Did Elijah go to heaven?
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The short answer is that we cannot be sure.
2 Kings 2:1 And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.
2 Kings 2:11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
The narrative says that he was taken up into heaven by a whirlwind. The difficulty with accepting this at face value comes in the words of Jesus.
John 3:13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven...
In the Old Testament, both heaven and the earth’s atmosphere (or sky) are called by the same name.
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven (Mymv shamayim) and the earth.
Genesis 1:6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. 7 And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. 8 And God called the firmament Heaven (Mymv shamayim).
If we accept that Elijah was not taken to heaven itself but was taken up into the sky, two options are open to us:
1. Elijah subsequently died and was buried by God in an unknown location. This would be similar to Moses.
Deuteronomy 34:1 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan... 5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. 6 And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.
In support of this, some time after his being whisked away into the sky [to be taken to another safer location], he wrote a letter to the king of Judah, Jehoram, denouncing his idolatry and pronouncing terrible prophetic judgments upon him. This indicates that, although he was "incommunicado" in an unknown location, he was in a safe place probably within the confines of the promised land and still able to communicate with God's people. See 2 Chronicles 21:12-20. This would be a similar "translation" to that of Philip in the New Testament see Acts 8:39,40.
2. Elijah was translated in the same way as Enoch.
Genesis 5:24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
The writer to the Hebrews, by inspiration, tells us:
Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; ; and was not found, because God had translated him:
We do not know what this means and some will insist that he died at a later unspecified date on the basis that:
Romans 5:14... death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression...
We can be sure that Elijah did not ascend to the throne of God, only Jesus did that after his resurrection. Jesus was the first to be given eternal life.
We can also be certain that the reward promised to the righteous is resurrection to eternal life in the kingdom of God on earth, not in heaven. Jesus is to return from heaven to raise the dead and establish the kingdom on the restored throne of David. He will rule the world from Jerusalem.
Luke 1:32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
The hope of the gospel preached by Jesus and the apostles is firmly based on the promise given to Abraham of eternal inheritance on the earth.
Genesis 13:15 For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.
Romans 4:13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
Galatians 3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Eternal inheritance of the earth is plainly taught in the following scriptures:
Psalms 37:11 But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
Psalms 37:22 For such as be blessed of him shall inherit the earth; and they that be cursed of him shall be cut off.
Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Elijah will be sent to Israel in the last days to prepare them to meet their Messiah, but this could well be after Christ (who comes as a thief before Armageddon - Revelation 16:15) has raised from the dead those that are his, which would include Elijah.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Malachi 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
Elijah’s mission to the Jews will meet with more success than John Baptist who came ‘in the spirit and power of Elijah’ (Luke 1:17) prior to Christ’s first coming.
Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
I hope you have found this helpful.