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William Branham taught that he was the fulfillment of Malachi 4:5-6. This is a foundational doctrine of the message.
As a result of our research, we have had countless people email us asking the question: "If Bro. Branham wasn't the fulfillment of Malachi 4:5, then who is?"
The problem with this question is that it starts with an assumption that a Gentile Elijah must come. But is this assumption correct? Do we have to look for a Gentile prophet to fulfill Malachi 4:5?
Here is a summary of the reasons why William Branham's and message followers interpretation of Malachi 4:5 are wrong:
Here are a number of views that most message believers should consider when asking this question. We should also add that we are not pointing to any man, church, denomination or system. People need Jesus Christ and the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
The questions that need to be asked when looking at William Branham's interpretation of Malachi 4 are as follows:
- If the least in the kingdom of God is greater than John the Baptist (and therefore, also greater than Elijah) why would we need another Elijah prophet?
- If Jesus himself said that John the Baptist fulfilled Malachi 4, why did William Branham say he didn't?
- If we have the Holy Spirit to teach us all things, why would we need Elijah?
- According to a careful reading of the text, there is no half scripture left to fulfill. So is the scripture really saying we should expect another Elijah prophet?
- What if William Branham's interpretation is based on the ambiguous wording of the King James Version, but newer translations confirm his interpretation is doubtful?
- Why should we even expect a Gentile prophet if all the prophets were until John?
These questions and others are answered below.
Jesus spoke in the future tense about Elijah
We were told by a number of message ministers that because Jesus refers to Elijah's coming in the future tense in Matthew 17:11, it cannot be a reference to John the Baptist. This seems to be a reasonable understanding of the passage. But is there another reason that Jesus is speaking in future tense?
In the Greek, Jesus states “Elijah is coming” and then adds και ἀποκαταστήσει πάντα, “and he will restore everything.” The verb ἀποκαταστήσει, “will restore,” is drawn verbatim from the Septuagint version of Malachi 3:23 (there is no Malach chapter four in the Hebrew scriptures). However, the object clause of that passage is “the heart of the father to the son and the heart of a man to his neighbor”. The future tense, therefore, does not suggest that Jesus expects a future return of John the Baptist. The restoration of “everything” (πάντα) must here refer not to the eschatological renewal of the present order itself (which would make Elijah the Messiah himself, rather than the forerunner of the Messiah), as, for example, apparently in Acts 1:6 (and cf. especially the cognate noun ἀποκατάστασις, “restoration” or “establishing,” in Acts 3:21 in an allusion to the return of Jesus), but to a preparatory work of repentance and renewal (as in the Malachi passage; see especially Luke 1:17 and cf. Sir 48:10). Only an interpretation of this kind can make possible Jesus’ identification of John the Baptist with Elijah in the verse that follows. In short, Jesus responds initially by fully agreeing with the scribes in their understanding of Malachi’s prophecy that Elijah is to come and accomplish his preparatory work. It is only in the astonishing conclusion the Jesus makes that he disagrees with the scribes. 
With this, the disciples’ understanding was complete. They had come to realize that the prophecy of Elijah was fulfilled in John, and that it was John whom Jesus referred to in Matthew 17:11–12. In spite of Jesus’ announcement in Matthew 11:14, it had taken them this long to realize more fully John’s place in God’s plan. Now they knew that God’s plan was further along in its fulfillment. 
Who was Malachi's message directed to?
William Branham claims that the message of the prophet Malachi was to both Israel and to the Gentiles. But look at the plain wording of the opening statement of the Book of Malachi (Malachi 1:1):
- A prophecy: The word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi.
Malachi's message was to Israel. That is what the Bible says. It does not say it is to Israel and to the Gentiles at the end-times.
The spirit of Elijah, and the spirit of Jesus
Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, among those born of women, no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is." (Mt 11:11).
The least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist.
Because every true Christian has the anointing of the Holy Spirit, which is far greater than the spirit of Elijah!
Why would we need the spirit of Elijah when each believer possesses something greater?
Are we falling short of what God intended for believers by looking for the spirit of Elijah when, in fact, we possess something much greater? Are we really living and attaining to the level of spiritual life that God intends for us?
Malachi 4 vs. Malachi 3
William Branham stated that John the Baptist fulfilled Malachi 3 but did not fulfill Malachi 4.
However, Jesus told his disciples, referring to John, that "if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, who is to come." (Matt 11:14)
The problem is that there is only one reference to Elijah in Malachi, and that is in Malachi 4. So how could William Branham's interpretation that John did not fulfill Malachi 4 be correct if Jesus specifically referred to John the Baptist as Elijah, a direct reference to Malachi 4?
