He Was Taken to Heaven Alive in a Fiery Chariot

Saint Prophet Elijah is one of the greatest prophets and the first Old Testament’s celibates – was born in Galaadian Fesvia and was from Leviin’s tribe, lived 900 years before Christ’s birth.

Saint Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis tells such a legend about Prophet Elijah’s birth: “When Elijah was born, his father Sovah saw in a vision that fine looking men greeted him, swaddled him in fire and fed him with flames”. The name Elijah (God’s strength), given to the child, defined his entire life. From his early years he dedicated himself to the one true God, settled in a desert and spent his life in strict fast, contemplation and prayer. Being called being called to be a prophet at the time of Ahab, king of Israel, he became a devout defender of the true faith and piety. At that time the people of Israel forgot their fathers’ faith, stopped honoring the True God and worshipped pagan idols, whose veneration was originally started by by an unholy king Ierovoam. Pagan Jezebel, king Ahab’s wife especially supported worshiping idols. Worshiping idol Vaal led the people of Israel to total moral corruption.

Seeing these events as the beginning of the end of his nation, Elijah started to denounce King Ahab’s mischief, persuading him to repent and return to God. The king didn’t listen to him. Then Elijah the prophet announced him that as punishment there will be no rain or dew on the earth and the drought will end up only upon his prayer. Indeed the sky concluded by his prayer and the drought and hunger started along the earth. Folk suffered from unbearable heat and hunger. Merciful God seeing people’s suffering was ready to spare everyone and to send rain on earth, but he didn’t want to break Prophet Elijah’s word that was willing to turn Israeli hearts to repentance and lead them back to God-reverence. Saving Prophet Elijah from Jezebel’s hands, God sent him to a secret place near Horaf stream. God enjoined predatory ravens to bring food to the prophet, inspiring him for compassion to suffering people. When the Horaf stream dried out, God sent Prophet Elijah to Sidonian Sarepta to one poor widow, who was suffering together with her children awaiting hunger-death. By the prophet’s request, she cooked him an opresnok from the last handful of mill and the rest of oil. Then by Elijah’s prayers, neither oil nor mill ever ended in the widow’s house during all hunger time. 

On the end of three years of drought the Merciful God sent the prophet to King Ahab to end up the disaster. Prophet Elijah told to collect whole Israel and Vaal’s priests at the hill Karmill. When the people gathered, Prophet Elijah suggested building two altars: one from Vaal’s priests and one from Prophet Elijah to serve the True God. “The altar, which will gain fire from the sky will be a sign whose God is Real God,- said prophet Elijah,- and everyone will have to worship Him and not accepting him will have to die. Vaal’s prophets were first to bring their sacrifice: they called on their idol from the morning till evening, but in vain – the sky was silent. Up to the evening saint prophet Elijah erected his altar from 12 stones in number of Israel tribes, put his sacrifice on firewood, he ordered to dig a trench around the altar and commanded to poor the sacrifice and wood with water. When the trench was filled with water, the fiery prophet turned to God with a hot prayer and a petition to God for a benediction of fire from the sky to reason the fooled and fierce people of Israel and turn their hearts to Him. By the prophet’s prayer fire came out of the skies and burned the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and even water. People fell down on earth, calling: “Truly God is One and there is no other God beside Him!”. Then Prophet Elijah slained all Vaal’s priests and started to pray for the rain. By his prayer the heavens opened and showers of rain watered the thirsty land. 

King Ahab realized his misconception and bemoaned his sins, but his wife Jezebel was threatening to kill God’s prophet. Prophet Elijah fled to the kingdom of Judah and grieving about the impossibility of idolatry eradication, he asked God for death to himself. Lord’s angel appeared to him, strengthened him with food and commanded to go on a long journey. Prophet Elijah went forty days and nights and when he reached Mount Horeb, he settled in a cave. Here, after a fierce storm, earthquake and flame the Lord appeared “in a quiet wind” (3 Kings. 19, 12) and opened to the grieving prophet that He had saved seven thousand loyal servants, not having worshipped to Vaal. God enjoined to Prophet Elijah to anoint Elischa for the prophet service. For his fiery zeal for the glory of God, Prophet Elijah was taken to heaven alive in a fiery chariot. Prophet Elischa witnessed Prophet Elijah’s rise to the sky and got a gift of prophecy Spirit (together with his fallen coat) twice as big as prophet Elijah had.

Iconographic tradition depicts the Prophet Elijah ascending on the chariot with fiery wheels, which is surrounded by flames on all sides, and driven by four winged horses.

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  1. Thank you for the article, except he wasn’t taken up in a fiery chariot. The text, in both Greek and Hebrew says that he was taken up in a whirlwind. Do you have any thoughts on this?

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