Among many Christians and Messianic believers, there is an expectation of one who will appear in the power and spirit of Elijah before the second coming of Yeshua the Messiah. Even observant Jews expect Eliyahu haNavi (Elijah the prophet) to come before Maschiach ben David (Messiah, son of David), as evidenced by the traditional Passover seder service, where a cup of wine is symbolically set out for Elijah.
These beliefs are based on passages of Scripture from the prophetic book of Malachi:
MALACHI 3:1 "See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty." (NIV)
MALACHI 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 6 And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse." (NKJV)
This same belief and expectation was present during the ministry of Yeshua. To many, the transfiguration of Yeshua on the mountain is taken as a foreshadowing of this prophesied coming:
MARK 9:1 And he said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power." 2 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4 And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" — 6 because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. 7 And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son. Hear him!" 8 Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. (NKJV)
After seeing this vision of the glorified trio of Yeshua, Elijah, and Moses transfigured, the disciples asked Messiah about the teaching that Elijah had to come before the Messiah could appear:
MATTHEW 17:9 Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead." 10 And his disciples asked him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" 11 Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. 12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands." 13 Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptist. (NKJV)
Yeshua's answer to their question revealed the dual aspect of this prophecy. Most of the prophecies recorded in the Bible have at least two fulfillments, and this one does also. As Yeshua showed, John the Baptist was the Elijah who was to come before his first coming. But there remains yet another appearance of Elijah before "the coming of the great and terrible day of YHVH" (Mal. 4:5).
Some have been confused regarding this prophecy, because John the Baptist himself denied to the Jewish leadership that he was the expected Elijah:
JOHN 1:19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" 20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ." 21 They asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No." 22 Then they said to him, "Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?" 23 He said, "I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,' as Isaiah the prophet said." (NASU)
In a sense, John's denial was accurate, because he was not the final, full realization of this prophecy. But John clearly identifies himself with the prophesied messenger who was to come before the Messiah by quoting from Isaiah 40. Let's examine this passage in more detail to see if it was only for John's time:
ISAIAH 40:1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." (NIV)
This prophecy, which John only quoted a portion of, speaks of the coming of a messenger who heralds the imminent redemption of Jerusalem and the coming of the Messiah in glory. This salvation will only occur after the end-time messenger, who Malachi identifies as Elijah, has "turned the hearts of the children back to the fathers" just "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD" (Mal. 4:5-6).
John was a forerunner of the end-time Elijah. His role as one who would come in the power and spirit of Elijah was prophesied to his father Zacharias by Gabriel, the angel who foretold of his miraculous birth:
LUKE 1:13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, '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." (NKJV)
John did pave the way for the ministry of the Messiah, and he did turn the hearts of many Jews back to God the Father through his preaching of repentance. Clearly, as Gabriel heralded and as Yeshua declared, John was the prophesied Elijah. But before the end of this age, "Elijah" will once again come to fulfill this prophecy.
Many believe that Elijah himself will return from heaven as one of the "two witnesses" who will prophesy during the 42-month reign of the Antichrist:
REVELATION 11:3 "And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. 5 And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. 6 These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire. (NKJV)
As the Scripture above shows, the two witnesses will be able to turn water to blood, strike the earth with plagues, and stop the rain from falling for the three and a half years of their commission. These miracles will mirror the exploits accomplished by both Moses and Elijah while they served God on the earth (Exodus 7:19-21; I Kings 17:1; Jam. 5:17). Because of this similarity, and because of the transfiguration on the mountain, many believers have theorized that Elijah and Moses will be the two witnesses spoken of in Revelation 11.
On the surface, this assumption appears valid and scripturally supported. But will the Elijah to come at the end of the age actually be Elijah the Tishbite from Gilead? If Moses is to be the second witness along with Elijah, why weren't we told to expect Moses also? Additionally, why didn't an antetype of Moses arise with John the Baptist before the first coming of Messiah?
The two witnesses of Revelation 11 aren't Elijah and Moses. The Scriptures make it clear through the use of symbols that these two witnesses, also described as the two olive trees and the two lampstands (Rev. 11:4), are the House of Israel and the House of Judah. The 144,000 sealed from the 12 tribes of Israel (Rev. 7:1-8), which compose the two houses, will serve as God's witnesses in the end times. For abundant biblical evidence of this identification, see my article "The Two Witnesses Of Revelation."
