What does the Scripture tell was going to happen to Elijah?
The Scripture tells us that the Lord was going to take Elijah to heaven by a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:1). God, however, did not prepare for Elijah’s departure from this world until He had made arrangements for Elijah’s work to be carried on through a successor. Someone has noted, “God knows the best time to take away His instruments. Men depart; but the work of God proceeds.”
Where did Elijah journey prior to his departure?
Elijah visited Gilgal, Bethel, and Jericho. There were schools of the prophets at each of these locations where young men were trained for the ministry. Elijah paid a farewell visit to each of these schools. Elisha accompanied Elijah to each of these locations (2 Kings 2:1,2,4). The sons of the prophets, and Elisha, had received divine revelation that Elijah was to be taken away (2 Kings 2:3,5).
Where did Elijah go to await his departure?
Elijah, accompanied by Elisha and fifty sons of the prophets, went to the Jordan (2 Kings 2:6,7). As the sons of the prophets watched from a distance, Elijah and Elisha approached the Jordan River. At the Jordan, Elijah divided the waters with his mantle and the two men crossed to the opposite shore.
What did Elijah ask Elisha and what was the significance of Elisha’s response?
Elijah asked Elisha what he might do for him prior to his departure. Elisha asked that a double portion of Elijah’s spirit rest upon him (2 Kings 2:9). Elisha was not asking for something to make him twice as great as his spiritual mentor. His request was that of a first-born son who was entitled to a double portion of his father’s goods. Elisha was asking to become Elijah’s heir/successor in Israel and so continue the work which he had begun. Elijah responded by telling Elisha that he had asked for a hard thing, but one that would be granted on the condition that Elisha witness Elijah’s departure (2 Kings 2:10).
Note: Elisha could have asked for a number of other things. He could have asked Elijah to delay his departure. He could have asked Elijah for permission to accompany him on this final journey. He could have asked Elijah to send a chariot to carry him home at the time of his departure in the future. Instead, Elisha asked for the assurance of God’s power and presence to continue the difficult work yet to be done. Elijah was going to heaven. Elisha was to remain and face the pressures and trials of ministering in Israel. Elisha would indeed need a double portion of Elijah’s spirit to continue a difficult ministry in an idolatrous nation.
How was Elijah transported to heaven?
Elijah was transported to heaven in a whirlwind. The “chariot of fire” drawn by “horses of fire” symbolized the national security that Elijah had provided by his spiritual leadership (2 Kings 2:11). As Elijah was taken up in the whirlwind, Elisha tore his clothes and cried, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” (2 Kings 2:12). Elisha grieved at the loss of Elijah who had been a defense more powerful than war chariots and their horses. However, like Elijah before him, Elisha himself would become the chariot of Israel and its horsemen (cf. 2 Kings 13:14).
What confirmation did Elisha receive regarding the matter of his request?
As Elijah was taken up in the whirlwind, his mantle fell to the ground. Elisha picked up his master’s mantle and returned to the banks of the Jordan. Once there he struck the waters with the mantle and parted the waters (2 Kings 2:13-14). The sons of the prophets who witnessed these events recognized and acknowledged that “the spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha” (2 Kings 2:15). These men then humbly bowed before Elisha.
What did the sons of the prophets request of Elisha?
The sons of the prophets asked permission to search for the body of Elijah (2 Kings 2:16-18). Elisha reluctantly consented. A group of fifty “searched three days, but did not find him” (2 Kings 2:17). This event probably served to authenticate Elisha’s call to be Elijah’s successor.
What two miracles did Elisha perform (that helped to authenticate his call as Elijah’s successor)?
First, the men of Jericho complained to Elisha about the bad water supply of the area. It should be noted that the leaders of the city had enough confidence in Elisha to approach him with their concern. The water was so bad that the land was unfruitful. Elisha purified the waters so that they would no longer be the cause of death and unfruitfulness (2 Kings 2:19-22).
Second, as Elisha journeyed from Jericho to Bethel (the center of idolatrous worship), he was mocked by a large group of boys (2 Kings 2:23). These boys mocked Elisha (which was probably an accurate reflection of how the entire community felt about God’s prophets). Elisha “cursed them in the name of the Lord” and consequently two female bears emerged from the woods and injured forty-two of the boys (2 Kings 2:24). This probably served as a lesson to the boys and the entire community of the importance of respecting the prophets of God.
God’s work must go on.
When a servant of God dies or is called to a new field of service the work of God must go on. God prepares people to carry on His work in such cases. Oftentimes, a dynamic new leader emerges to successfully carry on the work of ministry.
God’s servants are worthy of respect.
We must be careful how we treat God’s servants. The young boys who mocked Elisha paid a heavy price for their disrespect. The writer of Hebrews said (13:17), “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”