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    Ravens and the Prophet

by Robert Weston  

Translated to Eternity
Chapter twenty-six

  When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here, the Lord has sent me to Bethel.’ But Elisha said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.’ So the two of them walked on. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me what I can do for you, before I am taken from you.’ ‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied.

‘You have asked a difficult thing,’ Elijah said, ‘yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours – otherwise not.’ As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, ‘My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!’ And Elisha saw him no more. So they went down to Bethel.’
(2 Kings 2:1-2,6,9-12)

Elijah’s life has been so replete with symbolic importance that we might almost have expected his last minutes on earth to be full of meaning. Like Moses before him, Elijah knew his mission was complete, and that the time had come for him to be gathered to the Lord. There were to be no more power conflicts with corrupt kings, no more lonely vigils in the desert, and no more preaching to the schools of the prophets. Elijah, who had walked so closely with his God, would be taken, visibly, to heaven. Knowing that his hour had come, Elijah embarked on one final farewell visit to the schools he had doubtless been so instrumental in developing.

It has been suggested that Elijah’s discreet efforts to leave Elisha behind at Gilgal stemmed from a desire to help him find a new framework for his life in the aftermath of the loss he was about to experience. It is equally probable that he simply wanted to be on his own. God often allows great spiritual moments to be witnessed by others, however, so that they can be recorded for posterity. Moreover, the Lord had something higher in store for Elisha than to be a member, albeit an honoured one, of the school of prophets.

Elisha had been called to be Elijah’s successor: they had been constantly in each other’s company for nearly ten years, and he fully intended to stay with him until the end, so that he could inherit his master’s anointing.

So it was that Elijah returned to the region he had been raised in around Gilead. God often gathers together the different strands of our life at the end of our days – just as He does at the conclusion of some particular stage of it. As the final stitches are put in place in the tapestry of our lives, we are able to make better sense of all that has gone before.

Chariots of Fire
Elijah’s last day on earth was a long one. Together they walked the better part of thirty five miles as they journeyed first to Bethel, then to Jericho, and finally on to the Jordan. The two of them stood by the river that God had miraculously dried up to enable the Israelites to enter the Promised Land. Now they needed an equally great miracle to be able to cross it in the opposite direction. What the Lord had performed some five hundred and fifty years before on behalf of the whole nation, He repeated now for the sake of His servants. The two of them passed over without so much as getting their feet wet!(1)

When the Lord Jesus knew that the time had come to face His Passion, He took care to make provision for those He left behind. On the eve of His suffering He promised His disciples the coming of the Holy Spirit – but He warned them that they would only inherit this, His ultimate gift, if they kept their eyes on Him.(2) It is a striking parallel with Elijah’s desire to reward his faithful servant for his persistence. ‘Tell me,’ he asked, ‘what can I do for you before I am taken from you.’(3)

It was normal for a first born son to inherit from his father, and Elisha, who had long seen himself as Elijah’s true son, had no hesitation in asking that he might inherit something more precious than worldly wealth. Single-minded in his desire to continue Elijah’s ministry, he dared to ask for the seemingly impossible: a double portion of the prophet’s spirit.

Elisha had asked for a hard thing, and even Elijah could not be certain that it would be granted. It is possible for people to come to the edge of the Promised Land, yet still miss out through sin or negligence at the crucial moment. Moses did.(4) Only if Elisha witnessed his master being taken from him would that privilege be granted him.(5)

  I am wary of presumption, and of the false claims of certain ‘faith’ teachers, but none of these must be allowed to deter us from exercising real faith. Does not the next stage of the spiritual life always look impossible from the outside? I can remember wondering how any human being could possibly speak in tongues, or pray for the sick or prophesy. Yet what appears an awesome mystery one year may become an entirely natural part of our life the next. God is bringing His people into new and deeper levels of authority and anointing.  

There are those who seek after power for all manner of misguided reasons, but there was nothing selfish in Elisha’s request. Knowing the needs of his day, he was willing to pay any price, provided he could be of service to his God. He knew that his very chosen-ness would make him a particular target for the powers of darkness, and that his time would never again be his own. But Elisha had long since paid the cost for such discipleship, and he refused to be deterred.

