Our reading in 2 Kings 2 records the transfer of responsibility from Elijah to Elisha. Elisha requests, “Let a double portion of your spirit be upon me” (verse 9) and it is significant that Elisha 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 the dramatic departure when “Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (verse 11), is proof to him that he has been given a double portion of spirit. But what kind of heaven does he go to? The next use of the Hebrew word for heaven is in chapter 7:2 about whether the “windows of heaven” could be opened to provide flour and food! The rain comes from heaven (e.g., 1 Kings 8:25). The fact that a letter later came from Elijah to Jehoram, the son-in-law of Ahab, makes it clear Elijah was still somewhere on the earth (see 2 Chronicles 21:12).
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 (Matthew 17:11,12) came – and his work was finished in “turning the hearts” (Malachi 4:6) 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 18:25; 19:3,4).
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 …” (Matthew 24:30,31). Only those looking for him will 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” (verse 29). Some think this means the political heavens, but it may mean the literal heavens.
The world has witnessed dramatic and frightening events in the past, but the most dramatic times of all are still ahead! How soon? Watch the Middle East! Let us make sure our faith is as strong as possible – and that we each have a real relationship with our Saviour.