MANY claim that neither Enoch nor Elijah ever died, and that they remain alive today. It is said that both were “taken to heaven,” and that they remain there even at present, living in the very presence of God Himself. Various Jewish and Christian legends, some of them quite ancient, have been handed down in support of these traditions. The scriptural record itself, however, does not substantiate such beliefs.
Very little is known concerning Enoch. He was the son of Jared and the father of Methuselah (Gen.5:18,21; not to be confused with Enoch, son of Cain, mentioned in Genesis 4:17). He was a member of the line of descent through Seth by which the knowledge of God was preserved. The expression “walked with God” is used only of Enoch (Gen.5:24) and Noah (Gen.6:9) in the early chapters of Genesis.
Elijah was the ninth-century B.C. prophet of Israel, the northern kingdom of the divided monarchy during the reigns of Ahab, Ahaziah, and Jehoram. The episodes recorded in Scripture in the life of Elijah, are basically concerned with the clash between the worship of Yahweh and Baal. Ahab fostered a Phonecian variant of Baal worship (which was the nature-religion of Canaan) after his marriage with the Tyrian princess Jezebel; but it was Jezebel who was chiefly responsible for the systematic extermination of the worship of Yahweh and of the propagation of the idolatrous worship of Baal in Israel (1 Kings 18:4,13,19; 19:10,14).
Since the word “heaven” is used in reference to Elijah’s removal, it is important that we note which usage of this word is in view in 2 Kings 2:1, concerning Elijah. But since in the case of Enoch, nothing at all is said of “heaven,” it is foolhardy to claim that since God somehow transferred him somewhere, for a period of unspecified duration, He therefore doubtlessly transferred him into the celestial realms themselves, so that he might remain in the divine presence even unto today.
In approaching this theme, may we, first of all, intensely believe the words of the Lord Jesus in which He declares: “And no one has ascended into heaven except He Who descends out of heaven” (John 3:13). Our Lord’s statement is explicit and correctly rendered; hence it must stand. Heaven, in this case, must be defined according to the preceding context (John 3:12), the celestial regions which are in contrast to the earth.
In the Scriptures, “heaven” is sometimes applied to the vast regions of interstellar space; and, it is used as well in reference to the atmosphere immediately surrounding the earth.
Concerning Enoch, we will do well to believe that “all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty-five years” (Gen.5:23), while noting as well that Enoch is included among the “all these” who died in faith, as recorded in Hebrews 11 (cp vs.5 and 13).
Earlier, God had “taken” Enoch (Gen.5:23), and “transferred” him, so that he would not “be being acquainted with death” (Heb.11:5; note the incomplete verb form, as indicated by the superior vertical line in the CV). Yet eventually he died; for all of his days were 365 years.
We are not told where Enoch was taken, or transferred to. But we are informed that God’s purpose in transferring him was in consideration of his having pleased Him well, and so that he might not be being acquainted with death (Heb.11:5; cp Gen.5:22b). It may be that God transferred Enoch from one place to another so as to put him beyond the reach of wicked men who were seeking his soul. The environ to which he was relocated is not specified in Scripture. But there is no reason to suppose that he was transferred even to the ends of the earth, much less to the celestial sphere.
Since Elijah ascended heavenward in a tempest (i.e., a violent storm, 2 Kings 2:1,11), it is evident that the atmospheric heavens are in view. For that matter, this would be clear enough from the AV rendering “whirlwind,” since such a disturbance is as much an atmospheric phenomenon as is a tempest. The atmospheric heavens are the heavens in which birds fly over the earth, “on the face of the atmosphere of the heavens” (cp Gen.1:20). Indeed, the word “into” (“into heaven,” AV, 2 Kings 2:1) is added; there is no preposition in the Hebrew. It is simply that thus, by a tempest, Yahweh removed Elijah “heavenward.”
This was done so that Elisha might assume the office of prophet which Elijah had formerly held (2 Kings 2). From a consideration of the nature of the case in the letter which Elijah wrote which is recorded in 2 Chronicles 21:12-15 (concerning events which themselves had not yet occurred at the time of Elijah’s removal from the earth by means of the tempest), it seems clear that this letter was written, on earth, some ten years after the time of that occurrence. Thus we would conclude that after having been removed from the presence of his associates by means of the tempest, Elijah was evidently transported to some other locale, for further divine service, though no longer as a prophet.
Thus, though Elijah’s death is not specifically recorded, there is no more reason to suppose that he never died at all and remains alive today, than there is to suppose this of any other biblical figure whose death is likewise not recorded in Scripture.
Moses’ death is recorded in Deuteronomy 34:5,6. When Moses and Elijah are “seen” by the disciples on the mount of transformation (Matt.17:3), their visage is presented as part of a vision (Matt.17:9), which is a “mental sight,” not a true or actual occurrence (cp Acts 12:9).
Let us not presume, however, on the grounds that, at present, Moses and Elijah are dead, that this precludes their being returned to life, in the conclusion of the eon, should it be the will of God for them to serve as the two witnesses of Revelation 11:3 in that day. Conversely, let us be mindful that we are not told whether the two witnesses really are Moses and Elijah. What we can say is that their ministry will be conducted in the spirit and power of Moses and Elijah, as they withstand the rule and religion of the man of lawlessness (cf our article, “The Two Witnesses”).
May these present considerations increase our faith, affording us further assurance that Christ “alone has immortality” (1 Tim.6:16).
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