Elijah the Prophet is one of the more fascinating religious leaders that the Jewish people have ever known. Among other things, he helped lead the Jewish people from non-Jewish worship. Perhaps his most famous statement regarding this is found in the I Kings 18:21 |
"And Elijah came near unto all the people, and said: 'How long halt ye between two opinions? if the L-RD be G-d, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.' And the people answered him not a word."
Here, he reprimanded the Jewish people, who often would worship different gods. He showed them that one cannot go back and forth between different religions. Either you are following Judaism, or you are not. Perhaps this same idea needs to be heard by those in the Messianic "Jewish" movement, a movement created by Christianity in the 1800's. Either you are practicing Judaism, or you are practicing Christianity. As Elijah said, there is no "in between."
Elijah holds a unique place in Judaism, as Elijah never actually died in the Bible. In 2 Kings 2:11, Elijah is brought to Heaven in a chariot of fire, after which Elisha takes over as the primary prophet for the Jewish people. However, Elijah will return, and his return will be quite special. In Malachi 3:23-24, we read that Elijah will return at the time of the Messiah:
"23: Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the L-RD.
24: 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 land with utter destruction."
So, we learn from the Book of Malachi that Elijah will herald the coming of the Messiah. Now, many in the Messianic "Jewish" movement adhere to the Christian belief that John was Elijah, as Jesus claimed that John the Baptist was Elijah in Matthew 11:13-14 and 17:10-13. However, John actually denied being Elijah in John 1:21. Most importantly, keep in mind what we learned in the Book of Kings. Elijah never actually died, yet we read of John's birth in the first chapter of Luke. So, John was born approximately at the time of Jesus, yet Elijah was born hundreds of years earlier and never died! Clearly, John cannot actually be Elijah. Luke 1:17 tries to get around this by claiming that John had the power and spirit of Elijah. However, we are again left with a basic problem; Malachi does not predict that someone with the "spirit of Elijah" will come, but that Elijah himself will come. Since Elijah did not come, and Elijah must herald the Messiah, Jesus cannot claim to be the Messiah. Lastly, not only will Elijah come, but as we read in Malachi, he will turn the hearts of the fathers and the children toward each other, something which never happened in Jesus' time.
This idea from the Bible that Elijah will come at the time of the Messiah is enshrined in Jewish prayers and rituals. For instance, at the Passover Seder we have a Cup of Elijah. The reason why we have this cup is because there was a debate by the rabbis, as recorded in the Talmud, of whether we should drink four cups of wine on Passover (for the four terms used to describe the deliverance by G-d of the Jewish people from Egypt in Exodus 6:6-7) or five cups of wine (for the added expression of deliverance Exodus 6:8). Since the debate is not fully resolved, we pour a fifth cup of wine, which we term the "Cup of Elijah." The reason for this ritual is because of the Jewish belief that when Elijah comes with the Messiah, he will answer all of our questions on Jewish law. So, Elijah will tell us whether we should be drinking four cups or five cups of wine. By definition, if you put out a Cup of Elijah, you are stating that Elijah has not returned and the Messiah has not come. It is a bit odd that most Messianic "Jewish" seders have a Cup of Elijah, yet the very act of putting this cup out actively demonstrates that Jesus could not be the Messiah. If Jesus was really the Messiah, Elijah would have come and answered our question about the cups of wine. Therefore, there would be no need to put have a Cup of Elijah! Additionally, at the end of Havdallah, Jews sing a song about Elijah coming with the Messiah, called "Eliyahu HaNavi." This song was written by the Jewish people to express the idea that the Messiah clearly has not come, and that we are waiting for Elijah to arrive with the Messiah. It is again interesting that many groups in the Messianic "Jewish" movement will also sing this song. The very act of singing this song, based on the rationale for its writing, states that the Messiah has not come. It is not possible to sing this song and believe that Jesus was actually the Messiah. By singing it, you acknowledge that Elijah and the Messiah have not arrived. In Judaism, we do not merely sing songs or go through rituals for the sake of "tradition." Each of our words and songs have a specific meaning associated with them. Judaism has many songs, prayers and rituals that are associated with Elijah the Prophet, each of which express our desire for Elijah to arrive and for the real Messiah to come.
There are many reasons why Jews do not accept Jesus, and the links below are some of the better explanations on this topic. Of course, if you have questions that are not covered on the links, you can always e-mail me with your questions.
An Answer from Rabbi Stuart Federow Click Here
An Answer from Rabbi Shraga Simmons Click Here
Ask the Rabbi from Ohr Somayach Click Here
An Answer from Rabbi Tovia Singer Click Here
There are a number of groups that provide Countermissionary Counseling. Here are links to a few of them:
Alternatively, you can call them at 800-477-6631 with general questions about missionary claims.
Here are a number of great sites that counter missionaries and explain the differences in belief between Judaism and Christianity/Messianic "Judaism", including addressing the Biblical verses that missionaries try to use against the Jews and explaining why the missionaries are incorrect.