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The Elijahs

"And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with Him." (Matthew 17:1-3 RSV)

The Transfiguration The Transfiguration event has caused wonder right from the moment that it happened - Peter, James and John certainly were awestruck by it. But why were Elijah and Moses in it? After all, weren't they "Old Testament"? What were they doing in the New Testament?

Of the two, Moses is perhaps the most straight forward. Moses was selected as a representative for The Law of God, summed up by The Ten Commandments. And Jesus said of The Law:

"Think not that I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away [Note: heaven and earth are still here, so The Law must be too], not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these Commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-19 RSV) (see also The Ten Commandments Now?)

But why Elijah?

As the above verses state, "Think not that I have come to abolish the Law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them." Just as The Law of God, the foundation of the future Kingdom Of God, spans the entire Bible, so too does the role of the prophets, to provide a witness and a warning. Elijah, one of the earliest prophets, and perhaps the most zealous, was chosen to represent the function of the prophets.

Since thousands of years of Bible History span more than a single human lifetime, the term "Elijah," continued to be used to represent the prophets (just as "Washington" has come to sometimes mean successive American government administrations - keeping in mind that the city was named after a man named Washington who has himself long ago died).

And then came John The Baptist, the "Elijah" of his time:

"For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come." (Matthew 11:13-14 RSV)

That same "spirit of Elijah," which is actually the Holy Spirit of God in the prophet, will again surface, in the most powerful and spectacular version ever, in The Two Witnesses just prior to The Return Of Jesus Christ:

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of The Lord comes." (Malachi 4:5 RSV)

"And I will grant my two witnesses power to prophesy for one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands which stand before the Lord of the earth. And if any one would harm them, fire pours out from their mouth and consumes their foes; if any one would harm them, thus he is doomed to be killed. They have power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to smite the earth with every plague, as often as they desire." (Revelation 11:3-6 RSV)

Fact Finder: What was the purpose of God's prophets?
See Prophets

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