DID ENOCH AND ELIJAH GO TO HEAVEN?

The  mysterious disappearance of Enoch and Elijah has led to  the popular  belief that at death righteous individuals go to God in heaven. However, this  is contrary to what the Bible teaches.

The references to Enoch being translated so  that  he would not see death and Elijah being carried into the heavens by a great wind and a chariot of fire are often used in an attempt to prove that righteous people go to heaven at death. However, do either of these references prove that any of the righteous have gone or will go to heaven before the return of Christ and resurrection the saints?

Who is in Heaven Now?

Before explaining where Enoch and Elijah actually went, it is important to review what the Bible says about who is in  heaven. It is without question that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the heavenly host of angels are the inhabitants of heaven. But  what about humans? Has  anyone besides Jesus ever gone to heaven?

Jesus refers to heaven where God the Father dwells when he says that no human had gone to heaven at that time. Jesus knew this because he came from heaven:

"And no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven,  even the Son of man . . ." (Jn.3:13 KJV).

The Jews of Jesus' time understood that no human had ever gone  to heaven; they believed that, when a person died, they were dead, awaiting the judgment:

"Then said the Jews to him [Jesus], Now we know that you have a devil. Abraham is dead, and  the prophets;  and you say, If a man keep my saying, he  shall  never taste  death. Are you greater than our father Abraham,  which  is dead?. . ." (Jn.8:52-53 KJV).

In  his  first major evangelistic sermon after Jesus'  death  and resurrection, the Apostle Peter says, "Men and brethren, let me freely  speak to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us to this day. . .. For David is not ascended into  the heavens" (Acts 2:29, 34 KJV).

Peter made these statements about the dead fifty days  after Jesus  had been resurrected. At this point in history, King  David was still dead and buried; he had not been resurrected to life.

The Writer to the Hebrews

In Hebrews chapter 11, there is a long list of  righteous individuals who died without receiving God's promises:

"Who  through  faith  subdued  kingdoms,  wrought  righteousness, obtained  promises,stopped the mouths of  lions,  Quenched  the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of  weakness were  made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to  flight  the armies of aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and  others were tortured, not accepting deliverance;  that  they might obtain a better resurrection:" (vs.33-35 KJV).

If  any are worthy to receive the promises of God, it  would surely be these champions of  faith: Abel, Enoch, Abraham,  and Moses  whom God called his friends, Rahab who had faith that God would protect her for her kindness to the Israelite spies, and  King David  who  loved God  with great zeal. All of these are among the great men and women of faith. However, about thirty years after  Jesus' death and  resurrection  when the letter to the Hebrews  was written, these righteous individuals were still dead in their  graves.

"And these all, having obtained a good report through faith,  received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us,  that they without us should not be made  perfect" (vs.39-40 KJV) See also verse 13.

Twice in this eleventh chapter  these righteous individuals are mentioned  as having died without receiving the promises that God made to them.

The simple truth is that Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, Rahab, David,  the righteous  of all  ages, and the prophets, including Enoch and Elijah, are not alive in heaven; they are dead awaiting the return of Jesus to resurrect them and give them their reward. See Matt.24:29-31; 1.Cor.15:50-54; 1.Thes.4:16-17; 2.Thes.2:1-8.

WHO WAS ENOCH?

There  are  two Enochs mentioned in Genesis; however, it  is  the second  Enoch (the son of Jared and the father  of  Methuselah) who many people think escaped death and went to heaven. Jude calls him the seventh from Adam, which does not mean that he was the seventh person from Adam. It means that he was the seventh preacher of righteousness from Adam; Noah was the eighth. See 1.Chron.1:1-2; Jude 14-15; Lk.3:37-38; 2.Pet.2:5.

Enoch the Prophet

Enoch foretold  the destruction  of  the world in which he lived (Gen.5:21-27) through the name of his son Methuselah, which can be interpreted as 'man of the spear/weapon' or 'at his death it shall be'. If we assume Methuselah's name means 'at his death it will be', it is easy to see that Methuselah's name pictured the end of that era of humanity.

