Introduction: This chapter tells the story of Elijah’s rapture to heaven and Elisha’s preparation and succession as God’s next appointed prophet. Elijah’s rapture foreshadowed Jesus’ future return and rapture of His appointed believers. Just as Elijah prepared Elisha for his rapture, Jesus also seeks to prepare His believers for His future return and the rapture. Through Elijah’s rapture and Elisha’s succession, God reveals seven lessons on preparing for Jesus’ return and the rapture. These include: (1) testing and preparation, (2) being Spirit-led, (3) having faith, (4) serving Jesus, (5) having hope in Jesus, (6) restoring sinners, and (7) convicting sinners.
First, Elijah tested Elisha to prepare him for Elijah’s rapture. Jesus will also test you to prepare you for His return. Second, Elisha asked for a double inheritance of the Holy Spirit to prepare for service after Elijah left. Jesus also wants you to seize your spiritual inheritance to serve Him and to help others. Third, God raptured Elijah because of his incredible faith. God also wants you to have faith in Jesus to prepare yourself for His return. Fourth, Elijah took the mantle of God’s prophet, and the remaining prophets bowed in service to him. God also wants you to seize your mantle of Spirit-led leadership by serving in obedience to Jesus. Fifth, the prophets looked in vain for Elijah. Yet, later prophets gave the hope of Elijah’s return. Jesus later revealed that John the Baptist came with Elijah’s spirit to prepare the people for Him. God now wants you to put your hope in Jesus’ return. Sixth, Elijah used the power of the Spirit to restore the cursed land and waters of Jericho. God also wants you to use the gifts of the Spirit to restore others and to prepare them for Jesus’ return. Finally, Elijah judged sinners who rejected him. God wants you to be His salt and light in the wound of sin to allow Him to bring sinners to repentance.
Elijah tests Elisha’s heart to prepare him for the rapture. Before God raptured Elijah, he and Elisha retraced the nation of Israel’s steps in reverse to where the nation entered the Promised Land. Elijah also tested Elisha to determine whether he would sacrifice for his master: “1 And it came about when the Lord was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here please, for the Lord has sent me as far as Bethel.’ But Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they went down to Bethel. 3 Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I know; be still.’ “4 Elijah said to him, ‘Elisha, please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jericho.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they came to Jericho. 5 The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?’ And he answered, ‘Yes, I know; be still.’ 6 Then Elijah said to him, ‘Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.’ And he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So the two of them went on. 7 Now fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood opposite them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan.” (2 Kgs. 2:1-7). Elijah’s journey was focused on preparing Elisha to succeed Elijah as God’s prophet. First, Elisha would need to be ready to sacrifice for others. Second, Elisha would need to understand the purpose of being God’s prophet. He would confront and convict sinners to restore them.
Elijah tested his successor to prepare him for sacrifice. Elisha was God’s appointed successor to Elijah (1 Kgs. 19:16). Yet, on three separate occasions, Elijah told Elisha to remain behind while Elijah left on his journey (2 Kgs. 2:2, 4, 6). On each separate occasion, Elijah invoked Yahweh’s name to explain why he would not leave his mentor’s side (2 Kgs. 2:2, 4, 6). Likewise, on three separate occasions in three different locations, Elisha encountered three different companies of prophets (2 Kgs. 2:3, 5, 7). During the first two encounters, the prophets stated that they knew that Elijah would be taken away. On both occasions, Elisha silenced them. On the third occasion, 50 prophets watched near the banks of the Jordan River as Elisha succeeded Elijah as God’s prophet (2 Kgs. 2:7). Elijah’s motives are not explicitly stated. It is possible that Elijah wanted to be alone when he was raptured. But most believe that he was testing Elisha to see whether he would put his own comforts before God. Assuming this was a test, Elisha passed it.
