Will You Be Faithful Like Elijah?
“I am sending to you people Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.”—MALACHI 4:5.
1. What crisis occurs after Israel has been in the Promised Land some 500 years?
“A LAND flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:7, 8) That is what Jehovah God gave the Israelites after freeing them from Egyptian bondage in the 16th century B.C.E. But look! Five centuries have passed, and now the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel is in the grip of severe famine. It is hard to find any green grass. Animals are dying, and no rain has fallen for three and a half years. (1 Kings 18:5; Luke 4:25) What is responsible for this calamity?
2. What is the cause of Israel’s national crisis?
2 Apostasy has caused this crisis. Violating God’s Law, King Ahab has married the Canaanite princess Jezebel and has allowed her to introduce Baal worship into Israel. Worse yet, he has built a temple to this false god in Samaria, the capital city. Why, the Israelites have been seduced into believing that Baal worship will bring them abundant crops! As Jehovah has warned, however, they are now in danger of ‘perishing off their good land.’—Deuteronomy 7:3, 4; 11:16, 17; 1 Kings 16:30-33.
A Dramatic Test of Godship
3. How does the prophet Elijah focus attention on Israel’s real problem?
3 When the famine begins, God’s faithful prophet Elijah tells King Ahab: “As Jehovah the God of Israel before whom I do stand is living, there will occur during these years neither dew nor rain, except at the order of my word!” (1 Kings 17:1) After experiencing the terrible truth of this pronouncement, the king blames Elijah for bringing ostracism upon Israel. But Elijah replies that Ahab and his house are to blame because of their apostasy as Baal worshipers. To settle the issue, Jehovah’s prophet urges King Ahab to gather all Israel to Mount Carmel along with the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the sacred pole. Ahab and his subjects assemble there, perhaps hoping that the occasion will bring an end to the drought. But Elijah focuses attention on the more serious issue. “How long,” he asks, “will you be limping upon two different opinions? If Jehovah is the true God, go following him; but if Baal is, go following him.” The Israelites do not know what to say.—1 Kings 18:18-21.
4. To settle the issue of Godship, what does Elijah propose?
4 For years the Israelites have tried to mix the worship of Jehovah with Baalism. To settle the issue of Godship, Elijah now proposes a contest. He will prepare one young bull for sacrifice, and another will be prepared by the prophets of Baal. Elijah then says: “You must call upon the name of your god, and I, for my part, shall call upon the name of Jehovah; and it must occur that the true God that answers by fire is the true God.” (1 Kings 18:23, 24) Imagine fire issuing from heaven in answer to a prayer!
5. How is the uselessness of Baal worship exposed?
5 Elijah invites the Baal prophets to start. They prepare a bull for sacrifice and lay it upon the altar. Then they limp around the altar, praying: “O Baal, answer us!” This continues “from morning till noon.” “Call at the top of your voice,” Elijah taunts. Baal must be busy with an urgent matter, or “maybe he is asleep and ought to wake up!” Soon the prophets of Baal are in a frenzy. Look! They are gashing themselves with daggers, and blood is streaming from their wounds. And what a noise there is as all 450 cry out at the top of their voice! But there is no answer.—1 Kings 18:26-29.
6. What preparation does Elijah make for the test of Godship?
6 Now comes Elijah’s turn. He rebuilds the altar of Jehovah, makes a trench around it, and sets the sacrifice in order. Then he has water poured on the wood and the sacrifice. Twelve large jars of water are poured over the altar until the trench itself is filled. Imagine the suspense as Elijah prays: “O Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that you are God in Israel and I am your servant and it is by your word that I have done all these things. Answer me, O Jehovah, answer me, that this people may know that you, Jehovah, are the true God and you yourself have turned their heart back.”—1 Kings 18:30-37.
7, 8. (a) How does Jehovah answer Elijah’s prayer? (b) What is accomplished by the events on Mount Carmel?
7 In answer to Elijah’s prayer, ‘the fire of Jehovah falls from heaven and eats up his offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and licks up the water in the trench.’ The people fall upon their faces and say: “Jehovah is the true God! Jehovah is the true God!” (1 Kings 18:38, 39) Elijah now takes decisive action. He commands: “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let a single one of them escape!” After they are slaughtered in the valley of Kishon, dark clouds fill the sky. At last, a downpour brings an end to the drought!—1 Kings 18:40-45; compare Deuteronomy 13:1-5.
8 What a grand day! Jehovah is triumphant in this remarkable test of Godship. Moreover, these events turn the hearts of many Israelites back to God. In this and other ways, Elijah proves faithful as a prophet, and he personally plays a prophetic role.
“Elijah the Prophet” Yet to Come?
9. What was prophesied at Malachi 4:5, 6?
9 Later, through Malachi, God foretold: “Look! I am sending to you people Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah. And he must turn the heart of fathers back toward sons, and the heart of sons back toward fathers; in order that I may not come and actually strike the earth with a devoting of it to destruction.” (Malachi 4:5, 6) Elijah lived some 500 years before those words were uttered. Since this was a prophecy, Jews of the first century C.E. were in expectation of Elijah’s coming to fulfill it.—Matthew 17:10.
