A death like his

So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet. (2 Kings 13:20-21 ESV)

This passage is not a proof text for venerating relics of the saints, or attributing posthumous miracles to them. Rather it is another demonstration of how Elisha is a type of Christ. Those who are buried with him are also raised with him. If we are united with him in his death we are also united with him in newness of life.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6:4-5)

In fact the way that both Elijah and Elisha were taken from this world speak powerfully in the way that they are types.

Elijah, the great type of the church was caught up to heaven in glory. [Not secretly, but in plain view!] Elisha, who is a type of Christ, was taken through suffering and affliction.

The good news is that we don't have to die a horrible death to be united with Christ in a death like his! Rather it is through repentance, faith and baptism in water that we are united with Christ in his death, in order that we might participate in his resurrection life while we still live! Christ came to give us eternal life before death. That is one of the many wonders of the incarnation we celebrate at Christmas... and every day in between.


sean said...

how do you reconcile Jesus' statement in John 3.13 "No one has ascended into heaven except the son of man who is in heaven" with Elijah going to heaven? Couldn't it be that God took Elijah into the sky and transported him to another location?

death is sleep

Chris HH said...

That's a good question, especially since Jesus is speaking prior to his own ascension!

First, it is clear that Elijah did ascend into heaven:

And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. (2 Kings 2:11)

The way I interpret John 3, in the context is this:

Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven [to speak as an eye-witness on heavenly things] except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

Jesus is contrasting himself to the teachers of the law, and stating that he is the only one who has authority to speak about heavenly things. He is not slipping in a entirely disjointed doctrine on the afterlife.

Death is described as sleep in the Scriptures, but there are some important, and rather obvious, differences.

Matthew said...

No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. (John 3:13)

Chris - I agree that the fact Jesus is saying this prior to his ascension is astounding! Perhaps it is a reference to his prayer life?

Ricky Carvel said...

There's an issue of time here. Where is Elijah now? Is he currently in heaven or does 'the new heaven and new earth' begin after the judgement at the end of days? If the new heaven & new earth hasn't actually begun yet, then nobody has gone to 'heaven'. Except Jesus who came from there and is there now interceeding for us...

Chris HH said...

> Where is Elijah now?

Ricky, that's a great question, and more profound than I suspect you realise... but I don't have time to go into that now.

If 'heaven' has not yet begun then not even Jesus can have come from there. But there are those in heaven prior to judgement:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (Rev 6:9-10)

As for the new creation: it begins for the Cosmos in the same way it does for the individual - with Christ. Thus the new heaven and new earth is not just a future hope, but an increasing present reality. One that has its origins in an event we celebrate this very night!

Merry Christmas

Matthew said...

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:21-26)

Paul's dilemma here would seem to make very little sense if he did not believe that if he were to die he would be with Jesus immediately. I don't think that the concept of soul-sleep is very strongly supportable by Scripture, whereas the strong expectation of the Scripture is that death leads to the presence of God for believers.

Johnny Ong said...

there's enoch too

xunis said...

i just came across your blog and thought you might be interested in a 5 part religious essay (Refuting Pascal) that I'm writing. I do think that your blog is particularly well written and sincere.

Xunis's Word

Ricky Carvel said...

The concept of a 'soul sleep' is only necessary if you view both time and eternity as being linear and following one after the other. If eternity, the new heaven & new earth, etc. are outwith time then there is no conceptual problem in believing both that the final judgement occurs at the end of time and that the believer will immediately enter the presence of God following their death in time. However, if this is the case it is flawed thinking to try and describe any deceased person as being in heaven now.

And Chris, I don't interpret that Revelation passage as saying that there are believers in heaven now - the picture is of deceased souls crammed together under an altar, a very different picture to the city of gold which is described a few chapters later to represent the new heaven & new earth.

But please do tell why my question was so profound... ;o)

Chris HH said...

Ricky, whilst it is clear that God himself, creator of this space-time Universe which we inhabit, is himself not contained by either space or time, it is less than clear that we will join him in such a state. Indeed "eternity outwith time" seems self contradictory. Eternity implies an infinite quantity of time, not an absence of time.

God chooses to interact with us within the confines of time. He does not punish us for future-crimes, nor play causality mind-games with us. There is a deep mystery here how he can at once both know and predestine the future, yet interact with us within our genuine free will as if the future were not fixed at all.

God also chooses to reveal himself to us in descriptions of time: the ancient of days; "I AM"; the first and the last; yesterday, today and forever; etc.

Since the Universe was created to give glory to God, and to demonstrate to us physical representations of heavenly realities. I think it is fairly safe to assume that if time as we know it does not continue, there will still be the heavenly reality upon which our natural expression of time is based.

We can no more comprehend existing without time, than we can comprehend existing without space. Since Jesus has assumed to himself a physical body that exists within time and space, I think that as the first born from among the dead, he sets the pattern we will follow.

Your question about "Where is Elijah now?" is profound, because whilst Elijah was a real historical individual, he also represents a prophetic "role" of those who prepare the way for the Lord's coming - first by John the Baptist, who prepared the way for his first coming, and ultimately by the church who are to prepare the way for his second coming by restoring all things.

In the same way, I believe, the mocking cry to Jesus on the cross of "Let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down," was also prophetic; his death gave birth to the church - those in the Spirit and power of Elijah who will indeed bring Christ down when their task is complete.

Ricky Carvel said...

Fair point. But even if eternity is not outwith time, there is no reason to believe that it is contained within the confines of our current space-time creation - it could have an entirely seperate space-time of its own which is neither after this creation nor concurrent with it. Thus, it doesn't matter when we die in this present reality, we all arrive in the new reality at the same, erm, time.