Methuselah was 187 years old when Lemech, Noah's father, was born; Lemech  was  182 years old when Noah was born, and Noah  was  600 years  old when the Great Flood came upon the earth (Gen.7:6). From Methuselah's birth to his  death  and  the beginning of the flood is 969 years: "And all the  days  of Methuselah  were 969 years: and he died" (Gen.5:27 KJV).

Enoch also predicted the end of the next era of humanity, when he foretold the return of Christ with the elect of God to establish the Kingdom of God on earth:

"And  Enoch  also,  the seventh from Adam,  prophesied  of  these things, saying, Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of  his saints,  To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all  that are ungodly among them of all of their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which  ungodly sinners have spoken against him" (Jude 14-15 KJV). See Isa.9:6-7; 1.Thes.3:13; Rev.17:14.

What happened to Enoch?

"By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death;  and was  not  found, because God had translated him: for  before  his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God" (Heb.11:5 KJV).

The translators of the King James Bible translated the two Greek words 'metathesis'  and 'metatithemi', which means 'change of place' and 'put  in another  place' into the English word 'translated.' This is probably because the theology of their day taught that when righteous people died they were taken to heaven. However, by no  stretch  of the imagination can the two Greek words 'metathesis'  and 'metatithemi', which are used in Hebrews 11:5, convey the  concept of Enoch being transported to  heaven.

Even a casual reading of Hebrews chapter eleven reveals that none of the men and women mentioned, including Enoch, had yet received the promises given to the patriarchs and other righteous individuals (Heb.11:13, 39-40).

Enoch Walked With God

One thing that is evident about Enoch is that he  had  a very close and special relationship with  the Creator God.  This relationship was so special to  God  that  he  spared Enoch the agony of seeing the catastrophic events of the flood by  mercifully ending his life:

"And  Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three  hundred  years,  and begat sons and daughters: And all the  days  of Enoch  were  three hundred and sixty and five years: And  Enoch walked with God; then he was not, for God took him" (Gen.5:22-24 Para.).

The English phrase 'was not' is translated from the Hebrew word 'ayin', which has  no  single meaning, but it is a  negative  substantive. Therefore, its meaning must always be determined by context. The word 'ayin' can  never  indicate that  something continues to exist in one state or another; moreover, it cannot mean that something is transported to another  place in time and space. In the context of Genesis 5:24, it can only mean  that  Enoch was not (i.e., he ceased to exist as  a living breathing human; he was not alive from that point on).

Enoch is Dead

Moses does not say that Enoch did not die, nor does he say  that  Enoch went to heaven. He merely says that "He was not . . . for God  took him" (Gen.5:24). The writer to the Hebrews only says that Enoch had a change of place (Greek: 'metathesis') so that he would not  see death, and that he was not found because he was put in another place (Greek: 'metatithemi') by God.

Did  Enoch escape physical death and go to heaven or is he  dead waiting  for the first resurrection? The scriptures clearly  show that  Enoch did not escape death; he is waiting  for  the  first resurrection of the dead at Christ's coming just like all the  righteous who have died through the ages.

It is obvious from the scriptures that Enoch is dead, but where did he go when he died? Jesus, Peter, and the writer of Hebrews say that none of those who died before Jesus became the perfect sacrifice have received the Promises of God; therefore, the only place Enoch could have gone when he died was to his grave where all the righteous dead await the first resurrection. See 1.Cor.15:50-52; 1.Thes.4:13-17.

God Took Moses

In Deuteronomy 32:48-52; 34:4-7, the Creator God took Moses from among the living, and buried him so that he could not be  found. This means that Moses died and was buried someplace where no one could find his body.

Moses and Enoch were both taken by God. Moses was  a healthy vibrant individual when God took him from among the living, and Enoch was only 365 years old when  God took him (he was barely a middle aged man according to the  longevity  standards of his time). Both of these men could have lived  many  more years if God had not intervened and cut their lives short.

The Second death:

"Truly, truly I say to you, if anyone keeps My  word, he will never see death" (Jn.8:51 Para.). See also Jn.11:25-27.

