The Literal, Historical Figures

Both Elijah and his successor Elisha have the most space devoted to prophets in the Old Testament for whom there is no separate, dedicated book. This may be more than a coincidence as the record of their working is simultaneous with that of prominent people and events in Israel, overlapping what is taking place much the same way that John the Baptist will minister at Christ’s First Coming, and recapitulated by “Elijah to come” at His Second Coming. But it is worth noting that while there are parallels between all three historical figures, there are certainly differences, and one of the more prominent questions to be resolved is the particular relationship between Elijah and Elisha in what appears to be a very unique serial sequence set apart from all others in Scripture.

We will see that not only are there a great many events unique to Elisha which do not have a parallel in the life of Elijah his predecessor, but that after being anointed with a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, Elisha’s ministry picks up where both Elijah’s and John the Baptist’s left off. Whereas John’s activities occurred in the wilderness beyond the Jordan (Mt. 3:5), and similarly Elijah’s ministry ends in the same place (2 Ki. 2:6), this is where Elisha’s begins. Extraordinarily, the route Elisha then takes as he crosses the Jordan back into Israel and assumes his own ministry is that originally followed by Joshua in the historical conquest of Canaan.

This metaphorical re-conquest of the Promised Land in tandem with the activities Elisha immediately undertakes, which are unique to him and not found in the lives of either Elisha nor John, seem to map out for us the difference between John as “Elijah to come” in the First Coming from the final “Elijah to come” in the Second Coming. In other words, at the very point Elijah’s ministry came to an end and Elisha’s began and continued with a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, the “Elijah to come” picks up where John the Baptist left off in the character of Elisha. Whereas a remnant of Israel was saved in the course of John’s ministry, “Elijah to come”, with an even more powerful ministry because of a double portion of his spirit, successfully reaches far more in Israel in the course of the Second Coming.

Elijah & John

Elijah’s first introduction to us in Scripture begins with a supernatural drought. (1 Ki. 17:1). Metaphorically, different types of liquids correspond to different aspects of the Holy Spirit, such as oil for the anointing of the Spirit (Is. 61:1-2; 1 Jn. 2:20, 27) and the living water as the Holy Spirit outpoured. (Is. 44:3; Jn. 4:10-14; 7:39) Symbolically, the rain in Israel goes into the water table and becomes the living water, but the rain withheld speaks of a spiritual drought taking place. More than 400 years passed after the death of Malachi, the last authentic anointed Prophet to Israel, before the arrival of John the Baptist in the character of Elijah, whom we now understand to be the final Prophet of the Old Testament as a harbinger of the Messiah at His First Coming. There had been quite a spiritual drought of the Holy Spirit leading up to John’s arrival and public ministry. The literal drought commencing with Elijah’s ministry reflects the spiritual drought taking place both in his own time and the one to come which subsequently set the stage for the arrival and working of John.

Elijah comes into conflict with Ahab and his wicked consort Jezebel in the course of his victory over the prophets of Baal. (1 Ki. 18) Ahab was a king who violated the standards of God’s Word by marrying the foreign daughter of the King of Tyre and was thus spiritually seduced away from the One, True God; in John’s time, Herod the tetrarch was a king who violated the standards of God’s Word and illegally married his brother’s wife who would ultimately deceive him into executing John, and who will meet his end because of his confrontation with Herod at the behest of his wicked woman, Herodias. (Mt. 14:3-12; Mk. 6:14-29; Lk. 9:7-9) Similarly, Elisha encounters Queen Athaliah as one of the features which all figures have in common, a precursor to the final recapitulation of an evil seductress, also personified in Revelation as Jezebel. (Rev. 2:20) However, what might be different for Elisha from the others, and which may have an End Times meaning, is that the seductress he is dealing with in Queen Athaliah was attempting to rule Israel independently without a spousal king, having murdered nearly everyone between her and the succession to the throne.

