The Saviour Prophet
The Last Walk
II Kings 1:1-8
And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel. And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho. And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan. And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground.
2 Kings 2:1-8
Nearly ten years have elapsed since we heard of Elisha. What has been their history? As a faithful servant he had waited upon his master, and in the history of this unrecorded period God had been training Elisha for his future work. He who has been proved and found faithful in a subordinate position is alone fitted to step up higher. To that step God is now calling him.
But let us never forget that God's call "to come up higher" is always preceded by preparation work. If it were not, the result would always be failure. Moses had the "backside of the desert," David the shepherd plains, Paul his "Arabia," and even the Son of God had to "learn...obedience" and became perfect "through the things which he sufferings." The Temple of old had its "porch," in which each one who passed into the presence of God could pause to adjust himself. And not less true is it in every call of God to higher work in His kingdom, were it otherwise, movement there might be, but not progress.
But this final walk of Elisha with his master shadows forth, in a striking manner, the Christian's journey through life to the kingdom of God, and it is in that light I would now view it.
The time approached when the Lord was about to remove His faithful servant Elijah to heaven. The journey now about to be undertaken, in company with Elisha, was with this solemn event in view. Elisha presents to us, in this journey, the Church of God in its course through this world, and the individual Christian in particular. We go forward with the glorious prospect before us, not of death, but of ascending to meet the Lord in the air at His second coming. This is "the blessed hope" of the Church. What a terrible perversion of God's word to put death in the place of this, to put the meeting with "the last enemy" between. No, not death, but the coming of the Lord Jesus.
2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
If ever the Apostle had an opportunity of speaking of death and going to heaven as men say, it was here; for this epistle was specially written to comfort those who had lost their friends by death, and who were in deep sorrow about them, "I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope." Here surely was an opportunity for speaking about death, about its blessedness, and the happiness of the departed spirit in having gone to heaven!
But, there is not in the entire epistle a single word about any one of these things! It is all about the Lord's coming, about the joy of meeting their departed ones in the air in glorified bodies, about the order in which the dead and living saints should rise to meet Him at His coming! And all this he says in order to comfort the mourners, "Wherefore comfort one another with these words." Not a word about the sleeping ones having gone to heaven, about the joys of the departed or the happiness of the departed spirit. These never were intended to be the "comfort" of the sorrowing ones. They are never set before us in the Bible as such.
It is quite true that there are some three of four passages in the entire New Testament which speak of the blessedness of being with the Lord after death. But while there are three of four passages which speak of being with the Lord at death, which is "far better," there are three or four hundred passages which speak of the Lord coming to us—coming in person, coming in the clouds of heaven, coming to raise the sleeping saints and to take up the living ones to meet him in the air, coming to do all this before He reigns over the earth. Coming to do all this, not after the world has been regenerated, but when it has become worse and worse, and has never presented such picture of apostacy and rebellion in all its past history.
This is the "blessed hope." Not death, not the disembodied spirit, not going to be with the Lord—not once are these subjects ever presented as the hope of the Church. What a terrible perversion of God's word to substitute any one of these for the "blessed hope" of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ!
A regenerated world through the spread of the Gospel before the Lord comes, is the terrible nightmare that has fallen upon thousands of God's children, and is blinding their eyes to the character of the time in which they are living, lulling them into false security, and rendering them unwatchful and unready to meet the Lord who is now on the very eve of descending from heaven. Reader, take up no man's opinion on these subjects, however excellent be may be. Search your Bible, and see if these things are not so—written as with a sunbeam on nearly every page of it.
But to return to Elisha. With this glorious prospect in view they both set out. And this prospect influenced every step till the event itself tool place. So should the prospect of the translation of the Church at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ influence every step of the believer’s journey till that solemn moment arrives.
The names of the places, as well as the places themselves, through which Elisha passed in company with Elijah, strikingly shadow forth the stages of the Christian's journey on earth. The starting-point was Gilgal. If we refer to Joshua 5:9, we shall find that it was here the reproach of Egypt was rolled away from the people of God; hence the meaning of Gilgal—rolling. This is at all times the believer's true starting-point. The sin, the darkness, the guilt of an Egypt-world is left behind. The "reproach of Egypt" is rolled away. The blood of the Lamb has separated hm from it for ever. He has "passed form death unto life." He is dead and risen with Christ. Gilgal is to him what the Red Sea was to Israel. It was the separation between Egypt and the wilderness. It is behind him now, and for ever. True, the guilty city of Jericho lies before him, through which he must pass, but he is only to be there as a witness for god, not as a citizen, for he is now a citizen of no mean city even of the heavenly Jerusalem. He has set out from the spiritual Gilgal in company with one greater than Elijah, even the Lord Jesus Christ. He walks from day to day "as seeing Him who is invisible," and looks forward to the hour of transfiguration and translation at the coming of the Lord.
The next place through which the two passed was "Bethel," or the house of God. Thus it ever is with the believer. He passes in company with his Lord from Gilgal to Bethel—from the grand separation from sin and Satan and the world, into the Church of the First-Born, whose names are written in heaven. He is now one of the family. The presence of the Lord or Bethel, is his dwelling-place. He is a worshipper in God's house. He is continually laying himself out, body, soul, and spirt, as a living sacrifice. He is in the spiritual Bethel, a spiritual worshipper, a holy priest, an anointed, but as yet uncrowned king. Thus he journeys on a stranger and pilgrim here, but as a child of resurrection, waiting for the morning when the crown shall glitter on his brow.
