True Prophet vs False Prophet: How to Tell When Elijah Comes?

By Tim McHyde / January 17, 2015

Are there prophets today or at least coming in the future? How can you tell a true prophet like the coming Elijah from a false prophet like the False Prophet? Learn how to cut through the Christian confusion on prophets and to zero in on the one end time prophet you will hear about and must listen to: the Third Elijah.

Another Elijah?

In my study of Bible prophecy I have discovered several key prophecies that are not on most Christian's radar, but should be. Most Christians may know only about the Rapture/Second Coming and Great Tribulation. They in general miss that there is much more on the end time prophecy roadmap we will be here to deal with.

I was once one of them which is why I was surprised one day when I finally caught that Jesus said that another Elijah "will surely come and restore all things" (Mt 17:11). Even though I had attended churches that taught prophecy, I had never heard this taught before. I did not know I should expect an "end time Elijah" prophet, or if you will, a "third Elijah" if you count John the Baptist as the second (Lk 1:17=Mt 17:11) after the original Elijah of the Old Testament (1Ki 17:1).

Like most Christians, I thought John the Baptist had already fulfilled Malachi's prophecy of the "Elijah the prophet" because Gabriel said so:

Luke 1:17 (HCSB) — [Gabriel speaking] And he [John the Baptist] will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.

Malachi 4:5-6 (HCSB) — 5 Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

And so did Jesus:

Matthew 17:12-13 (HCSB) — "But I tell you: Elijah has already come, and they didn’t recognize him." ... 13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them about John the Baptist.

Simple, right? John the Baptist was "clearly" Malachi 4's Elijah. That's what many people say and I accepted that.

However, what always bothered me is how Malachi linked Elijah to the Day of the LORD. That's the day Jesus comes back to fight the Battle of Armageddon at the conclusion of the seven bowls of God's wrath (Rev 19:11-21):

Malachi 4:5-6 (HCSB) — Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the Lord comes.

How could someone who came 2000 years before the Day of the LORD properly fulfill that part of Malachi's Elijah prophecy? While I had no good answer I still considered Malachi 4 fulfilled and did not expect another Elijah.

That changed when I finally noticed other problematic statements like the "Day of the LORD" one. In these Jesus and John the Baptist himself curiously contradicted the idea that John the Baptist was the final or only Elijah who was to come.

Was John the Baptist Elijah or Not?

We just read above how Gabriel and Jesus declared John the Baptist as Elijah. Now let's look at what John said about himself and Elijah:

John 1:19-23 (HCSB) — 19 This is John’s testimony when the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He did not refuse to answer, but he declared: “I am not the Messiah.” 21 “What then?” they asked him. “Are you Elijah?” “I am not,” he said. “Are you the Prophet?” “No,” he answered. 22 “Who are you, then?” they asked. “We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What can you tell us about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord—just as Isaiah the prophet said [Isa 40:3].”

How surprising! Along with properly denying to be the Messiah or "The Prophet," he also denies being Elijah and says he is someone else Isaiah spoke of.

Notice that Jesus contributed seemingly contradictory statements on Elijah, too:

Matthew 17:10 (HCSB) — 10 So the disciples questioned Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 11 “Elijah is coming and will restore everything,” He replied 12 But I tell you: Elijah has already come, and they didn’t recognize him. [John the Baptist]

Although Jesus identified John as Elijah, he also said, "Elijah is coming and will restore everything." This is unmistakably a future tense statement which negates John being the fulfillment of Elijah. Or does it?

To sum up we have two votes that John was Elijah (Gabriel and Jesus) and two votes that he was not Elijah or was not the only or final Elijah (John and Jesus).

Solution: Dual Prophecy of Two More Elijahs

How do we resolve these contradictions? By recognizing that all the seemingly contradictory statements above about Elijah can be true if there are two fulfillments of Malachi's prophecy and therefore two Elijahs are being spoken of by Gabriel, Jesus, John and the Scribes questioning John.

In other words, Malachi's prophecy must be a dual prophecy.

This may sound wrong until you remember that the coming of the Messiah itself was also a dual prophecy: A) Messiah #1, "the suffering servant" and B) Messiah #2, "the King." Christians know well that Jesus has a first and second coming to fulfill both aspects of the prophecy. But this fact was easily missed by the Jews who studied the Bible diligently. They only knew of and expected a Messiah the King. Thus when Jesus came as a suffering servant who did not overthrow the Roman rule, they rejected him fearing he would only instigate problems with the Romans, causing them to lose their rule under Roman authority.

