Did Enoch and Elijah Go to Heaven?
Carl E. Finley
(EDITORIAL NOTE: In an effort to give TRUTH MAGAZINE variety, we insert the following article. Should some of you brethren care to write on this same subject, you are invited to do so. One of the purposes of such a publication is to provide a medium for brotherly discussions of Bible subjects.)
Some time ago I received a thirteen-page letter from a good woman in Harlingen, Texas in which she asked some interesting questions. Among other things she wanted to know if I believe the Bible to teach that Enoch and Elijah are now in heaven and reached that place of glory, without having tasted physical death. She said that she had been so taught but could not harmonize that idea with certain passages of scripture.
It is possible that other people have been taught the same thing without having carefully examined all scriptures bearing on the subject. My study of the following passages of scripture has led me to believe that both Enoch and Elijah had to die a physical death the same as you and I must some day do.
First of all let me call to your attention the statement of our Savior in John 3:13: "And no man hath, ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." Enoch and Elijah are not mentioned as exceptions. Jesus plainly said that HE, himself, is the only one who has ascended up to heaven.
In Heb. 9:27 we are informed that "it is appointed unto man once to die..." Again nothing is said about Enoch and Elijah being exceptions to that law.
The reason that some people may have believed that these two great men of God did not die physically is because it is said of one that he was "translated" and of the other that he was caught up to heaven in a whirlwind. It is recorded in Genesis 5:24 that "Enoch walked with God: and he was not: for God took him." In Hebrews 11:5 the writer states it like this: "He (Epoch) was not found because God had translated him." So, the argument is sometimes made that Enoch went to heaven because God translated him.
I wonder if any of our readers would object, or consider me to be irrational if I should tell you that the Lord also translated me a few years ago? Yes, it is true. It was in 1929 that I obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ, and as a result of my obedience, the Lord translated me. I was translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son (Col. 1:13). Of course everyone who obeys from the heart will also be translated. But in no place does the Bible indicate that being translated means going to heaven. Why should we jump to the conclusion that Enoch miraculously ascended into heaven without having died simply because it is said that God translated him? Enoch had been gone for many, many years when Jesus said that no man hath ascended unto heaven but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man, which is in heaven.
It is true that the statement is made in Hebrews 11:5 that "Enoch was translated that he should not see death," but in view of the foregoing scriptures who will dare say that physical death is intended? Enoch was a righteous man. He walked with God for three hundred years after the birth of his son, Methuselah. I understand that his translation was a spiritual translation from the wicked life he must have lived prior to the birth of Methuselah. Nothing is said of his walking with God until after the birth of his son. Because he walked with God, God translated him that he should not see the spiritual death, which characterizes those who do not walk with God.
Before noticing the case of Elijah I wish to mention just one more verse of scripture. In 1 Tim. 6:16 the Apostle Paul reminds us that, "Christ only hath immortality." Thus it is clear that Enoch and Elijah are not in heaven; they did not escape physical death, for otherwise they, too, would have immortality.
In 2 Kings 2, the fact is recorded that Elijah went up into heaven in a whirlwind.I think all of our readers are aware of the fact that the Bible speaks of at least three heavens -- the heaven of the moon, stars and other planets; secondly, the heaven of clouds and winds and where the birds fly (We call it the atmosphere.) Incidentally, whirlwinds are to be found in this heaven. Genesis 1: 20, mentions this heaven. The third heaven is described as being the abode of God and His angels.
Now the question is: Which of these three heavens was Elijah caught up into in a whirlwind? The fact he was in a whirlwind would indicate that he was in the atmosphere above the earth where clouds and winds are naturally found. If he was caught up into that third heaven where God's throne is, then we have a contradiction of the Savior's statement that he alone had ascended up into heaven (John. 3:13). We know, of course, that there are no contradictions in the Bible, and the only conclusion that is logical and which does not contradict other scriptures is that Elijah was not caught up into the heaven where God's throne is, but was caught up in the atmosphere and transported by a whirlwind to another location on the earth.
The question might logically be asked here, Why? Why did God take Elijah for a ride in a whirlwind? Elijah was an old man. He had served God well in his office as "leader of the sons of the prophets." The time had come for him to be replaced by a younger man, Elisha. We can readily see the wisdom of God in removing Elijah to a new location while his successor carried on the work, which he formerly had done.
Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind and transported through the atmosphere to another part of the earth where he lived for at least TEN YEARS--possibly longer. Elisha succeeded Elijah in about the year 899 B.C Jehoram began his reign as king over Israel at about the same time (2 Kings 3:1). Five years later another King, also named Jehoram, began to reign over God's people (2 Kings 8:16). He differed from his predecessor in that he was a wicked king and caused many of his relatives to be killed lest they should aspire to the throne. After he had been ruling for five years he receive d a letter from Elijah. Ten years before this Elijah had been taken up into heaven in a whirlwind. In this letter Elijah rebuked King Jehoram for not walking in the ways of his fathers (2 Chr. 2:12-15).
How could he write this letter to the king when he had been caught up to heaven in a whirlwind ten years earlier? The answer lies in the fact that he had simply been moved by God to a new location on the earth where few, if any, recognized him. God had moved him by means of a whirlwind. How many years he lived in this new location is not revealed, but we do know that he lived there at least ten years.
Truth Magazine VII: 4, pp. 9-10