Sunday, February 28, 2016

To Obey or Not to Obey. That Is the Question.

I have been very puzzled lately by the number of Christians with whom I have spoken, who say that we are not under an obligation to obey God. The reason, I am told, is because Jesus did it all and we are now under grace. The verse they quote for this attitude is Romans 6:14 "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." They then follow that up with the statement that obedience would be works, and Christians cannot work their way to heaven. I have been dumbfounded by the total lack of understanding of what obedience is. My response is always to say that while I do not think I can work my way to heaven, for the price for my sins was paid by Christ on the cross, and I have obtained justification by grace through faith, that does not give me a license to disobey God's laws and commands. The next response generally is that we do not have to worry about that for it is all good. That was the Old Testament and now we can be led by the Spirit, so I should not feel that I need to obey the commands, for we are covered by grace. The only command we have is to "love." That is the only thing we are required to do. I sometimes wonder from their actions if they know which "spirit" is leading them. I also wonder if they really understand what God's definition of sin and love are.

Where did people ever get the idea that grace eliminates the necessity to obey God? I know it has been around since the beginning, for Paul addressed this exact same problem with the early church, specifically the Romans. The only excuse I have for today's Christians to have this attitude is that they are so completely ignorant of what their Bible says, that they believe this lie.

Long before Moses came along, God issued laws for obedience. In spite of what dispensationalism teaches, that there were no laws before Moses as Israel was the "time when people were under Law,"  obedience to laws was not really some new thing with Israel. There were simply not carved in stone laws given to an entire people. Adam and Eve were told to not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Genesis 2:17 "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." They had this one rule to obey,  and they failed. People tend to think that between Adam and Moses, there were no rules to be obeyed. Those who loved God (the patriarchs) did do things in obedience to God. Abel knew that God had rules about sacrifices. Cain offered a sacrifice that was not acceptable to God and God was angry about it. God commanded that nobody kill Cain and set a punishment if they did. Noah knew there were rules.  Genesis 7:2 " Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female." As up until that point, vegetarianism was the only acceptable diet, these clean and unclean animals had to do with sacrifice. So there were laws to be obeyed about sacrifices having to do with clean and unclean animals, which were a requirement of obedience since Adam's sin. The Sabbath was set aside as holy from the first week of creation,  and people were to observe it, although God did not specify exactly what observing it meant, as far as we know. We know this because Israel was told not just to observe a Sabbath, but to remember the Sabbath. Exodus 20:8 "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." You cannot remember something that had never existed or you had never heard of  before. Abraham would have observed the Sabbath and passed that knowledge on. The Sabbath was lost due to the slavery situation in Egypt. Now Israel needed to remember it. How do we know this? We are told that Abraham knew of God's laws, statutes, and commandments (which includes the Sabbath) and obeyed them. Genesis 26:5 "Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws." This was long before the laws were given to Israel, so there were laws that God expected people to obey before the entirety of the Law was given to Moses. These laws spoken of (the moral laws or commandments) in the above verse were moral laws for all of mankind who would love God and obey Him. They had apparently been given to and passed on through the godly line of patriarchs or told by God to the people He wanted to know them, such as Job. Moses, however, was given these moral laws (the Commandments) plus the laws to rule Israel as a nation. Those latter laws were new and for Israel alone to set them apart from the rest of the world. And God expected obedience to the laws that He did give. It would seem that obedience was very important to God right from the beginning, before people were "under the Law."

Now the argument comes that this was before Christ, so obedience was expected as a part of their works to try try to what? Gain salvation? Works do not gain salvation, do they. Even sacrifices did not do anything for the Israelites when it came to salvation. In fact sacrifices never gave them salvation from Adam on. Hebrews 10:4 "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." They were a way to temporarily appease God and remind people that they had sinned against God and needed forgiveness.  It was also a way to look forward to the ultimate sacrifice which would take away their sins, the Messiah. So why on earth would obedience be necessary, if nothing they did could earn them salvation?