Likewise Christians today misunderstand prophecy just as the Jews did and miss that Elijah also has two comings. For each coming of Messiah, there will be an Elijah to prepare the way by preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom to people. Both of these Elijahs, Elijah #2 and Elijah #3, are referenced in the verses discussed above as follows:

  • Gabriel says John is Elijah (#2), not the final Elijah (#3) (Luke 1:17).
  • John says he is not Elijah (#2) when the Jews ask him if he is Elijah (#3) because they were looking for the final Elijah just as they were looking for the final Messiah, the King (John 1:21).
  • Jesus said John was Elijah (#2) (Mt 17:12).
  • Jesus also said Elijah (#3) "is coming to restore all things" (Mt 17:11).

This then resolves the dilemma of the Elijah statement contradictions. But it introduces a new dilemma: how do we identify this final Elijah #3?

The Nature of the Next Elijah

As part of identifying Elijah, I should probably settle a question on his nature. There are three ideas about who or what the final Elijah will be:

  1. Theory #1: The church fulfills the office of Elijah
    Proof? One argument I heard is that because the "Days of Elijah" song is the most popular song in churches (according to Charisma magazine), it means the Holy Spirit inspired this so we would know the church is fulfilling the prophecy of Malachi's Elijah. But this breaks precedent with the first two Elijah's being men.
  2. Theory #2: the original Elijah will come back
    Proof?: Some say that Elijah never died and will come back as one of the Two Witnesses. Others say Elijah did die as "no man has ascended to heaven" except Jesus. Either way there is no precedent of a prophet being brought back to resume their ministry after many lifetimes.
  3. Theory #3: Elijah will be a new personProof?: This is the precedent of Scripture predicting coming figures like the Elijah. Elijah #1 was a new person born of a woman. So was Elijah #2 as John the Baptist born of Elizabeth. We should expect the same of Elijah #3.

Christian Difficulty With "Prophets"

After years of sharing the above discovery about the coming end time Elijah in my book, I noticed a pattern of anxiety in some readers. It took me a little time to understand the reason as follows:

Most Christians are aware that there are already people who claim to be Elijah and other prophets. Some Christians have been burned by falling for these charlatans. Others are aware that the Book of Revelation says the False Prophet is coming to delude people into believing lies like the Antichrist is God. These things have taught many to ignore all "prophets" in order to protect themselves from deception.

So when I come along and say there is indeed a true prophet coming who they must watch for and accept, you can imagine the consternation they feel. How can they possibly identify and accept a true prophet when all they have seen are false prophets who deceive and hurt people?

The solution to this problem is to gain discernment from Scripture on prophets. I have had to learn to do that myself as I have had the same negative experiences and observations as others about prophets. For example, I personally knew someone who died from trusting in false prophecy. They stopped taking their insulin because of a prophecy saying they would be resurrected with a diabetes-free body if they did so. They died needlessly, paying the ultimate price for not being able to "discern the spirits" (1John 4:1). As well, every year a few people always write me to say that they are a prophet, Elijah or even an angel with a message or command for me. I've learned to safely ignore them all.

But how do I know who I can safely ignore and when there is a real prophet coming I need to listen to? Aren't I afraid I'm going to screw up and miss the real McCoy?

Identifying True Prophets

No, I never fear I might misjudge someone who claims to be a prophet. You don't have to either when you understand what Scripture says about prophets of God. It's pretty easy when you know how.

1. True prophets are established through signs, wonders, foretelling.

When God made Moses his prophet and sent him to lead Israel, Moses did not take the Christian prophet approach of saying "I'm a prophet of God, believe me and do what I say!" with no evidence. He was able to perform three signs God equipped him with (turning waters to blood, turning his staff to a snake and turning his hand leprous).

When God made Samuel a judge and prophet of Israel he also did not take the Christian approach of self-proclamation. He made predictions that came true, such as in the story of when he met the future king Saul while looking for a lost sheep. That's why it says:

1 Samuel 3:19-20 (HCSB) — 19 Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and He fulfilled everything Samuel prophesied. 20 All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of the LORD.

