“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6).
The final text of the Old Testament reflects what was foremost in the mind of God concerning the remainder of salvation history. Immediately before the End of the world, Elijah will appear to avert the “utter destruction” of humanity. The Elijah task of restoring families sums up the gospel of salvation and is the (largely unheralded) summit of all prophetic ministries.
It is increasingly popular in our times to talk about apostolic fathers, spiritual fathering, “passing on the baton” and the like. Generally however such emphases scantily reflect “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) revealed in scripture. This teaching is an attempt to remedy this lack. It is not an academic treatise but arises out of a deep concern to prophetically interpret what I see happening around me and work to ensure that God’s purposes reach maturity and stability. The implications of my observations for ongoing church life and its revival are, I believe, foundational.
I am seeing increasing numbers of young people passionate for the things of God and longing for mature mentors to help accelerate their spiritual growth. The live question is, where can these mature spiritual fathers and mothers be found? Do we have sufficient mature believers in the church to impart God-taught lessons to younger Christians thereby saving them years of frustration, confusion and unnecessary struggle? To help raise up such godly disciple-makers is the purpose of this article.
Lessons from History
I was converted in 1972, in the midst of what was known then as The Jesus Movement. Beginning amongst hippie types in California, this move of God swept the Western world capturing the hearts of thousands of young people. I remember with fondness the youth meetings in The Jesus House, the Jesus badge I wore regularly to university, the “One Way” sign, mass youth rallies, passionate evangelistic events and so on. Whilst too young and unchurched at the time to realise it, the Movement never reached maturity. We were passionately keen about Jesus and full of the Holy Spirit, but the Father always seemed somehow further removed. The truth is that most of the church leadership of the time lacked the grace of fatherhood to take us deeper into God.
The Charismatic Movement, Word of Faith, Toronto Blessing, Pensacola Awakening and Lakelands revivals likewise have come and gone as vehicles of dynamic change, in my opinion for precisely the same reasons. All of these movements have been self- identified by elements of Christian experience that are not central to the plan of God: – spiritual gifts, prosperity, laughter, repentance and physical healing are not the goal of the gospel. Because these movements have not been immersed “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17) they have been unable to bring the church to “the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood” (Eph 4:13). Each of these moves became focussed on a range of phenomena that accompany or bear witness to the unique glory of divine sonship in a secondary manner. Unless the depth of the Elijah task of restoration is taught and transmitted, the pattern of short lived outbreaks of spiritual fervour that collapse without achieving fullness will continue to plague the Western church.
The significance of Elijah lies in the story of his ascension into heaven summarised in 2 Kings 2:9-12, “9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” 10 And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.” 11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more.” (2 Ki 2:9-12).
The essence of this story is the son’s inheritance of the father’s blessing, for Elisha’s request for “a double portion” reflects the law in Israel that the first male child was granted twice as much property as other sons. The granting of the request hinges on the successful intercession of the older prophet (vv.9-10); only if God is pleased with the request will the spirit within him pass all his divine grace over to his successor. That paternity is actually transferred from Elijah to Elisha is confirmed by the highly unusual utterance, “My father, my father!” of the young prophet as his sees his mentor rise in glory to heaven. The supernatural phenomena surrounding this scene – wind, fire, chariots, are not ends in themselves, but point to the truth that the glory of a father is to pass all he has over to his son.
Elisha has received such an inner participation in the ministry of Elijah that he now shares what it meant for the old prophet to be the father of the nation of Israel. The spirit of the father now fully indwells the son. United to the fathering spirit of his progenitor, it will soon be apparent from his miraculous ministry that he himself has become a father to God’s people. That this succession of fathering is the height of Old Testament prophetic maturity is reflected in the fact that Elijah is the most referred to prophet in the New Testament.
Elijah is the Forerunner to Jesus
The angel Gabriel prophesied to Zechariah concerning his son John, “he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”” (Luke 1:15-17). Jesus identified the appearance of John the Baptist with the return of Elijah, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.”” (Matt 17:12-13). If John’s ministry is that of the latter day Elijah, how did he “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children” and “restore all things”. The answer lies in his prophetic ministry to Jesus.
John saw beyond the earthly mission of Jesus to the climax of his Messianic ministry and prophesied, ““I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Luke 3:16). Hearing these inspired words, Christ’s heart was stirred to move forward on the journey to death and glorification. Jesus greatest passion was what baptism in the Spirit signifies, that the heart of God as Father has been fully reconciled to his lost sons.
John’s direct ministry to Jesus has great power.“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”” (Matt 3:13-17).
