Todays readings.. 2 Kings 1&2, Jeremiah 50, 1 Corinthians 10
Our reading of 2 Kings 2 today records the transfer of responsibility before God from Elijah to Elisha.
Elisha requests, “Let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” [v.9] and it is significant that it is recorded of Elisha that he ultimately performs twice as many miracles as Elijah. However, in doing God’s most important work and conveying God’s messages it is evident that Elijah is the greater prophet, he is the one with Moses on the mount when Jesus is transfigured.
Elisha’s sight of his dramatic departure when “Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” [v.11], is proof to him that he has a double portion of his “spirit.” But what kind of “heaven” does he go to? The next use of the Hebrew word for heaven is in ch. 7 v.2 about whether the “windows of heaven” could be opened to provide flour and food! The rain comes from heaven (eg 1 Kings 8 v.25). The fact that a letter later came from Elijah to Jehoram, the son-in-law of Ahab, makes it clear Elijah still somewhere on the earth (see 2 Chron.21 v.12).
So God removes Elijah from the scene because his work is finished, just as John the Baptist, whom Jesus refers to as a promised Elijah (Matt. 17 v.11,12) came – and his work was finished in “turning the hearts” (Malachi 4 v.6) of people ready for the ministry of Christ. He was removed from the scene to leave the way clear for Jesus. The widespread impact of his work is clear from the way Paul encounters those who only knew the baptism of John – who were a great distance from Israel (see Acts 18 v.25 19 v3,4)
The heavens of the sky are to be the scene of the most dramatic events yet! When Jesus returns those alive will see him “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels … and they will gather his elect …” [Matt. 24 v.30,31] Only those looking for him will really know what is happening. Jesus says, “all the tribes of the earth will mourn … the sun will be darkened … the powers of the heavens will be shaken..” [v.29] Some think this means the political heavens, but it seems more in context to see it as meaning the literal heavens.