ENOCH AND ELIJAH
Rom 5:12 "Therefore, just as sin entered the
world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to
all people, because all sinned."
The bible proclaims the obvious: that every person will
die a physical death. No human is exempt: 1Cor 15:22 "For in Adam all die."
Yet a strange teaching is frequently found in Christian
churches that Enoch and Elijah never died. Instead these two unique men were
allegedly transported or raptured to heaven and escaped death.
In my book on page 58, I acknowledge their mysterious
situation as an "anomaly." At the time of writing the book, I could not explain
the circumstances of their apparently rule breaking disappearance.
Fortunately, we all keep learning and I have come to understand that no anomaly
exists. God did not break his rules of human existence. Instead the judgment and
doctrine of many churches has made a mistake of which I partook. I trust this
paper will set the record straight.
Enoch and Elijah died. I can be emphatically sure of this
because of the primacy of Jesus Christ. Jesus was the first human (although not
the last) to beat death. No one comes before Jesus. He is the firstborn from the
dead (Rev 1:5) and the appearance of our eternal life (1John 1:2).
This paper will study in detail everything that is
Scripturally known about the departure of Enoch and Elijah. Let us start with
Enoch. He was the seventh from Adam.
Gen 5:24 (NKJV) "And Enoch walked with God; and
he was not, for God took him."
Hebrews 11:5 (NKJV) "By faith Enoch was taken
away so that he did not see death, 'and was not
found, because God had taken him'; for before he
was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God."
These two verses are all that we know for sure about
Enoch's last days. Everything else that you may have been taught is conjecture
In Hebrews the Greek word for 'taken away' is
metatheseōs. It means changed, removed, translated, put aside. First, it
should be noted that this is NOT the word harpazō or cognate
thereof meaning caught up in the rapture as used in 1Thes 4:17. Second, it
should be noted that nowhere does the text tell us that Enoch was taken to
heaven. He was just taken away from that place.
We are told in Heb 11:5 that Enoch did not experience death, but does
that mean that Enoch never-ever died, or only that Enoch did not die at that
time? Very powerfully notice that the conclusion to the hall of fame in Heb 11
for the great men of faith says in verse 13 that “these all died in faith.” That
would include Enoch.
As a plausible alternative, I'll propose a theory. We are
only given 2 verses to work with, so I readily admit this is fiction. However
when we explore the theological requirement that Jesus Christ be the first man
to conquer death, then this speculative account seems reasonable.
Perhaps Enoch during the pre-flood world had enemies. We
are told that before Noah's flood the morality and godliness of humanity was
at an all time low. They sought evil continually. Every imagination of their
heart was completely full of wickedness. Enoch was one of a small cadre of
faithful men still honoring and respecting his Creator. Perhaps Enoch
encountered tribulation, resistance and hatred from his neighbors. They were
going to kill him. The wicked neighbors surrounded Enoch with swords and
bludgeoning clubs. They were about to martyr this great holy man, when POOF.
Where did Enoch go?
Scripture repeatedly tells us that God will protect his
faithful servants. He hid Elijah in a canyon from Jezebel. He shut the lion's
mouth for Daniel. There was no hail in Goshen. Perhaps God teleported Enoch away
from his persecution to a place of refuge far away where he was not found and
escaped certain death. Enoch would still be on earth but he would have been
taken, did not see death and was not found. This scenario would explain all of
the biblical language. At this point in Enoch's life, his heir Methuselah
was already 300years old. Perhaps his wife had previously died or perhaps she
too went with him. We do not know the details. Enoch would have eventually died
somewhere and someday as stated in Hebrews 11:13. If his genes were similar to others mentioned during his timeframe, he
probably would have lived about another 500 years after being relocated in God's
witness protection program.
As I said, the details here are purely speculation. But
the theory is biblical. In John 3:13 (NKJV) Jesus said:
"No one has ascended to heaven but He who came
down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man."
Does "no one" include Enoch? Of course, it does. Was Jesus
mistaken? Of course, he was not. At the time Jesus spoke those words, no human
had ever been to heaven. Isaiah, Ezekiel and others had visions of heaven, but
no person had ever actually travelled to heaven in physical body or spiritual
body. We are given scant information about the fate
of Enoch, but in Elijah's story it specifically mentions heaven. What about
2 Kings 2:11 (NKJV) "Then it happened, as they [Elijah
and Elisha] continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire
appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went
up by a whirlwind into heaven."