Herein lies the purpose of obedience. Obedience was (and is for us) the demonstration of their (and our) faith in a promise that one day God would send (has sent) a Savior, who would take (has taken) away their (our) sins. It was a mark of their righteousness that set them apart from the rest of the world. Hebrews 11:4 "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh." Hebrews 11:8 " By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went."  Abraham also obeyed when God asked him to sacrifice Isaac, trusting God would supply a ram, or resurrect Isaac, because He had promised that a great nation of people would come through Isaac for Abraham. God knew that Abraham now feared Him because he obeyed even to the point of being willing to sacrifice his son. Obedience was the key that demonstrated his faith.

Job lived around the time of Abraham, and had nothing to do with Israel, but he also knew about obeying God. He was considered a righteous man above all others by God, because He did obey God. Job 1:8 "And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?"  In this book we learn that there is incentive for obedience, not for salvation, but for God's approval. Job 26:5-12 " Behold, God is mighty, and despiseth not any: he is mighty in strength and wisdom. He preserveth not the life of the wicked: but giveth right to the poor. He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous: but with kings are they on the throne; yea, he doth establish them for ever, and they are exalted. And if they be bound in fetters, and be holden in cords of affliction; Then he sheweth them their work, and their transgressions that they have exceeded.  He openeth also their ear to discipline, and commandeth that they return from iniquity.  If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.  But if they obey not, they shall perish by the sword, and they shall die without knowledge." Obedience brought blessing. Disobedience brought death.

Israel was told to obey God, not for the purpose of earning their salvation, but for another reason. Exodus 19:5 "Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine."  Obedience to God's rules and commandments always set people apart as a peculiar people of God, for the rest of the world ignored (and still does ignore) God's laws. This was not just Israel, but all of the patriarchs before and after the Flood. They were all a people known by God. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Why? Because he was a righteous man who obeyed God.

Getting back to Israel, obeying also brought some benefits. Exodus 23:20-22 "Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries." While obedience brought benefits, disobedience again brought some very harsh consequences. Deuteronomy 11:26-28 "Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known."  It would again seem that God considers obedience to His laws and rules a very serious business.

Isaiah 50:10 is talking about the servant of God, or Christ. Here is what it says, "Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God."  This is speaking of obeying the voice of Christ. That is speaking to Christians, not Old Testament saints.We are expected to obey Christ, and He too told us this. John 14:15 " If ye love me, keep my commandments." When Christ says "keep," He means to obey. Obeying Him is a sign that we love Him, that we are a peculiar people set apart for God. John 14:23-24 "Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me." Obeying allows Christ and the Father to make their abode or home with us. If we do not obey, then Christ says we do not love Him. There is another who makes His home with us when we obey. Acts 5:32 " And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him."  

 As for the question of whether or not obedience plays any part in our salvation, we are told this. Hebrews 5:9 "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him."  Christ is the author of salvation to those who obey Him. In James we are told that faith without works is dead. James 2:14-26 " What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?  If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,  And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?  Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?  Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?  And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.  Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.  Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?  For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." Obedience to God's commands is a work, but without the evidence of those works, our faith is nonexistent. Abraham was obedient and his faith was justified by that work of obedience. We are told that we have to conform to the image of Christ, and He was obedient even to the cross. If He obeyed His Father, should we not also? Acts 5:29 " Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men."

The  argument comes that "love" is all you need. I have already written on that argument, so I will not repeat it here. It can be found at this address

What I would like to study now is the passage in Romans where Paul talks about grace. 

Romans 6:1-2 "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" 
Just before Paul said this, he had been telling the Romans that sin and death came by one man, Adam, and that through the righteousness of one man, Jesus, justification came by grace for all unto life. By one man's disobedience all were made sinners, but by one man's obedience, many were made righteous. Where sin abounds, grace abounds more. In other words, the worse the sin, the greater the grace has to be to cover it in righteousness. Then Paul followed that up with the above passage. Are we to show how much grace can cover by sinning all the more? In other words, having the attitude that I described above where people are not concerned about obedience, because they are covered by grace. Paul's response to that is an emphatic, "God forbid!"  Of course we should not use grace as an excuse for disobedience. If we are dead to sin through Jesus' death, then how can we let sin continue to reign in our lives?

