And what will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?" Matthew 24:3
Who Is the End-Time Elijah?
In the book of Malachi it is prophesied that God would send an individual before the “great and dreadful day of the Lord”.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5).
Who is this person referred to as Elijah? There is great confusion on this topic within God’s Church today. It is time to understand who this individual is.
First, Malachi is not speaking of the prophet Elijah who contended with the wickedness of King Ahab and his wife Jezebel approximately 400 years before this prophecy was given.
Following His transfiguration the disciples asked Christ about this prophesied Elijah to come. Notice that Christ makes reference to two Elijahs.
“And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands’. Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist” (Matt. 17:10-13).
This first Elijah Christ refers to in verse 11 is the Elijah of Malachi 4:5. The second Elijah in verse 12 is specifically identified as John the Baptist, who was killed by Herod for speaking out against his illicit sexual relationship with his brother’s wife.
John the Baptist was a forerunner to the Elijah of Malachi 4:5. The prophet Isaiah shows he was responsible for preparing the way for Jesus Christ’s first coming.
“In those days John the Baptist came preaching (proclaiming) in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight’ ” (Matt. 3:1-3).
The archangel Gabriel explains John’s connection to Elijah in Luke 1
“But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John’. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him (Jesus Christ) in the spirit and power of Elijah, “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” (Luke 1:13, 16-17).
Notice how John was commissioned to come “in the spirit and power of Elijah”. At this point in history, the prophet Elijah had been dead for approximately 800 years. The connection between Elijah and John the Baptist is that each was a servant of God, and each performed his work through the power of God’s Holy Spirit (I Kings 18:36-37, Mark 1:4-5).
John the Baptist was a forerunner of the first Elijah in Matthew 17:11. These dual commissions were also prophesied by Malachi.
“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple, even the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. ‘Behold, He is coming,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:1).
John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ’s first coming (Matt. 11:7, 9-10); but someone else would come in the same power and spirit of Elijah to prepare the way for Christ’s second coming.
“But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap.” (Mal. 3:2)
This verse points to Christ’s return as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:15-16). The prophet Joel also references this same dynamic event by also asking “Who can endure it?”
“The Lord gives voice before His army, for His camp is very great; for strong is the One who executes His word. For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; who can endure it?” (Joel 2:11).
The Bible shows God would send an individual to prepare the way before Christ’s second coming. God always tells His servants what He is going to do before He does it (Amos 3:7, Isa. 42:9). The preparation for Christ’s return would be done with the same spirit and power Elijah and John the Baptist used to perform their works.
Who is this individual to prepare the way for Christ’s second coming? Can he be identified today? And if so, has Malachi’s prophecy been fulfilled?
Understanding through History
Identifying this end-time Elijah requires understanding the correct history of God’s Church. It is through God’s Church that God is working out His plan of salvation.
Jesus Christ said the “gates of Hades (the grave) shall not prevail (or be victorious) against” the Church of God. This means God’s Church would always physically exist and never die out (Matt. 16:18).
The purpose of God’s Church is to prepare those God calls now for positions of leadership in His Kingdom (Rev. 2:26, 3:21).
“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:6).
The second and third chapters of Revelation provide a chronological history of God’s Church from its establishment in the first century to the return of Jesus Christ. This history is divided into seven distinct periods of time or eras.
As this history relates to the end-time Elijah, one must look at the eras that are closest to Christ’s return. This requires looking at the fifth, sixth and seventh eras.
Beginning with the 5th era, Sardis, Christ describes this era as “alive” but “dead.”
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, these things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God’ ” (Rev. 3:1-2).
The Sardis era shows what happens to God’s people when God’s Truth is compromised and not adhered to. This era was physically alive as Christ said it would be, but spiritually dead. This era of God’s Church had lost many truths through centuries of compromise and acceptance of false doctrine (Rev. 2:4, 15, 20).
This is an important point to note because Christ said the Elijah to come would “restore all things.”
What needed to be restored in God’s Church after centuries of compromise and false doctrine? The TRUE DOCTRINES Jesus Christ established when God’s Church was first founded.
Notice the change that occurs between the fifth era of Sardis and the sixth era of Philadelphia. Christ describes this era as physically and spiritually vibrant, a stark contrast to His description of Sardis.
“I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door (an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel), and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept (or guarded) My word and not denied My name.” (Rev. 3:8).
Clearly, a change or restoration of truth, of great significance, had to occur to warrant these words from Jesus Christ.
The Elijah to come was to “restore all things.” He was to “reconstitute” (or restore to a former condition in health, home or organization). Christ shows this reconstitution of God’s Truth occurring in the Philadelphia era prior to Christ’s second coming.
Who then was responsible for this reconstitution of Truth to Philadelphia?
Who did God use to spiritually resurrect His Church back to life?
Who was responsible for going through the open door provided to Philadelphia?
There is only one man God used to do this and his name was Herbert W. Armstrong.
Mr. Armstrong is the prophesied Elijah to come before the “great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
Notice the spiritual condition Mr. Armstrong found in God’s Church when he first came in contact with it. From his “Personal” in February 1977, The Plain Truth Magazine titled, “How I Came to be Going to Kings and Heads of Government,” see how his description of God’s Church matches the description Christ gave concerning the Sardis era.
