Now that we have reached the absolute low point of the history of God’s people, the Holy Spirit places the prophet Elijah before our attention. The person and service of Elijah are exceptional. He is one of the greatest personalities in the Old Testament. He is the first man to raise a dead person, he is the only one to go to heaven with fiery chariots and horses. He is “a man with a nature like ours” (Jam 5:17a17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.), but with a tremendous faith. He is also a man of prayer.
He lives in a time of the greatest apostacy, a time in which the Word of God was totally rejected by people of God. In that time he stands as a true man of God for the rights of God and bears witness of Him as the living God. He is a man with whom anyone who cares about the welfare of God’s people would like to identify. After all, we too live in a time in which the Word of God has largely been rejected. Not so much in the world, but in Christianity.
Elijah is a prophet. Prophets are sent by God when His people have deviated from Him. God wants to speak through them to the hearts and conscience of the people. Prophets represent God’s power and bring God’s people into the light of God. They put their finger on the deviation, the sin (Jn 4:16-1916He *said to her, “Go, call your husband and come here.”17The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus *said to her, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’;18for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.”19The woman *said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.). Elijah does not do this gently, for he announces drought. He does so because the whole people serve the Baal. He comes from Gilead. We could say that in view of the deviation of the people he is a “balm from Gilead” (Jer 8:2222Is there no balm in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why then has not the health of the daughter of my people been restored?). He denounces their sick condition and offers them a medicine. That medicine is repentance and return to the LORD.
Of Elijah – and also of Elisha – we have no Bible book in God’s Word. This we have of many prophets who prophesied to the two tribes, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and so on. We have the prophetic service of the prophets in the two tribes realm in written form in God’s Word because their service also relates to what is still future today. In the two tribes realm there is still a certain interest in God’s Word, and the prophets can refer to that Word in their exhortations. They speak for edification and exhortation and consolation, as still happens today in the church (1Cor 14:33But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation.). This is only possible if there are hearts to absorb the Word.
Nor do the prophets of the two tribes realm signs and wonders: for they are for the unbelievers. Therefore Elijah and Elisha do miracles, for they have a message for an unbelieving people.
The word Elijah and Elisha speak as prophets does not refer to the near or distant future, as is the case with the writing prophets. Their word is addressed to the heart and conscience of the people in the present circumstances, here and now. It is a word supported by miraculous signs.
Elijah’s signs are extremely powerful. They are connected to heaven. Once he has closed heaven and four times he has opened heaven. He closes and opens heaven in relation to rain (Jam 5:17-1817Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.18Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.). He also opens heaven to let fire descend from it, once over the offering (1Kgs 18:36-3836At the time of the offering of the [evening] sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word.37Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and [that] You have turned their heart back again.”38Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.) and twice over his enemies (2Kgs 1:8-148They answered him, “[He was] a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”9Then [the king] sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him, and behold, he was sitting on the top of the hill. And he said to him, “O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’”10Elijah replied to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.11So he again sent to him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he said to him, “O man of God, thus says the king, ‘Come down quickly.’”12Elijah replied to them, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.13So he again sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. When the third captain of fifty went up, he came and bowed down on his knees before Elijah, and begged him and said to him, “O man of God, please let my life and the lives of these fifty servants of yours be precious in your sight.14Behold fire came down from heaven and consumed the first two captains of fifty with their fifties; but now let my life be precious in your sight.”). As has already been said, he raised up a dead person (1Kgs 17:21-2221Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the LORD and said, “O LORD my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.”22The LORD heard the voice of Elijah, and the life of the child returned to him and he revived.).
He alone has as a prophet a direct successor in Elisha (2Kgs 2:1,11-141And it came about when the LORD was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.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.) and he has a successor in his spirit in John the baptist (Lk 1:1717It is he who will go [as a forerunner] before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”). The Old Testament closes with its name (Mal 4:5-65“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.6He will restore the hearts of the fathers to [their] children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”). He is there, together with Moses, when the Lord Jesus appears on the mountain of glorification (Mt 17:33And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.). Finally, we recognize him in one of the two witnesses in the end time (Rev 11:66These have the power to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying; and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood, and to strike the earth with every plague, as often as they desire.).
Elijah is called “man of God” (1Kgs 17:18,2418So she said to Elijah, “What do I have to do with you, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my iniquity to remembrance and to put my son to death!”24Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”). In the New Testament we meet a ‘man of God’ in letters to persons. There that person is called “man of God” (1Tim 6:1111But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance [and] gentleness.; 2Tim 3:1717so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.). It can be a man, it can also be a woman. The first letter to Timothy refers to the “later times” (1Tim 4:11But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,). Its characteristics are “forbid to marry” and the “abstaining from foods” (1Tim 4:33[men] who forbid marriage [and advocate] abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.). Under the influence of deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, these characteristics have arisen. Medieval Christianity, as it began and continues in roman-catholicism, is its breeding ground.
