Bible Study on the Prophet Elisha
The Rapture of Elijah - Swing Low Sweet Chariot!
by I Gordon
We looked last time at the call of Elisha and his desire to follow
closely and minister to his master, Elijah. His desire to never leave
Elijah took Elisha through four prominent locations in the land of
Israel - Gilgal, Bethel, Jericho and the Jordan river. In this study,
we are going to carry on in 2 Kings chapter 2 verses 9-14 and hopefully
gain a little insight into the source of Elisha's strength. It is a
well know passage, and by the end of it, Elijah will be seen no more...
(Well, not for quite a few hundred years anyway! But that's getting
ahead of ourselves!) Let's have a look at the passage.
What is your desire?
2 Kings 2:9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, '
Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?' 'Let me
inherit a double portion of your spirit,'
So the passage starts with a question... and a big question at that!
Elijah knows that his time is nearly up so he asks his disciple Elisha
what he would like to receive before Elijah leaves him. Big question.
How would you respond?
Something material? Something physical? Or something spiritual? We see
the type of character that Elisha had in that he asks for 'a double
portion of your spirit'. It was spiritual blessings that mattered to
Elisha! But don't get his request wrong... he wasn't asking to do twice
as many miracles or be twice as important as Elijah. He was asking to
be Elijah's heir. Under the law of Moses, the firstborn son was
entitled to a double portion of the fathers inheritance (see Deut
21:17). Now Elijah didn't have a son. Nor was he materially wealthy.
But he was spiritually wealthy and that is what Elisha considered
important. Elisha wasn't after riches or possessions or fame. He wanted
to be considered as Elijah's son and inherit from him spiritually. He
wanted to receive the same Holy Spirit that empowered Elijah to carry
on his work amongst the nation of Israel.
So let's just briefly bring this back onto you... what do you consider
important in this life? If God gave you a choice, what would you ask
The hard thing...
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.'
Now, why do you think it was that Elisha had asked a difficult thing?
Was it difficult to receive a double portion? It doesn't seem overly
difficult to actually receive it for he only had to see Elijah as he
was taken up. So what is it that is hard or difficult? I believe the
difficulty comes not in receiving such things, but in the
responsibility that comes with bearing such gifts. Elisha was asking to
be Elijah's heir spiritually. And I can imagine Elijah surveying his
life, with all the difficulties and trials that were his because of his
role as God's prophet... and so he tells Elisha 'you have asked for a
difficult thing.' 'Don't think for one moment that possessing God's
Spirit in this measure will be easy. It won't my son. You have asked
for a difficult walk.'
Jesus said the same thing using a different phrase - '
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and
from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be
Swing Low Sweet Chariot
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.
Here one minute... gone the next! As Elisha looked on a chariot of fire
took his master Elijah up into heaven. And in doing so, Elijah
became only the second man to ever enter heaven without seeing death.
Can you name the first?
We have in this little story a picture of something that will take
place one day on a far greater scale... the rapture of the bride of
Christ. For as quick as Elijah was here one minute and taken the next,
even so the chariots of God will one day take all those that truly
believe in His name up into the place that has been prepared for them.
In the twinkling of the eye, Paul tells us, we shall be changed. (1 Cor
15:52). It has been the hope of many over two thousand years... But do
not lose heart for we see the day drawing even closer. For
'the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end
Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not
delay.' (Hab 2:3)
One other small point before we move on. As Elijah went up into the
sky, Elisha cried out ' My Father, my Father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel'. At
first reading you would be forgiven for thinking that Elisha is saying
'Elijah, look at that! Check out the chariots and the horses coming
down in the sky!' You would be forgiven for thinking that it is similar
to tattoo on 'Fantasy Island' yelling out 'da plane, da plane.' Let me
assure you, thankfully, that there is no likeness to Fantasy Island
here, nor Tattoo for that matter, for Elisha wasn't pointing out
anything to his master Elijah. He was saying that Elijah was the
strength of Israel. He was their chariots, he was their horses.
Israel's strength as a nation was found in the person of Elijah because
of God's power through that man. It is a remarkable statement that
Elisha said as his master went from him into heaven. Not convinced?
Always read the fine print!
A picture of Jesus' ascension...
Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them apart. He picked up
the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the
bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak that had fallen from him and
struck the water with it. 'Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?'
he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the
left, and he crossed over.
We see also in this ascension of Elijah, a nice little picture of
Jesus' ascension and our need of seeing this fact. Let's just state the
1. Elisha had asked for a double portion of his spirit.
2. Elijah said that this could only happen if Elisha saw him ascend
3. Elisha sees this, tears his own clothes, and puts on the cloak or
mantle of Elijah that fallen from Elijah.
4. Elisha then performs his first miracle through the power of God.
In like manner, Jesus said that it was good that He had to go back to
the Father, for He would send the helper - the Spirit of truth (see
John 16:5-14) to be with all that believe in His name. And just as
Elisha tore his own clothes and took upon himself the clothing of
Elijah, so we take upon ourselves the garment of righteousness. Just as
it is written:
I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped
me in a robe of righteousness
. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her
But to do so means that we tear our own clothing first just as Elisha
did! It means that we look not to our own righteousness or good works,
as though that would win us favour with God, but in faith accept and
see the Lord Himself as our righteousness, as our standing before the
Father. The robe of righteousness that is given by the risen Lord is a
free and precious gift! It will not wear out and will cover you
completely until the day that you see Him face to face and are
transformed into His image! Don't ever forget it! (see Rom 4:4, 5:17,
10:1-11, 1 Cor 1:30, 1 Cor 14:1 John 3:2)
Conclusion - Our ongoing need... See the risen Lord!
The final point from this study is our ongoing need to see the Lord
Jesus as alive, risen, and ascended! As I mentioned above, Elisha had
to see Elijah ascend into Heaven before he could be given a double
portion of Elijah's spirit. Once that had happened, he stood before the
Jordan river and was tested straight away as to whether he would act on
his belief that the same spirit that empowered Elijah would now work
through him. As he stood on that river bank he spoke out '
'Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?'... When he struck the
water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed
Elisha knew that any strength or ability that he would have to follow
in Elijah's footsteps had to come from God... not himself. So he says
straight away 'where is the God of Elijah?' He was looking in the right
direction! Some Christians live as best they can, trying to imitate the
life that Jesus lived while He was on earth. They read the commands of
Jesus in the Bible and give it their all to fulfil them. It is truly a
noble desire and commitment... but one with failure stamped all over it.
We all need to remember that Jesus is not dead and He certainly isn't
sitting back hoping that we will one day have enough strength to mimic
how He lived. We need to remember that the only way He was able to live
the life He lived while on earth was through the strength of His Father
doing the work in and through Him! Even Jesus didn't step out in His
own ability and strength.
So Elisha, looking to the Lord, stands and cries 'Where is the God of
Elijah?' And what do you know? Elisha finds that the God of Elijah is
still alive and well for the waters of the Jordan are divided left and
right. He finds that just as God was with Elijah, so He will be with
Him too. God doesn't just work through one person and he certainly
hasn't stopped doing wonderful things in the lives of those that look
to Him. The God of Elijah hasn't changed.
May we, like Elisha, trust and look to Him.