Suddenly, it happened! As they were walking alone together, Elijah was drawn up from the earth in a chariot of fire, pulled by horses of fire in the midst of a whirlwind. It is one of the most glorious and breathtaking accounts in all Scripture. It seems fitting that one who had always sought to stand before his Lord should end his days on earth without suffering the entanglement of death.

The episode foreshadows the still more glorious Ascension into heaven of our Lord Jesus Himself – although He had no need of a chariot of fire. It is, on another level, a picture of how the Lord will suddenly return to Earth. At the time of the restoration and conversion of Israel, He will appear again on earth in His glory; and His coming will signal the greatest and most glorious epoch yet in the kingdom of God.

In all the excitement, Elisha had kept his eyes on his master. Now he knew for certain the secret of Elijah’s power, for he had witnessed Heaven’s incomparably magnificent intervention. He immediately resolved to test whether he really had received the anointing. Would the waters yield to His command? Picking up Elijah’s cloak, he smote the river. The waters parted and Elisha walked across for the second time that day.

The anointing was real! He really was Elijah’s successor! From now on, Elisha would operate with a completely new degree of spiritual authority, and be regarded as the leader of the schools of the prophets. Like Elijah, Elisha had experienced a long apprenticeship, and he was ready now to cope with this astonishing level of anointing. Wherever he went, striking miracles and stirring displays of the power of God would attend his ministry. Elijah’s passing was not only the end of an era, but the transition to a new and yet greater work of the Spirit. How true it is that ‘God buries His workmen but His work continues!’

Elijah’s name means ‘The Lord is my strength,’ or ‘My God of Power.’ Elisha’s name likewise epitomises his ministry: ‘My God is salvation’. Elisha would sow the land his predecessor had broken up by judgements with the seeds of righteousness and peace. When Elisha stretches out His hand, it is not to close heaven, but to bring down showers of blessing.

The Lord raised Elisha into a position of great strategic importance, whereby he could both know the heart of the Lord and have the ear of the king. Later on, when he was trapped by the Arameans in the city of Dothan, and in great peril, he would again experience the help of those same horsemen of Israel. He had no doubts about their power!

It is wonderful how the Lord overcomes our natural timidity, and makes us men and women imbued with the same spirit and power as these mighty men of faith. It has nothing whatsoever to do with self-confidence, but everything to do with His grace.

The Transfiguration Encounter
Only the Lord knows why Elijah was taken when he was. Likewise, only He knows when our own work is completed. The Lord sometimes calls anointed servants home relatively early in their life, perhaps to save them from becoming the centre of idolatrous admiration, or of being forced into a mould they had never been created to fit. Who knows: perhaps there comes a moment when the soul becomes more valuable to God ‘on the other side’ than it is down here.

But let us take some time now to come apart and consider that wonderful moment when the Lord Jesus was transfigured before the eyes of His wondering disciples. For Elijah found himself present on that occasion too.

‘After six days, Jesus took with him Peter, James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of His face changed. There he was transfigured before them. His countenance shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. They spoke of His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem.’(6)

Here, if it were needed, is further evidence of how highly God rated Elijah. On the Mount of Transfiguration it was Elijah who was chosen, along with Moses, to shine like satellites of the sun in the reflected glory of the glorified Lord. Truly, they were worthy companions of a matchless saviour.

As often, we find the place of prayer and encounter with God elevated above the everyday world. Moses and Elijah were far from alone in becoming most acutely aware of God’s grandeur when standing on top of a mountain. We know how much the Lord Jesus loved going into the hills and to the Mount of Olives to be with His Father. It is a practice we will do well to develop ourselves.

Used though His disciples were to following their Master from one adventure to another, it must have felt like a distraction from their real work, when Jesus forsook the crowds, and headed off up the mountainside. Often in the past, Jesus had longed to be in a solitary place, but had stopped to minister to peoples’ needs, out of compassion for their hurts. Now, He was showing another side of God’s heart. Can anything be more important for us than to be more in touch with heaven? Is it not those who have stood in the courts of the Lord who have most to offer those they are seeking to help?

The Lord knew exactly what He was doing. It was His intention to reassure His three favoured disciples of His real identity, to prepare them for the intense emotional turmoil they were about to go through. For a brief moment they would see Him as He really was – and they would carry that knowledge with them for the rest of their lives.