These two witnesses (the 144,000 of the two houses of Israel) will fulfill the role of Elijah prophesied by Malachi (Mal. 3:1; 4:5-6) in the end time. To gain further insight into what these witnesses will do, let's examine the period of Elijah's prophecy, as well as the deeds of John the Baptist, who was a type of the end-time Elijah (Matt. 17:12-13). An analysis of the ministries of the previous Elijahs will help us discover what is going to take place in the near future when the two witnesses carry out the Elijah ministry at the end of this age.
First, let's examine the initial appearances of Elijah and John the Baptist, and compare them to the appearing of the two witnesses:
I KINGS 17:1 And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, "As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word." (NKJV)
Elijah appeared suddenly, as if out of nowhere, to prophesy against the wicked ruler, King Ahab of Israel. John the Baptist also appeared abruptly to begin his ministry:
MATTHEW 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight.' " (NKJV)
The two witnesses will also appear suddenly, and they will prophesy against the ruler, the "beast":
REVELATION 11:3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth." (NIV)
Just as Elijah said he stood before YHVH, God of Israel, the two witnesses are also said to stand before the Lord:
REVELATION 11:4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. (NASU)
Through diligent prayer, Elijah was able to restrain the rain for three and a half years, so that no precipitation fell upon the land:
JAMES 5:17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. (NKJV)
Likewise, the two witnesses will be able to shut off the rain for the same amount of time:
REVELATION 11:6 These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire. (NKJV)
John the Baptist, the initial fulfillment of "Elijah," preached repentance and the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 3:1). This same message will be proclaimed by the House of Judah and the House of Israel as they fulfill their prophetic Elijah ministry.
Continuing with the story of Elijah, after he confronted King Ahab, he was told by God to go into the wilderness to a place where God would see that he was protected:
I KINGS 17:2 Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 3 "Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 4 And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there." 5 So he went and did according to the word of the LORD, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. (NKJV)
John the Baptist's life was also protected during a time of turmoil by Herod while he was in prison:
MARK 6:17 For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife; for he had married her. 18 For John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." 19 Therefore Herodias held it against him and wanted to kill him, but she could not; 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and he protected him. And when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly. (NKJV)
Revelation 12 shows that at the end of the age, Israel, "the woman who gave birth to the Messiah" (represented by the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel) will be told by God to go into the wilderness to a place where YHVH will take care of them:
REVELATION 12:13 Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male child. 14 But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. 15 So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. 16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. (NKJV)
Because the Brook Cherith eventually dried up because of the drought, Elijah was not able to stay there the whole three and a half years:
I KINGS 17:7 And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. 8 Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 9 "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you." (NKJV)
That God had Elijah go to Zarephath is very interesting. It was a town in the land of Sidon, which happened to be the home of Jezebel, the pagan queen who was married to King Ahab (I Kings 16:31). Both Jezebel and Herodias were types of the harlot who rides the beast in Revelation 17.
The name "Zarephath" is also interesting; literally, it means "smelting place," or "refinery." Figuratively, the place where the end-time Elijah will be protected from Satan will be a place of refining of the saints sealed by God and commissioned to prophesy against the beast. Just as Zarephath was close to the home of Jezebel, the witnesses' dwelling place will also likely be close to Satan's seat of power.
When Elijah arrived at Zarephath, he found the widow God had told him about. Because of the severity of the famine, she was preparing to die with her son:
I KINGS 17:10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink. 11 And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand. 12 And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. (KJV)
The widow says something very interesting here; she tells Elijah that she is gathering two sticks, or shenayim etzim in the Hebrew text. There is one other place in the Scriptures where two sticks are mentioned: Ezekiel 37:15-28, where the prophet Ezekiel was told to gather two sticks. One stick was to depict the House of Judah, while the second stick was to represent Ephraim, the House of Israel. Ezekiel was told to join the two sticks into one; this action was to illustrate to the Jews in captivity in Babylon (and to those reading his prophecy) that, one day in the future, God would reunite the two houses back into one nation.
The widow's statement to Elijah is more than just a coincidence; it is a foreshadowing of God's fulfillment of the prophecy given to Ezekiel. Indeed, the end-time Elijah will consist of the two witnesses: the regathered Houses of Judah and Israel (Rev. 7:1-8). These two will be the preliminary, antetypical fulfillment of this dual prophecy. They will be the immediate forerunner of the regathering of the whole nation of Israel at the beginning of Messiah's millennial rule from Jerusalem.
I KINGS 17:13 And Elijah said to her, "Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.' " 15 So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah. (NKJV)
Here we see that God supernaturally provided food for Elijah, the widow and her son. This great miracle portends the wondrous "nourishment" of the two witnesses while they are protected in the wilderness from the wrath of the dragon during the three and half years of their service to God (Rev. 12:14).