In the biblical order, the highest righteousness is for a son to obey his father; this is what Jesus must do. The amazing thing is that Jesus submits redemptively to his Father for us in baptism on the basis of hearing the Word of God through John. This is the summit of the whole old covenant prophetic tradition, because the messianic anointing Jesus receives at his immersion sums up the theme of the turning of hearts to fathers to sons and sons to fathers which is the essence of the Elijah task.
The descending Spirit of Sonship and the exultant voice of the heavenly Father rejoicing in the beloved Son radiate an atmosphere of glory. That is, the glory of a Son fully obedient to the Father. However we describe the baptism of Jesus – his coronation as the Christ, his baptism in the Holy Spirit, his empowerment to bring in the kingdom of God, the central issue is that the supernatural manifestations (e.g. the form of a dove) are not ends in themselves but testimonies to restored sonship. At Jesus baptism, the heart of the Father is turned to the Son and the Son to the Father without the impediment of indwelling sin. This is a turning of God to man and man to God on our behalf. The witness of Elijah is however not yet over.
Elijah and the Witness of Glory
“Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.” (Luke 9:28-36)
The transfiguration recapitulates many of the features of Jesus baptism, the Lamb of God (John 1:29) is on the move to his place of sacrifice in Jerusalem, glory fills the atmosphere and the Father speaks directly from heaven. It needs to be emphasised again that the visibly spectacular nature of the scene is an outward testimony to the Father-Son relationship. It is solely because Jesus will reunite the lost sons of humanity to God as Father through his death and exaltation that glory covers the mountain.
Elijah has a special place in this scene witnesses as one who has already ascended to heaven and passed on the mantle of divine favour. The exalted prophet knows that like himself Jesus must complete an exodus from earth to heaven in order to fulfil his vocation in being the way to the Father (John 14:6). There is symmetry between the “double portion” imparted by Elijah to Elisha and Christ’s promise to his own followers, ““Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12). The accent of the promise lies not on the stupendous nature of the coming miracles but on “because I go to the Father”. As Jesus makes clearer a little later, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28). The greater miracles will come because when Jesus is glorified in heaven he will issue the disciples into the presence of the one who is greater than himself, the Father.
Jesus rebuked his apostles, “If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father”. The disciples were enthused about the prospect of “greater works”, but clueless that Jesus greatest joy was the Father’s closest presence in heaven. Likewise today we hear preachers passionate about the miraculous deeds that can be done by the church, or glorying in the size of “their church”, but they seem oblivious to how this relates to the one essential gift of Fatherhood. Miraculous powers and huge congregations are no assurance of godliness or maturity. Essentially, this depends on a further revelation of the Elijah ministry – the cross.
Where is Elijah?
The relationship between the Elijah task and the death of Jesus is both crucial to a mature spiritual move of God and its central stumbling block. What makes understanding the cross so difficult, is that Elijah’s relationship with the dying Son of God seems the opposite of his bond with Elisha.
Immediately after his exalted cry “My father, my father!” Elisha picked up the fallen mantle of Elijah saying, ““Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.15 Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” The mighty deeds done through Elisha make it self-evident that the God of Elijah and Elisha are one. Contrast this with the anguished cry of Christ.
“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.” (Mark 15:33-37)
The bystanders were waiting to see if Jesus would be restored to his relationship with his Father, who apparently had abandoned him. They were hoping that Elijah, who “restores all things” (Mark 9:12), would be sent from God to deliver Jesus from his anguish. There are two reasons why the spirit of Elijah did not come to rescue Jesus.
The first is from Elijah’s personal history. The great prophet failed to accept the cup of suffering when threatened with imminent death by Jezebel. Therefore his spirit was insufficiently powerful to deliver Jesus from the cross. Secondly and more importantly, is the way in which the Elijah vocation is fulfilled in Jesus himself. The way in which sons are restored to God as their Father is for Jesus to take into himself the loss of sinful humanity’s intimate fellowship with God. The cost of our family rebellion is that Christ experiences God as other than a reconciling Father.
The alienation of Jesus from closeness with the Father is the scandal of the cross. The claim that Jesus is Son of God and Messiah is not what offended the Greeks and Jews of New Testament times (1 Cor 1:23). The abomination to all reasonable and pious people is that someone crucified like a common criminal could be God’s favoured Son.
The church today in the West is full of wise, rational, comfortable middle class folk who have never come to terms with the scandalous death of the Son of God. Until this dimension of the Elijah task is understood the vast mass of our congregations will never mature in the knowledge of God as Father. To bring about this change requires a revelation from the Spirit of God concerning the next phase of Jesus life. The ascension of Jesus to the source of his life, the heavenly Father, brings the Elijah task to completion in this age.