Elijah’s journey showed Elisha the purpose of his ministry. Elijah took Elisha to three places. First, they journeyed to Bethel (2 Kgs. 2:2-3). Here, hundreds of years earlier, the father of Israel, Jacob, met with Yahweh on two separate occasions as he traveled to and from the Promised Land. The first time God appeared in a dream, and He formed a covenant with Jacob (Gen. 28:10-18). The second time, God told Jacob to return to this place to renew himself. At this place, Jacob told his family to put away their foreign gods (Gen. 35:1-4). Thus, it was a special place that symbolized God’s promise and His renewal. Yet, this was also one of two places that Jeroboam had corrupted through the worship of golden calves (1 Kgs. 12:28-29). Second, they journeyed on to Jericho along the Jordan River Valley (2 Kgs 2:5). There, the Jews began the conquest of the Promised Land (Josh. 2:1; 6:1). Thus, this was a place of spiritual promise. Yet, just as Jeroboam’s idolatry had cursed Bethel, Joshua cursed Jericho because of its idolatry (Josh. 6:26). Thus, it was lost to sin. This curse was confirmed during Ahab’s reign. At that time, a man named Hiel from Bethel lost his son as part of this curse when he tried to rebuild the foundations of the city (1 Kgs. 16:34). Finally, their journey concluded at the River Jordan (2 Kgs. 2:7). This was also a place of spiritual promise. The Jews’ conquest of the Promised Land began here. “Elijah walks the path taken by Joshua on entry into the land . . . Elijah’s itinerary mimics that of Joshua, only that rather than entering into the land Elijah prepares to leave. The parting of the Jordan confirms this connection.” (Steed Davidson, Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, Ill.).
Live at all times ready for Jesus’ return. Elisha showed that he was ready for his master’s rapture. Jesus will also test you to prepare you for His return: “1 Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5 Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.” (Matt. 25:1-13, 44). “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matt. 24:27). “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:17). “Therefore, be on the alert-- for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—” (Mk. 13:35). But what does Jesus expect you to do to prepare for Him? Should you lock yourself in a closet and pray? This account shows that is not how Jesus wants you to prepare. Instead of withdrawing from the world, you should prepare through Spirit-led obedience by serving Jesus and helping others.
Serve Jesus by sacrificing your needs for the needs of others. Like Elijah and later Jesus, Jesus wants you to prepare yourself by submitting your needs to others: “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (Jo. 13:14). As an example for us, Moses offered to have his name blotted out of the book of life to save the Jews from their judgment in building the golden calf (Ex. 32:32). Paul also wished that he could become cursed if doing so could save his brethren (Ro. 9:3; Phil. 1:18-19). “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4). Are you preparing for Jesus through sacrifice and submitting to others to help them?
Elisha asks for a double portion of the Holy Spirit to serve God. After crossing over the Jordan River, Elisha asked Elijah to prepare him for succession by granting him a “double portion” of the Holy Spirit: “8 Elijah took his mantle and folded it together and struck the waters, and they were divided here and there, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. 9 When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you.’ And Elisha said, ‘Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.’ 10 He said, ‘You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.’” (2 Kgs. 2:8-10). God had already revealed that Elisha would succeed Elijah in his prophetic ministry (1 Kgs. 19:16-21). Thus, Elisha’s request for a double portion of the Holy Spirit was not a request that he succeed Elijah. That had already been planned. This also was not a request to have double Elijah’s power. Normally, a father’s inheritance is divided into equal parts. Under Old Testament customs, a child’s firstborn received one extra part beyond the amount given to the other heirs. “But he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the firstborn.” (Dt. 21:17). Thus, he was not asking to receive more than Elijah. Elisha’s name means “God Saves”. During Northern Israel’s darkest hours, he simply asked for extra spiritual help to allow God to save the people. In Israel’s darkest hours before they would be sent into exile, he would use God’s power to cause people to repent and turn back to God. Elijah’s test was a final test of Elisha’s devotion. If he was devoted enough, he would witness Elijah’s rapture and receive a double portion of the Holy Spirit. God later honored Elisha’s request because he did not seek power to glorify himself. Instead, he sought spiritual power to glorify God and restore His spiritually lost people.
Elijah strikes the waters with his mantle, causing the water to separate2
Elijah’s actions at the Jordan River followed Moses and Joshua’s similar acts of faith. Elijah wrapped his cloak around a rod and then struck the River Jordan. This caused the waters to dry up to allow Elijah and Elisha to cross on dry ground (2 Kgs. 2:8). This was similar to when Moses used his staff to dry up the waters at the Red Sea: “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” (Ex. 14:21-22). This was also similar to when God dried up the Jordan River to allow the invading Jews to claim the Promised Land: “And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan.” (Josh. 3:17). The crossing put Elijah back on the Jordan River’s east bank, the area where Moses’ life came to an end (Dt. 34:1-6).
