Elijah's translation to heaven
And now we reach the end
of the troubles and afflictions of this precious and
faithful servant of God. And, if we do not find in his
case the calmness of the ascension of Jesus, who, while
blessing His disciples, ascends to His eternal and
familiar home; if this peculiar characteristic became His
departure alone, whoperfect in Himself and in His
human life, in which nothing had been found out of
harmony with the heaven He was re-enteringwent back
to His Father, from whom He came; if in Elijah's rapture
we find not the elevation of One who, having come forth
from the Father and come into the world, again left the
world and returned to His Father, without having for one
moment departed from this word"The Son of man
which is in heaven," and who had so much the more
right and title to be there, that He had perfectly
glorified the Father here below; if, in a word; he who
goes up is not the God-man ascending after having
finished the work committed to Him, at least the presence
of God is felt throughout the whole scene in the most
solemn mannera God whose presence alone can
abrogate the laws of His government, and set aside, in
His servant's behalf, that which is appointed unto men.
Moreover it is not
surprising that such an event should have been
accompanied with the mysterious solemnity which in fact
surrounds it, and that those who were present should feel
that something was about to happen which was beyond the
common track of human joy and sorrow.
Elijah, taken away by the
power of God, quits the earth without passing through
death. We find in the fact itself a marvellous testimony
to the sovereign goodness of God, and to the approbation
He bestowed upon His faithful servant.
The details are worthy of
maintenance of the relationship between God and Israel
If the prophet's
translation to heaven is the great object presented to
faith, we find also that he goes to every place that had
a voice with respect to God's relationship to Israel.
Elijah maintained, in spite of the king, the relationship
between God and Israel, according to God's faithfulness,
and as a prophet upon the earth . He did not maintain it by the king, which,
since David, was the normal state of the people. This
earthly relationship was impossible, and was to close by
an act of judgment. It is this which took place, with
respect even to Judah, in the rejection of Christ.
Nevertheless the counsels
of God change not; they will be fulfilled in heavenly
of Elisha's ministry
Elisha, is, so to say, the
link between these two things as to prophecy. He does not
return to Horeb, to announce the uselessness of an
earthly ministry, and, in some sort, to place the broken
law again in His hands who gave it, but who was really
acting in grace .
The starting-point of his ministry is the ascended man,
evidently quite a new starting-point in God's messages to
Israel. Up to this point he constantly attached himself
to Elijah. The latter had thrown his prophetic mantle
over him (1 Kings 19); Elisha thenceforth was as if
identified with him.
At the present moment,
when Elijah is under the extraordinary power which is to
snatch him away from Elisha, will the faith of Elisha
maintain this position? Yes: the power of God upholds him,
and he accompanies Elijah until the chariots of God
Himself separate them, and in such a way that he may see
Elijah ascending to heaven upon them. Through grace the
whole heart of Elisha was in the prophet's ministry, and
by faith he walked in the height of God's thoughts in
The path of Elijah
and Elisha from Gilgal beyond Jordan
Let us trace their path
upon the earth. It is no longer the weakness of man, as
when he went to Horeb, but the power of God; and Elijah
traverses all that in type had to do with God's
relationship with Israel, even death itself (and that dry-shod),
up to heaven. Gilgal  is his starting-pointthe consecration of man to God
by death applied to the fleshthe place where Israel
was cleansed from all remembrance of Egypt, where the
people were set apart for God, where their camp was fixed
for their victories under Joshua; in a word, it was the
place where, by circumcision , Israel was definitively separated unto God.
Elijah repairs thither, and acknowledges it thus
according to God, although it was now only a place of sin
to the people .
He attains the mind of God with respect to the people, as
separated from evil and consecrated to God. He sets out
with this. He thinks with God: this is faith.
Elisha will not leave him;
and they go away to Bethel; that is to say, Elijah places
himself in the testimony of God's unchangeable
faithfulness. to His people . He acknowledges it; he takes his place in
it; and Elisha is with him.
These were the two main
branches of faithof the faith of God's people: the
setting apart of the people, of man, unto God; and the
unchangeable and perpetual faithfulness of God to His
people, whatever their circumstances may be.
Israel (what a triumph to
Satan!) had set their false gods, their golden calf, in
Bethel. Elijah (and this is faith) links himself with the
mind of God there in spite of this. These two things
compose the life of Jesus on earth in the midst of Israel.
Elijah cannot stay there.
What will he find in going farther? The scene changes: he
is still with God. But if transgression is multiplied at
Gilgal, and if false gods are worshipped at Bethel, as
"the king's chapel and the king's court," the
curse will meet him (for Israel has placed itself under
it). He goes to Jericho. It was there that formerly the
power of the enemy barred the whole land against Israel,
and God had smitten Jericho and pronounced a curse
against it. Man had rebuilt it to his own destruction (1
Kings 16: 34). Pleasant as its situation was, the curse
of God still rested on it. Elijah goes thither, and
Elisha accompanies him, and refuses to leave him.
