ELIJAH’S DEATH

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Elijah’s death recorded in 2 Kings 2, teaches us several lessons. A unique life lived amidst tumultuous times was about to come to an end. And the man, who shocked and surprised everyone, every time, would be no different in the manner of his death.

First Elijah’s impending death was no secret. Elijah knew, Elisha knew and so did the company of prophets at Bethel and Jericho.

The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the LORD is going to take your master from you today?” “Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “but do not speak of it.” (2Kings 2:3)

Elijah knew his life here on earth had come to an end and he was most comfortable with that fact. Contrast that to most people who live in morbid fear of death. For most, death is the end of everything- that which erases all things and an event that hurls them into the unknown. Elijah knew that he was not being terminated, rather moving into another phase of his life- the real one. He was assured that he would be with God. He likely rejoiced in the fact that he had lived his life well, standing for God and against the world that at his time was uniformly aligned against God. He knew as every Christian does that his struggles here on earth were about to cease and that he would move into the very presence of God. Death is not something to await with morbid fear, rather an inevitable event to be received with joy.

Like in the case of Elijah, is it possible to predict your death? Many people talk of the uneasiness and discomfort that comes on prior to death. The Bible recounts stories of Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David and Jesus who made statements about their impending deaths and took relevant action or gave instructions. For a life lived in proximity to God, the spirit discerns many things and the time of death is no exception. A Christian who lives in obedience to God and walks with the Spirit, has no reason to fear sudden death and can rejoice in the fact that when the time does come for him to be with the Father, he will know.

Elijah ensured that his task here on earth was done before he left. He groomed Elisha to carry on the torch of the true God in the midst of rampant idolatry. To a persistent Elisha, he asks, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” (2Kings 2:2:9). No work of God is complete till you ensure that it gets carried on. Remember Paul’s words,

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith. (Philippians1:22-25)

Paul would have preferred dying but he was committed to completing his task here on earth. Completing the tasks, finishing the race, building leadership to keep God’s work going, are all responsibilities a man of God cannot run away from.

Finally the manner of Elijah’s death was striking- he was carried up into heaven in a whirlwind. In death, all that is worldly, sinful and condemned to destruction will die and our spirits will live on. The resurrected bodies we have will bear a resemblance to our bodies here on earth but will have a different form. Elijah was recognizable when he appeared during the transfiguration, so was Jesus in his resurrected body. Yet death is a process where that transition from the ‘physical and evil’ to the ‘spiritual and holy’ takes place. The more evil we have, the more of a transition there will be. For a person like Elijah, there probably was very little that had not already transformed and taken on the image of God and hence we see a transition that did not require to be limited by the process of physical death. Enoch’s death, briefly described in Genesis 5 was somewhat similar.

Elijah’s death was a statement as was all of his life.

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