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The spirit of Elijah

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:  And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse (Malachi 4:5-6)

... and many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.  And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:16-17)

1. Is it for today?

The Scripture indicates  a deep connection between Elijah and John the Baptist.  They bore  the same spirit, the same power, the same message, and the  same purpose.

 Elijah and John the Baptist lived hundreds of years apart, under very different practical, social, and political circumstances.  But despite the differences, God saw fit at both times to manifest the spirit of Elijah through His messengers.

 How about NOW?  Is it time now for the spirit of Elijah?  Let us search the Scriptures, to understand  more thoroughly the nature of the spirit of Elijah.

2.  The spirit's nature

 What exactly is "the spirit of Elijah"?  "The spirit of Elijah" refers to  one particular outward manifestation  of the Holy Spirit,  as was expressed in both Elijah and John (Luke 1:15, Neh. 9:30, Zech. 7:12, Heb. 1:1).  Just as a diamond has many facets and appears differently from different viewpoints, so the Holy Spirit has many distinctly different outward expressions (1 Cor 12:4-11). We may characterize the spirit of Elijah by listing the common aspects of Elijah and John the Baptist:

*     Behavior: both Elijah and John appeared insane or demon-possessed.   They were uncouth, ragged, rugged outcasts.  They lived like barbarians in the wilderness, foraging for themselves. Though other people aided them, they were dependent on God and not man for their bread.  They lived in barest simplicity.  They mercilessly discarded all distractions.  They were burningly focused on their sacred call.
*     Words: Their words were white-hot and rapier-sharp,  piercing straight to the heart,  pounding like a hammer,  with not a trace of politeness to soften the blow. Kings trembled when they spoke, though they had no worldly authority. Elijah's bursts on the scene saying, "No rain until I say so"; while John first appears announcing , "Repent!"  And neither Elijah nor John eased off one whit to the end of their lives.
*     Message:  Theirs was a clarion call  to strip away all guile and superfluity; to walk in transparency and simplicity; to mortify vile, grasping self  and be revived through self-giving and consideration of others.
*     Purpose:  They brought in revival. Elijah set the stage for the revival of Israel through Elisha and Jehu; and John the Baptist went before the coming of the Messiah Jesus.

3. The spirit of Elijah brings revival

 Already we have an answer to our question as to whether the spirit of Elijah has a place today.  The spirit of Elijah prepares the way for revival.  Unless the spirit of Elijah comes first, revival will not come.  Any so-called 'revival' without a prior visitation of the spirit of Elijah is no true revival at all.  Such 'revivals' fall apart under closer scrutiny, and are revealed as admixtures of gimmick, hype and overemotionalism.

 Do not plead for revival unless you are ready to deal first with  the spirit of Elijah.   Be prepared to be eat repentance for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, until you are glutted with repenting.  Be prepared for squirming discomfort and embarrassment,  as you are compelled to face exactly those individuals you most want to avoid, and confront the facts and the memories you most ardently desire to suppress.

 The spirit of Elijah is reviled among the worldly, including worldly believers.  Some call it fanaticism:  others call it legalism.   These charges are understandable, since  the spirit  of Elijah does produce extreme and obsessive behavior.  It drives men out to utter solitude in the desert (1 Ki. 17:3, 18:12, 19:8, Luke 1:80).  It finds worldly pleasures intolerable (1 Pet. 4:2-3).  It cannot bear a single idle word (Mat. 12:36), a single moment of wasted time (Eph. 5:16), a single cent spent in self-indulgence.  It meticulously examines every nook and cranny of the heart, and mercilessly lops off every fruitless appendage.  When the spirit is resisted or suppressed, it becomes a fire shut up in the bones (Jer. 20:9, 2 Thes. 5:19).  If the fire is not responded to and appeased, the person's insides are burnt out,  and he/she becomes a hollow shell (Ps. 32:3-4).  Woe to such a person!  Far better that person had never encountered the spirit of Elijah! (Heb. 6:4-8; 12:28)

4. Discerning counterfeit spirits

Since Satan hates revival, he had to come up with a strategy to counter the Spirit of Elijah. Not surprisingly, his response was to introduce counterfeit spirits (1 Kings 22:20-23, 2 Thess. 2:9, 1 Jn 2:27) We must beware as well  of counterfeit spirits, which demand extremism and obsession-compulsion. It’s well worth taking the time to consider carefully the difference between true and counterfeit -- because Satan works most subtly and insidiously to steal from us those things which are most precious.

