ENOCH and Elijah – are they in heaven?
This blog is really an addendum to a recent sermon in July 2019 I gave on the spirit in man, which is from God and goes back to God upon our death (Ecclesiastes 12:7). I recommend you hear/read those 2 recent sermons.
So many believe Enoch and Elijah were taken by God to heaven. Can that be true?
Yeshua (Jesus) said “NO ONE has ascended to heaven except the Son of Man from heaven” (himself ) – John 3:13. But many believe that active conscious beings are up there, and certainly Enoch and Elijah should be there, many say. But is that true.
If Elijah has ascended to heaven and is in heaven, or if Enoch went to heaven, then are we saying that Yeshua didn’t tell the truth? That can’t be! There must be a better explanation.
Let’s cover Elijah first. And remember again, Yeshua said NO ONE has ascended into heaven – and in context, I believe Yeshua had to be referring to the 3rd heaven where God lives. No man has ascended bodily to Paradise in the 3rd heaven, though we’ll see that Paul says he himself was taken there in a vision so real he could not discern if real or not. You can read his account in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 and beyond.
My point is that Paul calls where God is – the “3rd heaven”, where “Paradise” is. Yeshua said NO ONE has gone up bodily here, so Paul’s experience must have been a very realistic vision.
Saying “third heaven” tells us there are 2 other heavens. (I know many believe in 7 heavens, but scripture speaks of three.) The “third heaven” is God’s dwelling place. Christ is seated at God’s right hand “in the heavens” (Heb 8:1), which is God’s dwelling place (Deut 26:15).
Scripture describes various “heavens”. There is a “heaven” in scriptures where birds fly and where clouds form. That “heaven” is what we call the sky that we can easily see. It’s what is called “inner space” (vs. “outer space”). The birds of heaven fly here (Job 35:11; Jeremiah 16:4). This is the FIRST heaven.
Then there’s a heaven where the moon, sun and stars are. Gen 26:4; Isa 13:10 – outer space. David speaks of “your heavens...” where the moon, and stars are (Psalm 8:3). This “outer space” heaven is the 2nd heaven. And again the 3rd heaven is where God’s throne is.
So what happened to Elijah? It seems that a lot of people like to say he was taken to God’s 3rd heaven in a fiery chariot. I just Googled Elijah and chariot – and so much of the artwork is of Elijah being taken up in a chariot of fire! Children’s Bible stories often show him in a chariot of fire. Is that what scripture says though?
He was talking with Elisha, his successor in ministry, and suddenly a “chariot of fire” came at them, separating them, and then Elijah was picked up in a tornado or whirlwind “into heaven”. It was NOT a fiery chariot that took him up. The chariot was a sudden and scary way to separate the two so Elijah could be isolated and Elijah could be picked up by the tornado. We have many accounts over the years of people being picked up by tornadoes and dropped somewhere else, by the way. Yes, some live to tell the story. So let’s see what scripture actually says.
2 Kings 2:11 “Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”
He was NOT caught up by a chariot of fire driven by angels. It says a whirlwind caught him up. Which of the 3 heavens do whirlwinds operate in? The First heaven – where clouds are, where birds fly.
Click on “Continue reading” to finish the account of Elijah and then Enoch, and whether they are in heaven or not.
Elijah’s ministry was during the reign of the Israelite king Ahaziah to the north of Judah (2 Kings 1:3-17). Ahaziah died shortly after Elijah said he would. Then Elijah was removed by the whirlwind as we’re told in 2 Kings 2.
After Ahaziah short reign, we see that righteous King Jehoshaphat is ruling in Judah to the south. After he dies, his wicked son Jehoram succeeded him in Judah (2 Kings 8:16). Many years have now passed since Elijah was taken up to “heaven” in a whirlwind.
And what happens next? Wicked king Jehoram of Judah receives a letter from Elijah! This is many years after the fiery chariot and whirlwind story.
2 Chronicles 21:12-13 – “And a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, ‘Thus says YHVH Elohim (the LORD God) of your father David: ‘Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah….”
Elijah pronounces death on Jehoram from God. My point is, so Elijah was alive, on earth, and able to write a letter long after his fiery chariot and whirlwind experience. It is clear that Elisha prophesied during the life and reign of Jehoshaphat (2 Kings 3:11-19), so this letter from Elijah, which came AFTER Jehoshaphat died, is many years after the chariot of fire/whirlwind incident.
So Elijah was simply picked up by a tornado or whirlwind, safely deposited where God chose, so that Elisha could continue the main work of ministry. I’ve shown in other sermons how God miraculously moved people from one spot to another in other stories in the Bible – like Philip in Acts 8:38-39. Or how the disciples and their boat suddenly were found on the shore after Yeshua came on board (John 6:19-21, especially verse 21).
Acts 8:38-40 – “So he (the eunuch) commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea.”
John 6:19-21 -- “So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid. 20 But He said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." 21 Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.”
So we can believe Jesus. NO ONE has ascended to the 3rd heaven, where God is. For more details, be sure to read and hear the sermon about the Spirit in man.
ENOCH also disappeared suddenly. Genesis 5:24 says “God took him”. Hebrews 11:5 says God took him so Enoch did not, or would not, see death. Again, that would be because God had taken him. So let’s read the scriptures on it and see what they clearly say – and don’t say.
Genesis 5:22-24 “After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”
Well, what does “for God took him” mean? It seems so many are ready to say Yeshua didn’t know what he was talking about in John 3:13, but that some people have indeed ascended to heaven where God’s throne is. I’m not one who is about to say Yeshua had it all wrong. So let’s understand.
It nowhere says WHERE God took Enoch, though so many assume he was taken to the 3rd heaven. It nowhere says he was taken up to heaven. And we know Jesus says “NO MAN has ascended to heaven (3rd heaven).” John 3:13.
Hebrews 11:5 “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found, because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”
Some translations say “so he would not see death” (instead of “did not see death”). We’re not told what “seeing death” means. Could it be that – had God not taken Enoch away – that he might have been captured and tortured by evil men of his day? Perhaps God was simply sparing him death by painful martyrdom. Perhaps God was letting him die in peace, in a way that Enoch didn’t even know he was about to die. People today often “die in their sleep”, for example, and have no awareness of their death.
So with Enoch, it’s just not clear exactly what happened. We just don’t know. “He wasn’t found”, implies people were looking for him – for good or bad reasons. Moses wasn’t found either when God also took his life and buried him (Deut 34:5-6), but that doesn’t mean Moses is in heaven either.
So the phrase “did not see death” does not have to mean that Enoch did not die. He didn’t SEE his own death.
We do know this about Enoch:
*** it doesn’t say Enoch was taken to heaven. It says he was not found.
*** it’s appointed to men to die once, then the judgment. Hebrews 9:27
*** We also know that in Heb 11:13 it says all the ones discussed prior to verse 13 – DIED. In context, that HAS to include Enoch.
“These ALL DIED in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
And we know he is NOT in heaven, because Yeshua was very clear about that: “NO ONE has ascended to heaven…” John 3:13.
For a fuller explanation of what happens to us, and our existence, when we die – please do check out the 2 sermons on “Who and What are we, really? The spirit in man” – parts 1 and 2. I know you’ll get a lot from those sermons.