Many years later, Peter would understand the real value of this mountain-top experience when he wrote,

‘We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven, when we were with Him on the sacred mountain.’

The encounter on the Mount of Transfiguration was foundational for Peter, James and John, as they set out to plant the Church of Jesus Christ. It was also further proof of the continuity of God’s self-revelation. Not only earth, but heaven itself participated in this wonderful moment. The presence of Elijah and Moses proves that there was nothing about Christ’s kingdom that was at variance with the life and teaching of Moses and the prophets.

Follow Me
Jesus says to us what He said before to another curious and thirsty generation: ‘Follow me.’(8) There are openings today for all sorts of people. As He taught and cared for the first generation of Christians, so He will for us as well. He is giving us the freedom to do the things He has called us to do, and He will remove all obstacles to make it possible for the work to be done.

We need never be hesitant for the truth. There is only one truth, and if we hold back, it is for the devil. The Lord knows that we find the evil around us frightening, but the faith of a Christian remains on top of everything. The Lord Jesus has shared everything with us, even the riches of His life with His Father, and we must sacrifice ourselves for Him. Even if we feel as though we are getting little reward, we must keep going, and not give up. He will take the little that we offer Him and make it go an astonishingly long way.

I love the episode that follows the Resurrection, when the Lord appeared to Thomas to strengthen the faith of one poor disciple who was going through a fit of the doubts.(9) Shortly afterwards, the Lord called out to His dispirited disciples to throw their net on the other side of the boat.(10) It was an exact repeat of the earlier miracle of three years ago; His special way of encouraging them to continue following Him.

The apostles had no way of knowing, three years earlier, all the adventures, let alone the hardships, that awaited them. They were beginning to understand now. They were changed men. No longer full of grandiose ideas as to which of them was the greatest, but humble servants who would devote themselves to forwarding the Kingdom of God.

These words, ‘Follow Me,’ are, for us too, the beginning and the end of His message to us. He calls us to be in His company, and to consult Him before we act. Satan is the real enemy, not those who have been fooled by him. They can be saved. At God’s leading we must be prepared to go out of our way to help needy ones; to take His word to those who are deaf and blind to His messages, so that they too can have sight.

The Lord is longing for revival to come to the world, and for Planet Earth to be a holy place. By every means we must do all we can to remove the blockages that stop men from seeing Him. His angels are full of energy. Countless thousands of people are receiving new life all around the world every day, even as Satan tears at the world in his final, but futile attempt to wrest it from the Lord before His glorious return.

Out of the fires of this battle will emerge the bravest, purest church the world has ever seen. The whole history of the Bible is of God taking hold of the spiritually hungry and filling them with His power. May He continue to take hold of us, and to lead us in the paths of an intimacy with God that is lived in the constant awareness of eternity.

Remember Him. The One who was there in the beginning will be there at the end; He is with, and in, us always. Be faithful to your Companion, and walk as a son or daughter of the living Lord, a prince or princess in His Kingdom.

‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.’

  Now you have come to the end of this book, take time to review all you have learnt.

Sit for a while in His presence and enjoy a time of communion ‘on the mountain top’ with Him.

Remember, the command that came from heaven is not just to speak to Him but to listen to Him. For every difficulty we face He has a solution; for every challenge a way forward. What does He have to say now to help prepare us to go back down into the valley again?


Thank you, Lord,
for drawing Elijah into Your presence,
and for teaching us so much through his life.

Thank You that the power of heaven
 is at hand to help
in every situation that we face.

Thank You
that You have called us to shine in this world,
and to share eternity with You in the next.

I ask that You will allow us
to spend the rest of our days in Your service,
and to end them in Your company.

For Jesus’ sake,


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1 2 Kings 2:8
2 Luke 24:49
3 2 Kings 2:9
4 Numbers 20:8-12
5 2 Kings 2:10
6 Matthew 17:1-12, Luke 9:28-31
7 2 Peter 1:16-18
8 Eg Matthew 4:19, 8:22, 9:9, 10:38, 16:24, 19:21; John 21:9, 21:22
9 John 20:17
10 John 21:6
11 1 Corinthians 2:9