In 1 Kings 17-18, I believe we can see Elijah as a picture of Christ.
In 1 Kings 17, Elijah tells Ahab, king of Israel, that “there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” Ahab was king over the tribes that were lost. The dew and rain were symbols or types of the Holy Spirit. So, Elijah was saying that the lost tribes would have nothing of the Spirit, nothing of the revelation of God, until Elijah again brought dew and rain by his word.
So, Elijah goes away for a lengthy period of time. But, in 1 Kings 18, in the third year from when he left, the word of the Lord tells Elijah to show himself to Ahab. Jesus starts his ministry with an announcement, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” But, the eyes and ears, and therefore the hearts, of many were unable to hear Jesus for the three years of his ministry. They didn’t have the Spirit in them. It was as if no dew or rain fell on the land.
Ahab gathers all the people of Israel and the prophets at Mt. Carmel. Elijah comes to them and says, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” That sounds like Jesus’ ministry. He was calling people to make a decision to follow him, and consequently the Father. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
So, Elijah tells the prophets of Baal to pick one bull and prepare it for an offering but put no fire on it. They did so calling on Baal to burn up the offering. These prophets “limped” around the altar. In other words, they were lame, without power.
In John 19, Jesus is before Pilate, being questioned before his crucifixion. Pilate says, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus replied, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.” Also, in John, Jesus said, “No one takes it [his life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” No one could bring judgment (fire) upon Jesus to kill him. Rather, he laid his life down willingly.
But, the prophets continued to rave about trying to bring fire. “No one answered; no one paid attention.”
At the time of the evening sacrifice, Elijah said, “Come near to me.” All this happens on Mt. Carmel, the name of which means something like fertile ground. Then Elijah repaired the altar. And, he had a trench dug around the altar. Next, he put the sacrifice on the wood on the altar. Then, Elijah had water poured on the offering three times. He had so much water poured on the offering that it filled the trench with water. Something this wet shouldn’t burn with fire. Jesus was filled with the Spirit during his ministry and as he went to cross the place of his sacrifice.
Elijah calls on God. Fire comes down and burns up the offering and “licks up the water that was in the trench.” John 19:28 says, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’” Why did Jesus thirst? He needed water. Symbolically, the Spirit had left him. In John 19:30, Jesus says, “It is finished.” He had done the work of his sacrifice. The passage goes on to say, “And he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
When the people saw how God burned the offering that Elijah had doused with water “they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” Matthew 27:54 says, “When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’”
So, the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal is a wonderful picture of Jesus on the cross. And, there are so many more details that could be brought out.