Elijah is one of only two people in the Bible that didn’t die and the only person in the Old Testament of which it is said, he went to heaven (2 Kings 2:1). On the day that Elijah was to be taken up into heaven, he traveled more than 20 miles to deliver final messages to sons of the prophets in Bethel and Jericho. At his side was his faithful servant Elisha. The only person to witness his departure.
Elisha knew that Elijah’s ministry was coming to an end and he didn’t want to assume that he would be Elijah’s successor. So, when Elijah was called to go to Bethel, even though Elijah told him to remain in Gilgal, “Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee” (2 Kings 2:2). What Elisha meant by not leaving Elijah was that he wouldn’t abandon the ministry Elijah had started.
The sons of the prophets were actually students of the word of God. This group consisted of followers of Elijah that were committed to God and were most likely expecting the judgment of Israel foretold by Moses because of their idolatry. When it became known that Elijah was going to be taken away, the sons of prophets and Elisha may have feared the end was near.
Elijah’s ascension into heaven is similar to what will happen to believers when the great tribulation takes place. God’s wrath will be poured out on the world and Jesus will come back to rule and reign on earth. Elisha may have been unsure if Elijah’s departure signaled the end of God’s mercy toward his people. When Elijah and Elisha came to the end of their day’s journey, and it was time for Elijah to leave, Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit to be upon him (2 Kings 2:9).
The double portion represented an inheritance of Elijah’s ministry. Elijah’s response indicates he was uncertain of his ministry’s continuance. “And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee it shall be so unto thee: but if not, it shall not be so” (2 Kings 2:10).
At this point, Elijah and Elisha had reached their final destination. Since they were both still together, the only way Elisha wouldn’t have seen Elijah taken up was if he was blinded or killed in the process. “And it came to pass as they still went on and talked, that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it” (2 Kings 2 :11-12).