Elijah was a prominent prophet of God who lived in the ninth century B.C. in the northern kingdom of Israel during the reigns of Ahab and Ahaziah. His prophetic ministry emphasized the worship of, and loyalty to God as opposed to the worship of the false god Baal (1 Kings 17 – 19; 21; 2 Kings 1, 2).
Let us consider the main episodes in Elijah’s life:
(1.) 1 Kings 17: Elijah announced to Ahab that there would be a drought in the land. The Lord then instructed him to hide himself by the brook Cherith, east of Jordan, where he was miraculously sustained. When the brook dried up, the Lord instructed him to go to Zarephath. While there he performed the miracle of raising a widow’s dead son.
(2.) 1 Kings 18: Three years later Elijah met Ahab and issued a challenge to prove which is the true God, the Lord or Baal. Elijah and 850 false prophets met on Mount Carmel. The false prophets set up their sacrifice and called upon Baal, but nothing happened. Elijah then prepared his sacrifice, soaked it with water, and when he called upon the Lord, the fire of the Lord came down and consumed the sacrifice. The false prophets were subsequently slain. The Lord then broke the drought by sending a great rain.
(3.) 1 Kings 19: Ahab’s wife Jezebel vowed to kill Elijah for slaying the false prophets, so Elijah was forced to flee for his life. He eventually reached Mount Horeb, the mountain where God established the Law Covenant with the nation of Israel. The Lord commissioned Elijah to anoint Hazael king over Syria, Jehu king over Israel and Elisha to be Elijah’s successor.
(4.) 1 Kings 21: There was a man named Naboth who owned a vineyard next to Ahab’s palace. Ahab wished to purchase his vineyard, but Naboth refused. Jezebel then had Naboth falsely accused and executed. When Ahab took possession of the vineyard, Elijah confronted him and prophesied the ruin of his house. Ahab repented and the Lord sent word through Elijah that because he had humbled himself, the ruin of his house would not come until his son ruled.
(5.) 2 Kings 1: Following Ahab’s death, his son Ahaziah became king over Israel. When Ahaziah fell and injured himself, he sent messengers to inquire of Baalzebub as to whether he would recover or die. Elijah intercepted them and sent word back to Ahaziah that he was to die. Ahaziah proceeded to send three different detachments of fifty soldiers each to arrest Elijah. The first two units were consumed by fire from heaven. The captain of the third group pleaded for his life and the lives of his soldiers, and was spared The captain then escorted Elijah to Ahab, where he personally delivered the prophecy of Ahab’s impending death.
(6.) 2 Kings 2: Elijah and Elisha crossed the Jordan River, a chariot and horses of fire parted them, Elijah was taken up by a whirlwind and was not found. However, years later a writing from Elijah came to Jehoram, king of Judah, prophesying the punishment of a great plague upon him for his sins (2 Chronicles 21: 12-15). There is no record of Elijah’s death.
The Antitype of Elijah
The last two verses of the Old Testament prove that Elijah was a typical character: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4: 5, 6).
At our Lord’s First Advent John the Baptist and his work foreshadowed the real antitypical Elijah and his work. He and his disciples attempted to reform Israel (Matthew 17: 12), but Israel rejected Jesus, and brought upon themselves a great day of vengeance (Luke 21: 22). Likewise, the real and greater Elijah has come, but failed to convert and prepare the world to receive the King of Glory. Consequently, the great day of wrath has come upon the world to prepare it for our Lord’s Millennial reign.
Thus, we see that the Christ in the flesh (our Lord and His Church) is the forerunner of the Church in glory, whose earthly mission was to reprove error and sin, and point to the coming Kingdom of glory.