At this point you may be thinking of John the Baptist who it was said never performed a sign. But he did not have to. It says all the people accepted John as a prophet already for some other reason. It could be his notable near-miraculous birth to a priestly family past the age of child-bearing (Luke 1:7,18). It does not say. But like Samuel, he was established by God as a prophet so everyone knew. His reputation preceded him.

There is no Christian prophet today like John that the whole nation knows is a prophet already. If a Christian prophet comes out of the blue with no reputation like Moses did, he had better be able to do a sign like Moses or he is not following biblical precedent.

If you don't know him from Adam and he won't do a sign yet he demands you accept him as a prophet, ignore him.

2. True prophets speak in harmony with previous revelation of God.

Of course, on very rare occasions, a false prophet will be able to pass the first test. The coming False Prophet is an example of this. He will be able to bring fire down from heaven to deceive people (Rev 13). But he will fail the next test.

The Bible teaches that not every "word" should be accepted as true just because a Christian or "prophet" says it. They need to be evaluated as Paul taught:

1 Corinthians 14:29 (KJV) — Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the others judge.

Isaiah taught how to judge the words of prophets:

Isaiah 8:20 (KJV) — To the law and to the testimony [revelation from God given to Israel]: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

The New American Commentary (Volume 15a: Isaiah 1-39) explains this verse as follows:

God's past revelation is the only valid guide to judge any new wisdom about the future. Anything that contradicts what God has said or leads one in a direction inconsistent with the clear teachings in the nation's traditions is untrustworthy and misleading. The light of God's truth is not in it.

There are several other characteristics of true prophets (such as speaking in God's personal name) from Scripture that you can test them by. I cover them in my book Know the Future.

Elijah's Mission

Why is Elijah coming and what will he do?

Malachi's prophecy quoted above (Mal 4:5-6=Luke 1:17) tells us that he is coming to turn father's and children's hearts to each other. That's a bit ambiguous until you read Gabriel's helpful interpretation of it in speaking with John's father. He said "to turn...the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people" (Luke 1:17).

If John the Baptist/Elijah #2 did that in teaching people the Gospel of the Kingdom and repentance before the first coming, then we can expect the end time Elijah #3 to do the same before the second coming.

This is a needed mission because it's not being done today by Christianity just as it was not being done the first time by Judaism. Both Bible-based religions and, in fact, all religions teach the traditions of the holy or exalted leaders who founded or developed that religion.

Christianity is no different. Christianity does not teach the Gospel of the Kingdom or what repentance is or how to do it like Jesus did. Ask a Christian what the Kingdom of God is or what repentance is and they will most likely not be sure or not be able to give you an answer from the Bible. This is because Christian books and sermons do not focus on teaching these two things that John the Baptist and Jesus did. They teach Christianity or teachings about Jesus but not the teachings of Jesus himself. If a Christian wants to learn these things they have to dig into their own Bible themselves, something most are not adept at or comfortable doing.

Jesus himself said that, "this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Mt 24:14). If Christianity is not teaching this, then when someone like Elijah and the 144,000 finally do (as John, the 72 and the apostles last accomplished 2000 years earlier) it will certainly be noteworthy.

I believe Elijah has another important role. With the disasters and crisis coming to earth caused by Wormwood and the Antichrist, God has an escape plan for his people. Someone has to lead God's people to the safe places described as God's people are in ignorance and confusion on what is coming and how God plans to save them (it's not a pretrib rapture). If God does not send a strong leader who can work signs and wonders and make predictions that come true, believers will never know or agree on what is coming or what to do about it and who should they listen to. If Elijah #3 comes in power and authority like Elijah #1 and Moses did, that problem will be solved.

Could You Miss Elijah?

If you worry you could miss Elijah, I want to encourage you. I think it will be impossible to miss his coming given the Internet, email, social media and viral video.

Over the years I've seen many intriguing date-setting prophecy theories spread on the internet. Yet all of them are easily refuted with the Bible and always fail. No "prophet" ever succeeds impressively once let alone twice. Even if they say "something big will happen" and it comes true, it's so vague nobody is impressed.

But imagine a true prophet comes along who makes one impressive, specific, accurate mind-boggling prediction after another that always come true. Word would spread and it would be sensational and spread even more.

Or imagine he did indisputable great healings or other miracles and signs on camera? A billion hits on YouTube. Even secular news stations will pick it up as a curiosity.