9Then he came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10He said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1 Kings 19:9–10)

Although Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal, there was no accompanying major revival of the general population of Israel, statistically speaking. In fact, Elijah flees to the wilderness to Mt. Horeb where God corrects his belief that he is the sole faithful Israelite remaining and informs him that there is still a faithful remnant of 7,000 among what may have been an overall citizenry of several million at the time. (1 Ki. 19:18) Considering the size of the population and the several years of ministry during which both John and Jesus were heard by a great many in Israel, it was but a small remnant of a few hundred who were actually following Christ in the immediate wake of His Resurrection. (1 Co. 15:3-8) Even at its height, the Early Church, composed almost exclusively of ethnic Jews, would never attain to a majority of Israelites and ultimately, as Jesus specifically illustrated through the lives of Elijah and Elisha, (Lk. 4:24-27) the Church would become Gentile-centric with Jewish believers occupying but the smallest of remnants within it. This issue of the existence of but a remnant of the faithful was also reinforced in Elijah’s encounter with Obadiah who hid a hundred prophets by fifties in a cave (1 Ki. 18:4, 13) and the even smaller presence of fifty prophets in the narrative of Elijah’s rapture. (2 Ki. 2:3, 5, 7)

Elijah is described as “a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins” (2 Ki. 1:8) and of John it is said he “had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist”. (Mt. 3:4) John’s ministry mainly took place in the same distant place beyond the Jordan (Mt. 3:6) where Elijah’s also came to an end. (2 Ki. 2:7) Curiously, this is the point where Elisha’s activities were inaugurated and commenced.

15The LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; 16and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. 17It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. 18Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:15–18)

It is crucial to note that Elijah is directed by God to initiate work in regard to three things which will not be completed until after Elijah’s rapture in the form of the anointing of Hazael as king over Aram, the anointing of Jehu as king over the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the anointing of Elisha in his place, none of whom will actively take up those positions until after Elijah is removed. It is noteworthy that what Elijah could not complete, God would thus finish through Elisha. It takes this pair working in two contiguous phases to achieve a single, overlapping body of work, thus reflecting a future fulfillment in the spirit of Elijah for both the First and Second Comings. In other words, what began as a “first phase” with John the Baptist is completed in a “second phase” with “Elijah to come”.

It would be Elisha who actually met and prophesied over Hazael (2 Ki. 8:7-13) and gave instructions regarding the anointing of Jehu, (2 Ki. 9:1-10) and the faithful remnant of both the 7,000 and the previously highlighted small groups of prophets would function more in the course of Elisha’s time than Elijah’s. This is powerful textual proof that just as Elijah’s ministry could only be completed in two phases, first beginning with him but then picked up and completed by his protégé Elisha, John the Baptist in the character of Elijah would begin something in the First Coming which can only be completed by the “Elijah to come” in the Second Coming with even greater efficacy.

We need to recognize that something unique in Scripture is taking place between Elijah and Elisha. It is very unusual to see an individual pick up the specific ministry of another and then continue on in the same character in either Testament. This is not the same as a royal family member assuming the throne or a son of Aaron becoming the next High Priest. In this particular case, it takes people of the same spirit, carrying out separate ministries where one begins at the exact point where the other concludes, to combine to make a single, complete whole.

Given the fact that Elijah was specifically promised to come again, and that Jesus Himself confirms that not only did Elijah come once in the character of John the Baptist at His First Coming, but would come yet a second time in the course of His Second Coming, taken together with the particular differences in the emphases of each of their ministries, it is far more than mere conjecture that we are being shown what “Elijah to come” will accomplish in his final visitation in the Last Days. Elijah seems to be a picture of the harbinger of Christ in the First Coming, and Elisha the same for the Second Coming. They share some common characteristics and similar events, but there are many more which stand apart separately from each other.

The Main Features of Elisha’s Ministry

9When 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.” 10He 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.” 11As 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. 12Elisha 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. 13He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the bank of the Jordan. 14He 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.

15Now 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 Kings 2:9–15)

As stated previously, Elisha’s ministry begins where that of Elijah and John the Baptist functionally ended, on the other side of the Jordan. Then, in a replay of Joshua’s conquest of the Promised Land, there is a supernatural crossing of the Jordan with an initial visit to Jericho, site of the first major battle for the conquest of Canaan. But what follows is even more remarkable in that so many of the milestones of Elisha’s ministry are not just unique to him alone, but in the way in which they so frequently echo major characteristics of the overall Second Coming, especially in the role and working of the “Elijah to come” as a final harbinger of the Return and final acceptance by Israel of Yeshua their Messiah.

16They 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.” 17But 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. 18They returned to him while he was staying at Jericho; and he said to them, “Did I not say to you, ‘Do not go’?” (2 Kings 2:16–18)

The very first thing with which Elisha has to deal is the settling of the question of the rapture! This is particularly interesting since it was known, at least among these small groups, that this rapture was imminent; so much so, in fact, that they kept warning about it themselves.