The next place through which the two pass is Jericho. It was the guilty city—the city under the curse. Its description is given in the nineteenth verse of this chapter. To it Elisha returned after the ascension of Elijah: (see verse 18). This is the place of testimony.
How truly this is the order of the Christian life, separation from the reproach of sin, the house of God, and testimony for God, in a world under judgment. Our business from day to day as we tarry in Jericho is to witness for God. "Death" and "barren" lands (see verse 21)are the two spiritual features of the world through which we are passing. If Elisha taried in Jericho it was not to take up with its~beauties, its pleasures, its amusements. No; he was there only to show forth the power and grace of God in the removing of its death and barrenness.
And surely the business of the child of God in this world of ours while he waits fore his Lord is the same! Carry with you from day to day the living "salt" of the truth as it is in Jesus. Cast it into all the places of spiritual death and barrenness around you. With the truth in your heart, on your lips, and in your daily walk, be a healer of Jericho's death and barrenness. Live the truth, show forth the truth. Win souls to Christ, snatch the brands out of the fire. Be not taken up with the pastimes of this passing world. What have you, a child of light and of the morning, to do with the world's amusements, its love of ease, its principles and its practices? What have you to do with living for self, spending your time, or using your influence for anything but the Lord who has bought you with His blood? All these are "Jericho." Beware of the scene that surrounds you, and the influence of which is pressing upon you every moment. You have nothing whatever to do with it, but to be a witness for God against it.
There is One praying for you at this moment at the right hand of God; it is your great High Priest; What is His prayer? "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil." There is a voice speaking to you at this moment. What voice is it? The testimony of God's Word:
1 John 2:16-17 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.
Oh child. of God, watch and pray, and live only for Christ! Your place is in Jericho, but only as a witness for Him, "till He come."
One place more through which Elisha must pass with Elijah, that is Jordan. The great river of death lies between the believer and the promised land. It is the end of the journey. But, observe, they have not to do with it. It is all dry ground to them. It is something very different for which that journey was undertaken. It was not for Jordan but for the translation. Jordan, it is true, lay on the way, as death does to the Christian. It is not death that is before Elijah, but the being "caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord." Jordan was not the end of the journey to Elijah and Elisha.
From the very Frst step from Gilgal a greater, grander object was never lost sight of. It was the translation. That gave its colouring. to every step of the way. That was the crowning point. That, and nothing but that. So is it with the Christian. Not Jordan, not death, but the coming of the Lord. Not death, but "the glory which shall be revealed in us." Not death, but the Lord Himself who "shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God."
And it is very near—close at our door. A sleeping world, and still more, a sleeping Church, heed not the signs of His approach. Dreaming of a world to be converted by the preaching of the Gospel, they lie locked in slumber and all unready for His appearing. Thus it is that multitudes even of God's children are in darkness as to the character of the "present world," and the nearness of His approach. Or, looking at it as very distant, they have fallen into a state of self-satisfaction and worldly security. Or, perhaps, pleading some event which they think must of necessity occur before He comes, such as the return of the Jews, or the minifestation of the Antichrist, they have fallen into the same low state of soul. Reader, be not deceived. There is nothing that necessarily intervenes. It may come any moment. "Behold I come as a thief: blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." The return of the Jews is not you "Blessed hope," nor yet the manifestationof Antichrist. The Lord has set before you only one object—"to wait for His Son from heaven." Are you indeed waiting for Him?
But to return for a moment to this journey. It is when a Christian has these stages in his Christian course that there is real progress. Have you left Gilgal? "rolled away the reproach of Egypt?" Stand not still, sit not down in an easy arm-chair religion, satisfied that you have been delivered—"passed from death unto life." Oh listen to God's voice speaking to Elijah—"The Lord hath sent me to Bethel:"—"the Lord hath sent me to Jericho." He was not to remain at these places. If you stay at Jericho, you will soon be back at Gilgal and in Egypt again. Tarry not one moment. Onward be your course to the glory. Let the answer to every suggestion be, "The Lord hath sent me." There is no standing -ground, Christian. It is either onward to the glory or backward to Egypt.
And if indeed this be so with you, if your life is growth, if it be onward, upward, heavenward, then it will be with you as with Elisha. You will find at every stage tests of your affections. "Terry here" will be whispered to you by the world, the flesh, and the devil. Did Elijah really want to be quit of Elisha? Did he really want him to stay at these places? Not at all. But he that would start for the glory must be whole-hearted. If there is anything in Gilgal, Bethel, or Jericho that has hold of your heart, then you are not fit for Christ. If there is anything in any of these places that has a greater attraction for your soul than the One who is walking with you then stay. He will not have a divided heart. It must be all for Him or nothing. Yes, again we repeat it, all for Him or nothing.
Thus it was with Elisha. Summoning every faculty of his soul and with an energy in which the body itself doubtless took part, he replied, "As the Lord liveth and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee." To one far higher than Elijah said Peter of old, "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee." Let sorrow come, distress, suffering agony, death, "I will not leave Thee." Not Gilgal, not Bethel, not Jericho, not Jordan. Not heaven itself, with its golden streets and harps and new songs—not these, not these. "As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee."
Can we say it? Is this the deep feeling, reader, of your heart? Is Christ thus precious? Is there anything you would exchange for Him? Oh see that this is the place—the only place worthy of Him—that He holds in thy heart! This place and none other "till He come."