What is the relationship between John the Baptist and Elijah? Is John one of the Two Witnesses? Read this page to find out.
For a quick summary of the Biblical record of the life of John, please visit this page on this website:
Life of John the Baptist
It will open in a new window; just close that window to return to this page. The contents of that summary page will be referenced liberally on this page, particularly for the “highlighted in” color passages mentioned below.
The evidence that John the Baptist is a form of Elijah can be split into three categories:
Regarding the first category, there are three times in the Bible when John the Baptist is explicitly associated with Elijah:
However, in John 1:21, John the Baptist himself denies being Elijah (highlighted in orange on the summary page). John is technically correct, since John was not exactly the same Elijah as the “first Elijah”; rather, as Gabriel said, John had only come “in the power and spirit of Elijah”, in Luke 1:17. Nevertheless, it seems somewhat deceptive for John to say that he is not Elijah while in fact being “in the spirit and power of Elijah”.
It may be that John did not know the entire truth about himself. In John 1:22-23, John says that he is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3-5. However, John does not mention that he is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Malachi 4:5-6, even though there are others in the Bible (in the second category, below) which state this to be true.
John the Baptist’s lack of clarity about people’s identities is evidenced in his reaction to Jesus. John apparently recognized Jesus (or at least Jesus’s mother, Mary) while both Jesus and John were still unborn (Luke 1:41). Also, John identified Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29,35) and “the Son of God” (John 1:34). Nevertheless, John sent his disciples to ask if Jesus really was the Christ (or “Messiah”), according to Luke 7:16-20 and Matthew 11:2-3. Just as it was difficult for John to know with certainty that Jesus was the Christ, it may have also been difficult for John to know his own identity as the “Elijah” prophesied to come before Jesus.
Regarding the second category, there are three times in the Bible when John the Baptist is said to be a fulfillment of prophecy in Malachi:
Regarding the third category, there are three times in the Bible when John the Baptist is described in some way that is strongly reminiscent of Elijah:
There is a fourth category of information in the recorded life of John the Baptist, which I have highlighted in brown on the summary page. Each item in this category is a miracle of Jesus. By themselves these pieces of information would not be considered evidence of a relationship between John and Elijah. However, if we notice carefully the context in which the miracles occur, we do discover something interesting.
The first piece of this information is Jesus’s Miracle of the 40 Day Fast. The Bible tells us that as soon as John had baptized Jesus, then Jesus went into the desert and fasted for 40 days and nights. Elijah also fasted for forty days and nights, according to 1 Kings 19:3-8.
The second piece of this information is Jesus’s Miracle of the Feeding of the 5000. The Bible tells us that just after John was executed, Jesus fed 5000 people with seven loaves of bread and two fish. Elisha also fed 100 men with only 20 loaves of bread, according to 2 Kings 4:42-44. The “Elijah and Elisha” page (link opens in a new window) on this site shows that Elisha was the second person to come “in the spirit and power of Elijah”.
The third piece of this information is Jesus’s Miracle of Walking on Water. The Bible tells us that just after Jesus’s Miracle of the Feeding of the 5000 (which, as mentioned above, came just after John's death), Jesus walked on the water of the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee empties through the Jordan River into the Dead Sea; so the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River are directly connected. Elijah AND Elisha both split the Jordan River and walked across its dry bottom, according to 2 Kings 2:7-8 and 2 Kings 2:13-14. So Jesus, Elijah, and Elisha each crossed some part of the Galilee/Jordan water channel in a miraculous way.
In each of these three events, something important happened in the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus; and this was followed quickly by a miracle of Jesus that strongly resembled a miracle of Elijah (or Elisha--another “coming” of Elijah).
Again, these pieces of information would not be considered evidence of a connection between John and Elijah. However, in light of those things that actually are evidence of an Elijah / John the Baptist connection, these miracles of Jesus do seem to have occurred when they did by more than just coincidence.
There is a fifth category of information in the recorded life of John the Baptist, which I have highlighted in yellow on the summary page. Each item in this category is evidence that John shares the same relationship with the Two Witnesses of Revelation as Elijah and Elisha were shown to have in “Part 5: Elijah and Elisha” (this page will open in a new window). Let us examine two of them.
First, according to John 1:8, John the Baptist is only a “witness” for Jesus. The Two Witnesses of Revelation are two witnesses for Jesus. Thus, the Bible specifically refers to John the Baptist as a “witness” for Jesus, the same as it does with the Two Witnesses of Revelation.
Second, in John 5:35, the Bible says
When Jesus called John a “lamp”, Jesus confirmed that John is one of the Seven Eyes (Witnesses) of God, symbolized by the Menorah.
Also, note that this incidence of the Bible referring to one person as being both a “lamp” and a “witness” further confirms what we found before
in “Part 4: Zechariah, the Menorah, and the Number Seven” (click on this link
if you need to refresh your memory on this topic; this page will open in
a new window).
At this point, not only do we know that Elijah will be one of the Two Witnesses of Revelation; but we also know that there are four people--Elijah, Elisha, John the Baptist, and one of the Two Witnesses--who have come (or will come) in “the power and spirit of Elijah”. They are four of the seven lamps of the menorah; four of the Eyes of God.
We will examine the remainder of the highlighted in yellow passages, and discover the other witness of the Two Witnesses, in Part 7: Moses.
Jan 08, 17 12:18 PM
There is a prophecy in the Old Testament (the Torah, in fact) which names Jesus BY NAME, along with crucifixion imagery. Learn about it here.
Feb 07, 16 03:12 PM
Why must we be adopted by God? What does it really mean to be adopted by God? This Adoption Loophole page has the answers.
Jul 15, 15 10:33 AM
In the Bible, there are several different examples of adoption or adoption-like relationships. Learn about them here.