3Then 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.” (2 Kings 2:3)

5The 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.” (2 Kings 2:5)

This behavior foreshadows exactly what Jesus said in the Olivet Discourse, that when the time of these events grows near, we will consciously anticipate it and should be looking for its fulfillment. This behavior in Elisha’s day also specifically conforms to the pattern that “every eye will see Him” (Zech. 12:10-14; Rev. 1:7) and that there will be a cosmological sign signaling the event (Mt. 24:30). Just as at Elijah’s rapture there was a faithful remnant who knew and for whom there was a sign, the same type of thing takes place in the Nativity Narrative at Christ’s First Coming with the Magi, and so it will find an ultimate fulfillment in the course of His Second Coming. (Notice how they knew the nearness of the rapture without being able to predict the day or hour, and yet it did not happen in “secret” without accompanying visible signs.)

19Then 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.” 20He said, “Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21He 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.’” 22So the waters have been purified to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke. (2 Kings 2:19–22)

Whereas Elijah begins his ministry with a drought where water is concerned, Elisha must first deal with purifying what has become not just bad water, but the source of what is responsible for rendering the land “unfruitful”. Instead of “no fruit” due to a drought, the problem here is “bad fruit” due to bad water. This speaks very strongly to the apostasy—the falling away of the faithful, and the depth of deception which we are told to anticipate leading up to Christ’s Return. (2 Th. 2:3)

Typologically, whereas Joshua embarked on a literal campaign to rid the land of the residents who were specifically identified as spiritual influences who would lead Israel astray, Elisha likewise embarks on a similar mission from a spiritual point of view, initiating a series of actions which symbolize purifying the land and people of Israel of the false spiritual influences. In his first stop at Jericho we have an illustration of the working of the Holy Spirt “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit”. (Eph. 5:26; Titus 3:5) Salt is closely associated in the Old Testament with making a covenant (Num. 18:19; 2 Chr. 13:5), and as we shall see with subsequent events on Elisha’s itinerary, this is a powerful foreshadowing of the New Covenant to be facilitated through the “Elijah to come” with Israel in the Last Days. What begins here with the water and the salt is but the first in a series of potent biblical illustrations all describing spiritual restoration through repentance and a return to God’s Word.

23Then 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!” 24When 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. 25He went from there to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria. (2 Kings 2:23–25)

Whereas Elisha initially had to deal with the question of the rapture where those who knew about it and anticipated it were concerned, now he has to deal with ridicule of the rapture from the unbelieving apostates! As noted previously, throughout Scripture, the number “42” is often associated with apostasy [see “Usage in Eschatology—The Mathematical Terms”], and their taunt to “Go up” is a sarcastic challenge for Elisha to duplicate Elijah’s rapture for himself.

There is an ironic parallel here with the fact that at Christ’s crucifixion, there was not only a taunting for Him to prove His divinity by coming down and saving Himself from the cross, but a mistaken belief that He was calling for the aid of Elijah to come save Him. (Mt. 27:46-49; Mk. 15:33-36) But Elisha finds himself, yet again, having to deal with the issue of the rapture, but now from the opposite view of unbelief and scorn.
At times, Elisha’s life somewhat mimics that of Elijah’s. Whereas Elijah takes care of a Gentile widow’s needs supernaturally (1 Ki. 17;8-16), so Elisha takes care of one of the sons of the prophet’s widow’s and her sons’ needs. (2 Ki. 4:1-7) Elijah will bring back to life the son of the Gentile woman (1 Ki. 17:17-24) while Elisha will bring back from the dead the son of the Shunammite woman. (2 Ki. 4:18-37).

It is worth noting that Jesus specifically cites the example of Elijah as a parallel to his own life as a warning that although Israel will reject Him at His First Coming, He will be accepted by the Gentiles in a replay of Elijah’s life when he was rejected, fled Israel, and ministered to a Gentile woman. (Lk. 4:23-26) At His First Coming, Israel would reject Christ who would take, in figure, a Gentile Bride in the form of the Church until Israel’s repentance and return to Him in the Last Days; the spiritual return for the whole of Israel does not take place, according to God’s prophetic Word, until the advent of the Second Coming.