In the second letter to Timothy, the decay has gone even further. There it is about the “last days” (2Tim 3:11But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.). The characteristic of this is that in Christianity there are people who appear to be God-fearing, but who lie, for they deny the power thereof (2Tim 3:55holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.).
Prophetically, these characteristics are described in the book of Revelation, in the letter to the church in Thyatira (Rev 2:18-2918“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this:19‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.20But I have [this] against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit [acts of] immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.21I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality.22Behold, I will throw her on a bed [of sickness], and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.23And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.24But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you.25Nevertheless what you have, hold fast until I come.26He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations;27and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received [authority] from My Father;28and I will give him the morning star.29He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’). This letter is part of seven letters in which church history is reflected through the centuries. In that letter reference is made to “the woman Jezebel”, so that the parallel with the time of Elijah is beyond doubt. In this way we can say that the history of Elijah teaches us lessons in connection with the history of the church in the dark Middle Ages, a history that remains relevant because it continues until the coming of the Lord Jesus.
During that time, testimonies of faith are appreciated in a special way, as we hear from the mouth of the Lord Jesus regarding a faithful remnant in Thyatira (Rev 2:1919‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first.). In such times, where truths are so covered, each testimony about Him is of great significance to Him. For Him it is not about great knowledge of the truth, but to live faithfully according to what is known of the truth. We see this in Elijah, in Obadiah, and the one hundred prophets that Obadiah has hidden, and the seven thousand that are only seen by God.
Yet not every believer in such times is a ‘man of God’. This can only be said of Elijah at that time, and it can only be said now of someone who openly defends God’s rights, while the mass of the confessing Christianity does not take them into account and many who do so in secret without openly admitting it. Not every believing Israelite is a man of God. Obadiah is not that, nor are the seven thousand. The same it is today, that not every believer is a man of God.
People who dare to raise their voices in public are few. It is the people who, for example, hold on to the literal, literal inspiration of the Scriptures against everything. This characterizes the man of God in the last days. In the “last days” (2Tim 3:1-51But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.2For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,3unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good,4treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,5holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.) we see an increase of the evil that characterizes the “later times” (1Tim 4:1-51But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,2by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,3[men] who forbid marriage [and advocate] abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.4For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude;5for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.).
Last days” require complete dedication to the Word as a hallmark of a man of God (2Tim 3:16-1716All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.). Holding on to the inspiration of God’s Word is above all important in such dark times. Then it comes down to holding on to the word of the Lord Jesus’ perseverance (Rev 3:10-1110Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that [hour] which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.11I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.), which is only possible if one lives in an intimate personal relationship with God. Such people get to hear that the Lord Jesus will write “the name of My God” on them (Rev 3:1212He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name.).
The period when the Lord Jesus was on earth is also called “these last days” (Heb 1:22in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.). This underlines the connection that exists between Elijah and John the baptist, the predecessor of the Lord Jesus. This connection is also evident from their actions. Thus, Elijah testifies in the palace of Ahab and John in the palace of Herod. Both have experienced the hatred of the wives of these rulers. Both had a breakdown at the end of their service. Therefore it is also said that Elijah and John spiritually spoken are the same person (Lk 1:17a17It is he who will go [as a forerunner] before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”; Mt 11:13-1413For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.14And if you are willing to accept [it], John himself is Elijah who was to come.).
In addition, Elijah is a picture of the Lord Jesus, the Great One sent of God. Christ is the great Witness of God. He has raised up dead ones on earth. He has blessings for poor Gentiles, just like Elijah, as we see later, when Elijah is in Sidon. He, like Elijah, has brought a sacrifice on a mountain, whereby He Himself is the sacrifice.
We see the picture of the Lord Jesus when Elijah stands on Mount Carmel, alone against the power of the enemy, only with his sacrifice. The sacrifice has shown God’s faithfulness to His people. The sacrifice is consumed by the fire of God’s judgment. By this the people are spared and blessings for the people come again. This performance of Elijah, the culmination of his service, is a striking picture of the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross, where He has born the judgment of the sins of those who are His people.
We also see that the Lord Jesus, just like Elijah, spent forty days in the desert. He also called His followers, as Elijah called Elisha. He went to heaven, which also happened to Elijah.
If I were allowed to have a favorite in the Old Testament, it would be Elijah. I have great admiration for this man. He is in Himself no different from other people (Jam 5:17a17Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.). It is even so, that of him as the only Old Testament believer something negative is said in the New Testament. Of all the believers in the Old Testament who are mentioned in the New Testament, only what they have done in faith is mentioned. However, there is also something about Elijah that is not good. He has once accused the people to God. Paul refers to this to show that God will always have a remnant according to God’s gracious choice (Rom 11:2-52God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in [the passage about] Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?3“Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.”4But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”5In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to [God’s] gracious choice.).
What makes him special is that he is a man of prayer and a man of God. He is the one who stands up for God’s rights and asserts them in an environment where they are denied and trampled underfoot. This character and these features make him the appropriate instrument for God to be His prophet. We may learn from him what God is capable of if we are intercessors who recognize him in the full right of his Word.