The following two sets of passages are picked from several:

Matthew 17:11-12: He answered and said, "Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands."

John 4:23: "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers."

My question is, are the styles of both these verses: "X is coming" and "X already came" something unique to the Jews, a Hebraism, or perhaps something unique to that era? For example, I will probably never say to someone, "Y is coming" while in the same sentence telling them "Y already came." This appears to be a very straight-forward proposition: either "X is coming" OR "X already came." To use this form of language could produce disastrous results when communicating crucial information.

2 Answers 2


In Mal 4:5, 6 we have the very famous prophecy of the coming Elijah:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome Day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.d Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

Thus, the Jews expected "Elijah" to appear (in some unspecified form) and thus, it was common to say, "Elijah is coming".

In Matt 17:11, 12, Jesus speaks of the expected "Elijah" and the following verse tells us the actual fulfillment:

Matt 17:13 - Then the disciples understood that He was speaking to them about John the Baptist.

There are other places that confirm that John the Baptist was the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy such as:

  • Luke 1:17 - And he [John the Baptist] will go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Matt 11:7-11 - As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? Otherwise, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? Look, those who wear fine clothing are found in kings’ palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:

‘Behold, I will send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You.’ [Mal 4:5, 6]

Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Even today, if an important dignitary (president king or queen) has an appointment somewhere, everyone is constantly saying, "XXX is coming" and when they arrives, "XXX is here!!". There is nothing uniquely Hebraic about this.


There is little remarkable about people expecting the fulfillment of the last great prophecy of the OT - the prediction of the :Elijah" the prophet. The problem with most people at the time was their ignorance that "Elijah", namely John the Baptist, had already arrived, and thus the disciples could say (unlike everybody else), "Elijah has come".


Matthew 17:

11 He answered and said, "Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came

John 4:

23 "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the

This is the language of a being who exists above time. God sees the past, present, and future all at once. This reflects God's seeing of time.

Another case in point is in John 4:

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Jesus was speaking from the spiritual dimension's perspective beyond physical time.

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