10. Who was the foretold Elijah, and how do we know?
10 Who, then, was this coming Elijah? His identity was revealed when Jesus Christ said: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of the heavens is the goal toward which men press, and those pressing forward are seizing it. For all, the Prophets and the Law, prophesied until John; and if you want to accept it, He himself is ‘Elijah who is destined to come.’” Yes, John the Baptizer was the foretold counterpart of Elijah. (Matthew 11:12-14; Mark 9:11-13) An angel had told John’s father, Zechariah, that John would have “Elijah’s spirit and power” and would “get ready for Jehovah a prepared people.” (Luke 1:17) The baptism John performed was a public symbol of an individual’s repentance over his sins against the Law, which was to lead the Jews to Christ. (Luke 3:3-6; Galatians 3:24) John’s work thus ‘got a prepared people ready for Jehovah.’
11. At Pentecost, what did Peter say about the “day of Jehovah,” and when did it occur?
11 The work of John the Baptizer as “Elijah” showed that a “day of Jehovah” was near. The nearness of that day when God would act against his enemies and preserve his people was also indicated by the apostle Peter. He pointed out that the miraculous events that took place at Pentecost of 33 C.E. were a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy about the outpouring of God’s spirit. Peter showed that this was to happen before “the great and illustrious day of Jehovah.” (Acts 2:16-21; Joel 2:28-32) It was in 70 C.E. that Jehovah fulfilled his Word by causing the Roman armies to execute divine judgment upon the nation that rejected his Son.—Daniel 9:24-27; John 19:15.
12. (a) What did Paul and Peter say about a coming “day of Jehovah”? (b) Why was something certain to occur as represented by Elijah’s work?
12 However, there was more to come after 70 C.E. The apostle Paul associated a coming “day of Jehovah” with the presence of Jesus Christ. Moreover, the apostle Peter spoke of that day in connection with the yet future “new heavens and a new earth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2; 2 Peter 3:10-13) Bear in mind that John the Baptizer did an Elijahlike work before the “day of Jehovah” came in 70 C.E. All of this taken together indicated that something further would take place as represented by the work that Elijah had done. What is that?
They Have Elijah’s Spirit
13, 14. (a) What parallel is there between the activities of Elijah and those of present-day anointed Christians? (b) What have Christendom’s apostates done?
13 Elijah’s work not only had a parallel in the activities of John the Baptizer but also has one in those of anointed Christians in this critical period leading up to the coming “day of Jehovah.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) With Elijah’s spirit and power, they are staunch advocates of true worship. And how necessary this has been! After the death of Christ’s apostles, there was an apostasy from true Christianity, even as Baal worship flourished in Israel of Elijah’s day. (2 Peter 2:1) Professed Christians began to mix Christianity with false religious doctrines and practices. For example, they adopted the pagan and unscriptural teaching that man possesses an immortal soul. (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Ezekiel 18:4) Christendom’s apostates have stopped using the name of the one true God, Jehovah. Instead, they are worshiping a Trinity. They have also adopted the Baallike practice of bowing down to images of Jesus and his mother, Mary. (Romans 1:23; 1 John 5:21) But that has not been all.
14 From the 19th century onward, leaders of Christendom’s churches began to voice doubt about many parts of the Bible. For instance, they rejected the Genesis account of creation and bowed down to the theory of evolution, labeling it “scientific.” This directly conflicted with the teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles. (Matthew 19:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 15:47) Like Jesus and his early followers, however, spirit-anointed Christians today uphold the Bible account of creation.—Genesis 1:27.
15, 16. In contrast with Christendom, who have enjoyed regular supplies of spiritual food, and by what means?
15 As the world entered “the time of the end,” a spiritual famine gripped Christendom. (Daniel 12:4; Amos 8:11, 12) But the small group of anointed Christians enjoyed regular supplies of God-given spiritual food “at the proper time,” even as Jehovah saw to it that Elijah was fed during the famine of his day. (Matthew 24:45; 1 Kings 17:6, 13-16) Once known as International Bible Students, these faithful servants of God later received the Scriptural name Jehovah’s Witnesses.—Isaiah 43:10.
16 Elijah lived up to his name, which means “My God Is Jehovah.” As the official journal of Jehovah’s earthly servants, The Watchtower has consistently used God’s name. In fact, its second issue (August 1879) expressed confidence that the magazine had Jehovah as its backer. This journal and other publications of the Watch Tower Society expose the unscriptural teachings of Christendom and the rest of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, while upholding the truthfulness of God’s Word, the Bible.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17; Revelation 18:1-5.
Faithful Under Test
17, 18. How did Jezebel react to the slaughter of the prophets of Baal, but how was Elijah helped?