Paul continues with that subject. Verses 12-14 "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace." Paul again tells us to not let sin reign in our lives and obey its lusts. We are to yield ourselves in obedience to God's laws, for we have  been set free from the bondage of sin through Jesus. We are no longer under the dominion of sin to obey the lusts of the flesh, but have the freedom and power to obey the laws of righteousness. We have been freed to obey the laws, not ignore them. In our sinful state, we can't obey the moral laws of God, but now we have been set free to obey. 

Now understanding that we are not under the dominion and condemnation of the law of sin unto death because we have been freed by grace, we can look at the statement Paul made in verse 15. "What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid." Again Paul asks should we sin because we are not under the condemnation of the law, but have been freed by grace? Again the answer is "God forbid!"  The Law was not given as a means of salvation, it was given to show us our sin, for the Ten Commandments are God's moral laws which are the moral standards which we should now be able to achieve through Christ Jesus, because He has freed us from the dominion sin has had over us that has prevented us from being able to obey God's moral laws.

Again Paul uses the word "obey" when speaking of sin and righteousness. Verses 16-19 "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?  But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.  Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.  I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness."   The purpose of obedience to God's righteous commands is to yield ourselves to holiness. He wants His children to live holy lives, for God cannot have communion with unholiness. When we have sin in our lives, it disrupts our communion and fellowship with God. It also hinders our prayers.The way to avoid that is to obey God's commands.

 So we have seen that we need to obey, so that we yield our lives to righteousness and are holy. Doing so allows us to have unhindered prayers and communion with God. It also allows God to give us blessings instead of punishments. And it testifies to the world that we are a marked and peculiar people set apart as holy or sanctified unto God. Love, in some generalized vague sense is not the command God gave us. He has a particular definition for love and He gave us the Ten Commandments to show us how to love Him and love our neighbor. This is why we should obey them. Nor is love (using God's definition of love) the only command He gave. He also gave us many other directives which He expects us to obey. If we truly want a good relationship with God and make our salvation secure, we need to obey Him, and to do that we need to obey the command found in 2 Timothy 2:15 "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

Saturday, February 27, 2016

How the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls of Revelation relate to the Exodus

Due to my answering a comment on another article, I was led to go back and review some of my articles and started reading some of the comments again. I came across a comment that I did not pick up on to pursue with further study at the time it was posted, but decided to take a look at the idea now. The comment was made by a reader that the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls of Revelation relate to the Exodus of Israel.  In thinking about this, I believe that person was on to something. There is a correlation, but that should not surprise anyone. God has this distinct habit of using scenarios multiple times. I think perhaps it is because He knows we are thick-headed and need repetition to drive home certain truths.

The idea was put forth that the Seals represent the time of slavery in Egypt, the trumpets represent the plagues, and the bowls represent the Red Sea incident causing the demise of Pharaoh and his army. After considering this for a while, I would tend to agree.

If we look at the seals we see 1) a figure who conquers (assumed to be the antichrist spirit if not the antichrist himself). 2) war 3) famine 4) death 5) persecution and martyrdom 6) signs of impending salvation for God's people and God's wrath on those who persecute God's people.  These seals relate to the conditions Israel endured during that time in Egypt. During the time of slavery, Israel was under the rule of despotic pharaohs. (Seal 1) The life that Israel would have had under them would have  been a time with no peace for Israel, as when one is a slave, there is no such thing as a peaceful existence. (Seal 2) The reason Israel came down to Egypt in the first place was because of a famine. (Seal 3) There was a lot of death during this time, including the death of infants due to infanticide when Moses was born, as well as the deaths from mistreatment, starvation, persecution, illness, etc. due to the conditions under which they were forced to live, which were increased in intensity just before they were freed. (Seal 4 and 5). When Moses came back, he was the sign that God was about to do what they had been praying for for a few hundred years. They were about to be released from slavery. This was the sign that their redemption was drawing nigh and that God's vengeance was coming. (Seal 6).

