A Verse-by-Verse Study of 1 Kings 17-19
“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and
terrible day of the LORD” (Malachi 4:5. All scriptures from the NASB).
by Ron Chastain
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For decades, Bible Students have studied the life of Elijah the prophet with vigor. Pastor Russell, in his last years, searched diligently for answers to the end-time prophecy by studying the last days of Elijah, whose journey ended at Jordan. He and his
servant Elisha were separated by a chariot. Pastor Russell believed that when Elijah was taken in a whirlwind, he pictured the glorification of the Church class.
Important highlights of Elijah’s life are recorded in 1 Kings 17-19 and 2 Kings 2. These scriptures furnish us with a timeline. They confirm that Elijah was a type of the Church in the flesh during the Gospel Age. First, however, let us begin by comparing statements about Elijah in Malachi and Matthew.
In Matthew 17, we read the account of the Mount of Transfiguration. To three of the disciples (James, Peter, and John), Jesus was transfigured, and “His face shone like the sun,
and His garments became as white as light” (verse 2). With Jesus were Moses and Elijah. These three figures represent the Jewish, Gospel, and Millennial Ages. Jesus represented the glorified Christ in the Millennium.
The disciples must have understood that Elijah was meant to represent something about their own time because they asked Jesus a question about it: “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” (Verse 10). The disciples were familiar with the concept that Elijah must first come before the kingdom is restored. “And he answered and said, ‘Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he had spoken to them about John the Baptist” (Verses 11-13).
However, Malachi clarifies that John the Baptist was not the complete fulfillment of the type of Elijah. “Behold, I am going to send Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and hearts of the children to the fathers, so that I will not come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5,6). From this, we understand that Elijah is a type of both John the Baptist and the Church. John did an Elijah-type work at the end of the Jewish Age, but Malachi’s prophetic restoration was not accomplished. The Jewish Age ended with a smiting of the earth — the destruction of Jewish society during their harvest. Malachi’s prophecy will not be accomplished until the second part of the antitypical Elijah in the Millennial Age restores all things in the Times of Restitution. Only then will there no longer be a curse on the earth.
As stated previously, three ages were represented at the Transfiguration. By examining scriptures in 1 Kings 17-19 and 1 Kings 2, we find the work of the antitypical Elijah begins in the Gospel Age while the Church is in the flesh. The remainder of this article will be a commentary on these chapters.
1 Kings 17 — The 1260 Years (539-1799)
Verse 1 — The 3½ year drought begins for Elijah. Using a day for a year method (The Time is at Hand), the 3½ years, or 1260 days, represent 1260 literal years in the life of the Church.
Verse 3 — Elijah was instructed to hide himself at the brook Cherith. The word Cherith means to cut off (Strong’s 3747). The
Church in the flesh was cut off from society and cast into a wilderness condition for 1260 years.
Verse 14 — “The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail.” As a result of the great drought, a great time of famine ensued. However, the widow of Zarephath was miraculously fed. Likewise, the Church was miraculously fed during the 1260 year reign of Papacy. This condition lasted until
1799, when Papacy’s iron grip was released and Bible societies made spiritual food available in preparation of the approaching harvest.
1 Kings 18 — The Great Victory of 1799, “The Time of the End”
This chapter deals with the events around 1799 — Daniel’s “Time of the End” (chapter 12). Elijah wins the challenge against the prophets of Baal. In the antitype, one great benefit that came out of the French Revolution was the victory of the Bible over the Papacy, which had suppressed the Bible in the dead
(Latin) language and kept it from the people.
Verse 1 gives a timeline: “In the third year,” that is, just prior to the end of the 3½ years of drought, picturing the 1260 years of
Papal reign. So, the time setting here is just prior to 1799.