Also, in the Hebrew Bible, the Tanakh, there is not Malachi chapter 4. Rather, chapter 3 includes both chapter 3 and 4 in the KJV.
Jesus said, “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.” (Mt 17:11b)
This statement has been interpreted by some to mean that Elijah’s spirit is needed again as John the Baptist did not restore all things.
This presents two problems.
First, this ignores Jesus statement, “that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed… Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.” (Mt 17:12-13)
In other words, John the Baptist introduced Jesus Christ, who was the only person able to restore man to their intended condition. When John bore witness of the light, he was pointing the way back to the Word of God. “In the beginning was the Word,”(John 1:1a) and John the Baptist restored that Word to the people.
Second, Jesus said that the Holy Ghost would “teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26). Why would Elijah be needed if we have the Holy Spirit to teach us all things, and if it is the Spirit himself that brings all things to remembrance?
Peter affirms this when he states in 2 Peter 1:3 that:
- His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
Turning the hearts
An angel prophecied to Zacharias, before the birth of John the Baptist, that he would “go before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elias, 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.” (Luke 1:17).
The first, second, and fourth parts of this verse are very clear. The third part says, “the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.” Since it is usually children who are disobedient, and usually parents who have wisdom, this part of the verse should be interpreted to read “to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers.” In this case, the fathers refer to the patriarchs, while the children are interpreted as disobedient people of Israel. The patriarchs are the fathers, the great ancestors of the present sinners. From their vantage-point in the next world, they looked at their descendants and were displeased. But John would bring about such a change that the fathers would come to look with favour on Israel. Similarly John would change the disobedient so that they accepted the wisdom of the just (as in Prov. 4). The result would be a people prepared for the Lord. It is not the disobedience of children to parents that is meant, but that of the Jews to God.
As a result, there is no half-scripture left for Elijah to fulfill.
The Great and Dreadful Day
In the KJV, Malachi 4:5 says that Elijah will come "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.
But let's look at another word for word translation of the Bible, the ESV. Here we read Malachi 4:5 to say that Elijah will come "before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes."
The Hebrew word translated as "dreadful" in the KJV includes the meanings "to cause astonishment and awe, be held in awe; or, to inspire reverence or godly fear or awe.”
William Branham, relies on the "dreadful" interpretation of this Hebrew word when he states in the Church Age Book:
- See, immediately after the coming of THIS Elijah, the earth will be cleansed by fire and the wicked burned to ashes. Of course, this did NOT happen at the time of John (the Elijah for his day.)
However, if the true meaning is “awesome” rather than “dreadful, then this verse is not stating that Elijah will come before judgement. It is stating that he will come prior to the first coming of Jesus. Malachi 4:6 then goes on to say that God will strike the earth if Elijah never comes.
Further proof for this comes from the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament that Jesus and the writers of the New Testament quoted from. Here is Malachi 4:5 in the Septuagint, which is how Jesus and the disciples would have read it:
- And behold, I am sending to you Elijah the Tishbite before the great and famous day of the Lord comes, who will restore the heart of a father to a son and the heart of a person to his neighbor, lest I should come and strike the land entirely.
When you read Malachi 4:5 out of the Septuagint, William Branham’s reasoning for separating the prophecy between John the Baptist and a Gentile Elijah completely vanishes.
Further proof of this is found in Joel 2:31 and Acts 2:16-21. Note that Joel 2:31 in the KJV reads almost identical to Malachi 4:5 in referring to the great and dreadful day:
- The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. (KJV)
But when we look at the ESV, another word for word translation we see something different:
- The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. (ESV)
We read in Acts 2:16 that the outpouring of the Holy spirit was that "which was spoken by the prophet Joel and then Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32. It is important to compare both the KJV and the ESV when looking at Joel 2:31 above and Peter's quotation of the same verse which is found in Acts 2:20:
- The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: (KJV)
- ...the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. (ESV)
Now we see that the Greek wording that Peter used when he quoted Joel 2:31 is in agreement with the Septuagint and the ESV. So how should we look at Malachi 4:5? It should be in the same way that the ESV looks at the passage and how Peter translated the wording.
As a result, it can be seen that William Branham's interpretation of "the great and dreadful day of the Lord" does not agree with that of the apostle Peter.
If someone says, "I don't believe your interpretation. I think it is referring to judgment", then we don't have to look very far.
The nation of Israel was judged in A.D. 70 when Jerusalem was sacked and the Temple was destroyed. It was also announced prophetically by Jesus in Matthew 24. Jesus announced that the Temple would be destroyed. And so Jesus coming also was a great and dreadful day since the destruction of Jerusalem occurred within the generation (40 years) that experienced the resurrection.