Seize the gifts of the Spirit to serve Jesus. Jesus’ Word will guide you: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). Before Jesus ascended into Heaven in a manner similar to Elijah, He promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to help believers to remember His Word and apply it in your life. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26, 16; 15:26; 16:13). Like Elijah, Jesus also wants you to seize your gifts from the Holy Spirit in order to serve Him: “For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.” (1 Cor. 12:8-10). What do you need to do to receive the gifts of the Spirit? According to Peter, you only need to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ: “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”’ (Acts 2:38-39). Are you seeking to seize the gifts of the Spirit to serve Jesus?
Because of his faith, Elijah is raptured to heaven. Also after crossing the Jordan River, God raptured Elijah to heaven, and Elisha assumed Elijah’s mantle as God’s prophet: “11 As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, ‘My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. 13 He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan.” (2 Kgs. 2:11-13). The chariots with horses of fire were angels who had come to escort Elijah to heaven (2 Kgs. 2:11). The chariots showed God’s true power and the reason why kings could obey His command not to rely upon their own power by building up large armies of horses and chariots (Dt. 17:16). The kings of Israel could instead rely upon God’s awesome power (Dt. 20:3-4; Ps. 104:4). God also showed his power by rapturing Elijah directly into heaven through a whirlwind (2 Kgs. 2:1, 11). God’s presence was frequently represented through the power of the whirlwind (Job 38:1; 40:6; Jer. 23:19; 25:32; 30:23; Zech. 9:14). He has the power to do all things (Matt. 19:26), including rapturing His people directly to heaven.
Elijah was raptured because he had a faith like Enoch. God had used His special power to rapture someone only once before with Enoch: “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” (Gen. 5:24). It was only Enoch’s incredible faith that allowed him to skip death: “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God.” (Heb. 11:5) This showed that Elijah was one of two people with the most intense faith to have ever lived. Even though he knew that God had granted his petition because he saw the rapture, Elisha still mourned the passing of his spiritual mentor by tearing his clothes. He then accepted Elijah’s prophetic mantle by putting on his cloak (2 Kgs. 2:13). Through faith in Jesus, your rapture is also possible.
Elijah also lived with righteousness similar to Moses. As one commentator observes, Elijah was in many ways like Moses: “This was the end of a remarkable ministry, one that was in many ways similar to the ministry of Moses. Both Moses and Elijah: · Stood alone for righteousness · Were associated with fire upon mountains · Were associated with the desert · Met God on Sinai · Were chased out of their countries by pagan rulers · Knew God’s miraculous provision for food and water · Wandered in the desert for a period measured by 40· Fasted for 40 days · Were powerful examples of praying men · Parted waters · Had close associates who succeeded them · Had successors who parted waters also · Had mysterious or strange deaths.” (David Guzik on 2 Kings 2).5 Like Elijah and Moses, God calls upon you to be His beacon of righteousness to others.
Elijah also prefigured Jesus’ ascension. God brought Elijah to heaven “in a whirlwind” (2 Kgs. 2:11). This foreshadowed Jesus’ ascension into heaven through a cloud: “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them.” (Acts 1:9-10).
Elijah’s rapture foreshadowed the rapture. Elijah’s rapture also foreshadowed the rapture of the Church: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:52). Like Elijah, the believers that Jesus takes in the rapture will not experience death: “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Matt. 16:28; Mk. 9:1; Lk. 9:27). The promise of His return should inspire the faith of every believer to serve Jesus intensely.
Your rapture is also only possible with faith. Having faith is also a prerequisite to your rapture to heaven: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). When you have faith in Jesus, He alone can make your rapture to heaven possible: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13). You may believe that Jesus is your Lord and Savior. Yet, is your faith visible through your actions?