38When Elisha returned to Gilgal, there was a famine in the land. As the sons of the prophets were sitting before him, he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.” 39Then one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and sliced them into the pot of stew, for they did not know what they were. 40So they poured it out for the men to eat. And as they were eating of the stew, they cried out and said, “O man of God, there is death in the pot.” And they were unable to eat. 41But he said, “Now bring meal.” He threw it into the pot and said, “Pour it out for the people that they may eat.” Then there was no harm in the pot. (2 Kings 4:38–41)

Whereas Elijah deals with a drought and all that this implies both literally and spiritually, Elisha deals with a famine. Throughout Scripture, food is the repeated symbol of God’s Word, and famine symbolizes the lack of His Word. This theme increasingly unfolds in each stage of Elisha’s ministry.

11“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,
“When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.
12People will stagger from sea to sea
And from the north even to the east;
They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD,
But they will not find it. (Amos 8:11–12)

What began metaphorically with the purification of the waters at Jericho continues with a deeper, second stage illustrated by the cleansing of the pot. Grain is a recurrent symbol of the Word, so this introduction of ground grain into the pot to counter the poison is an illustration of the introduction of God’s Word—true, scriptural teaching necessary to nullify the effect of the poison, a representation of false teaching and deception. Food in general is a teaching not only of God’s Word but of Christ Himself as the ultimate spiritual nourishment.

3“He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3)

35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. (John 6:35)

The salt in the course of cleansing the waters at Jericho typifies the making of a covenant, and the establishing of that covenant is here further illustrated by the introduction of the Word to counteract the false teaching from which they are in danger of dying. This is not just about recovering from physical death, but even more so from permanent spiritual death; it is not just about a physical recovery, but pointing to a spiritual restoration.

42Now a man came from Baal-shalishah, and brought the man of God bread of the first fruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat.” 43His attendant said, “What, will I set this before a hundred men?” But he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat, for thus says the LORD, ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’” 44So he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD. (2 Kings 4:42–44)

This lesson of the proper feeding of God’s Word is even further reinforced by not just counteracting the poison of false teaching with the introduction of right, biblical teaching, but of what will be a recapitulation by Christ Himself of the feeding of the 5,000, (Mt. 14:15-21; Mk. 6:33-44; Lk. 9:12-17; Jn. 6:1-14) which Jesus explained was an illustration demonstrating His being the Bread of Life. (Jn. 6:32-35) Elisha has graduated from not just addressing the deleterious effects of error and false doctrine to establishing a regular diet of God’s Word by proactively feeding God’s people.

The miracle following this, the healing of Naaman from leprosy, (2 Ki. 5:1-14) allegorically continues this theme of a spiritual revival as leprosy is one of the most powerful symbols of sin. It is important to note the connection between the requirement for Naaman to undertake a literal kind of baptism in the Jordan River in a similar vein to the use of baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. Naaman’s healing symbolizes a cure for sin in the same way that John’s baptism expressed a public confession of sin so as to prepare everyone spiritually for the acceptance of the Messiah on the verge of arrival. Likewise we might infer this role for the “Elijah to come” in preparation of Israel in the shadow of the Messiah’s Second Coming.

This healing is a very powerful statement when taken in combination with the preceding lessons concerning the restoration of the Word, because every revival throughout history contains both a sincere repentance of sin accompanied by a committed return to God’s Word. But just as John in the character of Elijah practiced a baptism of repentance to prepare Israel for the First Coming of the Messiah, Naaman’s baptism in the time of Elisha may indicate how the “Elijah to come” will do the same as a forerunner of the Second Coming of the Messiah.

But the next event in the sequence of Elisha’s life is a particularly powerful culmination of this series of illustrations of what will be accomplished within literal Israel by a sincere repentance and concerted return to the Word of God:

1Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “Behold now, the place before you where we are living is too limited for us. 2Please let us go to the Jordan and each of us take from there a beam, and let us make a place there for ourselves where we may live.” So he said, “Go.” 3Then one said, “Please be willing to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I shall go.” 4So he went with them; and when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. 5But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, my master! For it was borrowed.” 6Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And when he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there, and made the iron float. 7He said, “Take it up for yourself.” So he put out his hand and took it. (2 Kings 6:1–7)

The axe head symbolizes something which is impossible to retrieve; large bodies of water throughout Scripture are illustrative of the Gentile nations. What, from a human point of view, will be irretrievably lost, swallowed so completely and enveloped by the nations that its recovery is beyond hope? This describes the nation Israel after the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed and the Jewish population is dispersed thoroughly throughout the world in the Diaspora. But how will Israel be retrieved? How will it be restored after so long a time? That is where the meaning comes into play of the old “stick” off of which the axe head flew and the new one used to supernaturally retrieve it? As always, when we have a question as to how to interpret Scripture, it is best to turn to Scripture itself.