17 The clergy’s reaction to exposure was similar to that of Jezebel upon learning that Elijah had killed the prophets of Baal. She sent Jehovah’s faithful prophet a message, vowing to have him killed. This was no idle threat, for Jezebel had already murdered many of God’s prophets. In fear, Elijah fled southwestward to Beer-sheba. Leaving his attendant there, he went still farther, into the wilderness, praying to die. But Jehovah had not abandoned his prophet. An angel appeared to Elijah to prepare him for the long journey to Mount Horeb. Thus he received sustenance for the 40-day journey of more than 190 miles [300 km]. At Horeb, God spoke to him after an awesome display of power in a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire. Jehovah was not in these manifestations. They were expressions of his holy spirit, or active force. Then Jehovah spoke to his prophet. Imagine how this experience strengthened Elijah. (1 Kings 19:1-12) What if we, like Elijah, become somewhat fearful when threatened by enemies of true worship? His experience should help us to realize that Jehovah does not desert his people.—1 Samuel 12:22.
18 God made it clear that Elijah still had work to do as a prophet. Moreover, though Elijah thought that he was the sole worshiper of the true God in Israel, Jehovah showed him that 7,000 had not bowed to Baal. God then sent Elijah back to his assignment. (1 Kings 19:13-18) Like Elijah, we may be hounded by enemies of true worship. We may become objects of intense persecution, as Jesus foretold. (John 15:17-20) At times, we may become apprehensive. However, we can be like Elijah, who received divine assurances and then faithfully persevered in Jehovah’s service.
19. What was experienced by anointed Christians during the World War I era?
19 Because of intense persecution during World War I, some anointed Christians succumbed to fear and stopped preaching. They erred in thinking that their work on earth had ended. But God did not reject them. Rather, he mercifully sustained them, even as he provided food for Elijah. Like Elijah, faithful anointed ones accepted divine correction and recovered from inactivity. Their eyes were opened to the grand privilege of preaching the Kingdom message.
20. Today, what privilege is granted to those who are faithful like Elijah?
20 In his prophecy about his presence, Jesus outlined the globe-encircling work that would be completed before the end of this wicked system of things. (Matthew 24:14) Today, this work is being carried on by anointed Christians and their millions of companions who look forward to life on a paradise earth. Performing the Kingdom-preaching work until it is finished is a privilege granted only to those who are faithful like Elijah.
Be Faithful Like Elijah
21, 22. (a) What work are anointed Christians spearheading today? (b) The preaching work is being accomplished with what help, and why is it needed?
21 With zeal like that of Elijah, the small remnant of genuine anointed Christians have discharged their responsibility of caring for the earthly interests of the enthroned King, Jesus Christ. (Matthew 24:47) And for over 60 years now, God has been using these anointed ones to spearhead the work of making disciples of people to whom he has given the wonderful hope of life eternal on a paradise earth. (Matthew 28:19, 20) How grateful these millions can be that the relatively few remaining anointed ones are zealously and faithfully caring for their responsibilities!
22 This Kingdom-preaching work has been accomplished by imperfect humans and only in the strength that Jehovah gives those who prayerfully rely on him. “Elijah was a man with feelings like ours,” said the disciple James when citing the prophet’s example of praying in order to show the force of a righteous man’s prayer. (James 5:16-18) Elijah was not always prophesying or performing miracles. He had the same human feelings and weaknesses that we do, but he served God faithfully. Since we too have God’s help and he strengthens us, we can be faithful like Elijah.
23. Why do we have good reason for faithfulness and optimism?
23 We have good reason for faithfulness and optimism. Remember that John the Baptizer did an Elijahlike work before the “day of Jehovah” struck in 70 C.E. With Elijah’s spirit and power, anointed Christians have done a similar God-given work throughout the earth. This clearly proves that the great “day of Jehovah” is near.
How Would You Respond?
□ How was Jehovah’s Godship proved on Mount Carmel?
□ Who was the ‘Elijah to come,’ and what did he do?
□ How have present-day anointed Christians shown that they have Elijah’s spirit?
□ Why is it possible for us to be faithful like Elijah?
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To Which Heavens Did Elijah Ascend?
IT CAME about that as [Elijah and Elisha] were walking along, speaking as they walked, why, look! a fiery war chariot and fiery horses, and they proceeded to make a separation between them both; and Elijah went ascending in the windstorm to the heavens.”—2 Kings 2:11.
What is meant by the word “heavens” in this case? The term sometimes applies to the spiritual dwelling place of God and his angelic sons. (Matthew 6:9; 18:10) “Heavens” may also denote the physical universe. (Deuteronomy 4:19) And the Bible uses this term to refer to earth’s immediate atmosphere, where birds fly and winds blow.—Psalm 78:26; Matthew 6:26.
To which of these heavens did the prophet Elijah ascend? Evidently, he was transferred through earth’s atmosphere and placed on a different part of the globe. Elijah was still on earth years later, for he wrote a letter to King Jehoram of Judah. (2 Chronicles 21:1, 12-15) That Elijah did not ascend to the spiritual abode of Jehovah God was later confirmed by Jesus Christ, who declared: “No man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man,” that is, Jesus himself. (John 3:13) The way to heavenly life was first opened up to imperfect humans after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.—John 14:2, 3; Hebrews 9:24; 10:19, 20.