Again we return to the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11, this time with reference to Elijah. St Hippolytus believed that one of these men was Elijah and the other was Enoch. Why did he hold such a view (a view which has become very popular again, I might add, along with the Elijah-and-Moses variant)? Let us look at the key text again.
Rev. 11:5-6 “And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.”
The first part that reminds us of Elijah is that fire proceeds from their mouths in order to protect them, so that they can continue their testimony regarding Jesus Christ. Consider the following texts.
2 Kings 1:9-10 “Then the king sent unto him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him: and, behold, he sat on the top of an hill. And he spake unto him, Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down. And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty. And there came down fire from heaven, and consumed him and his fifty.”
Luke 9:54 “And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?”
The second point that reminds us of Elijah is that the Witnesses “have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy. Consider the following texts.
1 Kings 17:1, 7 “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word...And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.”
1 Kings 18:1-2, 42, 45 “And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the Lord came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.And Elijah went to shew himself unto Ahab. And there was a sore famine in Samaria…So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees…And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain.“
Luke 4:25 “But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land”
Rev. 11:3 “ and they [the Two Witnesses] shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days” 1260 days = 3 years and 6 months – see Luke 4:25 (for a year 360 days long)
The next point to consider is whether Elijah is to come again. Consider the following text.
Malachi 4:5-6 “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.”
John the Baptist clearly came in the spirit of Elijah. The Angel Gabriel said this of him: “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, 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 1:17)
The Lord Jesus said this of John the Baptist, “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.” (Matthew 17:11-12)
But this text is also worth noting: “And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?” (John 1:21-25)
We also need to consider the “dreadful day of the LORD” from Malachi 4:5. Is this a reference to the First Advent of Christ or the Second Advent or both? We should note that other references to the eschatological Day of the Lord correspond to the judgements poured out in Revelation. If this Malachi reference is to both Advents of Christ, then a dual fulfilment is in order: Elijah’s spirit came with John the Baptist, but Elijah himself will come in advance of Christ’s Second Advent.
Such a reading is possible, and Elijah may indeed be one of the Two Witnesses, as St Hippolytus thought. Time will tell.