But he does not remain
there either; he is still under the mighty hand of God,
Elisha following him. The sons of the prophets give their
testimony to that which shall take place (but they only
look on from afar, when the two prophets draw nigh to
Jordan); Elisha knows it too, and puts an end to a
discourse which, adding nothing to his knowledge of the
mind of God, and disturbing the concentration of his
thoughts, tended rather to weaken the union of his soul
Elijah comes at length to
Jordan, the type of death, which should carry him out of
the land of earthly promise, and break the links of God
Himself with Israel on that footing. He crossed it indeed
dry-shod. We know that he ascended without having tasted
death, but typically he passed through it. (It is not a
question here of expiation, but of passing through death).
And now, beyond the borders of Israelthe land of
law, forsaken of Godhe can freely propose blessing
to Elisha according to his desire.
As Jesus said, "I
have a baptism to be baptised with, and how am I
straitened until it be accomplished." In every
detail death is the path of liberty.
Elisha, attached by the
power of God to the prophetto the same ministry
which Elijah had just leftasks for a double portion
of his spirit; and, although now separated from him, yet
associated by faith with Elijah, gone up on high (testified
by his having seen him in his heavenly condition), his
request is granted. He again receives Elijah's mantle;
but it is that of the ascended Elijah.
As we have said, the
starting-point of his ministry is not Sinai. It is heaven
beyond the borders of Canaan, the other side of Jordan,
which is the type of death. For, the law having been
broken, and prophecywhich set before the people
their relation to God on earth, and His blessing on that
earthhaving been proved powerless for restoration,
the faithful prophet, forsaking a land which had rejected
him, had taken his place outside a blind and ungrateful
people, and had been taken up to Him who had sent him (hidden,
so to speak, in God; although that expression, in its
fulness, is true of the precious Saviour alone).
Elijah demands the execution of
Up to Jordan Elijah
demanded, by his ministry, that the righteous claims of
God upon His people should be satisfied. He sets these
claims before them. He must withdraw, and God takes him
away from a people who did not know Him.
At Sinai he acted in human
weakness, although God had revealed Himself. Why retire
to Horeb, where the law dwelt which the people had broken?
This could be only to demand the execution of justice.
While manifesting that He could in His own time exercise
justice, God reserved to Himself His sovereign rights of
grace. But in effect it is fitting that it should be
exercised in a sovereign manner beyond the limits of man's
responsibility. The relationship of Christ with Israel,
with man, clearly explains this. Therefore God first
shews that grace has reserved the perfect number who were
known of God in Israel; then, having sent Elijah to fill
up the long-suffering of the will of God in grace towards
the people, instead of cutting Israel off, He places
ministry in a position with respect to Israel, in which
He can act sovereignly in grace towards every one who has
faith to avail himself of it.
distinctive character of Elisha's ministry
After Elijah had passed
the Jordan, we have seen that all was changed. Until then
Elisha is on probation; after that, grace acts. In
principle it is the position of Christ towards the
assembly  or at least towards men in grace; that is to say, it is
sovereign grace, to the actings of which death has given
free course, justice having nothing more to say, and no
longer resting on the responsibility of man who had
undertaken to obey, and from whom obedience was due.
Justice now consists in God's having His rights, in His
glorifying Himself, as is just, by being consistent with
His entire being, love, justice, sovereignty, majesty,
truth, and every attribute which forms a part of His
perfection. He does so according to His sovereignty; and
He does it by the Christ who has glorified Him on the
earth in all these respects, in every part of His being,
so indeed as to make Him known. The testimony of it is
that He has exalted Christ as man to His right hand.
It must be remembered here
that the application of this regards Israel, so that the
rejection of the people is considered to have taken place
by the very fact of Elijah's rapture. God has ceased to
maintain His relationship with them. In His sovereign
counsels God never withdraws His love from Israel; but,
on the ground of the people's responsibility, God has
judged them. He has stretched out His hands all the day
to a rebellious and gainsaying people. Therefore Elisha
says to the king of Israel, "Get thee to the
prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother.
Were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat,
the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee."
returns to Israel in grace. His ministry has then this
distinctive character, that it is a testimony to the
rejection of all that belonged to the condition of
responsibility in which the people had been placed; but
at the same time it is a testimony to grace by faith,
according to election and the sovereignty of God, in
order to maintain the people in blessing; and that
through the righteous execution of the judgment which
their sin had brought upon them.
This is what the return of
Christ will be for Israel, rather than what it will be
for the assembly, notwithstanding that fundamentally the
principle is the same.