Verse 15 — Ahab and Elijah meet and the contest with Baal is set. This verse represents the increase of knowledge on all subjects. The increase of knowledge sets the stage for the battle of truth. Thus Dark-Ages superstitions were set to fall. Revelation 12:14-17 confirms this thought. Satan attempted to use truth (pictured by a flood of water) to destroy the true Church. But the world swallowed the flood of truth and Satan’s plan backfired, hurting both of Satan’s tools of deception: (1) the Roman church; and (2) the civil “Holy Roman Empire.”
Verse 17 — When Ahab met Elijah, he asked if he was the one who troubled Israel. The papal system had outlawed the truth for 1260 years, virtually repeating Ahab’s accusation that the Lord’s people were the problem troubling the world (compare Revelation 11:7-11). Elijah’s response was that the unfaithfulness of Ahab created the problem. Likewise, a source of the world’s ills has been corrupt and evil systems.
Verse 19 — The destruction of Baal’s prophets represents the destruction of the religious traditions of the 1260 years. “Carmel”(Strong’s 3760) means “vineyard.” How appropriate! Restored religious truths starting in 1799 redefined the vineyard for the rest of the Gospel Age.
“Baal” (Strong’s 1168) means “to marry or to rule over.” They represent the Nicolaitans of Revelation, whose name means “to rule over.” It was time for the clergy to lose most of the control they had over the people. This is the significance of Elijah’s victory.
Verse 21 — Elijah came to the Israelites and asked, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” Anti-typically, the “wilderness” condition was coming to an end. It was time to decide who or what religion one should follow.
Verse 23 — Two oxen were chosen for the contest. These may illustrate two views of atonement (Catholic and Protestant). Rome said that you must be part of the Roman church and partake of the mass to be saved; Protestantism said that faith in Christ was all that was required. God would soon reveal the truth.
Verse 25 — From here to the chapter’s end, the correct philosophy of atonement is revealed.
Verse 32 — Elijah made a trench around the altar, then prepared the sacrifice. He then gave instructions to pour four large pitchers of water on the sacrifice. This was done three
times, totaling twelve pitchers. The trench was large enough to hold two measures of seed, possibly showing the incoming enlightenment — that the Abrahamic Covenant embraced two
seeds. This was a major theme of the Truth Movement.
Verse 33 — The 12 pitchers of water might well be the new truths coming from the 12 spiritual tribes of Israel in three parts:
- First, showing basic truths with the advent of 1799 and the proliferation of Bible societies.
- Second, the time of great desire to understand the prophecies of Daniel and the Second Advent. From 1826-
1830, Henry Drummond hosted six annual prophetic
conferences at Albury Park in Surrey, England. They were
chaired by Hugh McNeile, parish priest of Albury. Seven
summary points included the Second Advent ahead of the
Millennium, and the identification of a 1260-year period
preceding the Millennium as running from the reign of Justinian I to the French Revolution. Transactions of the first three conferences were published in 1828-9 by Drummond, as Dialogues on Prophecy in three volumes. The Miller Movement in the U.S. surfaced soon after.
- Third, the sounding of the 7th Trumpet at
the Lord’s return.
Verse 36 — When Elijah’s opportunity came for determining whose God was the real God, he prayed and invoked the name of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel (Jacob). The mention of these three men may suggest that the concept of two salvations was an important truth about
to be revealed. Abraham received the whole promise; Isaac received the “stars” promise, and Jacob received the “sands” promise.
Verse 37 — The people “turned-their hearts-back-again” to God. This reference may be similar to the prophecy of Malachi 4:6, where the hearts of the fathers are turned to
their children and the children to the fathers.
Verse 40 — With Elijah’s victory, he gives instructions to have all the prophets of Baal killed. This may illustrate how Papacy was humiliated in 1799. Since that time its power and prestige has been greatly diminished and it has
not been able to openly persecute the saints.
Verse 41 — Elijah told Ahab, “there is the sound of abundance of rain.” From this point on, there was no stopping the proliferation of truth (Revelation 11:11,12). Bible societies filled the earth with multiple translations. The “rains” came and the “drought” was over. The Bible remains the top-selling book worldwide and its truths, once lost, have now been found.