From there we move into the time in which Moses attempted to get Pharaoh to free the slaves. This was the time of plagues. The Trumpet judgments relate to these plagues. Some of them even being similar in nature. The first plague was water turned to blood. We see this in the second and third trumpet judgments, where the oceans and fresh waters are turned to blood. There was darkness, which relates to the fourth trumpet, and locusts, which relates to the fifth trumpet (although they are different kinds of locusts), and there is death, which relates to the sixth trumpet. Granted there is not ten plagues in Revelation, and they are not exactly the same, but there is a similarity in the concept.

Now here is where I finally have an answer that really helps to explain why God's wrath does not begin with the trumpets. This was always a sort of question for me as to why God ends the tribulation, but keeps Christians around during the trumpets. I saw no reason for God's wrath not to begin there, but Scripture convinced me that it didn't, so I accepted that while the trumpets were not part of the tribulation, they were also not part of God's wrath. They stood out as a slight anomaly in my mind, for which I had no real explanation. I now have one, for as pointed out by the reader who made the comment, Israel was not removed during these plagues, they were still in Egypt, but they didn't suffer all of the plagues. While they did not seem to be exempt from the first three, God severed or put a line between Egypt and Goshen for the other seven. For the rest of the plagues, they just stood by and watched, although the last plague of death of the firstborn did require that they do something to protect themselves. For them it was the blood on the doorposts. For us and the 144,000, we have to have the seal of God (a mark put on us through Jesus Christ) on our foreheads.

The first few trumpet judgments are natural disasters, so nobody seems to be exempt from them. However, the 144,000 are sealed before these trumpet judgments and God's people are sealed with His mark also and we are told that the locusts of the fifth judgment (at least) are not to hurt those with the mark. So these 144,000 of Israel (and Christians) will be protected from at least some of these plagues. Whether this protection carries over to the sixth trumpet judgment or not, is not stated, but I am leaning toward the idea that it would, due to what seems to be the purpose of these trumpets. The purpose (and here is the answer I was seeking) of the plagues and the trumpets were that they were a time when God was giving people time to repent before He did pour out His wrath. When God removes the Church, there is no more time for repentance. His wrath will simply begin. The great tribulation is a time of persecution to refine the Church of her apostasy. The rest of the world will not be suffering the fate of Christians, for most will receive the mark, which means their life will be just fine, and those who do not receive it, who are not Christians, will fall into one of two categories. Either they will be children of Israel who God protects (in the wilderness) during this time, or they will be the few people who have refused the mark, but who are not Christians.

It is these people who will now be given a period of time to suffer and make the decision to repent or not. Now what must be pointed out here is that repentance does not necessarily mean that they will believe in Christ. The children of Israel (I say that instead of saying Jews,  because all twelve tribes fall into this group) will turn to God in repentance, but they will still not accept Jesus as the Messiah until they actually see Him return, at which point it will be too late to be a part of His Bride, but they will be able to go into the millennium via the sheep and goat judgment. The same will be true of the people who survive out of the other nations. They will refuse to bow the knee to antichrist, and they may believe in God and cry out to Him, but they still will not accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. This is verified by several Scriptures. For the children of Israel we find in Zechariah 12:9-10 that they only accept Jesus when He appears. "And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." Revelation 1:7 " Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen."  

