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This question (and its answers) indicate that, according to Roman Catholicism, the two witnesses prophesied to come in Revelation 11:3 will almost certainly be Enoch and Elijah (Elias).

And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.

Part of the reasoning leading to this notion is that neither of these man died physically but both were taken up into heaven alive and, since it is appointed for man once to die and then the judgement (Hebrews 9:27), it is within the integrity of Scripture for them to return where they will eventually be killed by the beast from the bottomless pit.

And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth. - Revelation 11:7-10

This is coupled with the prophet Malachi (4:5) declaring:

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

With the conclusion being that, even though they are not named in the Apocalypse, Elijah will almost certainly be one of the two end times witnesses because he has yet to die in fulfillment of Scripture and he is prophesied in Scripture to come again.

Jesus, however, in Matthew 11:10-15, clearly said that John the Baptist was the prophesied appearance of Elijah and directly quoted Malachi. We also know from Matthew 14 that John the Baptist was put to death by beheading. Additionally, at the transfiguration event recorded in Matthew 17 wherein Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus to three of the disciples, the disciples asked specifically why the scribes say that Elijah must come first and, once again, Jesus declared that John the Baptist was that coming of Elijah:

And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist. - Matthew 17:10-13

My question is: According to Roman Catholicism, since Elijah has already come back and died (fulfilling Malachi, Hebrews 9, and the RC argument literally), how many more times is Elijah coming back to earth to be killed and why?

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According to Catholicism, since Elijah has already come back and died (fulfilling Malachi, Hebrews 9, and the catholic argument literally), how many more times is Elijah coming back to earth to be killed and why?

The Catholic Church doesn’t offer a definitive interpretation of Scriptural prophecy. Their are simply too many variables such as interpretation and future historical events the Church cannot predict.

Since the doctrine of infallibility only covers faith and morals, Biblical prophecy will remain an open question to which Catholic scholars and commentators are free to express a divergence of theological opinions on this matter.

Mike Borden made the following comment to this question (What will Elijah's and Enoch's preaching look like?): ”At Matthew 11:14 Jesus said that John the Baptist was Elijah who was to come, if you will receive it. Is he coming yet again?”

In the book of Malachi, the prophet tells the people of a messenger who is coming, and who will prepare the way of the Lord. Then at the close of his book, he says,

This was interpreted by many in the land of Israel to mean that Elijah would return before the messiah appeared. They were onto something with that belief, but just slightly off.

Now fast forward about 400 years to the Angel of the Lord announcing the birth of John to his father Zechariah,

But the angel said to him, ” Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness,and many will rejoice at his birth; for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will 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 for the Lord a people prepared.” - Luke 1:13-17

The angel tells Zechariah that his son will come in the “spirit and power of Elijah” but not that he would be Elijah reincarnated. So the belief that Elijah would return was right, but like I said it was slightly wrong. The person that the prophet spoke about would be one like Elijah, but not actually Elijah himself, (but also Elijah did return and met with Christ during the transfiguration so there’s also that fulfillment too).

When the Jerusalem authorities first hear of John’s ministry down by the Jordan, they send representatives to inquire who he is. These representatives point blank ask him if he is Elijah,

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, he did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” And he answered, “No.” - John 1:19-21

Jesus then makes it clear that the prophet Malachi was talking about His cousin John when he directly quoted Malachi 3:1 in reference to John and then said “he is Elijah to come.”

Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, ‘ Behold, I send my messenger before your face,who shall prepare your way before you.’

For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.

Matthew 11:9-10, 13-14

So in the passage you referred to in your question, the disciples aren’t hearing something new from Jesus, but are just being reminded of what He has already said about John and Elijah, and this wasn’t a new point of belief that Jesus was revealing, but a clarification and revelation of the fulfillment of the prophecy that Elijah would return before the messiah was revealed.

I hope that answers your question, and once again thank you for submitting this question and allowing me to answer it because I’m sure many other people have probably wondered the same thing.

