Did Enoch die, or did he go immediately to heaven? What about the prophet Elijah? Was he taken to heaven? Why did Jesus say no one had gone to heaven?
The stories of Enoch and Elijah are fascinating, and the biblical descriptions of the end of their time here are particularly mysterious.
Based on Hebrews 11:5 (King James Version), which says, “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death,” some believe that Enoch never died and was taken to heaven. The New King James Version states that “Enoch was taken away.”
The phrases “translated” or “taken away” come from the Greek word metatithemi, which means “to transfer to another place” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1997, “Translate, Translation”).
The verse continues by stating that Enoch “was not found.” This is a reference to Genesis 5:24: “He [Enoch] was not, for God took him.” So, it seems that God took Enoch from where he was and from a situation in which he likely would have seen death. But, after he was transferred to another place, Enoch died and ceased to be. Genesis 5:23 says that “all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.”
We also know that Enoch died from the statement found in Hebrews 11:13: “These all died in the faith, not having received the promises.” Therefore, Enoch is buried somewhere on the earth awaiting the resurrection at Jesus Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). Enoch is not alive in heaven.
What about Elijah?
Now, what happened to Elijah? In 2 Kings 2:11 we are told plainly that a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and that Elijah “went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”
So did Elijah actually go to the heaven of God’s throne? We have to realize that the Scriptures speak of three heavens:
- The first is the atmosphere of the earth, where the clouds are (Genesis 1:8).
- The second is what we call “space” where the planets and stars are found (Genesis 15:5).
- And the third is the location of God’s throne (2 Corinthians 12:2).
Actually, the prophet Elijah did not die at that time, nor did he go to God’s throne. The chariot must have entered the first heaven or the atmosphere and transferred him to another place, since Elijah wrote a letter many years later! See 2 Chronicles 21:12-15.
Enoch and Elijah not in heaven
An important point to consider is that the Bible clearly teaches us that “no one has ascended to heaven” (John 3:13). Acts 2:29 and 34 emphasize this fact as well. When the apostle Peter gave this sermon, righteous King David was still in his grave about 1,000 years after his death.
Based on the biblical evidence, Enoch and Elijah died, as do we all (Hebrews 9:27). Enoch and Elijah are still in their graves, somewhere on this earth, waiting for the resurrection of the just at Christ’s return; and neither was transferred up into the third heaven of God’s throne.