One of the most important goals a person can accomplish is to help prepare and empower the next generation. To be successful in the long run, people need to equip the next generation to carry on what they have achieved and to even multiply and develop their achievements into greater things. Parents prepare inheritances for their children, while businessmen train their protoges to take their company towards higher heights. Teachers train their students in the hopes that they will achieve greater things than they have. Society aims to progress through the generations to bigger and better things.
This principle of generational multiplication and development was first instituted by God in Genesis 1:28 when He told Adam and Eve to be fruitful, multiply, and take dominion over the earth. While their first responsibility was only to take care of a garden, by the end of the Bible in Revelation 21, we find that part of mankind’s developing inheritance and responsibility will be to have a city that is over two thousand kilometers long, wide, and high!
This principle was spiritually applied by Christ when He told His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey all things I have commanded,” Matthew 28:19. The Apostle Paul was careful to nuture this generational spiritual multiplication when he taught one of his spiritual sons, Timothy, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit the same to faithful men who will be able to teach others also,” 2 Timothy 2:2.
One of the most biblically important transfers and multiplications of ministries is taught to us by the ministry of Elijah. This great prophet had one of the most outstanding ministries in the Old Testament. Elijah’s prayers, with his calling down fire from heaven, started a revival that impacted his nation to turn back to God. Then Elijah multiplied his ministry to the next generation through the impartation of his prophetic mantle to Elisha and many other disciples.
The tranferral of his ministry, however, did not stop there. The last message given by God in the Old Testament was, “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the eath with a curse,” Malachi 4:5-6. This makes it clear that Elijah’s ministry did not end with the completion of his lifetime on earth, nor with his immediate successors.
At the beginning of the New Testament we find that Elijah’s ministry was given to John the Baptist. When the archangel Gabriel announced John’s birth, he declared that John would prepare the way before Christ “in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,” Luke 1:17. Then when Jesus’ disciples asked Him why the scribes said that Elijah must come before the Messiah, Christ replied to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already,” Matthew 17:11-12.
Christ’s disciples learned from this statement that John the Baptist was a fulfillment of Elijah’s ministry. However, Christ also alluded to the fact that Elijah’s ministry is still to have a future greater fulfillment. This corresponds with Malachi’s prophecy that Elijah will come “before the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” which clearly refers to the second Coming of Christ.
While Bible scholars look for the literal return of Elijah before the Second Coming, as depicted in Revelation 11:3-12, many feel that there will again also be released a spiritual mantle of the spirit and power of Elijah. Just as John the Baptist was anointed to preach repentance to the nation of Israel before the first coming of Christ, in the Last Days the Lord will anoint many ministries to prepare all the nations for Christ’s return. And not only will Elijah’s ministry have its complete fulfillment in the Last Days, this can also be the case for all the mantles, giftings, and spiritual inheritances of the body of Christ. The reason for this is that the transgenerational multiplication and development of the worldwide Church is all aimed towards the grand finale of when the victorious Church of the Last Days will have evangelised the world, triumphed over the gates of hell, and prepared the nations for the Second Coming of Christ!
Who will qualify to receive mighty mantles in these Last Days? Who will God choose to anoint with powerful ministries to help prepare the Church as a spotless bride for the marriage of the Lamb? We can best learn these keys as we study how Elijah’s mantle was transferred and multiplied to the next generation of ministers who carried on God’s work after him.
As we study 1 Kings 17-18, we can see that Elijah had a lonely job when the Lord first called him to bring repentance to his backslidden nation. For those first years, the Lord hid him alone at a brook, and then in a foreign land, as King Ahab searched everywhere for the prophet who had stopped the rain.
Yet when Elijah publically reappeared and started a national revival on Mt. Carmel, a multitude of zealous followers would have volunteered to help him. Elijah chose one young man to become his servant, whom he sent seven times to look east across the sea as he travailed in prayer for rain. When the prophet’s fervent prayers began to be answered by God, Elijah then sent him with a message for the king to quickly drive home before the heavy rain came. What a wonderful day this servant of the prophet had enjoyed! First he saw Elijah boldly confront the prophets of Baal, and then start a mighty revival when he prayed and God’s fire fell. Next he saw how Elijah secretly prevailed in prayer until the rain came. And finally, he was sent as the prophet’s personal messenger to the king of Israel!
When Elijah and his servant were back at the capital the next day, his servant was probably expecting more glorious times. Yet when Queen Jezebel soon sent a death threat, instead of arising in God to meet the new challenge, Elijah fearfully fled for his life! As Elijah headed south into the Sinai desert to hide, he left his servant at the last town before he disappeared alone into the bleak countryside where he asked God to take his life, 1 Kings 19:1-4.
On the previous day of glorious revival, this first servant of Elijah probably thought he was the most priviledged young man in Israel. He had the chance to closely observe and be trained under the prophet that had just started a national revival. Yet his zeal to be a faithful servant and disciple failed the next day when Elijah was a defeated, depressed, fearful man who only wanted to run away and die! As a result this young man only served Elijah for part of two days. Because he did not remain faithful to stick with Elijah on his day of failure, this first servant of Elijah dropped out of the picture to remain unnamed and trained for ministry.
Yet when Elijah met with God afresh during his time at Mt Sinai, he was recommisioned to complete his ministry and impart it to the next generation. As recorded in 1 Kings 19:16-21, Elijah followed God’s instruction and placed his prophet’s mantle upon a young farmer named Elisha. This prophetic act was understood by Elisha, who then followed Elijah for many years as he prepared to inherit the prophet’s mantle and ministry.
In 2 Kings chapter two we can then study about Elijah’s departure for heaven and those he left behind to carry on his ministry. We first read there, “And it happened when the Lord was to take Elijah up into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. And Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Bethel.’ And Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you.’ So they went down to Bethel.”