If I wanted to reach all believers with the Gospel of the Kingdom, call to repentance and instructions for escaping the beginning of birth pains, I would harness the Internet in exactly that way. Neither Satan nor the religious folks turned off by Elijah's biblical message would be able to stop it.

Everyone would get a chance to hear and decide whether they have the faith and courage within themselves to obey the challenging radical instructions Elijah will give. That's why Jesus said 2000 years ago about this time to "pray that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place" (Lk 21:36).

P.S. If you find someone on the Internet and wonder if he is Elijah, don't tell me about him to find out what I think. There's no need. When the real Elijah comes, we won't have to tell each other about him or collect expert opinions. We'll all already be hearing about him and he'll give all the convincing proof that the faithful need to confirm he is a prophet of God from our own Bibles. In other words, if you find an 'Eljiah' that everyone is not already talking about at least as a prophet of God--as they did the last Elijah/John the Baptist (Mark 11:32)--then he is not Elijah! =)

For more on the coming disasters and God's escape plan that Elijah will share, read my previous article on How We Escape the Great Tribulation.

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About the author

Tim McHyde

Tim is the author of this site (since 1999) and the book Know the Future that explains Revelation literally at last--including the key event of Wormwood (Rev 6-8). To read more from Tim and not miss a single new article, sign up for his free newsletter below.

Jerry Barnhart - October 28, 2016

Some people claim Herbert Armstrong was Elijah-Armstrong himself claimed this- how can he be Elijah since he has been dead since 1986?

    Tim McHyde - October 29, 2016

    HWA was not Elijah. Many claim to be Elijah before and since him but none have proven they are biblical prophets worth signs nor “restored all things” including the Gospel of the kingdom that died out with the the apostles. Jesus said this gospel would return to the whole world before the end comes (Mt 24:14).

Sarah - October 29, 2016

Could the 3rd “Elijah” be a prophetess?

    Tim McHyde - October 29, 2016

    There have been female prophets in the Bible like Hulda (OT) and Anna (NT). Today with Western Society not being a patriarchal society like in Bible times, I expect more women leaders and prophets than in the past. This is similar to how in Bible times there was slavery as it was a necessary institution of life but today we have been able to (mostly) put away with that institution. Same with patriarchal, women-are-property-not-leaders-thinking.

Jay - November 14, 2016


But imagine a true prophet comes along who makes one impressive, specific, accurate mind-boggling prediction after another that always come true. Word would spread and it would be sensational and spread even more.

Or imagine he did indisputable great healings or other miracles and signs on camera? A billion hits on YouTube. Even secular news stations will pick it up as a curiosity.

If I wanted to reach all believers with the Gospel of the Kingdom, call to repentance and instructions for escaping the beginning of birth pains, I would harness the Internet in exactly that way.

In a right mind who would not believe this and therefore heed his/her message? Who would be those who wold not flee to the safe place? If people will fall for an antichrist with his or her charismatic being and ability to call down fire from heaven who are they that would not heed this 3rd Elijah?

Elijah comes BEFORE antichrist, correct? If this is the sequence, then what could possibly delude people into not hearing and not acting n his/her words?

Also scripture says Elijah is coming to “restore.” I thought the only person who can come to restore is Christ!

Then we have two more people called witness’s who arrive after the USA is destroyed. What about them? Who could they be?



    Tim McHyde - November 14, 2016

    Read for reasons why very right-minded people would be inclined to doubt Elijah and stay home. Remember, there is no Antichrist today either yet Christians are deceived into believing 100% false doctrines like the “pretrib rapture,” “once saved always saved,” cheap grace, and into thinking going to church once a week to hear a sermon keeps them right with God while they live the same the rest of the week.

    The two witnesses is covered here:

    FYI, Greek says “restore all”, Aramaic says “fulfill all.” I go with the Aramaic preserving the original here.

Chip Fitzpatrick - February 20, 2017

Just last week I saw a illustration of the United States but the states weren’t displayed just the word wormwood in the shape of our country the lower 48 states maybe ? This continent hasn’t really tried to obey God more like obeying what man thinks is honorable and right, I’m not going to mention the guy who had stirred my spirit about things that have come upon our continent such as the Arch of Baal that was erected in NYC just another defiance and in my opinion has also brought judgement to us since 2001…just the wormwood has sparked my interest. Why America?

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