Elisha at Jericho:
the curse removed
Elisha, in the power of
resurrection, re-enters the scene of Elijah's labours,
who had sought in vainas He also had done who was
more excellent than Elijahto gather Israel unto the
God of their fathers (that is to say, to bring back man
in the flesh to some faithfulness towards God). Jericho (pleasant
in itself yet, as we have seen, an accursed place) ceases
to be so; the curse is removed, and the spring of waters
permanently healed, by means of salt brought in a new
cruse: a type, I doubt not, of the purifying power of
grace which separates man from evil, and which removes
evil, as contrary to the relationship of man with God; a
moral power, which will take away the curse from the
world, and especially from the Jews, who are the centre
of rebellion against God. Salt represents purifying power
in the efficacy and the permanency that distinguish the
work of God which heals the object of blessing; and it
characterises, according to the faithfulness of God, the
source of blessing itself. The new vessel is an image of
the renewed condition of all things through resurrection.
Elisha at Bethel,
Carmel and Samaria
From Jericho Elisha goes
up to Bethel, which, as we have seen, is a place
commemorative of the unchangeable faithfulness of God  towards Israel; a faithfulness
which can now bring forth all its fruits through death
From Bethel he proceeds to
Carmel , that is to God's fruitful field,
the place where judgment had been executed upon Baal, the
prince of this world; a place typical of that condition
of Israel which will be the fruit of the fulfilment of
God's faithful promises. It will be seen that all this
answers perfectly to the character of his ministry, as we
have considered it, and answers to it in so much the more
interesting a manner from being in contrast with Elijah's
ministry; the path of each corresponding with the
ministry which we have ascribed to them respectively.
From Carmel Elisha returns
to Samaria, in connection with which his ordinary
ministry is fulfilled.
manifested on the mockers of God's messenger
There remains another
circumstance to be noticed in this history. Elisha curses
the children who mock him. This action not only shews us
the prophet's authority upheld by God; it characterises
his position. For although sovereign grace, in spite of
Israel's fall, is in exercise towards the people, yet,
together with grace, judgment shall be manifested with
respect to those who despise the messenger of God. It
will be well to remark that the judgment happens when he
re-enters the land of Israel, before he takes his place
in the unchangeable promises of God to His people.
Thenceforth it is the Carmel of God which is presented to
We may observe also, in
this chapter, how little man realises and believes what
he knows, if in spirit he is not identified with it. The
sons of the prophets knew that Elijah was to be taken
away. Nevertheless they propose to search for him.
consideration makes Elijah's position pretty evident. We
have seen that prophecy was the means of maintaining God's
relationship with Israel, in a sovereign manner, when the
ark had been taken and the priesthood was fallen.
Prophecy still holds this place in the presence of
royalty in a state of failure, which, instead of
maintaining the people in relationship with God, causes
them to depart from Him. While presenting their true King
to the people according to Zechariah's prophecy, Christ
filled also this prophetic office according to the word
of Moses, only in a manner quite peculiar. It must be
remembered that, in comparing Elijah and Elisha with the
Lord, Christ is looked at in this character. This gives a
very important position to the function of prophecy. (Compare
Hosea 12: 13).
 It is this grace,
which Elijah had not properly understood; that was the
only means by which God could maintain His relationship
with the people; so that a return to Horeb could only put
an end to the relation itself as standing on Sinai ground,
and especially to the ministry of Elijah which took no
higher position. Nevertheless God wrought for the
revelation of all this.
 Reflection will
shew us that all this is a moral history of the life of
Christ, save that Christ is what He makes us to be. But
this is everywhere true. Still it was experimentally
realised in Him. He had not to be circumcised; still it
was the circumcision of Christ. See following note. So
the high priest was washed as well as the priests. Though
absolutely obedient in nature and will, He learned
 This, as we have
seen in the Book of Joshua, was in Canaan after the
passage of Jordan, as the circumcision of Christ (that is,
His separation from evil which, always true in His Person,
was externally made good in His death) has a true
heavenly character, and to us is by being risen, and in
 See Amos 4: 4,
Hosea 9: 15, and many other passages in the prophets.
This is a very striking fact, just as the cross now is a
matter of constant idolatry. The memorial of good, of the
denial and death of flesh too, is to flesh the power of
evil. Oh, what is man!
 See Genesis 28:
13-15. Here too one of the calves was set up; the place
of special blessing again made the place of idolatry.
 And of course
towards Israel also.
 This is the
reason why Paul (Acts 13: 3, 5) quotes these words,
"I will give you the sure mercies of David," in
proof of the resurrection of Christ, "no more to
return to corruption." Death rendered blessing
possible with respect to a rebellious people, and
resurrection gave complete stability to the conferred
blessing; this was secured. Compare Isaiah 55 where grace
towards Israel and the nations, through a risen Saviour,
is gloriously proclaimed.
 Compare Isaiah 32: