“To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things ....” (Matthew 17:11-12)

“To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” (Matthew 17:11-12)
This is Jesus’ answer to a question asked by his disciples:
“Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” (Matthew. 17:10)
After Jesus’ statement above, the Book of Matthew states:
“Then the disciples understood that he was talking about John the Baptist.” (Matthew 17:13)

Jesus is referring to Malachi

Jesus is acknowledging the statement coming from the Supreme Being speaking through His loving servant, Malachi:
"See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.” (Malachi 4:5)
Some sectarian institutions and their teachers claim that God was foretelling that the prophet Elijah would come again before the “messiah” will come. They interpret "that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes" as the day the "messiah" comes down to the earth and everyone will at the same time be judged for their sins and their faith in God. They also claim that all sorts of physical transformations would take place at the same time. While this may be based upon words of scripture, the interpretation is incorrect. Let's clarify this.

Here is the complete statement in the Book of Malachi on this topic:
“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out His requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly, the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’”

Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored His Name.

“They will be mine,” says the Lord Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession, I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere My Name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,’ says the Lord Almighty.

Remember the law of My servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”
(Malachi 3:14-4:6)

Who is Elijah?

First let’s consider the name “Elijah.”

The prophet Elijah of the Old Testament (Kings - before Malachi) was a devoted servant of the Supreme Being.

However, the word Elijah is also used in a more generic context.

The word Elijah arose from a translation of:
“He who comes in the Name of God,”
or “He who reveres the Name of God,”
or “Yahweh is my God.”

Yes, there was a prophet named Elijah, but the name Elijah does not always refer to that particular historical person. In the context of Jesus statement, it refers to someone who completely dedicates themselves to God, reveres God's Name, and is empowered by God to be His representative.

In other words, Elijah in this context is a title. It is a role.

Elijah is describing someone who is dedicated to God and who represents God. This is evident in God's statements above in Malachi. Yes, the translation does make it appear God is referring to a particular prophet, with the translated phrase, "The Prophet Elijah." But this is because the translators do not see that every Elijah is essentially a prophet.

What this all means that if used in the context of a role, Jesus could be described as Elijah. And John the Baptist is also Elijah. And Moses is Elijah. And Abraham is Elijah. And so on.

What about the dreadful day?

Notice that God says that Elijah will come before the “great and dreadful day.” God will be sending, prior to this “day,” one of His loving servants (as we know that God has many loving servants, not just one), who will represent Him, and teach His message.

So what is this “day” anyway? If we were to assume the interpretations that many Christians make of Malachi and Jesus’ statement here, then the “day” where all the evildoers would be trampled to ashes would have had to be when Jesus came, since that “day” would follow “Elijah” - who Jesus states here has already come, and the disciples understand Jesus to be referring to Jesus' teacher, John the Baptist.

So when did the "great and dreadful day" occur during Jesus' life? Jesus does say that Elijah has already come. So when did the wicked get trampled, and the fires burn them to ashes? Did it occur during Jesus' life? How about when he was crucified? How come the wicked seemed to do just fine after the crucifixion? The Romans went on to control the region and eventually control the new sectarian church - they certainly did not get trampled.

Why hasn't this interpreted 'day' come?

So we must now ask, why did this “day” not come yet? Why has the world not been destroyed, and everyone trampled? Hasn't Elijah in the form of John the Baptist come?

Even more puzzling is that according to the institutional temple teachers, the “messiah” (and the "day") has not come yet. They are still awaiting the Messiah, and maintain that Jesus was not the messiah.

Some sectarians maintain that while the Messiah came, he didn't really come in the way foretold in Malachi. In other words, Jesus is supposed to come again: A second coming, in other words. It is this "second coming" that will supposedly bring upon the earth the trampling and burning of the wicked, according to their interpretation.

"Elijah has already come ..."

This means the institutional temple institutions and their teachers missed Elijah. And ironically, many ecclesiastical institutions and their teachers who claim to follow Jesus have been claiming dates for the second coming.

Here are some of the many predictions of the date of the "judgment day"/"second coming" over the centuries, made by various ecclesiastical churches and their teachers:

Hilary of Pointiers: 365 AD (the date predicted as the second coming and end of time)
Saint Martin of Tours: 375 to 400 AD
Sextus Julius Africanus: 500 AD
Gerard of Poehlde: 1147 AD
John of Toledo: 1179 AD
Joachim of Fiore: 1205 AD
Pope Innocent III: 1284 AD
Melchior Hoffman: 1533 AD
Benjamin Keach (Baptist): 1689 AD
William Whitson: 1736 AD
Ann Lee (The Shakers): 1792 AD
Charles Wesley (Methodist): 1794 AD
Margaret McDonald: 1830 AD
Joseph Smith (Mormon): 1832 and 1891 AD
William Miller (Millerites): 1843 and 1844 AD
Ellen White (Seven Day Adventists): 1850, 1856 and "early 1900s" AD
Mother Shipton: 1881 AD
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah's Witnesses): 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975, 1994 and others more recent.

