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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.

New Defender's Study Bible Notes

4:5 Elijah the prophet. Elijah was taken into heaven without dying (II Kings 2:11), and is apparently one of “the two anointed ones, that stand by the LORD of the whole earth” (Zechariah 4:14), who will return to the earth as one of God’s two witnesses in the first half of the seven-year tribulation period of the end-times (Revelation 11:3-4). Although many have assumed this prophecy was fulfilled by John the Baptist, John himself said he was not Elijah, and had not come for that purpose (John 1:21). The Lord Jesus said that “Elias [same as Elijah] truly shall first come, and restore all things” (Matthew 17:11). John did, indeed, come “in the spirit and power of Elias,” (Luke 1:17), but he was only that—not Elijah himself. Elijah must yet return to complete his unfinished prophetic ministry just “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD,” which is still future. See also notes on Zechariah 4:14; Matthew 17:10-13; and Revelation 11:3-4.

4:6 children to their fathers. This type of ministry was attempted by John, in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17), and he did gain some converts, including some who would later be among the twelve apostles. But he, like Christ, was rejected by the nation as a whole, and eventually put to death. When Elijah returns for his three and one-half year ministry in the last days, especially to Israel, it is likely the Lord will use his testimony and influence to call out the 144,000 Israeli evangelists and teachers who will minister during that period (Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5).

4:6 a curse. This word, which is not the usual Hebrew word for “curse,” conveys the idea of utter destruction. Thus the return of Elijah, with all the warnings and plagues he calls forth on the earth, will be ill received by the world as a whole (the people will rejoice over his death—Revelation 11:10), and so it will be followed by “the great and dreadful day of the LORD” and, finally, by utter destruction of the whole world system, replacing it by the Messianic kingdom of Christ Himself.


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