Elisha succeeds as God’s prophet, and the prophets agree to serve him. After Elijah’s rapture, Elisha assumed the mantle as God’s appointed prophet. He then demonstrated his divine appointment by performing the same miracle that Elijah performed at the River Jordan. The remaining prophets then bowed and agree to serve him as he served God: “14 He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ And when he also had struck the waters, they were divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over. 15 Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho opposite him saw him, they said, ‘The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.’ And they came to meet him and bowed themselves to the ground before him. (2 Kgs. 2:14-15). Elisha performed the same miracle as Elijah by drying up the Jordan River (2 Kgs. 2:14). This confirmed that the power of the Holy Spirit had transferred to Elisha. He now shared the same power through the Holy Spirit that Elijah, Moses, and Joshua had to perform miracles. The prophets saw what happened and bowed to Elisha. They bowed as an act of submission to the authority that God had invested in Elisha as His appointed prophet (2 Kgs. 2:15). They would serve Elisha as Elisha served God.
Serve Jesus in Spirit-led obedience. Just as Elijah agreed to serve God, you are called upon to serve God by doing good works for Him: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10). If your faith is not manifested in any type of desire to serve Jesus, your faith is dead: “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (Jam. 2:26). Also, just as the prophets agreed to be obedient to Elisha, you are required to serve Jesus in obedience: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk. 6:46). “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21). “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (Jam. 1:22). Are you serving Jesus with Spirit-led obedience?
The 50 prophets search in vain for Elijah’s body. The prophets who observed the rapture lacked the faith to believe that he went to heaven. Thus, they asked for permission to search for his body on a nearby hill or valley: “16 They said to him, ‘Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men, please let them go and search for your master; perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has taken him up and cast him on some mountain or into some valley.’ And he said, ‘You shall not send.’ 17 But when they urged him until he was ashamed, he said, ‘Send.’ They sent therefore fifty men; and they searched three days but did not find him. 18 They returned to him while he was staying at Jericho; and he said to them, ‘Did I not say to you, ‘Do not go’?’” (2 Kgs. 2:16-18). The prophets were not sure what happened to Elijah. If he died, they wanted to find Elijah’s body to give him a proper burial. But Elisha refused because he knew that Elijah had gone to heaven without dying (2 Kgs. 2:16). Lacking in their faith, the prophets then searched for three days in vain for the body. For their lack of faith, Elisha rebuked them (2 Kgs. 2:17-18). Their search for three days foreshadowed the believers’ sorrow and search for His body after His crucifixion. Jesus’ disciples also lacked faith that He survived.
The 50 prophets search in vain for Elijah’s body6
The hope of Elijah’s return. The prophet Malachi later gave the hope of Elijah’s return: “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.” (Mal. 4:5). Elijah also became a central part of the Seder, when the Jews celebrate the Passover. During the Seder, the host pours four special wine goblets. Everyone would drink from a wine-goblet called the “cup of sanctification, “Kos Yeshu’ot”. This foreshadowed the shed blood of the Lamb of God (1 Pet. 1:18-19; Rev. 5:9). During the Last Supper, Jesus told the disciples that the cup of sanctification represented His blood (1 Cor. 11:25; Lk. 22:20). Guests would drink from four goblets. These correspond to God’s four “I wills” in Exodus 6:6, 7: “I will bring you out; ... I will deliver you; ... I will redeem you; ... I will take you to be my people.” Each verse speaks to a part of the character of Jesus, the great “I AM.” (Jo. 8:58). A fifth wine-goblet sits at the table and is not used until the very end. It is called “the cup of Elijah.” There is also an empty chair, reserved for Elijah’s return. This is done because of the promise that Elijah’s return in Malachi 4:5-6. During the Seder, the children or guests make a ritual of going and looking closely at the cup to see if Elijah has come and sipped some. One of the children or guests then goes to the door, opens it, and looks for Elijah. Everyone then says, “Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the LORD.” This foreshadows the coming of Christ during the Tribulation. At the end of the Seder, everyone drinks from the fourth cup of wine. After a final blessing, which contains the phrase “Next year in Jerusalem,” the Passover celebration is finished. This foreshadows the time when believers will be joined with Jesus in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2).