The verse just quoted in Revelation says that at Christ's coming, those who pierced Him (Israel) will wail or mourn when they see him, as it also says in Zechariah, and finally accept their Savior,  but note that it first says that every eye will see him and everyone will wail. That includes the Gentiles who have not taken the mark. We find Zechariah also mentions these Gentiles in the millennium. Zechariah 14:16 " And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles." Further we see in Matthew that they are not let into the millennium  because they have accepted Christ, but because they helped the persecuted Christians.  Matthew 25:31-40 "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:  And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  Satan will be less concerned about killing people who are not claiming to know Christ during the tribulation, because in his pride and arrogance, he will believe these people are his in spite of them not taking the mark, because they have also not received Christ.

Scripture bears out that repentance is the purpose for in Revelation 9:20-21 we are told "And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts" This is at the end of the trumpet judgments, just before God's wrath begins. There is no chance for repentance from this point on. The die is cast, the fates are sealed. You are now either a sheep or a goat.

Another similarity is the wilderness experience. While Israel spent 40 months in the wilderness, waiting to come to the promised land, during Daniel's 70th week, Israel, or the woman of Revelation 12 is sent into the wilderness for a time, times, and half a time, or three and a half years or forty-two months. Both are a time when God deals with Israel to teach Him about Himself.   Hosea 2:14-20, 23 speaks of this wilderness time during Daniel's 70th week. "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt.  And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali.  For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name.  And in that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground: and I will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely.  And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.  I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD..... And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God."

So it would seem that the story of the Exodus has provided the explanation as to why the Church remains during the trumpet judgments.and why there are events between the end of the tribulation and the commencement of God's wrath. It is the time for allowing the rest of the world to repent before their fates are sealed. This is what the Time of Awe between Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur is also about. The Ten Days of Awe are a time of repentance to either get your name in the Book of Life or to be sealed for judgment. Notice the ten days and the ten plagues of Egypt. This time around there are only the six trumpet judgments before God's wrath comes. I will not speculate as to why God arranged it thus, it simply is. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Did Elijah Go to Heaven, Die, or Just Relocate?

I have recently discovered something about Elijah the prophet which I have never heard preached in any church that I have attended, nor any prophecy teacher mention, although I have recently found out that I am not the first person to have caught this.  Before I say what this piece of information is, I would like to lay down a foundation so that when I finally reach my conclusion, you the reader may see how I came to that conclusion.

Before we can look at the incident of Elijah disappearing, we must first take a quick look at his history. It appeared that Elijah had a habit of suddenly disappearing on people. 1 Kings 18:10 As the LORD thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not.” People were always hunting Elijah, and when they found out where he was, they would go after him, but he was always gone no matter how quickly they got there. This seemed to have been a pattern of his life, from the comment Obadiah made. In this passage Obadiah was very concerned that while he went to speak to Ahab, Elijah would be whisked of to who knows where, per his usual manner, and not be found and Obadiah would be killed as a result. “And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me:” It was known that the Spirit of the Lord was transporting Elijah around to various places. Now it makes much more sense of what was to follow when Elijah would be taken away one final time.

1 Kings 2:1-11
"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. And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven."

Now God (or Elijah) had apparently told the other prophets that Elijah would be taken from them, for the sons of the prophets (there seem to be a lot of sons from a lot of prophets - whether God's prophets or prophets not of God, I know not) were all showing up to tell Elisha that Elijah was going to be taken from him. His response was always, "Yes, I know. Just be quiet." So Elisha also knew in advance. Whether God told him directly or Elijah told him, we don't know anymore than how the other prophets and their sons found out. The fact remains that everybody seemed to know that Elijah was going to be taken away by God. But, what exactly did the prophets understand was meant by Elijah being "taken away?" Apparently they expected him to be taken to some other location, as had happened before, even though he was taken by a whirlwind into "heaven." We read the following account.

1 Kings 2:15-18
"And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him. And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master: lest peradventure the Spirit of the LORD hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said, Ye shall not send.
And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, Send. They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not. And when they came again to him, (for he tarried at Jericho,) he said unto them, Did I not say unto you, Go not?"