15The word of the LORD came again to me saying, 16“And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, ‘For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.’ 17Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. 18When the sons of your people speak to you saying, ‘Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?’ 19say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”’ 20The sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. 21Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; 22and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms. 23They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God.

24“My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. 25They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever. 26I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. 27My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. 28And the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.”’” (Ezekiel 37:15–28)

The “old” stick is the Old Covenant, while the “new” stick is the New Covenant! They fly off the “old” and are irretrievably lost until spiritually recovered by the “new”. This event in Elisha’s life signifies the pinnacle achievement of the spiritual restoration of Israel to take place in the Last Days during the final ministry of “Elijah to come” in the character of John the Baptist. Arriving with a double portion of John’s spirit, akin to Elisha vis a vis Elijah, the “Elisha to come” will replay Joshua’s conquest on a spiritual level, restoring God’s Word and engendering repentance, as well as feeding them with His Word in tandem with Israel’s final acceptance of Yeshua as their Messiah, thus completing not just the literal return of Jews to the land of Israel, but the even more important goal of their spiritual return through the New Covenant promised originally and exclusively to them. (Jer. 31:31-34)

This miraculous recovery finds its parallel in Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones (Eze. 37) where it was not merely someone freshly dead who comes back to life, but hopelessly dry bones reanimated and once again given flesh and blood. No nation, like the modern state of Israel, has ever reconstituted politically after such a dispersal, in effect coming back from dry bones or being miraculously retrieved from the bottom of the ocean. But political statehood is not the real miracle yet to take place; the far greater work still to come, facilitated by the promised return of Elijah and his ministry, is a spiritual return to Yeshua their Messiah. What has begun to take place physically and literally in terms of the nation-state of Israel is but a shadow of what is to be anticipated on the far more important spiritual level in the course of the overall events assigned to the final Return of Christ.

This event may be laying a foundation by which it can be connected to the final mention of Elisha in the Old Testament so as to explain the greater meaning of a spiritual resurrection so powerful that it brings back to life what was thought to be hopelessly dead.

20Elisha died, and they buried him. Now the bands of the Moabites would invade the land in the spring of the year. 21As they were burying a man, behold, they saw a marauding band; and they cast the man into the grave of Elisha. And when the man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up on his feet. (2 Kings 13:20–21)

There is much conjecture by commentators as to what this means, some assigning it to be a confirmation of the prophecy Elisha made to Jehoahaz just prior, some saying this proves the efficacy of the “double portion” Elisha possessed over Elijah, and on and on. All, some, or none of these and other corollary explanations may be correct, but typologically speaking, these events seem to foreshadow the unique aspect of Elijah/Elisha in that no other Prophet in Scripture is empowered to function in more than one lifetime or in more than one historical period. Normally, all activity would cease upon death, but his “ministry”, so to speak, is still active. The fact that events continue to take place even after Elisha’s death may not only be pointing out that Elijah who once lived and died will return, but ever more miraculously as confirmed by Christ Himself, has already come and will come again. Until the combined missions of Elijah and Elisha are completed, they are technically still active, at least where Israel is concerned

The “Elisha” to Come

There are more events for Elisha’s time coming after these things, such as war with Aram, restoration of the Shunammite’s land, Elisha’s encounter with Hazael, the anointing and working of Jehu, and the rise and fall of the wicked Queen Athaliah. While there are various points of common contact with the life and ministry of Elijah and even perhaps with some aspects of John the Baptist, Elisha obviously replays events according to an overall different agenda, picking up from the exact point where Elijah left off; together they portray a complete work which is accomplished in two phases with many items unique to each. Just as the Abomination of Desolation is recapitulated in an ultimate fulfillment of its precursors but each iteration is not an identical clone of each other, so we have a similar construction around John the Baptist and the “Elijah to come” foreshadowed first by the complimentary ministries of Elijah and Elisha.

