It was more or less on the way to Jerusalem, when they were in the region of Caesarea Phillipi, that Jesus foretold his death (Matt. 16) and taught the disciples that they must lose their lives for His sake in order to find them. In view of the gospel of Matthew being the gospel of the indwelling Christ, something Homer Kizer carefully argues in his writings, endtime disciples should understand that these words apply to them.
Somewhere at this point in the journey, Jesus takes aside his closest disciples, Peter, James and John, to a high mountain where he appears transfigured, and beside him is Moses on one side and Elijah on the other. After admonishing them to say nothing about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead, the Lord reaffirms the prophecy of Malachi about Elijah coming, and teaches that he will “restore all things.” (Matt. 17:11)
The next verse speaks of Elijah coming already, and not recognized, but here there is something more in the restoration of all things. What needs restoring? It is here that the words of Amos 9 resound loudly, that it is the captivity of His people that will be restored. Judah went captive with the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem, and in that act we see the shadow and type of the spiritual reality of the Babylonian captivity of the church.
Yet, the disciple needs to examine more closely the work of the prophet Elijah to know what the future reality will be and further to grasp who Elijah is in relation to the Lord of the earth. And it is this moment of trans-historical time, this vision which the three disciples behold together, that connects us with a heavenly reality that has its physical shadow and mirror image in the physical reality of the earth.
Will we see Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord?
Let’s follow up on the manna which Christ has left to feed us the truth. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem to suffer and die for the re-purchasing of His people, which includes endtime disciples. As disciples are the body of Christ, then this shadow, and physical mirror-image of a spiritual reality would indicate that Elijah may well be present and seen in some way while disciples are on their way to Jerusalem, figuratively speaking. Which is to say, disciples are headed to Calvary. But Elijah does not appear alone, but in company with another, Moses.
What does scripture tell us about the relation of Moses and Elijah? Plenty. A close reading of the Elijah sections in first and second Kings show remarkable parallels with the life of Moses. Both are prophets of course, but the correspondences are much deeper and deserve closer examination which is left to the reader, or one could look at the article on Elijah in the Anchor Bible Dictionary to get a thumbnail sketch of the similarities.
How then are they related to the endtime preparation of making straight the highway of the Lord, the super-important restoration work preceding the great and terrible day of the Lord? And what is it exactly that needs restored, designated as “all things?” For that we need to examine the spiritual reality behind the Transfiguration image, and that will bring us to Zechariah 4. The climax of the chapter comes when Zechariah asks the angel speaking with him who the two olive trees are on the left and the right of the lampstand, which empty the golden oil from themselves?
The angel replies: “These are the two sons of fresh oil who are standing by the Lord of all the earth.” (Zech. 4:14)
What does the reader see in this vision of Zechariah? There are 7 lamps on a lampstand all of gold, and two olive trees, one on each side. Reference to Zerubbabel laying the foundation of the house let the reader know it is the house of the Lord, the temple in Jerusalem. And there are seven who will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbael, seven who are the eyes of the Lord which range to and fro throughout the earth. — If we superimpose that template of Zechariah onto Revelation 1:12-20 where the linguistic icons are decoded by John, we behold a perfect consonance of spiritual referents, to wit Revelation 5:6 “in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” In Revelation the seven horns are the seven congregations. Thus, we are looking at the restoration of the heavenly temple in its shadow as the restoration of the Jerusalem temple under the guiding hand of Zerubabel. And the appearance which John sees: It is a vision of the temple in Heaven.
As Moses served before the Lord, and as Elijah served in cleansing the priesthood, the work of the two sons of fresh oil at the end of days makes itself known in the restoration of the church of Christ, that is the spiritual reality of it, viz. the living stones (cf. 1 Pet. 2:5). To summarize, if there are two anointed ones in the heavenly vision of Zechariah and Zerubbabel is the dual linguistic icon referring also to the restoration of the heavenly temple, and they are the ones standing by the Lord of the whole earth, and in real time/transcendental time the disciples actually see in vision two prophets standing beside the incarnate Logos, the Lord of the whole world, then might these two be the promised return of Elijah before the Lord along with another witness, Moses?
And what does Revelation 11:4 confirm about them: “These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” It is a total confirmation of the Zechariah prophecy and a correlation of their relation as the spiritual reality of the olive trees in heaven and their spiritual reality on earth.
The subsequent verses in Revelation help characterize these “days of Elijah” or days of the two witnesses. They are unstoppable as long as their ministry is meant to last, that is 1260 days, and when opposed, the fire of spirit proceeds from their mouths to devour the opposition.
The have power to shut up the sky that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying — just as it was in the time of Elijah under King Ahab — and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to smite the earth with every plague, just as occurred under Moses. In short, the signs in scripture point to the two witnesses being an endtime Moses and an endtime Elijah, restoring the way of the Lord and “restoring the captivity of His people,” prior to His appearance as the conquering King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
These two will smite the church, purging it of its wickedness, removing the wicked, in fulfillment of Peter’s words about judgment beginning with the house of God and fulfilling the prophetic dimension of the parable of the wheat and the tares where the tares are pulled out and thrown into the fire just prior to the harvest.
The ways of righteousness, the pathway of Christ, will be restored as the church is shown to keep that which is written in their heart, not to profane the sabbath, and to keep the “appointed times” <moedim> or festivals of the Lord. And for each to love His/her neighbor as him or herself, and to put nothing before God, not the work of one’s hands and not one’s own estimation of self. All pride of man will be brought down to the dust.
As Robin Marks wrote in his inspired song “Days of Elijah,”
These are the days of Elijah
Declaring the word of the Lord, yeah
And these are the days of Your servant, Moses
Righteousness being restoredThese are the days of great trials
Of famine and darkness and sword
Still we are the voice in the desert crying
Prepare ye the way of the Lord!