Background: The king of Syria intended to put Elisha, the prophet of God to death. He surrounded the place where Elisha and his servant were staying. The servant was stricken with fear. Elisha, however, responded,
"Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Then Elisha prayed and said, 'O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.' And the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Ki. 6:15-17).
Background: Elijah, the prophet of God was about to depart, and Elisha, his servant who was to take his place, knew it, and so he would not leave him. Finally Elijah gave Elisha one last request, to which he responded,
"Please, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me." And he said, "You have asked a hard thing. 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." Then it came about as they were going along and talking, that behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. And Elisha saw it and cried out, "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" And he saw him no more (2 Ki. 2:9b-12a).
These two passages remind us of a very important truth. There are things going on around us, which are normally not visible to us. In the case of the horsemen and chariots of fire which Elisha's servant was enabled to see, in answer to the prophet's prayer, these were angelic hosts, assigned to protect God's prophet. The servant's fear was based upon his lack of awareness of all that was taking place around him. We are thus all reminded that God's angels are all about us, and that nothing can harm us apart from the permission and will of God.
The chariot and horses of fire which took Elijah into heaven remind us of another fact. While it is not normally visible to us, I believe that the angels are also employed in "escorting" the spirits of those who have died "in the Lord" into God's presence. I know that apart from divine enablement, Mr. Smith's departure was not at all glorious. But I believe that this text assures us that there was much more to be seen, just as was the case with Elisha's servant in chapter 6.
We have come here to lay Mr. Smith's body in the ground, but his entrance into heaven took place on Sunday, in a much more glorious way than our eyes can behold. The apostle Paul reminds us in the New Testament that the depositing of the physical body in the ground is necessary, since mortal bodies must be exchanged for those which are immortal. He also tells us that placing this body in the soil is like the planting of a seed in the soil. Thus, we do so looking forward to the time of the resurrection and transformation of this body.
These are promises for the Christian, for those who have trusted in the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of their sins. Let us find hope in them as those who trust in Him.