The Mantle of Elijah

Fresh Anointing for God’s New Thing
David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Second Kings 2 contains one of the most spectacular passages in all of the Old Testament. It tells the miraculous story of the aging prophet Elijah and his younger servant, Elisha. When we pick up the tale, God had informed Elijah that his ministry on earth was over. He was to cross the Jordan River and go to a certain place where a heavenly chariot would pick him up and translate him to glory.

As the old prophet pondered his last day on earth, he decided to take his servant, Elisha, on what I call a teaching journey. Toward the end of this journey, Elijah and Elisha arrived at the bank of the Jordan River. Elijah took off his mantle, a wide, loose-fitting garment, and struck the water with it. Supernaturally, the waters parted, and the two men crossed over on dry ground. “Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground” (2 Kings 2:8, NKJV). 

When they reached the other side, Elijah turned to his servant and said, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” (2 Kings 2:9). Without hesitation, the younger man answered, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me” (2 Kings 2:9). 

Elijah answered, “Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so” (2 Kings 2:10). He was saying, “If you see me as the Lord is taking me away, your desire will be fulfilled. But if you miss the action, you’ll have to go home disappointed.”  

As they walked along, suddenly a chariot appeared out of heaven and separated the men. In a flash, Elijah was taken up in the chariot, Elisha witnessing the whole scene. He cried out, “‘My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!’ So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces” (2 Kings 2:12). 

Elijah was gone, but his mantle had dropped to the ground. When Elisha saw it, he ripped off his own clothes, tore them into pieces and placed Elijah’s mantle on his back. Then he returned to the Jordan and did just as his master had done, taking off the mantle and striking the water with it. Immediately the waters parted and Elisha walked over on dry ground. Thus began the young prophet’s own remarkable ministry.

This journey was not for Elisha’s sake alone but to instruct every succeeding generation.

God wants to do greater things with each succeeding generation. He wants to perform miracles and provide more of his Spirit for his people beyond anything seen in the past. This means that each new generation must seek the Lord for their own enduement of power from him. He longs to increase and enlarge our faith so that, like Elisha, we hunger for a double portion of his Spirit, all for his glory. 

In this Old Testament scene, Elijah foreshadows Christ ascending to the Father. Jesus promises us, “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father” (John 14:12). For us to fulfill his will, we’re going to need the Holy Spirit for more of his anointing, power and authority than any past generation. 

Along their journey, Elijah and Elisha had proceeded to Jericho. Tragically, this city had become barren, dry and utterly lifeless. A poisonous stream had infiltrated Jericho’s water supply and withered all plant life. 

Elijah had established a school of prophets in Jericho, and some of the young, upstart prophets took Elisha aside and asked, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” (2 Kings 2:5). These strong young men of God were students of the scriptures and had prophetic knowledge that Elijah would be taken up that day. However, they were totally ignorant of the ways and workings of God’s Spirit. This was proven the next day, as the young ministers begged Elisha to let them go look for Elijah’s body, in case the Holy Spirit dropped him off somewhere on a mountain or in a valley. 

In this context, Jericho, a city of poisoned waters, represented lifelessness, including dead, dry faith. Elijah must have known of the young men’s conversation with Elisha, because his question to his young servant was a test: “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” (2 Kings 2:9). He was suggesting, “Elisha, these are the next generation of ministry. You can obviously see the lack of the Spirit in them. Why don’t you settle here and teach these ministers the ways of the Spirit?” 

Elisha answered his mentor, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” (2 Kings 2:2). Twice more Elijah put the same question to Elisha, and all three times Elisha gave the same answer. You see, Elisha knew he couldn’t impact anyone until he received his own touch from God. In fact, he knew he needed even more of the Spirit than anyone else could receive from his mentor. He was saying, “I know the Lord wants to do a new thing, and I need a greater touch from him than anything that’s been seen before.” 

Most of us don’t have faith to believe God for our own miracles today. The Lord wants us to know, “I have something better for you than previous generations had. I want to do miracles in your life, transforming your family, fixing your marriage and saving your unsaved loved ones. You’re going to face your own Jordan River, and I want to part those waters for you.”

When Elijah said, “Ask of me what I shall do for you,” he was teaching his protégé what to desire.

Elisha knew that God wept over the barren church in Jericho. He knew he needed to take on responsibility to face an evil society and a dead religious system. So, he asked Elijah for the double portion of his spirit.  

The moment he saw his master whisked away in the heavenly chariot, Elisha assumed that responsibility to carry on God’s work to his generation. As he stood at the Jordan and struck the water, the words he cried out were, “Where is the God of Elijah?” In essence, the young prophet was saying, “Lord, all of my spiritual forefathers are dead and gone. This awful hour requires even more than you have given so far. Work again, God, this time through me. I have to be empowered with more of your Spirit.” 

After receiving a touch from God, Elisha went forward with his own faith. His first stop was back in Jericho. The college of fifty prophets immediately recognized God’s touch on him, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha” (2 Kings 2:15). Those young prophets then pointed out to Elisha, “Then the men of the city said to Elisha, ‘Please notice, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the ground barren’” (2 Kings 2:19). They were acknowledging the poison in the water and, in effect, their powerlessness to stop its awful destruction. 

I believe the withered environment of Jericho signified the lifeless word being preached by those young men in the town’s pulpits. The prophets’ flesh-oriented sermons were causing spiritual death among the people. What was the cure for the poison in Jericho? It was to purify the water supply. That’s just what Elisha did. He took a clean vessel, filled it full of salt and poured it into the fountainhead of the city’s water. Soon all the waters were cleansed and life sprang up all around. 

The salt Elisha used represents the gospel of purity and holiness. The clean vessel he used represents servants who have been cleansed by Christ’s blood and sanctified by the Spirit’s purifying fire, prepared to preach a pure gospel. Only these things can stem the evil tide in God’s house. He needs clean, pure vessels who walk in holiness and preach a pure word with fresh anointing. 

As sin has abounded in these last days, I have been in contact with many godly seekers I call the Elisha Company.

These cleansed servants are going on with the Lord, interceding, grieving over the wickedness in society and the church, and pursuing a greater anointing of the Spirit. They all hear the same message from the Lord: Judgment is at the door. As they consider the awful catastrophes taking place, they know God is speaking. 

The Elisha Company is not satisfied to sit around studying past revivals. They want to see the Holy Ghost work the greater wonders Jesus promised, and they’ll continue preaching mercy and grace to all with ears to hear as the world is bankrupted. When the day of awesome judgments come, the most hardened will recognize, “This is God’s doing,” but the Elisha Company will move faithfully with the godly authority, yielded as his vessels to do his new thing. Nothing short of that will suffice in these last days. Amen.