“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” (2 Kings 2:11-12).
The prophet Elijah had served God faithfully even though He struggled at times with discouragement. He proclaimed God’s message before kings, challenged the false prophets of Baal, and persevered when his life was pursued by Ahab’s wicked wife Jezebel. After training his successor Elisha, God was now ready to take his faithful prophet Elijah to his heavenly reward.
As the opening verses above indicate, as Elijah and Elisha were walking along, suddenly a chariot and horses of fire came down from heaven and picked up Elijah and carried him up to heaven in a swirling whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11-12). The sons of the prophets doubted that God has actually carried Elijah into heaven and believed that, perhaps, the Spirit of the Lord has taken him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley so they began to search for him in vain (2 Kings 2:15-18). But Elijah had gone into heaven. No eyes of man on earth would behold him again until he appeared with Moses at the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:1-3). What a breathtaking sight it must have been for Elisha to see his mentor Elijah taken up to heaven in a blaze of glory!
As I read these verses I am encouraged because I am reminded of the reward that is waiting for those who faithfully follow Christ. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25). One of the basic principles of Christianity is the teaching of the resurrection. The apostle Paul said, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Because Jesus rose from the dead, we have great hope that we who follow him will rise from the dead as well. Again, the apostle Paul writes, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).
Hope is so essential to living the Christian life. It is the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19). Believing in and looking forward to our resurrection from the dead is a source of great encouragement for me and my walk with God. Forgetting the importance of the resurrection can lead to discouragement. The apostle Paul wrote, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
As Elijah was caught up in a whirlwind and carried to heaven, even so those Christians who are living on the earth when Christ comes again will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. If I die before the Lord comes again, then I am assured that the Lord will raise me up out of the grave. Today, I will rejoice as I look forward to going to be with the Lord at the sound of the last trumpet!
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).