The following paragraphs are all based on the KJV:
When Jesus was on earth, his ministry was to proclaim “the acceptable year of the LORD” (Luke 4:19). Jesus also said that he would send the “the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost” (John 14:26a). Isaiah 61:2 says that the ministry of the Messiah (Christ, the anointed) was to “proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn”.
- The acceptable year was Jesus’ teaching ministry
- The comforter (the Holy Spirit) came on the day of Pentecost
- The day of vengeance of our God would have to be between these two times, as the scripture is ordered this way.
As a result, the “day of vengeance of our God” is not the tribulation, but the day of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ. That was the day that Jesus Christ suffered God's wrath and vengeance for sin on our behalf.
The Law and the Prophets were until John
Jesus said that “all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:13-15).
Paul taught that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (Romans 10:4). So, if the law has no dominion over Christians after Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to us by faith, then the judgment of the prophets (including Elijah) also have no dominion over us by the same faith.
Elijah’s 4th coming
William Branham stated that Elijah was to come FIVE times:
- John the Baptist
- William Branham
- One of the two witnesses of Rev. 11
But in his haste to point to himself, did William Branham forget another coming of Elijah?
Peter spoke to Jesus on Mount Transfiguration and said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” (Matthew 17:4)
He said this because he had seen Moses and Elijah with Jesus. This is the second appearing of Elijah in the New Testament and the fourth in the Bible.
So if William Branham's biblical interpretation is correct and the spirit of Elijah was to appear five times, then there is no room for a Gentile Elijah.
The day cometh, that shall burn as an oven
In Malachi 4:1 we read:
- For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; And all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: And the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, That it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
William Branham interpreted Malachi 4 as applying to himself, as prophesying his ministry. He stated that Malachi was "speaking over to a day coming. ...To a day of the coming of the Lord." . He believed that all of Malachi chapter 4 was applicable to the second coming of Christ and not to Christ's first coming.
In Acts 2:15, Peter says that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost as the fulfillment of Joel 2:28–32
- These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
- ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
It is interesting that the first words of Joel chapter 2, which would proceed the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32 contain words strikingly similar to Malachi 4:1
- Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: For the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; A day of darkness and eof gloominess, A day of clouds and of thick darkness, As the morning spread upon the mountains: A great people and a strong; There hath not been ever the like, Neither shall be any more after it, Even to the years of many generations.
- A fire devoureth before them; And behind them a flame burneth: The land is as the garden of Eden before them, And behind them a desolate wilderness; Yea, and nothing shall escape them. The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses; And as horsemen, so shall they run. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains shall they leap, Like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, As a strong people set in battle array.
The verb translated “burn” in Malachi 4:1 is the same one rendered as "burneth" in Joel 2:3.
Joel 2 and Malachi 4 describe the same thing. It is not Christ's second coming, it is the first. And you don't have to believe us... just believe the Apostle Peter.
- And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, who is to come.
- Then they asked him, “Why do the experts in the law say that Elijah must come first?” He said to them, “Elijah does indeed come first, and restores all things. And why is it written that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be despised? But I tell you that Elijah has certainly come, and they did to him whatever they wanted, just as it is written about him.”
- But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son; you will name him John. Joy and gladness will come to you, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go as forerunner before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared for him.”
Quotes of William Branham
Audio Letter to Lee Vayle (May 1964, Tucson, AZ)
- You think it would be good here to let the public know that this wasn't the John of Malachi 4? This is John of Malachi 3, for in Matthew 11, you might quote it like this. See, Matthew 11:9, we put it.
- But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, whom it is written, Behold I send My messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
- Now, that's Malachi 3, not Malachi 4. The Malachi 4 prophet is to come in this day, when the Lord is going to burn the Gentile world just--or the whole Gentile world up like He did at Sodom. You see? It's going to be Malachi 4 when He did that, not Malachi 3. Malachi 3 was John the Baptist also in the spirit of Elijah. But Malachi 4 here is John-or--or Elijah returning again just before the great and terrible day of the Lord, to turn the hearts of the children.
- John did it when he come, and this prophet will do the same thing in the--in the Malachi 4. See, there's two different times. And Jesus refers to it here as Malachi 3. "Behold, I send My messenger before My face." Jesus referring to John here... And Matthew 11 refers to it as Malachi 3. "My messenger before My face," not before the great and terrible day of the Lord shall come.
- I thought you might inject that there and let the public know that Malachi 3 Elijah, and Malachi 4 Elijah, are two different prophets altogether.
QUESTIONS.AND.ANSWERS.4 JEFF.IN 64-0830E
- In Malachi 4, this Elijah is to take the hearts of the fathers to the children, and then the hearts of the children to the fathers. Is this the same person?
