Matthew 17:11 MEANING

Matthew 17:11
(11) Elias truly shall first come.--Better, cometh Our Lord's words are obviously enigmatic in their form, and, as such, admit of two very different interpretations. Taken literally, as they have been by very many both in earlier and later times, they seem to say that Elijah shall come in person before the yet future day of the Lord, the great second Advent of the Christ. So it has been argued the prophecy of Malachi 4:5 shall yet have a literal fulfilment, and John the Baptist when he confessed that he was not Elijah (John 1:21) was rightly expecting his appearance. It would hardly be right to reject this interpretation merely on the ground of its literalism, or its improbability, or the resemblance which it has to the fantastic belief and practices, which have kept their ground even in modern Judaism, in connection with the expected appearance of the Tishbite, though these, so far as they go, must be thrown into the adverse scale. The words that follow in the next verse are, however, more decisive.

And restore all things.--Better, and shall restore. Leaving for the present the question who was to do the work, we turn to the nature of the work itself. Our Lord's language generalises the description given by Malachi. That work of "turning the hearts of the children to the fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children," was but part of a wider restoration of things and persons. Old truths were to be reproclaimed, and cleared from the after-growths of traditions. Men, as a race, were to be brought into their right relation to their God and Father. The words seem--at least as interpreted by Acts 3:21 (where see Note); Romans 8:21; Ephesians 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:28, and other like passages--to point forward to a "restitution of all things," the bringing in of order where now there is disorder and confusion, which shall embrace not Israel only, or even mankind, but the whole universe of God, visible and invisible.

Verse 11. - Elias truly shall first come (ἔρχεται, cometh). Many of the best manuscripts and editions omit "first." The Vulgate has merely, Elias quidem venturus est. It is probably inserted in our text from the parallel passage in Mark, where it is certainly genuine. Christ is here alluding to his own second coming, which shall be preceded by the appearance of Elijah in person. This seems to be the plain meaning of the prophecy in Malachi, and of Christ's announcement, and is confirmed by St. John's statement concerning the two witnesses (Revelation 11:3, 6). That the paragraph cannot refer to John the Baptist is plain from the tenses used in this verse contrasted with those in the following. To regard ver. 12 as simply a correction of ver. 10 is to do violence to language, and to leave one half of Malachi's prediction unexplained. Restore (ἀποκατασήσει) all things. The event is still future, and was not fulfilled in the Baptist's preaching, however deep and extensive may have been its influence. Of course, John in a partial degree reproduced the character and acts of Elijah, directing the people to the eternal principles of justice and righteousness, to a reformation of religion and morals; but he could not be said to have reconstituted, re-established all things; though it is possible that, had his message been received and acted upon, some such effects would have been produced. How and in what degree Elijah, again appearing and living on earth, will effect this great achievement, we know not. We can only fall back on the ancient prophecy, which affirms that "he shall turn the heart of the fathers to [or, 'with'] the children, and the heart of the children to [or, 'and'] their fathers" (Malachi 4:6), and expect that in some way, known unto God, he shall convert one and all, young and old, unto the Lord; or unite the Jews who are the fathers in the faith to Christians who are their children, and thus embrace Jew and Gentile in one fold under one Shepherd.

17:1-13 Now the disciples beheld somewhat of Christ's glory, as of the only begotten of the Father. It was intended to support their faith, when they would have to witness his crucifixion; and would give them an idea of the glory prepared for them, when changed by his power and made like him. The apostles were overcome by the glorious sight. Peter thought that it was most desirable to continue there, and to go no more down to meet the sufferings of which he was so unwilling to hear. In this he knew not what he said. We are wrong, if we look for a heaven here upon earth. Whatever tabernacles we propose to make for ourselves in this world, we must always remember to ask Christ's leave. That sacrifice was not yet offered, without which the souls of sinful men could not have been saved; and important services were to be done by Peter and his brethren. While Peter spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, an emblem of the Divine presence and glory. Ever since man sinned, and heard God's voice in the garden, unusual appearances of God have been terrible to man. They fell prostrate to the earth, till Jesus encouraged them; when looking round, they beheld only their Lord as they commonly saw him. We must pass through varied experiences in our way to glory; and when we return to the world after an ordinance, it must be our care to take Christ with us, and then it may be our comfort that he is with us.And Jesus answered and said unto them,.... By way of concession,

Elias truly shall first come: this is indeed a tenet of the Scribes, and it is also certain, that there is a prophecy in Malachi 4:5 of the coming of Elias; of one that goes under that name, not of Elias the Tishbite, in person, but of one that was to come in his power and spirit,

and restore all things. The Syriac and Persic versions render it, "shall perfect, or complete all things", that are prophesied of him; and shall put a period to the law and the prophets, and close the Mosaic economy, and direct persons to Christ; in whom are the perfection of the law, and the fulfilling of the prophets. The Arabic version reads it, "he shall teach you all things"; the whole of the Gospel being to be reduced to these two heads, repentance towards God, and faith in Christ; both which were taught by the true Elias: but the truest sense of the phrase is to be learned out of Malachi 4:6. "He shall restore, he shall turn all things, the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers"; and as this is explained in Luke 1:17 "he shall turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, and make ready a people prepared for the Lord": which is other, and better sort of work, than what the Jews assign to their Elias, whom they expect, and whom they make to be a restorer of all things, in their way: they often speak of his purifying (q) of things, or pronouncing things pure, that were defiled; and among others, that he will purify bastards, and "restore them" to the congregation of the Lord (r). Though Maimonides (s) denies, that when he comes he will pronounce defiled that which is pure, or pronounce pure, that which is defiled. They pretend (t), that he is now employed, and very busy, in writing everything that is done in every age; so that when he comes, he will be able to give an account of everything: and nothing is more common with them, than to say concerning any matter, that there is any doubt or difficulty about it (u), , "let it be left till Elias comes".

(q) T. Bab. Chagiga, fol. 25. 1. & Becorot, fol. 33. 2. & 34. 1.((r) Kimchi in Zech. ix. 6. (s) Hilchot Melacim, c. 12. sect. 2. Vid. Misn. Ediot, c. 8. sect. 7. & Maimon & Bartenora in ib. (t) Seder Olam Rabba, p 46. (u) Misn. Bava Metzia, c. 1. sect. 8. T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 3. 1. & 37. 1. & Bava Bathra, fol. 94. 1.

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