but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands."Matthew 17:12(NASB)
As Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James, and John, He told His three disciples not to disclose the wonderful vision they had seen there, until after He had risen from the dead. Christ's Resurrection would confirm that His ministry and message were true, and it would be used to authenticate His Messianic claims - which had been rejected by Israel.
Having just left the wonderful, mountain-top vision, where Moses and Elijah met with the Lord Jesus, the disciples turned their thoughts to a teaching of the scribes and Pharisees.. that Elijah must come before the Messiah. However, Jesus had been ministering long before this day of transfiguration, and the three men were confused, and so they questioned Him about this doctrine. "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" they asked.
The prophecy to which they referred, is found in Malachi, where we read, "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD." Jesus explained this scripture, which was given to Israel. He told to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first, and will restore all things." But Jesus continued to say, "but I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him. Instead, they did to him whatever they wished. Likewise, the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands."
The disciples realised Jesus was speaking of John the Baptist, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah. But Jesus also told them that just as John had suffered and died at their hands, as a result of his being rejected, "so also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." John, the forerunner of Christ, suffered and was killed... and in like manner, Jesus, the Son of Man would also suffer at their hands - and be crucified.
Malichi's prophecy was only partially fulfilled at Christ's first coming, for both John and Jesus were rejected, they both suffered, and died, before the prophetic Word reached its completion. The Jews did not recognise the coming of Elijah in the person of John the Baptist, and his ministry was cut short. In the same way, the Jews did not recognise the Lord God Almighty, in the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His purposes were also cut short.
Although the Baptist had come as the voice crying in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord God, and although many believed on Him and were saved, John was not able to complete his mission. Similarly, the Jews failed to recognise Who Jesus was and why Jesus came... and they refused to believe on His name. So Jesus died without accomplishing ALL that He came to do. OH, He paid the complete price for sin but had to delay bringing in the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
He came to bring deliverance from their enemies by conquering sin and death. He came to show mercy toward His people Israel, and He came to fulfil the oath which He swore to Abraham. And His forerunner, John the Baptist, came in the spirit and power of Elijah, to call the nation to repentance and prepare the nation of Israel for the Kingdom of Heaven. But the Jews rejected John and missed Jesus, because of their lack of Scriptural understanding and because they had had a flawed, preconceived notion about the Messiah - and Jesus did not fit in with their biased imagination.
Jesus accomplished MUCH at His first coming, but the Son of God also came to set up His kingdom, in fulfilment of the Abrahamic covenant. He was the Lord God of Israel, the Son of David, and the Horn of their Salvation. He came to visit His people, for the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. He came to fulfil that which was spoken by the mouth of His holy prophets. But only PART of His mission and ministry could be completed, because of unbelief.
Israel was set aside for a season, God began to work through the Church, which is the Body of Christ, and the Kingdom of Heaven was postponed for 2000 years - UNTIL Israel repents of their sin, recognises their Messiah, and, "calls on the name of the Lord." Then He will come in the clouds with His holy ones and we will rule and reign with Him.
For those who trusted Christ, Elijah came figuratively in the person of John the Baptist. Both John and Elijah were great prophets of God and both delivered a powerful and passionate message to the people of Israel. They both delivered a fiery message of repentance and both zealously called sinners to repent of their sin and believe on the Messiah. Like Elijah, the Baptist lived during a time of spiritual poverty and both drew the wrath of a wicked king and his evil queen, but both will be remembered as men who were chosen by the Lord for a special purpose and who were filled with the Spirit of God.
Thank You, Father, for the ministry of men like Elijah and John the Baptist, who were not ashamed of the gospel of God, for it has the power of God unto salvation to ALL who believe. Thank You for the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who came to Israel as their Messiah and King and was ready and willing to be despised, rejected, falsely accused, and cruelly crucified on the Cross, so that all who believe on His name, would not perish but have everlasting life. Thank You for Your amazing plan of redemption, and use me in whatever way You will, to forward Your perfect redemptive plan. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.