He will warn all people to repent, before it is too late. Praise the Eternal for His plan to send the Two Witnesses!

— written by Richard C. Nickels


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