It  is evident that, since righteous individuals have died  a  physical death before and after Jesus spoke these words, Jesus  was speaking of the second death which will come upon all the incorrigible  wicked (Rev.20:14; 21:7-8). The scriptures  clearly  say that no man, other than Jesus, has ever gone to or is in  heaven (Jn.3:13; Acts 2:29;34; Heb. chp.1).

The  death that God did not want Enoch to  see was  the death of humanity in the Great Flood at the end of the age in which he lived (Gen.5:23; Heb.11:15).

DID ELIJAH GO TO HEAVEN?

The  Prophet Elijah first appears in scripture in 1.Kings  17:1 to  pronounce  a drought upon the House of Israel. Elijah  was  a prophet  to  the House of Israel during the reigns of  King  Ahab (874-854  B.C.)  and his son Ahaziah who reigned  for  one  year (853-852  B.C.). At the end of Ahaziah's reign and the beginning of Joram's reign in 852 B.C., the events surrounding  the end  of Elijah's ministry to the House of Israel occurred. These two events are recorded in 2.Kings.

2.Kings 2:1-15 Paraphrased

"And it happened, when the Lord God was to take up Elijah to heaven in a tempest, Elijah and Elisha went from Gilgal. And Elijah said to Elisha, Please stay here, for the Lord God has sent me to Bethel.  And Elisha  said, As the Lord God  lives, and your soul lives, I  will not leave  you.  And they went down to Bethel. And the  sons  of  the prophets  came out to Elisha, and said to him, Do you  know  that today the Lord God  will take your lord from your head? and he  said, Yes, I know. Keep silent" (vs.1-3).

It did not come as a surprise to Elisha or  the sons of the prophets that Elijah would to be taken by God.

"And  Elijah said to him, Elisha, please stay here,  for the Lord God has  sent me to Jericho. and he said, As the Lord God lives, and  your soul lives, I will not leave you. And they came into Jericho. And the sons of the prophets in Jericho came near to Elisha, and said to  him, Do you know that today the Lord God will take away your  lord from your head? And he said, Yes, I know. Keep silent" (vs.4-5).

The sons of the  prophets who  lived  in Jericho also knew that Elijah would depart  from them.

"And  Elijah said to him, Please stay here, for the Lord God has  sent me  to the Jordan. And he said, As the Lord God lives, and  your  soul lives, I will not leave you. And they went on, both of them.  And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went on and stood afar off, across from them and they both stood by the Jordan" (vs.6-7).

Why did Elisha and these fifty men want to follow Elijah around the country? The reason is that they knew Elijah would be  taken from them by God and this was a major event in all of their lives, because he was their teacher and leader. However, the scriptures do not say how all these people knew of this event; the scriptures only show that they knew about it and that they wanted to be with Elijah when it happened.

"And  Elijah  took his mantle, and rolled it up, and  struck  the waters.  And they were divided here and there, so that they  both went  over on dry ground. And it happened, when they wer crossing, Elijah said to Elisha, Ask what I shall do for you before  I am  taken  from  you. And Elisha said, Then let there  now  be  a double mouth of your spirit on me. And he said, You have asked  a hard thing. If you shall see me taken from you, it shall be so to you. And if not, it shall not be" (vs.8-10).

Elijah took off his mantle (i.e., his cloak,  which was the symbol of his authority) and used it to part the Jordan. Elisha asked for the spirit, which Elijah had  to be upon him also. Most translators feel that Elisha asked for  a double  portion  of the spirit power Elijah had. However, the phrase 'double mouth' can also mean 'two-thirds' as in Zechariah  13:8. Two-thirds is the correct  translation, which is evidenced by the events depicted in the following scripture:

"And  it happened, as they were going on and speaking, behold,  a chariot  of  fire  and horses of fire came.  And  they  separated between them both, and Elijah went up in a tempest to heaven. And Elisha was watching, and he was crying, my father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen! And he did not see him again: and  he took hold of his garments and tore them into two pieces" (vs.11-12).

Elijah was taken into the sky and he disappeared. This was  an  emotional  moment for those who stood by because they were  losing fellowship  with Elijah who had been their teacher  and  prophet for many years:

"And he lifted up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from  him, and  turned  back  and stood on the lip of Jordan.  And  he  took Elijah's mantle that had fallen from him, and struck the waters, and said, where is the Lord God, the God of Elijah, even he?  And  he struck the waters; and they were split in two here and there, and Elisha crossed over" (vs.13-14).

