“Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, “Where is the LORD God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw him, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him. Then they said to him, “Look now, there are fifty strong men with your servants. Please let them go and search for your master, lest perhaps the Spirit of the LORD has taken him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley.” And he said, “You shall not send anyone.”” (2 Kings 2: 11-16)
Elisha was possibly the most complete type of Christ in the Old Testament. His name is a clue: it means “God is salvation.” Among other things, he broke a curse (Jericho 2 Kings 2),
He raised the dead (2 Kings 4: 19-37),
He spoke with authority and healed at a distance (Naaman, 2 Kings 5),
He taught love for enemies – (the Syrian raiders 2 Kings 6 22-2),
He multiplied food (The jars of oil , and also bread, both in 2 Kings 4),
Even His death brought new life (A dead man was raised to life when he touched Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:21).
The Bible is full of transitions: Egypt to Promised land, Judges to Kings, Saul to David, Kingdom to Exile, Exile to Restoration, The Law to Grace, Crucifixion to Resurrection, Flesh to Spirit – Jesus brings Life; life is dynamic, and dynamism means change. We go through many and various transitions in our own lives, until we all come to the final one where we move from the dimension of corruption to the dimension of immortality. We pass through some by choice and some by accident, but the changes to our body as life takes its course in us are inexorable. And so it is, I believe, with the Body of Christ.
The church is in transition. The spirit of Elijah now rests on Elisha. Christians the world over have been taking an unprecedented opportunity to spend more time with the Lord, not letting go of His presence, and following Him to a place separated (by the Jordan) from the commerce of the world (Jericho). Now that season is drawing to a close, and the time is coming for us to bring Jesus and His salvation back to Jericho. But we cannot go back over the Jordan unless we pick up the mantle and strike the water, in faith that the God of Elijah will part them for us. And to wear that new mantle, we need to take off our existing clothes and tear them in two. What we have been in the past will not serve us for the future.
What matters now as we stand before Jericho is that we don’t follow the inclination of the “sons of the prophets” and go up into the mountains to look for Elijah. If we look for our old ways and expect to carry on just as we were we will find that the power and authority – the Spirit of Elijah – has gone; we’ll be stuck on the other side of the Jordan and will have no impact on Jericho. I believe that this transition is as inevitable as the physical changes that take place in the human body on its journey through life. Either we move into Jericho wearing the mantle of the God of Salvation and cloaked in His miracle power, or we waste our time in the mountains looking for what is no longer there.
Elijah (“Jehovah is God”) has a strong association with fire: not only the fire of God that consumed the sacrifice on the mountain and demonstrated that Jehovah, not Baal, was God (1 Kings 18:38); but also the fire that fell twice on the captains and cohort of fifty men that Ahaziah sent to arrest him (2 Kings 1:10). Elijah comes before Elisha. The fire of God comes before the salvation of God. Jesus said “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished.” (Matt 17:11-12) As John the Baptist came and prepared the way for the earthly ministry of Jesus, so the fire of God will prepare the way for the Body of Christ to minister again in all the restored fullness of His authority and power.
In the book of Acts it wasn’t just the leading apostles who saw the power of God confirm the preaching of the Word. “Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” (Act 11: 19-21) Some of us have felt the fire already, and if we haven’t, we soon will. Because now is time for the whole of the Body of Christ, not just the leaders but also the “men from Cyprus and Cyrene,” to pick up the mantle of Elisha, cross the Jordan, and bring salvation to Jericho.