The Conquest of Death (continued)
Look at the militant aspect of it also. Ahab would slay Elijah; but when the bow was drawn at a venture, the man who tried to disguise himself, the man who wore armor, the man who did everything that man can do to avoid the Divine sentence was the man who was found out. The place in his armor was discovered by an arrow shot at a venture, and he died. According to the word of the Lord he died, and if you read that pronouncement again, uttered as it was it was in Naboth's vineyard, you will find it was Elijah who spoke that word.
Then we have that occasion when he was so desperately broken. God gave him, as we have said, a sleep, and then some food: then another sleep, and more food, and in the strength of this he went on and came to the mount. There the Lord graciously appeared to him, and what the Lord said to him was in effect: Elijah, now that you have given in your resignation and are utterly broken and disillusioned about yourself and your ministry; now, Elijah, your real work is but beginning. The fire, the earthquake, the mighty wind, all these are but in a sense preparation, necessary preparation, but the still small voice is essentially My work. That came with a two-fold purposes to Elijah. He was reminded that all that had been had its value; thee were seven thousand who were sustained by the prayers of Elijah; though they never knew and never thanked him; seven thousand, for all we know, kept in heart because of that bold public figure, Elijah. That may well have been a part of his ministry, but the outcome of it all is a train of events. He is to anoint Elisha, and Elisha in his turn will anoint Jehu, and the end of that train of events which emerges from Elijah's brokenness there in the wilderness is that Jezebel is slain according to the word of the Lord. God takes a long time to work. As far as we know, Elijah had gone to glory long before it happened; but it happened, and it all came out of Elijah's ministry.
I wonder whether you are seeing the implications of this as it has come to my own heart? The Lord delivers us unto death. It is a painful, terrible experience, but on the one hand we know He is going to bring us through. His end is life and not death. On the other hand, there is something more even than this. His purpose is, through us, to turn the tables on death and slay it. We do not want to become involved in any thought of slaying people. Ahab and Jezebel stand for spiritual evil, that which is out to murder the people of God. The man who feels the painful pressure of their murderous intents most is the man who in the end slays them by the word of the Lord. That is what you and I have been chosen for; to escape death, yes, but to do more than that, to slay death, to triumph in life by Christ. Remember the fifty men. The disciples later on remembered that incident, and, when certain people would not receive the Lord, they said, "Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did?" Oh, how they had misunderstood! Elijah never called down fire nor moved a finger to protect himself. They wee moved by personal resentment that their Master had been rejected. In that personal way, because they had a grievance, they would slay other men. The Lord says, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of." Oh, dear friends, never let us think in terms of revenge, or of anything that is stirred in our hearts, because of what we suffer.
You see, these fifty came up and said, "Thou man of God ... come down." It is not, Elijah, come down. These men are defying God. They say, "O man of God, the king hath said, Come down"; and fire came down out of heaven to devour them. Why? Because it is not Elijah that the attack is against. It is against the Lord. On the third occasion, indeed, the captain of that fifty recognized something of the Lord, and he is not slain.
Thus, you see, the whole atmosphere and the whole thought of this life of Elijah is not that he is doing mighty things to justify himself, but that he becomes as it were a battleground for the glory of the Lord, and by his wholehearted submission to Christ, to God, his devotedness to the Lord, bearing the painfulness of death, tasting death, he nevertheless triumphs over death and destroys it, so that in the end he goes up to God. He never died, he is raptured. Because God lifts him up, you say. Yes, but because already there is wrought in him a victory over death. Already in his very being, there is, as it were, an answer to the challenge of death: as I have said, not just that mercy of the Lord protecting from death, but he is an overcomer in this sense, that there is a power of life n him which is death to death. That is why he is caught up, and I believe that also is, in the Lord's purpose, the basis of our being caught up. I sometimes tremble at the easy ideas I personally have had about the Lord's coming and about the rapture. I realize that tremendous age-long and eternal issues are involved in this thing. It represents the culmination of experience of a people delivered over to death, but not dying; and not only not dying, but triumphing in life, turning the tables on death, and slaying it.
Now, may the Lord strengthen our hearts that, however bitter may be the tasting of death, we may triumph in life by Christ the Lord.