19So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth. And Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him. 20He left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 21So he returned from following him, and took the pair of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the implements of the oxen, and gave it to the people and they ate. Then he arose and followed Elijah and ministered to him. (1 Kings 19:19–21)

As pointed out previously, although Elijah was instructed to anoint Hazael and Jehu, this would actually be accomplished in the course of Elisha’s ministry. But when Elijah leaves Mt. Horeb where he received these commands, he does indeed follow through with the anointing of Elisha (the meaning of throwing his mantle on him), although Elisha is not mentioned again until just prior to Elijah’s rapture.

Something worth mentioning, because it is so often taken out of context, is that it is here that Elijah is “anointed” for ministry, just as kings of Israel and other Prophets were likewise anointed for service, but what Elisha would later ask Elijah for was not a “double anointing”, but a “double portion of your spirit”. (2 Ki. 2:9) There is a prevalent false teaching that Elisha received a “double anointing”, confusing both the issue of the purpose and implementation of biblical anointing and the fact that this double portion did not come about by human transfer, but divine agency. This false teaching wants us to believe that a “double anointing” can be conveyed by the laying on of hands or some such thing, when in the middle of the plain text recording this event Elijah categorically states it has nothing to do with him and beyond his ability to do so.

Notice that although Elisha is anointed for service in 1 Kings 19 and leaves his old life behind, the events of Elijah’s life and ministry continue on in 1 Kings 20-22 without a single mention of Elisha. There is war with Aram involving Ahab and Jehoshaphat, all manner of interaction with Ahab and Jezebel, particularly over the issue of Naboth’s vineyard, and the rise of Ahaziah as King of the Northern Kingdom of Israel and his coming into conflict with Elijah in 2 Kings 1. In the opening chapter of that book we have the famous account of the three groups of fifty soldiers sent to retrieve Elijah on behalf of Ahaziah, the first two being supernaturally destroyed by fire called down from heaven. (It might be interesting to study these groups of fifty versus the groups of fifty prophets to come.)

This issue of being identified and anointed by God’s command, but not immediately entering into service may remind us of a couple of other instances where something very similar took place. Samuel was called by God early on but would not assume the office of his calling until many years later, and likewise the same would take place with David, anointed by Samuel at God’s direction but not attaining to the royal throne for at least another twenty years hence. In Elisha’s case, it does not appear that, like Samuel and David, he was called as a child or young teen who in all practicality needed to mature into adulthood, but it is not unprecedented to be anointed years in advance of actually becoming active in the role and calling of that assignment.

In Elisha’s case, this may yet be another typological confirmation of the greater, dual work to come in two distinct, overlapping phases with the Messiah’s First and Second Comings. Elijah and Elisha are not going to be active simultaneously, nor are they going to actually overlap each other, but one will immediately take up where the other leaves off. Rather than a “succession” or an overlapping of similar ministries, they are going to “interface” or “dovetail” together to form a cohesive whole. But in the case of this being replayed again by John the Baptist and the “Elijah to come” in the First and Second Comings respectively, there is a long break between the two in the same character as experienced between the Testaments and the work of “one Messiah, but two comings”, and a long break again between the First and Second Comings.
One additional possible explanation for the interplay between Elijah and Elisha is that in the course of the Second Coming, Elijah represents the Church which is removed by Rapture and whose roots extend to John the Baptist in the character of Elijah, and the events in the life of historical Elisha then commence in those of the “Elijah to come”, replaying the spiritual conquest of unbelieving Israel. “Elijah to come” has to deal with those anticipating and sensing the Harpazo is near, those who are openly dismissing it, and proceeds to re-establish reconciliation to Christ through the acts of purifying the water, cleansing the pot, baptism and repentance of sins (in the figure of Naaman), the proper feeding of God’s Word, and altogether resulting in the miraculous recovery accomplished by the “new stick”—the New Covenant.

Nonetheless, it is obvious that the character and events of Elijah’s life and ministry foreshadow what he recapitulated in his return at Christ’s First Coming in the character of John the Baptist, and that Elisha’s parallel those of the “Elijah to come” whom Jesus says to expect at His Second Coming, particularly in his repeated dealings with the Rapture in general, and the spiritual restoration of Israel in particular. What takes place with the purification of the water, the healing of the poisoned pot and the subsequent supernatural feeding, are the elements of an overall ministry summarized in the miracle of the axe head. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way spiritually for acceptance of the Messiah at His First Coming, “Elijah to come” prepares them through the New Covenant in the shadow of His re-arrival at His Second Coming.

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