“Those brethren I came among were humble, sincere, strict Sabbath keepers, but as a whole, spiritually DEAD - especially their ministers. Still there were some among them who had that first love of the TRUTH. But they did NOT proclaim Christ’s Gospel of the Kingdom of God, nor even understand what it was.” (pgs. 17-18)
Mr. Armstrong found God’s Church exactly as Christ prophesied, physically “alive,” but spiritually “dead.” He would later come to understand these brethren to be members of the Sardis era; and that he was being used to raise up the Philadelphia era.
“Early in my studies - 1926-27 - God opened my eyes to the fact that, while Revelation 2 and 3 covered the conditions in the WHOLE CHURCH, from its beginning to Christ's coming, these two chapters also represented successive ERAS, with a certain characteristic dominating each.”
“WE are the Philadelphia era at the specific TIME when God is having to OPEN DOORS to nations where those doors have been CLOSED to Christ's message.” (pg. 18)
Before Mr. Armstrong could take the Gospel to the world, he first had to learn the truth of God’s Word himself and prove faithful to it.
“Although I learned early many of these BASIC TRUTHS, God did not commit to me His GREAT COMMISSION until I had been severely tried and tested – by opposition, persecution, hardship, giving up everything my heart had been previously set on. The commitment to me of the GREAT COMMISSION came when I was 40 years old – almost SEVEN YEARS after I was first called by being challenged into Bible study.” (pg. 18)
Mr. Armstrong took no personal credit for the work God did through him, but gave all the credit to God.
“No MAN, of himself, could have decided to do this, and, on his own human ability and power alone, have RAISED up this Worldwide Church of God, have developed the facilities and machinery for BROADCASTING THAT ANNOUNCEMENT – by radio, printing press, television, personal preaching to THE WORLD. This WORK OF GOD has grown into a great, powerful WORLDWIDE and WORLD-KNOWN work.”
“There is but one answer. No one can believe that I alone had the ability and the power to accomplish something that never before in the history of man has been done! GOD DID IT, though He used me as a human servant. No MAN BY HUMAN ABILITY COULD HAVE ACHIEVED IT.” (pg. 18)
If one doubts the work God did through Mr. Armstrong in the Philadelphia era, compare it with Christ’s words about the final era of God’s Church today.
“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write… I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot... So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will (am about to) vomit you out of My mouth” (Rev. 3:14a, 15a, 16).
Laodicea in no way reflects the energy and enthusiasm the Philadelphia era had for God’s Truth under Mr. Armstrong’s leadership.
Look at the changes that occurred within God’s Church following the death of Mr. Armstrong. Today the Church of God has become a fractured and divided mess of various groups, not focused on the seriousness of Christ’s words concerning them.
Why does this era make Christ sick?
“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy and have need of nothing’— and do not know that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).
Christ is sickened by the arrogancy of Laodicea, which is now heading back in the direction of Sardis, instead of looking forward to the return of Jesus Christ. History does have a way of repeating itself.
For those with eyes to see, it is clear, through understanding the history of God’s Church, that Herbert W. Armstrong was the man God used to “restore all things” necessary for salvation back into His Church. In conjunction with this restoration, God also used Mr. Armstrong to go through the open door of taking the Gospel to the world as a witness.
This is not a responsibility that was passed on to other men. Nor is it a responsibility of God’s Church, as the ministry erroneously teaches. This was a responsibility given solely to Mr. Armstrong by God.
“The living Christ trained and chose me to carry out that staggering and tremendous GREAT COMMISSION.” (pg. 18)
Why doesn’t the ministry of God’s Church today recognize the significance of God’s work through Mr. Armstrong? Because many do not believe what Mr. Armstrong taught. They refuse to acknowledge the work God did through him. These men have chosen to promote their own messages to God’s people, which is a major cause for the “lukewarm” condition Christ is sickened by.
“I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, and caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.” (Jer. 23:21-22)
If God’s ministry was doing its job today, Christ would not be describing this final era as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked,”
The message God’s Church should be hearing is the same message Christ had for Laodicea.
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be[come] zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19).
Instead of the ministry telling people to repent, they are intent on promoting the “BIG LIE” that the Gospel still needs to go to the world. This message promotes the mentality of “My Lord delays His Coming” (Matt. 24:48-50).
“I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying I have dreamed; I have dreamed! How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal” (Jer. 23:25-27).
An honest evaluation of the Bible and God’s work through Mr. Armstrong shows clearly he was the man God used to restore His Truth back into God’s Church.
Mr. Armstrong was the man God used to resurrect the Church back to spiritual life and vitality.
God chose Mr. Armstrong to go through the “open door” to take the Gospel to the world as a witness. And when Christ shut the door no one else would open it (Rev. 3:7).
God is not doing the work of Matthew 24:14 through the various organizations who claim to still be carrying out this responsibility. These organizations do not have God’s support and backing to do what they are doing.
“Therefore behold, I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who steal My words every one from his neighbor. Behold I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who use their tongues and say, ‘He says.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams, says the Lord, and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all, says the Lord” (Jer. 23:30-32).
God used Mr. Armstrong to prepare the way for Jesus Christ’s second coming. Unfortunately, the final era of God’s Church has failed to recognize this work. This will lead Laodiceans into the fire of Great Tribulation for denying God’s work, and not being prepared for Christ’s return.
“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness (sinful behavior) may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be[come] zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:18-19).
In preparing the way for Christ’s second coming, God used Mr. Armstrong to “restore all things” back into His Church, and to take the Gospel to the world as a witness. He was the prophesied end-time Elijah Malachi and Christ said would come.
Mr. Armstrong did his work in preparing the way for Christ’s second coming.