1 Kings 19:1-8 — Two Spiritual Feedings
Civil and Ecclesiastical powers were not happy with the results of the French Revolution. For centuries truth had been “cast to the ground” (Daniel 8:12). But the work of Cleansing the Sanctuary
(described in Daniel 8) would see renewed interest in the Second Advent of Christ and related prophecies. The work
of cleansing would accelerate with the Miller Movement.
Revelation 18:7 suggests that, even after this cleansing, the Church of Rome saw herself sitting “as a queen.” Her “king” was the civil power (as represented by Ahab). Thus, in verses 1 and 2, Ahab and Jezebel continue their threats against the saints, even though Papacy’s power was broken, or at least terribly curtailed in 1799 (Revelation 12:17).
Verse 3 — In spite of his great victory over Baal, Elijah feared the wrath of Jezebel and fled to Beersheba. This illustrates that the faithful church wanted to be separated from Christendom and yet was fearful. “Beersheba” (Strong’s 884) means “The well of seven.” In Genesis 21:31, Abraham and Abimelech took an oath that the former had dug the well and seven ewe lambs were offered in sacrifice. “Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them.”
While the application of Elijah’s presence at Beersheba is uncertain, the connection back to Abraham is interesting. Abraham was claiming a well that was rightfully his but had been “violently taken away” (verse 25). Truth was meant for the saints, but the servants of Papacy had done violence and usurped what was not rightfully theirs. It was now time for the truth to be restored.
Verse 4 — In Beersheba, Elijah sat under a “broom tree,” named so from its polelike stems. From 1799-1874 old errors were “swept away,” hence, the “broom” reference. The Cleansing of the Sanctuary took place during this time.
Verse 5 — As he sat under the tree, Elijah received the first of the two feedings. The first feeding pictures the time of the Second Advent interest, when Drummond’s conferences and
the Miller Movement generated religious fervor.
Verse 6 — After eating, Elijah “lay down again.” This represents the sleeping of all the virgins after the Miller disappointment (Matthew 25:5).
Verse 7 — “And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, ‘Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.’” Now we arrive at 1874, the second feeding. The journey into the complex 20th Century would have been “too great” without the Laodicean message.
Verse 8 — Following the instructions of the angel, Elijah ate in preparation for his 40-day journey to Mt. Horeb. The Church was greatly strengthened for 40 years. The mention that Elijah journeyed to “Horeb, the mountain of God” is meaningful. “Horeb” (Strong’s 2722) means “waste or desolate.” The church
was convinced of a 40-year journey which would take them to the Kingdom in 1914, but they found their hopes desolate. The following verses explain what happened as expectations proved disappointing.
Verse 9 — As Elijah lodged in a cave at Horeb, so the saints were “cave dwellers,” but learned that there was work to do after 1914. The Lord asks, “What are you doing?” The question is meant as a stimulus. In other words: “Get busy!” Then the Lord shows that the harvest is not ended until several more stages
of history pass by.
Verse 11 — God then instructed Elijah to “stand upon the mount” where a great wind, an earthquake, and then fire, are passed before him. This is an important message about the world’s post-1914 experiences: four elements appear, representing specific turmoil in the world.
- Wind represents war, which continued from 1914 to 1945. It would rend mountains and break rocks (Daniel 2).
But, the “Lord was not in the wind.” This expression is repeated for the earthquake and fire. It means what the Church expected in 1914 — the Peaceable Kingdom — did not occur in 1914. Neither does he find it in the subsequent two phases, indicating that what Elijah expected of the Lord did not take place during this trouble.
- Earthquake refers to the 1945-1989 breakup of the “empires” of the earth. After WWII, colonial arrangements came crashing down, particularly in Eastern Europe and including the Soviet Union break-up. In 1948, India became independent of Great Britain. George VI was the last king whose title was “King of England, the Commonwealth of Nations and Emperor of India.” Luke 21:29 stresses that, in addition to Israel, there would
be a proliferation of “trees” (new nations) as the colonial rulers lost power. The old solid monarchies broke apart into smaller polities. Although Great Britain still has a queen who is head of the Church of England, the government is a constitutional parliamentary system
with a prime minister as the head.
