DID ENOCH AND ELIJAH GO TO HEAVEN?Back to Alphabetical Index | Back to Chapter Index
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 AdamCNoah 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).
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.
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.).
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.