They saw Elijah carried off in the first heaven, the sky, expecting him to be transported to another location as had apparently happened before, when the Spirit took him. There are three heavens in Scripture, and they are distinguished by the context of the passage. The first heaven is the atmosphere and sky. The second heaven is outer space, and the third heaven is God's abode. We know this because Paul spoke of the third heaven as God's abode (paradise). 2 Corinthians 12:2
I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.” If there is a third heaven, then there must also be a first and second heaven. In Geneses 1:14 we hear of the heaven of outer space where the sun, moon, and stars are. “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:” This is the second heaven. The first heaven is naturally the one closest to us, the atmosphere above us. Genesis 1:20 “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.” They were under the impression (from previous scenarios) that Elijah had been transported to another location, but were apparently fearful that somehow he had been dropped along the way before he got to his destination, which was sort of silly. Hence the desire for a search to be conducted. Now Elisha understood that Elijah would not be found his time, for the mantle of prophet had been passed to him. Elijah was being retired and his continued presence in the land would undermine Elisha's position. He knew that God would remove Elijah far enough away that his position would not be questioned. Now while some might say that this (God transporting him to a distant location) is not what is meant, it is not the only time in Scripture that God whisked someone off in the air to transport them to another place. Ezekiel was transported this way, as was Philip.

Ez. 3:12-15
"Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the LORD from his place. I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a noise of a great rushing. So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me. Then I came to them of the captivity at Tel-abib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days."

Acts 8:39-40
"And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea."

In both cases, the spirit lifted them up into the first heaven and took them away. He didn't take them away from earth, though. He simply transported them to a different location very quickly via air travel, as He had done to Elijah, per Obadiah's statement.

So now there is a question as to which heaven is really meant. Could Elijah go to heaven, the place of God's abode? Was that possible? Well, there was no way he could go to God's heaven in human mortal form, for no man has looked upon the face of God and lived. Ex. 33:20
"And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live." John 3:13 "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." So we know that Elijah could not live and go to heaven.

The next question becomes, could Elijah die and go to heaven? Before Christ ascended, those who died in the Lord went to Paradise. Paradise is a different location from heaven. Again, Christ tells us in John 3:13
"And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." Up until Christ ascended, He tells us that no man has ascended to heaven. If we say that someone has, then we make Christ a liar. As to Paradise vs. Heaven, the Scripture tells us the difference.

In the Scriptures we see the word "hell" used, but in fact the words "Sheol" (Hebrew) and "Hades" (Greek) which are translated as "hell" are both merely the world of the dead, both the righteous and unrighteous. The place of the dead is divided into two compartments. The place of the righteous dead is called "Paradise," and the place of the unrighteousness is called by several names, "abyss," "gehenna," and most commonly, "hell." That this is indeed the case is shown by the parable that Jesus tells about Lazarus. While it is a parable, Christ is not making up the locations. The story is not based in lies, but in truth.

Luke 16:19-31
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."

Hades (or Sheol) is a place of two compartments. Between these compartments is a great gulf which keeps them separate and allows at least hell to see into Paradise (although due to the fires, it is doubtful that Paradise can see into the torment of hell. It wouldn't be much of a paradise to see others suffering.)

Christ did not go to heaven when He died. He went to Paradise. Luke 23:43
"And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."

We are told in Psalm 16:10
"For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (sheol - the paradise section) neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." and in Acts 2:27 "Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (Hades - the paradise section) neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." The verse in Acts is a quoting of the verse in Psalms which shows that Sheol and Hades are the same place, and neither of them is heaven, but in this case the compartment referred to is paradise, as it is where Christ is said to go.

