||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
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
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
||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
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,
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.’(7)
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.
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
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
‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has
conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.’(11)
||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
and for teaching us so much through his life.
Thank You that the power of heaven
is at hand to help
every situation that we face.
that You have called us to shine in this
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,