Dr. Richard S. Hess

Old Testament Questions from the desk of Dr. Richard S. Hess

What Old Testament Prophet Can Help Us Understand Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven and His Giving of the Spirit at Pentecost Ten Days Later?

There is a direct connection between the prophet Elijah’s Ascent to Heaven in the Old Testament and Jesus’ Ascent to Heaven in the New Testament.  1 Kings 19:2; 2 Kings 2:9-14; Acts 1:2-11.

With the help of God, Elijah has a great victory against the prophets of Baal (1 Kgs 18).   The miracle brings water and life, and relieves the drought and death.  When Queen Jezebel learns of this, she sends a message to Elijah (1 Kgs 19:2) that he will certainly die by her powerful hand. Elijah becomes discouraged but he escapes and is encouraged by God at Mount Horeb (1 Kgs 19). The LORD proceeds to reverse the roles. Despite the political powerlessness of the prophet, Elijah ends his earthly life by ascending to heaven with a chariot of fire (2 Kgs 2:11-12). Far from dying, he becomes virtually the only person ever to ascend to heaven without death. There is no indication of conviction or remorse from Jezebel. In the final scenes of her life in 2 Kings 9:30-37, Jezebel confirms that she will oppose any representative of the LORD. The murder she planned for Elijah comes down upon her own head. In a divinely orchestrated turn of events, the most zealous follower of the LORD, Jehu, oversees her brutal death. As Elijah ascended into heavenly bliss, Jezebel descends from her window into a violent death upon the dirt (2 Kgs 9:33). Dogs consume her body and deposit her remains unburied as dung in the open fields. The themes of exaltation and humiliation, of life and death, are thoroughly reversed in a dramatic manner. The prophet is seen as stronger than the strongest of kings and queens in the most powerful Northern Kingdom of Israel.  God gives him life over death in a spectacular ascent to heaven. However, the doomed house of Ahab, represented here by Queen Jezebel, has not enough power to preserve its leader alive, let alone others, nor enough to provide a decent burial for her.  Elijah’s disciple Elisha receives Elijah’s cloak and a double portion of his spirit.  This Spirit of God parts the Jordan River and begins Elisha’s life-giving ministry.

Elijah’s Ascent to Heaven Shows the Importance of Jesus’Ascension to Heaven (Acts 1:2-11):

1. Satan brings down Jesus with suffering and death like Jezebel discouraged Elijah with the threat of death.  

2. Jesus rises from the dead with God’s help, as God revived Elijah with food, water, and mission at Mt. Horeb.

3. His disciples ask for Jesus to restore the kingdom, as the disciple Elisha asked Elijah for a double portion of his spirit. Both indicate that God will decide when and if this happens.

4. Jesus’ Ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven resembles Elijah’s Ascension – It is unexpected and accompanied by heavenly chariots of fire & angels.

5. Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit as a result of the Ascension (Acts 2:33), just as Elijah’s cloak falls upon Elisha, and a double portion of his Spirit . 

6. God will finally defeat Jesus’ enemy Satan, who killed Jesus, and toss Satan into hell, the second death, forever (Rev. 20:9-10); just as the eunuchs tossed Jezebel to her death (2 Kgs. 9:30-37).

7. Like God’s gift of a double spirit for Elisha at Elijah’s ascent, Jesus’ Ascension and gift of the Holy Spirit inaugurates the miracles of Pentecost and the power of salvation through the Church (Acts 2).

Jesus’ Ascension Begins the Gift of Life and the Eternal Destruction of the One Who Brings Death!

For more on this, see:  What Purpose do Elijah and Elisha Serve in the Books of 1 and 2 Kings?

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