Why did Christ go to Paradise instead of heaven? Because all of the Old Testament saints had gone there when they died. Until Christ died on the cross, people's sins had not truly been covered, for we are told in Hebrew 10:4
"For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." Therefore they could not enter into the presence of God until their sins were wiped clean. Only Christ's death could do that. Paradise was a lovely holding place until Christ died for their sins and they could go to heaven. They had to wait to receive the promise. Hebrews 11:13 "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." Once Christ died, he descended (Yes, paradise and hell are in the bowels of the earth) into Paradise in Hades, then when He ascended, He took those souls who were captives in Paradise with Him to heaven. Ephesians 4:8-10 "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)" Psalm 68:18 "Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them." As further confirmation that He did not go to heaven, Christ told Mary not to touch Him for He had not yet ascended to heaven. John 20:17 "Jesus saith unto her, touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God." Paradise is now empty. Now when believers die, they go directly to heaven. 2 Corinthians 5:8 "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."

So now we have shown through Scripture that Elijah, dead or alive, could not possibly have been in heaven before Christ ascended, so when it says that "when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind" it could not possibly mean the third heaven of God's abode. The only two heavens left are the second (outer space) and our atmosphere or the sky here on earth. As it is improbable that God would put Elijah on another planet, he was either transported to another location on earth, or was transported to Paradise by death. Those are the only two options.

Now that we have established that, we need to determine did Elijah die and go to Paradise, or did he get relocated and live out his life and die years later? Before we can determine that, we need to lay down some facts that may initially seem irrelevant, but are very much not.

The kings of Israel and Judah are a little hard to follow, because it was the custom of the time to have reigns overlap. David was anointed king long before Saul died. Kings were kings for life, however to make sure that the person of choice was in line for the throne (there was a lot of fighting and murder over these thrones) the heir to the throne was chosen and anointed and began to reign alongside the current king (usually his father) while the king was still reigning. This created an overlap in reigns and served an important purpose. Death could come suddenly through illness, murder, or on the battlefield, or the king could become incompetent to reign due to age or illness, and it was crucial that someone be in place to continue things smoothly. In one case, Israel lost their king before another had been put in place. As a result there was a division among the people and for a number of years there were two candidates for the kingship, but no definitive king. Finally one was able to overcome the other and became king.  Now that this practice is understood, I would like to lay out a timeline of the kings before and after Elijah. Below there are several kings with the same name.  The kings' names will be abbreviated as per the key, and in bold print. It is a little confusing, as I have had to abbreviate to make the chart fit, so you will need to refer to the key. As is seen, there are overlaps in both nations.  Just to help, Israel's kings are Ahab, Ahaziah, and Jehoram (or for ease of distinguishing, because these two names are interchangeable in Scripture, we will call him Joram). Judah's kings are Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, (a different Jehoram) and Ahaziah (a different Ahaziah). I have also put the verses that show us this timeline.


Israel's Kings
AH = Ahab, reigned 22 years then died.
AZ = Ahaziah, reigned 2 years then died.
JR = Joram, reigned 12 years then died.

Judah's Kings
JP = Jehoshaphat, reigned 25 years then died.
JH = Jehoram, reigned 8 years then died
AZH = Ahaziah, reigned 1 year then died.

EL = Elijah. He is put in approximately when he was taken.

The number in parenthesis is the number of the year of the king's reign. e.g. (4) = 4th year of his reign. When there is a number beneath the name, it is a continuation of specifying the year of his reign. When a king overlaps another king, their name starts in the year of the reign of their predecessor.

Israel                                                                      Judah

AH (4)                                                                    JP (1) 1 Ki 22:41
     (20)  AZ (1)  1 Ki 22:51                                           (17)   
     (21)       (2)            JR (1) 2 Ki 3:1                           (18)   EL taken 2 Ki 2
                                       (5)                                      (22)    JH (1) 2 Ki 8:16-17
                                       (8)                                      (25)         (4) 1 Ki 22:42
                                       (12)  1 Ki 8:25               AZH (1)          (8)                                                 

The reason for laying this out is to be able to show where Elijah transferred the mantle of prophet to Elisha. In 2 Kings Chapter 2 we learn the story of Elijah between the death of Ahaziah of Israel in 2 Kings 1:18 and the beginning of the reign of Joram in 2 Kings 3:1. With this timeline we see that Jehoram of Judah began his reign five years after Elijah passed the mantle in the fifth year of Joram's reign. This is further confirmed by 2 Kings 3:11 when Joram goes to see Jehoshaphat and Jehoshaphat calls for a prophet. Elisha is the prophet that is now called in, as Elijah is no longer the prophet.