- Fire refers to “anarchy.” But our definitions of anarchy are somewhat archaic. Nihilism (the annihilation of existing polities), or, more importantly to our day, terrorism, would
seem to fulfill this prophecy. It began just after 1989 and continues throughout the world. Contributing to terrorism is the increase in racism and violent intolerance between the three world religions of Islam, Judaism, and
Christianity. Terrorism is indeed a destructive “fire.” Things appear to be out of the control of any governments. The
wonderful implication is that the kingdom is next.
- The still, small voice contains the appearance of the Lord and, by implication, is the Peaceable Kingdom. It is strikingly similar to Psalm 46:10, “Be still (margin = relax), and know that I am God.” We can take great comfort in knowing what lies beyond the trouble.
Then the Lord repeated a question He had posed to Elijah earlier, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” Elijah repeated his response, that he was jealous for the Lord because the people
had forsaken His covenant and he only was left (verses 13,14). This is saying that the divine commission given to the Elijah class has not changed in the post-1914 years.
1 Kings 19:15-18 — The Unfinished Commission
In these verses, Elijah is told what is expected of him. It is of note that Elijah (typically and antitypical) never accomplishes his commission. Elisha has to finish the work. This is the significance of Elijah’s mantle passing to Elisha. The name “Elijah” in antitype normally refers to the entire spirit-begotten class in the Gospel Age. But the Lord wishes us to know that the group becomes divided into Wise and Foolish Virgins at the end. A remnant of the Elijah class (The Great Company) must complete the work.
Verse 19 — Elijah passes his mantle (his authority) to Elisha. The Great Company will remain to “carry the banner” when the
144,000 are glorified.
The Journey of Elijah and Elisha and the Closing of Elijah’s Life — 2 Kings 2
Before Elijah was taken in a chariot, he and Elisha journeyed together to four places. At the final stop, Elijah was separated from Elisha by a chariot of fire; then he was taken to heaven in a whirlwind. This four-step journey of Elijah represents the events from 1799 to the church’s glorification. Elijah journeyed to three
cities and by one river (Jordan). The names of these places help provide their interpretation. The names represent conditions, not dates, as suggested in early writings. This is a common
picture, such as in the Tabernacle, where the Court, Holy, and Most Holy represent conditions.
(1) Gilgal means “a rolling away.” The power of Papacy to persecute was ended or “rolled away” in 1799 and the errors of Christendom were “rolled away” at the “Cleansing of the Sanctuary” and subsequently.
(2) Bethel means “House of God.” Pastor Russell purchased the Brooklyn residence of Henry Ward Beecher, who called it “Bethel.” The name was retained and became the household of the IBSA from 1907 onward. While this may have been an overruling of the Lord, importantly it was during this time until 1916 that a proliferation of truth was sent out, as in Elijah’s second feeding.
(3) Jericho means “fragrance.” It represents the condition of the Church from 1914 until the closing of the door suggested in the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. There is no single organization meant to control the true church. The saints must develop individual faith during uncertain times, and become a sweet fragrance to the Lord.
(4) Jordan means “judged down.” It represents the closing of the door of the high calling. “Judgment has been handed down” means that the church’s judgment is over and she has been found faithful.
Verses 11 and 12 describe the chariots of fire and the horses which separated Elijah and Elisha. The chariot is a military vehicle. It suggests God’s protection over His saints and judgment (fire) against their enemies. God’s protective
and destructive “fire” separates the Little Flock and the Great Multitude. “Horses” (doctrinal tests) may accomplish the separation of Elijah and Elisha.
Lastly, Elijah taken to heaven in the whirlwind represents the glorification of the 144,000.