By picking up Elijah's  cloak and using it in a powerful way, Elisha demonstrated  to those  standing by that the office of the prophet to Israel had been transferred to him.

"And when they saw him, the sons of the prophets across in  Jericho,  then they said, The spirit of Elijah has rested on  Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed to the earth to him"  (v15).

After acknowledging that Elisha had replaced Elijah as the prophet to Israel, these men asked permission to search for the body of Elijah.  Elisha  reluctantly gave his permission,  because  he knew Elijah  was  still alive. After a three day search, they  did  not find him and returned to Jordan (see verses 16-18).

Two Nations

In order to understand what happened to Elijah, it is important to understand that, at the time of Elijah's  ministry,  the  nation of Israel was separated into two distinct nations: the House of Israel and  the  House  of Judah. Each of these had their own central governments. The  House of  Israel's king governed from Samaria, and the House  of  Judah's king governed from Jerusalem.

Where Did Elijah Go?

The  answer  to the question of where Elijah went after  he  was taken up into the sky in the chariot of fire is not as difficult as some think. Many believe that he was taken to heaven  to be  with  God; however, this was not  the  case. Elijah was still alive and performing the duty of a prophet  long after he was taken into the sky.

A Letter From Elijah

2.Chronicles 21 contains a letter to King Jehoram  from  Elijah warning him about the punishment that God would give him and the nation of Judah:

"Also,  he  had made high places in the mountains of  Judah,  and caused  the  people of Jerusalem to commit fornication,  and  led astray Judah. And a writing came to him from Elijah the  prophet, saying,  So says Jehovah, the God of your father  David,  Because you have not walked in the ways of your father Jehoshaphat,  and in the ways of Asa the king of Judah, and you walk in the way  of the kings of Israel, and caused Judah and the people of Jerusalem to commit fornication like the fornications of the house of Ahab; and also you have killed your brothers, the house of your father, who were better than yourself; behold the Lord God shall strike with a great  destruction  among your people, and among your  sons,  and among all your goods; and you, with many sicknesses, with disease in  your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the  sickness, day by day" (vs.11-15 Para.).

Notice  that Elijah wrote this letter to king Jehoram  of  Judah who  began his reign in 848 B.C.. This is a very  important  date because Elijah departed Israel by the chariot of fire at the  end of Ahaziah's reign and the beginning of Joram's  reign  in  852 B.C..  This means that, even if Elijah wrote this letter  at the  beginning of Jehoram's reign, he could not have  written  it any earlier than four years after he had left Israel.

Remember that Elisha only asked for two thirds of the spirit that Elijah  had. The reason he did not ask  for more was  that  he knew  Elijah would continue to live, and to  ask  for  more power and authority than Elijah would be the same as asking  to replace  him as the chief prophet. This was an unthinkable  thing for Elisha, because he knew that his master Elijah would  continue to live.

The four year gap between the reigns of King Joram of Israel  and King Jehoram of Judah proves beyond a doubt that Elijah was still alive long after his departure from his office as prophet to  the House of Israel:

"And after this, the Lord God plagued him in his bowels by disease for which  there was no healing; and it happened, from days to  days, and  as  the  time went out, the end of two years of  days,  his bowels  fell out because of his sickness; so he dies  of  painful diseases. And his people made no burning for him, like the  burning of his fathers. He was thirty-two years old when he began  to reign,  and  he  reigned eight years in Jerusalem;  and  he  left without being desired, and they buried him in the city of  David, but not in the graves of the kings" (2.Chron. 21:18-20 Para.).

Jehoram's sickness lasted two years and  he  reigned eight  years. If his sickness started shortly after Elijah  pronounced  the curse, Elijah's letter would have been written about ten  years after he departed Israel.

The  scriptural evidence seems to show that Elijah  lived at  least  10 years after his departure from Israel.  It is not evident how  much longer  he lived than that. However, he did not  go to the heaven where God is.