But the two witnesses will not just be protected and fed for their own benefit. They will have a role to fulfill that will be the same as that of Elijah. Just as Elijah confronted King Ahab and the prophets of the false god Baal at the end of the three and a half years of drought, the end-time Elijah will confront the false god (the Antichrist) and his false prophet to prove that the Most High is the only true God:
I KINGS 18:1 And it came to pass after many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, "Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth." 2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab; and there was a severe famine in Samaria. (NKJV)
Here we see the initiation of the pivotal event in Elijah's ministry. While this passage seems straightforward, there is more here than meets the eye. God tells Elijah to present himself to Ahab, and that afterward He would send rain to the earth to alleviate the drought. In other Scriptures, we find the coming of the Messiah compared to rain coming upon the earth:
HOSEA 6:1 Come, and let us return to the LORD; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. 2 After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. 3 Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the LORD. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth. (NKJV)
Is this similarity just happenstance? Or could the rain that was prophesied to fall after Elijah confronted Ahab be symbolic of the return of the Messiah after the end-time Elijah confronts the Antichrist? Let's go back to the story of Elijah the Tishbite to see if there are any more clues:
I KINGS 18:17 Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, "Is that you, O troubler of Israel?" 18 And he answered, "I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father's house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table." 20 So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. (NKJV)
Here we see the beginning of God's plan to use Elijah to turn the hearts of His children back to their Father. God had Elijah gather all the children of Israel to Mount Carmel to prove to them that He was the one true God. As the story continues, we see that Elijah challenged the false prophets to a test. Both sides would build an altar and place a sacrifice upon it; the god who answered by fire would be the true God.
The people agreed this was a valid test, so the prophets of Baal started first. From morning until midafternoon they cried out to their god and cut themselves, seeking to entice Baal to answer. But there was no answer, only silence.
I KINGS 18:30 Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come near to me." So all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. 31 And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, "Israel shall be your name." 32 Then with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD; and he made a trench around the altar large enough to hold two seahs of seed. (NKJV)
Here we see an amazing and wonderful foreshadowing of what the end-time Elijah will do; we see the rebuilding of the altar of YHVH from 12 stones which represent the tribes of Israel. This altar pictures the reconstruction of Israel in accordance with numerous prophecies; it symbolizes the reunification of the 12 tribes in the Holy Land after the ministry of the end-time Elijah is completed.
After cutting the sacrificial bull into pieces and dousing it with 12 pots of water, Elijah prayed a simple prayer to God:
I KINGS 18:36 And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, "LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. 37 Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again." (NKJV)
After watching the false prophets of Baal shout and cut themselves all morning and half of the afternoon, this short prayer must have seemed anticlimactic to the children of Israel. However, the result of the prayer was certainly dramatic!
I KINGS 18:38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!" 40 And Elijah said to them, "Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!" So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there. (NKJV)
Here we see that God answered Elijah's prayer in a mighty way. His display of power and might was convincing to the children of Israel gathered there; falling on their faces, they exclaimed that YHVH (not Baal) was indeed the true God!
Names have great significance in the Bible. The name "Elijah" in Hebrew actually means "My God is YHVH." This name tells us much about the role the end-time Elijah will play. The end-time equivalent of the Mount Carmel event will convince many wayward modern Israelites that YHVH (not the Antichrist) is indeed the true God.
Now let's examine the fate of the two witnesses after they finish testifying that YHVH is the one true God:
REVELATION 11:7 Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. 8 Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days men from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. 10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. (NIV)
Abaddon, the beast that comes up from the Abyss (Rev. 9:11), will make war against the 144,000. After 1,260 days of testimony (Rev. 11:3) they will be given into his hand. When his forces defeat and kill them, the Antichrist will decree that their bodies are to lie unburied in the streets of his global kingdom, Babylon the Great (the "great city" - Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21).
The method of execution of the witnesses will be the same as that of the earlier type of Elijah, John the Baptist:
MATTHEW 14:6 But when Herod's birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. 7 Therefore he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. 8 So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, "Give me John the Baptist's head here on a platter." 9 And the king was sorry; nevertheless, because of the oaths and because of those who sat with him, he commanded it to be given to her. 10 So he sent and had John beheaded in prison. (NKJV)
Just as John the Baptist was beheaded for speaking the truth, Scripture indicates that the two witnesses will also be beheaded:
REVELATION 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (NKJV)
Since not all the saints who have been martyred in the name of Yeshua have been beheaded, the group specified in Revelation 20:4 must be a particular assembly. The identifying characteristics given for this group give us some idea who they are; we are told that they were beheaded for their witness to Yeshua, for the Word of God, for their refusal to worship the beast or his image, and for their refusal to take the mark of the beast. It seems logical to identify this particular group of saints with the 144,000 who make up the two witnesses, the end-time Elijah.