Here is where things get interesting. At some point after Jehoram of Judah begins his reign (probably several years after), but before the seventh year of his reign, he receives a letter from Elijah. 2 Chronicles 21:12-15, 18-20 "And there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of David thy father, Because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah, But hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like to the whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and also hast slain thy brethren of thy father's house, which were better than thyself: Behold, with a great plague will the LORD smite thy people, and thy children, and thy wives, and all thy goods: And thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day................And after all this the LORD smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease. And it came to pass, that in process of time, after the end of two years, his bowels fell out by reason of his sickness: so he died of sore diseases. And his people made no burning for him, like the burning of his fathers. Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and departed without being desired. Howbeit they buried him in the city of David, but not in the sepulchres of the kings."

According to this passage, Elijah is warning Jehoram that because he has gone a whoring like Israel, he will be smitten with a great disease of the bowels and die. This occurred two years before his death, which means that this letter came some time after year one (Jehoram needed the time to commit all these whorings) and before year seven of Jehoram's reign, as he reigned eight years and was ill for two of them. It most likely came several years after he began his reign, but if we start at year two of Jehoram's reign to the last year it could come, this letter would have come between six and ten years after Elijah left. This would seem to indicate that Elijah was still very much alive on planet earth.

Now some say that Elijah wrote this letter before he left and gave it into Elisha's hand to give it to Jehoram at the proper time. But nowhere in Scripture does it say that. It would seem that Elisha would have been mentioned as bringing it. Nor does it say that he gave it to a servant to deliver. It seems to me that God would have put that in to clarify that Elijah was actually gone and this was written long before the time it was received. It says that it comes from Elijah, not via someone else. The way the letter is constructed, it talks about Jehoram's whorings in the past tense, but his judgment as a future tense. It would seem if this was written a decade earlier, the grammar construction would have been more of a future past tense such as "when thou wilt have done thus and so," which is more of a prediction of a probability, or "thou shalt," which is a certainty, but still a future tense from Elijah's standpoint, not "thou hast," which is an accusation of an accomplished fact in the past.

There is one more thing that points to Elijah having lived out his live and dying. In Hebrews, the faith chapter, we are told about those prophets and great people of faith. Hebrews 11:13 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Hebrews 11:32, 38b “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: …...they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Hebrews 11:39-40 “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” Elijah was known for having hidden in the mountains and caves, so these verses point to him as one of these people. It is speaking of all of the prophets and people of faith. All of the people listed in this chapter are said to have died in faith without receiving the promise. They could not receive the promise of eternal life in the resurrection as of yet. (Titus 1:2In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”) They could not receive the promise before we did (that they without us should not be made perfect”) . Everybody gets eternal life (resurrected body) and the rest of the promises at the same time, including Elijah.

Given all of this information (the choice that Elijah could only have been relocated or died instantly upon being taken so that he could be transported to Paradise), it would seem that he was relocated to another place that was far enough away to not interfere with Elisha's ministry as prophet, but close enough that he knew what was going on and could write to the king warning him of the judgment God was going to inflict upon him. Just as all people eventually die, so would it seem did Elijah in his time. Now does this have any effect upon the theory that he is one of the two witnesses in Revelation? I do not have that answer. Moses died, yet many say he is one of the witnesses. The fact that Scripture says that man is appointed once to die and then judgment would seem to eliminate both, however we know that Christ (and His disciples) raised people from the dead, so they died twice. How can that verse and these circumstances be reconciled? I also have no answer for that. Personally I am beginning to think that the two witnesses will be two new people, but I guess nobody will know for certain until they come, as Scripture simply does not tell us enough to be able to know for certain. 

Now the question becomes - what about Enoch? That is fodder for another article.