(As a post script, here’s what the catechism has to say about John the Baptist and his coming as Elijah)

CCC 718 John is “Elijah [who] must come.”92 The fire of the Spirit dwells in him and makes him the forerunner of the coming Lord. In John, the precursor, the Holy Spirit completes the work of “[making] ready a people prepared for the Lord.”93

CCC 719 John the Baptist is “more than a prophet.”94 In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah.95 He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of the Consoler who is coming.96 As the Spirit of truth will also do, John “came to bear witness to the light.”97In John’s sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels.98 “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. . . . Behold, the Lamb of God.”99

John The Baptist & Elijah

Wikipedia has the following to say about the Two Witnesses of the Apocalypse:

In the Book of Revelation, the two witnesses (Ancient Greek: δύο μαρτύρων, romanized: duo martyron) are two prophets who are mentioned in Revelation 11:1-14. Some Christians interpret this as two people, two groups of people, or two concepts. Some believe they are Enoch and Elijah, as in the Gospel of Nicodemus, since they are the only two that did not see death as required by the Scriptures, while others believe them to be Moses and Elijah because they appeared during the transfiguration of Jesus, or because Enoch was not Abraham's descendant. They have the power to shut the heavens (Elijah) and turn water into blood (Moses).

As individuals

The apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus (also known as Acts of Pilate) states that those two witnesses who will appear in times of Antichrist to engage in battle with him are Enoch and Elijah:

3One of them answering, said, I am Enoch, who was translated by the word of God: and this man who is with me, is Elijah the Tishbite, who was translated in a fiery chariot. 4Here we have hitherto been, and have not tasted death, but are now about to return at the coming of Antichrist, being armed with divine signs and miracles, to engage with him in battle, and to be slain by him at Jerusalem, and to be taken up alive again into the clouds, after 3 days and a half. — Gospel of Nicodemus, Chapter 20:3–4

Others have proposed Moses as one of the witnesses, for his ability to turn water into blood and the power to plague the earth. It is possible that one of two witnesses would be Elijah the prophet (Malachi 4:5-6) based on an interpretation of the bible verses. John the apostle (Revelation 10:11) could also be a candidate.

Early Christian writers such as Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus of Rome, have concluded that the two witnesses would be Enoch and Elijah, the two prophets who did not die because God "took" them according to other Biblical passages.

Two Witnesses

Will Elijah return to earth in the near future. According to Catholicism, most scholars would say yes. How many times? We would have to let God have the freedom to decide that.

All the Church knows is that the Prophets Enoch and Elijah have not died and the Two Witnesses in the Book of Revelation are going to be martyred by the Antichrist.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. - Hebrews 9:27

An interesting point about the Prophet Elijah is that the Church permits the Carmelite Order to celebrate his feast day with red vestments as a sign of his future martyrdom.

Sacred Scriptures indicate that Elijah has appeared at least once and Church history does not seems seem to contain any apparitions of the Prophet outside Biblical sources that I am able to find. But that does not mean that it has no occurred.

Elijah appeared at the Transfiguration of Christ.

The memory of Elias has ever remained living in the minds both of Jews and Christians. According to Malachias, God preserved the prophet alive to entrust him, at the end of time, with a glorious mission (iv, 5-6): at the New Testament period, this mission was believed to precede immediately the Messianic Advent (Matthew 17:10, 12; Mark 9:11); according to some Christian commentators, it would consist in converting the Jews (St. Jer., in Mal., iv, 5-6); the rabbis, finally, affirm that its object will be to give the explanations and answers hitherto kept back by them. I Mach., ii, 58, extols Elias's zeal for the Law, and Ben Sira entwines in a beautiful page the narration of his actions and the description of his future mission (Sirach 48:1-12). Elias is still in the N.T. the personification of the servant of God (Matthew 16:14; Luke 1:17; 9:8; John 1:21). No wonder, therefore, that with Moses he appeared at Jesus' side on the day of the Transfiguration. - Elias (Catholic Encyclopaedia)

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