As Malachi tells us in his prophecy of the coming Elijah, the outcome of their work will be to restore the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers (Mal. 4:6). This restoration is the same one the disciples inquired of Yeshua just before he ascended to heaven:
ACTS 1:6 They therefore who were come together, asked him, saying: Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel? (DRA)
The restoration of the kingdom of Israel, the regathering of the two houses into the Promised Land under the leadership of the Messiah, was foremost on the minds of the disciples at that time. Unfortunately, it is not the focus of most Christians today, even though numerous unfulfilled prophecies speak of this glorious event. But with the testimony of the end-time Elijah as their witness, the hearts of the remnant of Israel will be brought back to their fathers, the patriarchs.
MICAH 2:12 "I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob, I will surely gather the remnant of Israel. I will put them together like sheep in the fold; like a flock in the midst of its pasture they will be noisy with men. 13 The breaker [haporetz] goes up before them; they break out [partzu], pass through the gate and go out by it. So their king goes on before them, and the LORD at their head." (NASU)
Here we have a prophecy of the regathering of Israel at the beginning of the Messianic kingdom. But as with almost all prophecies, there was an antecedent fulfillment. The antetype of this breaking out by the remnant of Israel, which occurred at the time of John the Baptist's preaching, was spoken of by Yeshua:
MATTHEW 11:12 "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence [biazetai], and the violent [biastai] take it by force." (NKJV)
At first glance, this verse seems to have little to do with the prophecy in Micah. However, the translation above does not accurately convey the meaning of the original Greek. The word biazetai above is a form of the Greek verb biazo. The following information from Dr. Brad Young should help us to understand the true meaning of this verse:
The Greek verb which is translated "suffers violence" in the KJV is biazo. "Suffers violence" is not a good translation. As has been noted, the New International Version rendered this Greek verb as "forcefully advancing." This translation of biazo is more appropriate than the passive idea from "suffers violence" because the active meaning correctly conveys both the force associated with the verb and also mentions the progressive movement of the divine reign. At times, the Hebrew verb paratz, which means "to break forth," was translated by the Greek verb biazo in the Septuagint. The idea conveyed by the Greek verb biazo certainly includes the action of "breaking forth." . . . Likewise, the single word biastai, a noun derived from the same Greek verb, is translated as "the violent" in the KJV and "forceful men" in the NIV. However, since biastai comes from the same verb biazo and is closely related to Micah 2:13, it should be rendered as "the breakers," that is, the ones making the breach wider as they break out from within the wall. They are the ones who are breaking out with the kingdom. Unquestionably, the entire saying of Jesus is connected to the words of the prophet Micah . . . (pp. 51-52, Jesus the Jewish Theologian)
With that background information, let's look at another translation of Matthew 11:12 that better conveys what Yeshua was saying:
MATTHEW 11:12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven breaks forth [biazetai], and those breaking forth [biastai] seize hold of it.
Now the similarities of Yeshua's saying and the prophecy of Micah should be apparent. In Micah 2:13, we have two entities being referred to: the one called the "breaker" and the king. The imagery portrayed in the passage calls to mind a pen full of sheep. In ancient Israel, shepherds often created temporary holding pens for their flock. They might use stones or other materials to form the pen, or they might adapt an already existing natural barrier such as a cave in a rocky hillside and seal off the entrance. After being restricted all night, the sheep are eager to be set free by the morning. The shepherd will then break down a section of the makeshift enclosure, allowing the sheep to escape. Anxious to be free, the sheep will rush out as quickly as possible, usually knocking more of the temporary pen down in the process.
The "Elijah" that is to prepare the way before the Lord is the "breaker" described in this prophecy by Micah. As the antetypical "breaker" spoken of by Micah, John the Baptist heralded the first coming of the Messiah and the initial breaking forth of the kingdom of God. His efforts will be repeated by the end-time Elijah, who will lead the breaking forth before the second coming of the Messiah Yeshua that will lead to the full regathering of the 12 tribes into the Holy Land. May that day come soon!
Bryan T. Huie
August 25, 2000