The fulfillment of Elijah’s return through John the Baptist. Although Jews wait each year for Elijah’s return, his spirit has already returned. The angel Gabriel told Zechariah that the spirit of Elijah would be with John the Baptist as he prepared the way for the Messiah: “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Lk. 1:17). Jesus later made clear that John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah: “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.” (Matt. 11:14). “And His disciples asked Him, ‘Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ And He answered and said, ‘Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.” (Matt. 17:10-13).
Put your hope in Jesus’ return. Believers are now called upon to place their hope in Jesus’ return: “They also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.’” (Acts 1:11). Through Jesus, you have the hope that you might not even experience death: “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” (Matt. 16:28). “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” (Ro. 8:24-25). Have you placed your hope in Jesus’ return? Or, have you put your hope in this world?
Elisha restores the waters of Jericho. With his new prophetic gifts, Elisha’s first act was to restore the cursed lands of Jericho: “19 Then the men of the city said to Elisha, ‘Behold now, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad and the land is unfruitful.’ 20 He said, ‘Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it.’ So they brought it to him. 21 He went out to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.’’ 22 So the waters have been purified to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke.” (2 Kgs. 2:19-22). To demonstrate God’s power to heal and cleanse, he restored the putrid waters around Jericho. This showed that he had the same power given to Moses when he cleansed undrinkable waters for the thirsty peoples: “Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them.” (Ex. 15:25). Elisha’s actions lifted the curse that Joshua had placed upon the city hundreds of years earlier (Josh. 6:26; 1 Kgs. 16:34).
Elisha restores the waters of Jericho7
Use your gifts of the Spirit to restore others. The prophet Malachi also promised that the spirit of Malachi would restore others: “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah . . .He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” (Mal. 4:5-6). With the gifts of the Spirit, you are also called upon to restore others in love: “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1). “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back,” (Jam. 5:19). Like Elijah, will you use the gifts of the Spirit to restore others lost to sin?
Elisha’s judges the young people of Bethel. Elisha’s final act was to curse the false prophets who mocked him as God’s appointed prophet: “23 Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, ‘Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!’ 24 When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. 25 He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.” (2 Kgs. 2:23-25). It is believed that the young men who mocked Elisha were false prophets of Baal. Elisha was bald either by choice as an act of devotion or genetically. By calling him “baldhead,” they were showing their contempt for him (Isa. 3:17, 24). Yet, they were in fact expressing their contempt for God (Dt. 27:13-16). Because they were really taunting God, Elisha gave this attack to God. God punished the 42 young men by sending bears to maul them. It does not say that they were killed. This was meant as a warning for people not to reject God’s prophet. Elisha then returned to Mount Carmel where Elijah had stood against Baal’s false prophets and prevailed (1 Kgs. 18:19). “but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.” (2 Chr. 36:16). God warns scoffers not to reject His Word and repent before it is too late.
The false prophets are put to death8
Jesus will return to judge those who reject His mercy and grace. Just as Elisha judged those who rejected him, Jesus will also judge those who reject Him: “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matt. 24:27). “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.” (Matt. 16:27). “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.” (Rev. 22:12). “And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” (Rev. 2:23). Thus, nonbelievers should not treat the promise of Jesus’ return with indifference.
Be God’s salt and light to convict sinners. It is for God alone to judge others: “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Ro. 12:19). Yet, you are called upon to be God’s salt and light in the face of sin: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;” (Matt. 5:14). Salt is an irritant in the wound of sin. God wants you to love the sinner but hate the sin. When you hate sin, your salt and your light can convict a sinner. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” (Matt. 5:13). Yet, if you are polluted by sin, God cannot use you to convict others. You would appear as a hypocrite to others. Or, if you are too afraid to speak out against sin, your salt has lost its saltiness, and God cannot use you.
Restore a fellow sinner in a spirit of gentleness. When you convict others of their sins, you are called upon to reprove other believers with kindness and love. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness . . .” (Gal. 6:1). “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thess. 4:18). “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13; Prov. 15:1; Ro. 12:20; Prov. 25:21). Thus, a believer should not condemn or browbeat a sinner with his or her sins. Gossip, slander, and condemnation are Satan’s tools against believers (Rev. 12:10). Do you convict sinners to repent through your love and kindness?