The first thing that Elijah did was to invite Elisha to stay behind as he went onwards. Elijah’s first servant had failed this same test when Elijah had gone alone down into the Sinai desert. Yet Elisha knew that he needed to be fully faithful to Elijah if he was to receive the full mantle that he had been invited to obtain at the start of his apprenticeship.
Elisha was invited to stay at Gilgal, a place that held many good memories for the people of God. It had represented a place of consecration and victory since the time when Joshua and his army had first camped there during their conquest of the promised Land, Joshua 5:7-9; 10:9-10; 42-43. If Elisha had not continued to fully follow Elijah, he could have stayed at Gilgal and obtained the spiritual blessing that it represented.
Elisha instead followed his mentor as they traveled together to the city of Bethel. Then we read, “And the sons of the prophets at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from your head today?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I know. Keep silent.’ And Elijah said to him, ‘Elisha, please stay here. For the Lord has sent me to Jericho.’ And he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you.’ So they came to Jericho.”
Elisha was again tested as to whether he would fully follow Elijah. This time he was offered a better place to stay among the sons of the prophets at Bethel. This city, named the “House of God,” could have been a good place for him to remain and develop his ministry among a group of Elijah’s disciples. Yet again Elisha was aiming for something higher as he headed on to Jericho with his master.
We next read in 1 Kings 2:5-8 , “And the sons of the prophets at Jericho came to Elisha and said to him, Do you know that the Lord will take your master away from your head today? And he answered, ‘Yes, I know. Keep silent.’ And Elijah said to him, ‘Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to Jordan.’ And he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you.’ And the two of them went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went on and stood afar off across from them. And both of them stood by the Jordan. And Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the waters. And they were divided here and there, so that both of them crossed over on dry ground.”
In Jericho, as well as in Bethel, we find that Elijah had trained many disciples in what have been called the schools of the prophets. These men had developed their prophetic ministries, as evidenced by their knowledge that Elijah was departing from them on that day. Yet we find that these other disciples of Elijah were not ready to follow him all the way, as Elisha was. Fifty of these sons of the prophets followed Elijah and Elisha out of the city, but did not go down and cross the Jordan River with them.
Crossing the Jordan River signifies death in many scriptures, including this story where Elijah was going to next depart to heaven. It spiritually speaks of dying to self and being crucified with Christ. While these fifty disciples had entered into a Pentecostal anointing (as evidenced by the number 50, which speaks of Pentecost), they were unwilling to cross the Jordan and be crucified with Christ so that they could gain the greater anointing and mantle that Elisha soon gained. Sadly, many anointed servants of God today still resist the full work of the cross in their lives, and only obtain part of the anointing and ministry that God has available for them.
This story goes on in 1 Kings 2:9 to tell us, “And it happened when they had gone over, Elijah said to Elisha. ‘Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken away from you.’ And Elisha said, ‘please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.’” This double portion was the birthright inheritance of every firstborn son in an Israelite family, Deuteronomy 21:17. Through asking for this, Elisha was declaring that through his full faithfulness to Elijah he had become his most mature spiritual son who rightfully should receive a double portion from his spiritual father’s anointing.
Verses 11-15 record for us the fulfillment of this request, as we read: “And it happened as they went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire came and separated them. And Elijah went up in a tempest into heaven. And Elisha….took up the mantle of Elijah which had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of Jordan. And he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the waters, and said, ‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ And he also hit the waters, and they parted here and there. And Elisha went over. And when the sons of the prophets across in Jericho saw him, they said, ‘The spirit of Elijah rests upon Elisha!’ And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.”
Because Elisha had been fully faithful to Elijah, he received the full mantle and anointing that caused the other prophets to receive him as their new leader. Many of these other prophets went on to do notable exploits, but is was Elisha who stepped up to become the national prophet that took Elijah’s place, 2 Kings 3:11-12. Elisha also went on to work twice as many miracles as Elijah had, as he helped multiply the results of the prophetic ministry that Elijah had imparted to the next generation that carried on his work.
In this story we see the crucial importance of being faithful to both God and our leaders for us to receive a mantle or ministry. Elijah’s first servant, who followed him for part of two days, left Elijah at the first trial they faced. While the first servant gained some exciting testimonies from his short time with the prophet, he received no ministry.
The sons of the prophets who studied under Elijah were more faithful to their mentor and received a portion of his mantle and ministry. Yet they did not follow him fully, as Elisha did. They only followed Elijah part way and consequently received a smaller portion of Elijah’s prophetic ministry as the less mature spiritual sons of the great prophet.
It was only Elisha who was fully faithful to Elijah. Through following his mentor in the difficult times as well as the easy, he became the most spiritually mature of all of Elijah’s spiritual sons. As a result he gained a double portion of Elijah’s anointing and mantle through which he became the next national prophet of Israel.
The biblical accounts about Elijah show him to have been a man who would have not been easy to follow. From the heights of great revival one day he sank to the depths of depression and defeat the next day. He repeatedly told his servants to stop following him! As the book of James tells us about him, “Elijah was a man of like passions as we are,” and we can easily see the flaws in his character that could have deflected his followers. Yet it is crucial for young people who are training for the ministry to keep their eyes on the mantle, and what they can inherit in God if they are properly faithful to their mentors.
The end of the Church Age will soon be upon us, when every mantle, ministry, and gifting in the body of Christ will have come to full development. Who will be ready to call upon the God of Elijah, or the God of John Wesley, or the God who anointed the other great servants of the Lord? Let us seek to have a full faithfulness and consecration so that we may each receive a glorious portion ─ even a double portion ─ of God’s Spirit for these coming days of great trial and triumph.