- Yes, the same person. All right. Oh, wait a minute. No. Pardon me; I'm sorry. Just... See the Holy Spirit catch that for me then? No. I thought it said the... See?
- What it was in Malachi 3, there, "I send My messenger before My face," which was Elijah. In Malachi 4 it turns back around and said, "Behold I send Elijah." Malachi 3, He was to take a messenger sent before the face of the Lord Jesus, which was John. How many understands that? Malachi 4, when this Elijah comes, immediately after that--his Message and things, and after the--is the coming of the Lord and the renewing of the earth...
BIRTH.PAINS PHOENIX.AZ 65-0124
- Then John, the promised Elijah of Malachi 3, not Malachi 4. Malachi 3, 'cause Jesus said the same thing in--in Matthew the 11th chapter.
- ...Said, "Then what did you go out to see, a prophet? And I say unto you, more than a prophet. For if you can receive it, this is he who was spoken of by the prophet, saying, 'I'll send My messenger before My face, to prepare the way.'" That's Malachi 3:1.
- Not Malachi 4, at all. That's a different. Cause, that Elijah come, the world is to be burnt immediately, and the righteous walk out on the ashes of the wicked.
PROVING.HIS.WORD LA.CA 65-0426
- Now, quickly, let's think of Him a moment, here He is on His road up. A little priest came down, no doubt but that little fellow was a borderline believer.
- There is so many of them in the world today, little borderline believers. They want to believe That. They want to believe that the Holy Ghost is real. They want to believe this is the apostolic move, as God promised in the last days He would pour out His Spirit. We... he wants to believe in Malachi 4, that He promised, in the last days the--the original pentecostal Faith would be restored back to the--to the church again.
- Malachi 4 claims it. "Behold, I will send to you Elijah in the last day," that's right, "and He will restore the Faith of the children back to the fathers again," see, "the Faith of the fathers to the children, also." See, it's got to be.
- You say, "Well, that was John the Baptist." No, no.
- John the Baptist was Malachi 3. That's right. Matthew 11 says so, "If you can receive it, this is he who is spoke of, 'Behold, I send My messenger before My face.'" It was Elijah, certainly. Jesus said it was. But not the Elijah of Malachi 4, at all.
65-1204 - The Rapture
- Now, we've come through the church ages. But we're promised in the last days, according to Malachi 4, that there would be a return again, a prophet in the land. That's right. Notice his nature, what he would be like. He's alway… God uses that spirit five times: once in Elijah; in Elisha; in John the Baptist; call out the Church; and the remnant of the Jews. Five times, "grace," J-e-s-u-s, f-a-i-t-h, and it's the number of grace. See? All right.
|What do you think? |
The statements by William Branham included in these articles are so strong, they force you to make a conclusion.
(a) Will you accept William Branham's statements and conclude that he was God himself - greater than Jesus, equal to the Holy Spirit, infallible, and above reproach?
(b) Or will you conclude that William Branahm was delusional.
There is no middle ground, because to compromise these statements requires you to deny William Branham's own words. It's time to choose: is William Branham's word Infallible, or was his message fallible?
This article is one in a series of studies on the doctrines of William Branham that pointed to himself - you are currently on the article that is in bold:
- Revelation 10:7
- The Fulfillment of Malachi 4:5
- The Laodicean Church Age Messenger
- Matthew 17:11
- Luke 17:30
- Matthew 24:28
- Zechariah 14:7
- Joel 2:25
- 1 Thessalonians 4:16
- The Importance of a Seven-Lettered Name
- The Prophet and The Eagle
- The Sign of the Messiah
- Two major prophets never ministered at the same time
- William Branham's View of Himself
- William Branham and the Nation of Israel
- Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 14–28, vol. 33B, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 499.
- Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, vol. 1, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 271.
- The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Mal 1:1.
- The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 2 Pe 1:3.
- Darrell L. Bock, Luke: 1:1–9:50, vol. 1, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1994), 89.
- Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 3, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 87.
- Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to S. Luke, International Critical Commentary (London: T&T Clark International, 1896), 15.
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Mal 4:5.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mal 4:5.
- An Exposition Of The Seven Church Ages - Chapter 9 - The Laodicean Church Age (online version)
- Rick Brannan et al., eds., The Lexham English Septuagint (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, Mal 4:4–5)
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Joel 2:31.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Joe 2:31.
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Ac 2:16.
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Ac 2:20.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ac 2:20.
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Mal 4:1.
- William Branham, 60-1211E - The Laodicean Church Age, para. 63
- The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ac 2:15–21.
- The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Joel 2:1–5.
- William Branham, 65-1204 - The Rapture, para. 132