*     The spirit of Elijah, like any  other spirit from God, confesses that Jesus is come in the flesh (1 John 4:1-3).  He stirs up the life of Jesus within and among us. Sensitivity to the voice of the spirit walks hand in hand with rich, intimate communion with the Lord.
    Counterfeit spirits, on the other hand, intrude on our communion  with the Lord while blaming our own filthiness (Zech. 3:1-3).  They accuse us of sin but provide no strength to overcome, calling  us instead to rigid self-discipline.  If we succeed, they only demand more -- if we fail, they accuse, condemn, and haunt us day and night.   These spirits behave like overly-demanding, ambitious parents.  Their goal is to intensify our bondage to corrupt self and flesh (Col. 2:20-23), and not to bring us into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:20).

*     The spirit of Elijah leads us into satisfaction, catharsis, and cleansing;  as symbolized by the baptism of John:  while  the spirits of this world demand heavier and heavier burdens, more and more self-inflicted punishment. As 2 Cor. 7:10 states, “godly   sorrow  brings repentance that leads to salvation,  and leaves no regret, but worldly  sorrow  brings death.”   The spirit of Elijah warns us of overindulgence and directs us to self-restraint; while the spirits of this world drive  us to spiritual anorexia.

*   The spirit of Elijah leads us into self-denial, but takes us there by way of prayer.  This is why the spirit drives us out into the desert.  We go out  in weakness, trembling, and anxiety over the future  -- but the spirit meets us there gently, with spiritual sustenance (1 Ki. 19:4-8). The inner struggle  may be agonizing, but if we remain there God sends us inspiration of comfort (Luke 22:43).  The spirit sets before us the joy beyond the pain, and reveals to our hearts the joyful certainty of the resurrection beyond the cross (Heb. 12:2).  This joyful hope sustains us  and invigorates us to endure our sufferings (Romans 12:12).
     Counterfeit spirits, on the other hand, demand a cross but offer no resurrection.  The only benefit to obedience is a temporary lessening of the sense of guilt and oppressive heaviness.  The hope of freedom, like the Buddhist hope of Nirvana, is extended but never, never realized.

*     The spirit of Elijah enables us more and more to walk into any situation, and face any person without shame or fear of defilement.  Counterfeit spirits, on the other hand, bring more and more fears and restrictions.  They confine us increasingly to safe habits, safe routines, safe social circles.  They make us secretive and unwilling to tell ‘outsiders’ what we really do and think.

*     The spirit of Elijah moves us to deliberate action, not impulsive gestures. The spirit of Elijah is patient, and suffers being tested (1 John 4:1).   Counterfeit spirits like to force us into ill-considered action and rash vows by suggesting thoughts like, “You must seize  this opportunity NOW, or you will miss your chance forever.  If you do not respond INSTANTLY, you will be guilty of quenching the spirit.”

*     The spirit of Elijah leads us step by manageable step, rather than  prodding us into impulsive, unbalanced leaps.  Elijah methodically demonstrated to the people that the LORD was the true God (1 Kings 18:21ff).  John the Baptist called people to modify their lifestyles, not to  utterly forsake them (Luke 3:10-14).
   Counterfeit spirits, on the other hand, tempt us to make rash vows and go to impulsive extremes. Peter.   If I have difficulties with my church, these spirits prompt me to break all ties of fellowship.  If I argue with my wife, they incite me to leave her.  If I am unsure of God’s will, they insinuate that I must vow to fast 40 days.  These spirits set me up for failure, and when I fail they seize the opportunity to  heap additional condemnation on my head.

*     The spirit of Elijah is not showy.  Neither Elijah nor John made any superfluous public appearances, and evidently they preferred solitude. Isaiah 42:1-3 describes them aptly:  “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.   He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.   A  bruised   reed  shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.”

Prayer: Father, please grant us  discernment, that we may recognize and welcome the appearance of the spirit of Elijah.  If it be Your will,  make us vessels of the spirit of Elijah, that we might bring revival and healing to those around us.  We pray in Jesus' name, the One to whom the spirit of Elijah bears witness.

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Copyright © 1999 CrossPollen
Last Revised: June 22, 2003

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