The above dates are all the supposed dates the end of the world was supposed to come and Jesus would come to sweep up all the good guys and kill all the bad guys. And many of these sects mentioned above were actuallyfounded upon or gained popularity through the prediction of a certain day by its founder or teachers. Many modern ecclesiastical preachers have also continued this tradition, and there have been many recent predictions of dates within the last decade that have also passed. And people are still believing in these teachers, their sects, and this interpretation about the day?

So what are we to think about the rest of their teachings and interpretations of scripture? Were they only wrong about the date and right about everything else?

What is 'a great and dreadful day

Perhaps they were wrong about their interpretation of this great and dreadful day.

In reality, this “day of reckoning,”quite simply,is the day each of us (rather our physical body) dies.

Each of us is wearing a physical body that will one day, die. This “day” will be the point of reckoning for each of us. We will have to reckon with the decisions and actions we made throughout our physical lives.

For those who lived their lives trying to grow in their love and faith for God, this “great and dreadful day” will be a great day. As God said through Malachi: “But for you who revere my Name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”

For those who have lived their lives solely for selfish purposes - trying to achieve happiness at the expense of others - they will be greeted on this “great and dreadful day" with another, dreadful fate: “All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day is coming will set them on fire.”

Let’s think about this clearly: For each of us, this day is coming for each of us: It would simply not make sense to say that this day is coming at a time in the future after we were all dead. That would mean that we (and billions upon billions of others) would have to wait around in some kind of fictitious waiting room ("purgatory?") for this day, which occurs thousands of years after some of these people have died. Does this make any sense? Is God limited to having just one day of reckoning?

The real judgement day

The day of reckoning is also spoken of as a day of judgment: "Judgment day." Yes, each of us will be judged for our lifetimes at the time of death. This is our judgement day. God also says through Malachi that the day will be preceded by Elijah. Yes, God sends His loving servants to the earth to pass on His message constantly. There is always a loving servant of God upon the earth at any particular time.

If we desire to hear the truth about God and desire to return to Him, we are shown this person. For those who do not wish to return to God, they will not be paying any attention because they are too focused upon their mad chase for the illusory pleasures of the physical world. For those who do not utilize this human form of life to search out God and develop spiritually will face a "dreadful day" that is not pleasing. At the time of death, when those beings leave their dying bodies, they will be faced with the consequences of their actions.

As for those who decide they want to return to God during this lifetime, they will be introduced to an Elijah, who will guide them during their lifetimes, and help them re-develop their relationship of loving service with God. For them, the time of death ("day") is a greatexperience. On this day,God and some of His servants will come to embrace and welcome that person back into the spiritual world. Consider again carefully these statements from Malachi:
A scroll of remembrance was written in His presence concerning those who feared [honored] the Lord and honored His Name. “They will be mine,” says the Lord Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession, I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. (Malachi 3:16-17)
For Jesus and his disciples, they all accepted John the Baptist as that great Teacher of the Truth who came in the Name of God, to teach them the truth. Jesus was a student of John the Baptist, so Jesus accepted John as his teacher, evidenced by John's baptism of Jesus. Also by his statements, it is obvious that Jesus was a devoted student of John the Baptist.

Here Jesus is condemning those who persecuted John the Baptist along with those who stood by and did nothing. This is the mark of a devoted student. Jesus was, as he wanted each of his disciples to pass on his teachings as he had passed on the teachings of those before him. This continues the succession or lineage of prophets and teachers, allowing this ancient knowledge to be passed on even to today.

Many think of the Old Testament as a history of Israel, but rather, it was intended to be a history of a lineage of devoted servants of God, who also taught others to be devoted to God. That is, until ecclesiastical scribes misinterpreted and mistranslated this important history. Jesus was part of this lineage, and he wanted his students to also be part of it.

Certainly, Jesus' humility regarding the position of Elijah ("one who comes in the Name of the Lord") is illustrated here. Jesus condemns those who heard the teachings of John the Baptist and disregarded those teachings: "Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him."

Jesus certainly did not disregard John's teachings. Like a faithful student and loving servant of God and his teacher, Jesus passed those teachings on, and asked his students to pass them on further. This is evidenced by these three verses:
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (Matthew 3:1-2)

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17)

[Jesus instructing his students] "As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’" (Matthew 10:7)

"... to suffer at their hands.”

This statement illustrates that just as John the Baptist had to suffer for his teachings and service to God, Jesus too would suffer for those same teachings and service. Why did they suffer? They suffered so that we might listen and learn the Truth.

Who, then, is the "Messiah?" The true Messiah (Savior) is the Supreme Being Himself - Christos in Greek. Thus anyone the Supreme Being empowers as His representative and teaches and lives His message is, by virtue of representing God, delivering the message of the Messiah - our Savior. And what is that central message the Messiah delivers? An invitation back home, into God's loving Arms:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)