THE TRANSFIGURATION

Some would say that the appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus  on the  Mount of transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-13 proves that Enoch and Elijah are alive in heaven:

"And after six days, Jesus took Peter and James, and his  brother John, and brought them up into a high mountain apart. And he  was transfigured before them and his face shone like the sun, and his clothing became white as the light. And, behold! Moses and Elijah appeared  to them, talking with him. And answering Peter said  to Jesus,  Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you will,  let  us make three tabernacles here, one for You, one for Moses, and  one for Elijah.  While he was yet speaking, behold, a  bright  cloud overshadowed them. And, behold, a voice out of the cloud  saying, This  is my beloved Son, in whom I have found delight; hear him. And  hearing  the disciples fell on their face and  were  greatly terrified. And coming near, Jesus touched them and said, Rise up, and  do not be terrified. And lifting up their eyes they did  not see anyone except Jesus alone" (Matt.17:1-8 Para.).

A few days before this event Jesus told  his disciples,  "Truly I  say to you, there are some standing here who shall in  no  way taste of death until they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom" (Matt.16:28 Para.).

A few days after Jesus spoke these words to the apostles,  Peter, James, and John did see a vision of Jesus as he would be in  his kingdom.  This was a vision of  Jesus, Moses  and Elijah  in  the glory of the resurrection, which has not actually occurred yet: it was a prophetic vision.  See  Jn.3:13; Acts 2:29;34; Heb.11:33-35;39-40; 1.Thes.4:16-17; 2.Thes.2:1-8.

"And  as  they were going down from the mountain,  Jesus  charged them,  saying, Tell the vision to no one until the Son of man  is raised from the dead" (v9 Para.). See also Mk.9:2-10; Lk.9:28-36.

A vision is not a material thing, it is a graphic  representation of the real thing. Peter, James, and John knew that Moses and Elijah were dead, which is why they asked  Jesus about the coming of Elijah:

The Coming of Elijah

"And His disciples asked him, saying, Why then do the scribes say that  Elijah must come first? And answering Jesus said  to  them. Elijah  indeed comes first, and shall restore all things.  But  I say to you, Elijah has already come, and they did not know  him, but  did to him whatever they desired. So also the Son of man  is about  to suffer by them. Then the disciples understood  that  he spoke to them about John the Baptist" (Matt.17:10-13 Para.).

In Jesus' day,  there was a belief that the prophet  Elijah  would actually  be  resurrected or reincarnated in  another  individual just before the  first advent of the Messiah.

Before the conception of John the Baptist, an angel  told  his father,  Zacharias,  "And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to  the Lord their God. And he will go before him in  the  spirit and power of Elijah . . ." (Lk.1:16-17 Para.). John  was to  come  in the spirit and power of Elijah. He was not going to actually  be Elijah. He would  be directed and empowered by the same spirit as Elijah.

Just  as  John the Baptist came in the spirit and  power  of  the office  of  Elijah and preceded the first ministry of  Jesus,  the prophet foretold by Malachi will precede the return of  Jesus to establish the Kingdom of God. This prophet will not be  Elijah incarnate; instead, like John the Baptist, he will come in  the spirit and power of Elijah.

Only  a  few who lived during the time of Jesus  understood  that John was the Elijah of Jesus' day. They only understood this because they had been told by Jesus. The prophet who will come in the end of  this age  to proclaim the return of Christ will be recognized  by  all of those who truly follow God. See Dan.12:9-10.

"Behold I am sending you Elijah the prophet before the coming  of the  great  and dreadful day of Jehovah. And he  shall  turn  the heart  of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers,  lest I come and smite the earth with  utter destruction" (Mal.4:5-6 Para.).

Conclusions

It is evident from the scriptures that Moses, Elijah, Enoch,  the prophets,  and  the righteous dead of all ages are not  alive  in heaven. The only human that has ever gone to heaven is the  Creator  God who came from heaven to become a man and returned after his death and resurrection (see Jn.3:13; 14:2-3; Acts 1:10-11). All people, including  the righteous who have died over  the centuries, are still dead and await their resurrection after  the return of Christ.

By B.L Cocherell, file b7w11