Elijah and the Summit of Sonship
From the beginning those who loved Jesus struggled with the loss of his physical presence. When Mary saw the glorified risen body of the Lord she wanted to hold on to him. Jesus mild rebuke is full of meaning, ““Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”” (John 20:17).
Jesus words affirm that through his ascension to heaven the fullness of the gift of the Father will become the double portion of the disciples. The one, who is his Father by nature, will become their Father by grace. This happens through Jesus baptising the church in the Holy Spirit. Christ calls this, “the promise of the Father”” (Acts 1:4-5). Just as the spirit of Elijah communicated the life of Elijah to Elisha, the Spirit of the Father who indwells Jesus will of communicate the Father’s presence to all his sons.
Jesus ascension to heaven is the fulfilment of all the Elijah typology of scripture. The awesome phenomena we are already familiar with are present once again – the disciples see the glory cloud carry their Master away into the heavenlies, they gaze upwards, supernatural beings (angels) appear  (Acts 1:9-11). The spirit of the ascending Elijah was immediately imparted to his disciple Elisha, but the Spirit of the glorified enthroned Jesus (John 17:4; Acts 2:33; Heb 1:3) will be given on the day of Pentecost.
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)
The sound like a mighty wind from heaven recalls the “whirlwind” that snatched Elijah into heaven (2 Ki 2:11) and the tongues “as of fire” speak of the same holy divine presence as the prophet’s fiery chariots. To focus on these phenomena is to miss the central point of the narrative that at Pentecost the whole church became prophetic. They were “all filled with the Holy Spirit” (v.4), the onlookers heard “all these …. telling…the mighty works of God (vv.7,11)….“in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,” (v.17).
Whenever the Spirit baptised a people group in Acts for the first time this pattern of corporate prophecy is repeated. The unified testimony of the Spirit through these diverse ethnic groups reveals that through Jesus they all have one Father. In the return of the nations to God, beginning from Jerusalem and radiating to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), the essential meaning of the Elijah task has been fulfilled, in the Son the sons have come back to the Father. This is the pinnacle of the age old plan of God (Eph 1:10; 3:9), the creation of a new humanity in Christ is the medium for the restoration of the whole universe.
Elijah and the Return of Christ
The return of Jesus in the glory of his Sonship will parallel his ascension to heaven. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”” (Acts 1:11). Since the glory that accompanies the ascension of Jesus and his Return fulfil the meaning of Elijah’s ministry in the old covenant, Elijah is the prophet of the End of all things.
Peter, the central eye witness to the Elijah ministry of the New Testament, sums up the matter like this. “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time of the restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” (Acts 3:21).
The foundational apostle who heard John the Baptist preach, was present at the transfiguration and witnessed Jesus glorious transportation to heaven, recognises that ALL the prophets (especially Elijah) had as their central theme “the restoration of all things”. We may ask, “How did Elijah prophesy the restoration of the universe?” The answer is that the restoration of the sons to the Father contains within itself the reharmonisation of the cosmos. If the sin of the first son of God, Adam, meant the ruin of the world (Gen 3:16-19; Rom 5:12-21; 8:20-21), the ascension of the final Son into heaven means a new creation.
Elijah and his heir Elisha saw these things as in a shadow or type, through Christ we participate their reality. To proclaim in the power of the Spirit the restoration of humanity as sons to the glory of God the Father is to follow in the path of Elijah. It is to prophetically state that the healing and deliverance of all things is assured. It is to have “the testimony of Jesus …the spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10).
This is the mature truth that causes the church “to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph 4:15) and to be stable and enduring against the forces of evil. Where such things are not known by heart revelation, no matter what miracles and mighty manifestations occur, every move of God will fail to impart the status of adult sonship(Eph 4:12) and the end result will be disappointment.
The Elijah Church
The explanation of why the church fails so often to go on in God to maturity is found in the following text. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3)
Those who sense the greatness of the Father’s love in making them sons long for the return of Jesus, because it means the completion and perfection of their sonship. They seek holiness because they adore the Son of God and long to be exactly like him in the image of their one Father. To sense the absolute glory of sonship is to go on to maturity (Heb 6:1) as our irresistible destiny. The figure of Elijah once again points the way to this destiny.
In Revelation 11:1-13 we meet God’s “two witnesses” who stand for the church of the end times. They prophesy in the midst of hostile nations “clothed in sackcloth”, a sign of their mourning over sin, if anyone resists them they, like Elijah (1 Ki 17:1; 2 Ki 1:9-12) can consume their foes with fire and shut the sky so that it does not rain. At the end of their testimony, the beast kills the prophets who lie exposed among the nations which rejoice at their death. Then, after three days, they are resurrected and “went up to heaven in a cloud” like the ascending Elijah. Finally, grief and repentance strikes the heart of many onlookers who “gave glory to the God of heaven”.
