What Is the Bible’s View?
Did Elijah and Enoch Go to Heaven?
TO ANSWER this question, certain Bible facts must first be considered. Among them are these: Through his manifestation upon earth nineteen centuries ago, the Son of God “shed light upon life and incorruption through the good news.” (2 Tim. 1:10) Through him God gave to many persons “a new birth to a living hope . . . to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance . . . reserved in the heavens.” (1 Pet. 1:3, 4) Jesus Christ himself was the first person resurrected to fullness of life, the first to be resurrected to heaven.—Rev. 1:5.
Jesus was therefore the “forerunner” of those receiving life in heaven. The inspired Christian writer said of the heavenly hope: “This hope we have as an anchor for the soul, both sure and firm, and it enters in within the curtain [into the Most Holy of the temple, representing God’s own heavenly dwelling place], where a forerunner has entered in our behalf, Jesus who has become a high priest according to the manner of Melchizedek forever.” (Heb. 6:19, 20) The same writer shows that the curtain to the Most Holy compartment of the wilderness tabernacle represented Jesus’ flesh. (Heb. 10:20; compare Exodus 26:1, 31, 33.) As long as Jesus was in the flesh, he could not go into heaven, for “flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom.” (1 Cor. 15:50) By his giving up his flesh, which he gave “in behalf of the life of the world,” and by his being resurrected “in the spirit,” the way was opened for those who would be invited to the kingdom of the heavens.—John 6:51; 1 Pet. 3:18.
Furthermore, Christ’s resurrection is said to be “a guarantee to all men” that God will resurrect others. (Acts 17:31; 24:15) This would not be true if God had been resurrecting righteous men to heaven all through the preceding centuries.
How, then, are we to understand the Bible account about the prophet Elijah, which reads: “As they [Elijah and Elisha] were walking along, speaking as they walked, why, look! a fiery war chariot and fiery horses, and they proceeded to make a separation between them both; and Elijah went ascending in the windstorm to the heavens.” (2 Ki. 2:11) Did Elijah actually go into the heavens of God? Or did he die?
We have the words of God’s greatest prophet, Jesus Christ, who resided in the heavens with his Father for untold centuries prior to his coming to earth. He said: “No man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man.” (John 3:13) Speaking of John the Baptist, Jesus said: “Among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.” (Matt. 11:11) Accordingly, Elijah, not being greater than John, could not be in heaven.
What, then, were the “heavens” into which Elijah was taken by the windstorm? These were the physical heavens, the atmosphere, the “expanse,” also called “Heaven” at Genesis 1:6-8. A windstorm could exist only in this atmospheric expanse, not in the spirit realm of Jehovah’s heavenly presence. Elijah was carried up out of Elisha’s sight by the windstorm.
The Bible does not say that Elijah died on that occasion. As a matter of fact, Elijah was still alive and active as a prophet at least five years later, apparently over in the territory of Judah. The Bible tells us: “Eventually there came a writing to [Jehoram, king of Judah] from Elijah the prophet.” This letter foretold the sickness and death of Jehoram because of his wrong, idolatrous course. (2 Chron. 21:12-15) A further evidence that Elijah did not die at the time of being taken into the “heavens” is that his servant and successor Elisha did not then hold the customary period of mourning for his master.—Compare 2 Samuel 19:1; 1 Chronicles 7:22; 2 Chronicles 35:24.
What about Enoch, the seventh in line from Adam? Of him, the Bible says: “Enoch kept walking with the true God. Then he was no more, for God took him.” (Gen. 5:24) Enoch as a prophet of Jehovah foretold God’s coming with his myriads of angels to execute judgment against the ungodly. (Jude 14, 15) Persecution was likely brought against him because of his prophesying. However, God did not permit his opposers to kill Enoch. Instead God “took him,” evidently meaning that He cut short Enoch’s life at an age far below that of most of his contemporaries. It appears that, as in the case of Moses’ body, Jehovah disposed of Enoch’s body, for “he was nowhere to be found.”—Heb. 11:5; Deut. 34:5, 6; Jude 9.
So, in view of Jesus’ clear statement at John 3:13, Enoch was not taken to the heaven of God’s residence. He died, as the apostle Paul, after naming Enoch and other ancient faithful witnesses of God, makes clear in saying: “In faith all these died, although they did not get the fulfillment of the promises, but they saw them afar off and welcomed them and publicly declared that they were strangers and temporary residents in the land.” (Heb. 11:13) These men knew that their reward was far in the future. The prophets of old knew that their Messianic prophecies did not apply to themselves, but had fulfillment later on. Hence, the apostle Peter says to those who are footstep followers of Jesus Christ the heavenly Forerunner: “Concerning this very salvation [promised to Christ’s joint heirs and being a heavenly hope] a diligent inquiry and a careful search were made by the prophets [including Enoch and Elijah] who prophesied about the undeserved kindness meant for you. They kept on investigating what particular season or what sort of season the spirit in them was indicating concerning Christ when it was bearing witness beforehand about the sufferings for Christ and about the glories to follow these. It was revealed to them that, not to themselves, but to you, they were ministering the things that have now been announced to you through those who have declared the good news to you.”—1 Pet. 1:10-12.
Peter, speaking to the assembled Jews on the day of Pentecost, shortly after Jesus’ resurrection, said of the faithful King David, “a man agreeable to [Jehovah’s] heart”: “Actually David did not ascend to the heavens, but he himself says, ‘Jehovah said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.””’ (Acts 13:22; 2:34, 35) Likewise, Elijah and Enoch, along with others, are in the grave, awaiting the Lord Jesus Christ’s action in putting his enemies under his feet by destroying them. (Acts 2:29) The glorious enthroned Christ will then resurrect these faithful men from the dead, making them “princes in all the earth.” (Ps. 45:16; Rev. 20:11-13) These trustworthy men will work well with the heavenly King to administer righteousness and justice in the earth.