The pattern of the Elijah church images the powerful ministry, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of their Lord. But, it is only after death, resurrection and elevation to glory that repentance comes to those who reject the message. A church that wants power without death-resurrection can never look like the glorified Jesus. Whilst the elevation to heaven of the martyr church awaits ultimate fulfilment, history reveals that a faithful downtrodden church has often come to disciple the nations.
A church that will not endure to the death (Rev 2:10) will never bring the peoples to Christ likeness. To be willing to suffer anything for the exclusive rule of God is the heart of the Elijah ministry and the manifestation of mature glory; in this we have been found wanting.
Some years ago, at the beginning of a prayer meeting on revival, the Holy Spirit planted words from the Athanasian Creed strikingly into my mind; they concern the nature of Jesus: “Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.” In my passion for the Lord I was all set to pray for a move of the Holy Spirit, but over the years it has become increasingly clear that I did not understand what I was praying for. I was seeking the manifestations of revival without the heart of revival – the restoration of sonship.
Nevertheless in our day the Holy Spirit is moving amongst the nations in a deeper way. The will of God in these times “before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes” (Mal 4:5) is to develop a mature church in every place for the purpose of discipling of all nations (Matt 28:19). This means only one thing, the bringing of many sons to glory (Heb 2:10).
My brother and sister, where do you stand in this great task of universal restoration? Are you a passive bystander? Are you one who is seeking the spectacular from God in an adolescent fashion like so many in our times? Or are you someone grasped by the Elijah task to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”? The cost of testifying to Jesus by word and deed in the manner of all the prophets cannot be calculated, but the glory of this ministry is beyond all comparison. May we join together in our time in seeking from the Lord “the spirit and power of Elijah”, for it is surely coming – can you hear the whirlwind, feel the fire and sense the glory, all which point to the one who gave his all for us – Jesus.
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.
All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands.
All of my ambitions, hopes and plans
I surrender these into Your hands.
For it’s only in Your will that I am free,
For it’s only in Your will that I am free,
Jesus, all for Jesus,
All I am and have and ever hope to be.
Copyright © 1990 Word Music / Adm. by Copycare.
 A technical term, herem, is used, it means to be consecrate to God by complete extermination without mercy, as in the case of the slaughter of the Canaanites (Num 21:22; Deut 7:2; 20:17; Josh 6;5; 21:11 etc.).
 The term “father” is used in a gender neutral way in this article to describe a certain type of relationship.
 A finger pointing into the air showing that Jesus was the only way to God.
 I am not denying they have been used by God.
 Signified a little later in the story by the passing on of Elijah’s prophetic mantle to Elisha (2 Ki2:12-14).
 The phrase, “My father, my father” appears again in scripture only at Elisha’s own passing (2 Kings13:14).
 It may be may be that within the vast crowds that came to John for repentance many households were reconciled (Mark 1:4-5), but this is not explicitly stated.
 Hence the Spirit-filled cry, “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6).
 In Matthew 21:28-32 Jesus compares the turning of a rebellious son to obey the command of his father to the repentant response of sinners to John’s preaching, he calls this change of mind “the way of righteousness”.
 It makes John the greatest man born before Jesus (Matt 11:11).
 The “exodus” of which Jesus is speaking is the passage from earth to heaven via death, resurrection and ascension.
 Peter describes this as the “majesty” of Jesus, “17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,”” (2 Pet 1:17).
 The Father is not eternally greater than the Son, but greater than the Word in his enfleshed state.
 Referring to the river Jordan.
 “Ahab told Jezebel … how Elijah had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life…” (1 Ki 19:2-3)
 And still offends philosophers, Jews and Moslems today
 Always in scripture it is Jesus who does this, Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 2:33.
 Compare “the chariots of Israel and its horsemen” (2 Ki 2:12)
 “the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word” (10:44), “the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying” (19:6).
 Through the heart felt preaching of apostolic fathers (2 Cor 4:5).
 See the language of glory, Fatherhood angels etc. used of Jesus return (Mark 8:38; 14:61-62etc.).
 This was the final text of the old covenant (Mal 4:5-6) and it is the heart of the gospel of the new covenant.
 “Abba” (Mark 14:36; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6) was a term used by adult sons in addressing their father!
 “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all are of one (many translations have “of one Father”)” (Heb 2:10-11)
 I follow the traditional interpretation which places this text in the present time.
 In the literal physical resurrection from the death and meeting the coming Christ in the clouds (1 Thess 4:17).
 The conversion of the Roman Empire is a case in point.
 An ancient creed on the trinity named after the church Father Athanasius.
 The technical term in Greek for the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21) is apocatastasis.