This verse specifically tells us that Elijah went up into
heaven. But which heaven? The Hebrew word shamayim is used to describe
three different heavens. The first heaven is where the birds fly and the clouds
waft. It is used many times in Scripture. We call it the sky or atmosphere.
The second heaven is where the stars and moon are hung. It envelops our world
like a cloak of darkness. We call it outer space. The third heaven is the
spiritual celestial abode of God. This is the heaven from which Jesus claims to
have come down from. In John 3:13 Jesus is claiming equality and presence with
God in the third heaven. He is unique in that no human had been there as of that
Elijah could not have gone to the third heaven due to
Christ's words. It is silly to consider Elijah going to the second heaven beyond
Jupiter in a
rocket ship chariot. So that leaves the common sense option that Elijah went up
into the sky to be taken away. The fact that he was taken in a whirlwind
sets the answer in front of our noses. Wind only exists in the atmosphere.
The reason that Elijah was taken away is told in 2Kings
2:5 "“Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?”
Elisha had been the faithful servant of Elijah. Elisha poured water over the
hands of Elijah. This is a servant's duty. Handling the water jugs is a
menial task, not generally performed in antiquity by high ranking social
classes. Elisha was a servant. He was also an apprentice or a
prophet in training. To be a great prophet, you must be humble, thus the
servant training. Elijah was his master over him. Elijah was being removed
from the position of prophet and Elisha was going to get a promotion.
This is why Elijah was taken away.
2Kings 2 is the story of Elijah being taken away in the
chariot of fire. 2Kings 3, the very next chapter, speaks of a revolt of Moab
against Israel. The king of Israel, Joram, asks Jehoshaphat of Judah to help
fight. Jehoshaphat agrees and brings with him the king of Edom, who is vassal to
Judah at that time. They consult Elisha for guidance. This is important. If
Elijah had been still around, then the kings would have talked to the master,
not to the servant. This story is AFTER the taking of Elijah. The conclusion to
note is that Jehoshaphat is alive after Elijah is taken.
Now look at 2 Chron 21. It includes a curious piece of
information. Elijah wrote a letter to King Jehoram of Judah. The dating of the
letter has always been problematic for bible students because it clearly was
written AFTER Elijah was taken away.
2 Chron 21:1-6, 11-15 "And Jehoshaphat rested
with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the City of David. Then
Jehoram his son reigned in his place.
2 He had brothers, the sons
of Jehoshaphat: Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azaryahu, Michael, and
Shephatiah; all these were the sons of Jehoshaphat king of Israel.
3 Their father gave them
great gifts of silver and gold and precious things, with fortified cities in
Judah; but he gave the kingdom to Jehoram, because he was the
4 Now when Jehoram was
established over the kingdom of his father, he strengthened himself and
killed all his brothers with the sword, and also others of the
princes of Israel. 5 Jehoram
was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight
years in Jerusalem.
6 And he walked in the way of
the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done, for he had the
daughter of Ahab as a wife; and he did evil in the sight of the LORD."
Moreover he made
high places in the mountains
of Judah, and caused the
inhabitants of Jerusalem to
commit harlotry, and led
And a letter came
to him from Elijah the
Thus says the LORD God
of your father David:
Because you have not
walked in the ways of
Jehoshaphat your father, or
in the ways of Asa king of
13 but have walked in
the way of the kings of
Israel, and have made Judah
and the inhabitants of
Jerusalem to play the harlot
like the harlotry of the
house of Ahab, and also have
killed your brothers, those
of your father’s household,
who were better than
14 behold, the LORD
will strike your people with
a serious affliction—your
children, your wives, and
all your possessions;
15 and you will
become very sick with a
disease of your intestines,
until your intestines come
out by reason of the
sickness, day by day."
Jehoshaphat was a good king of Judah. He reigned for 25yrs
in the mid 9th century BC. He was a contemporary and friend of Elijah. After
Elijah is taken away, Jehoshaphat consults with head prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 3
about military tactics. Then later Jehoshaphat dies and his wicked son
Jehoram does much evil. Elijah writes a letter of rebuke with a prophetic curse of Jehoram's death. In this passage of 2 Chron 21, Elijah outlives Jehoshaphat.
Click link for an
Excel chart with
timeline of the dates of the kings of Judah and Israel during the 10th and
9th centuries BC.
Liberal critics have long pointed to this discrepancy as
evidence that the bible contains internal contradictions. They suggest that
perhaps Elisha wrote the letter, and the bible scribe wrote it down incorrectly.
Elijah/ Elisha, they are similar names and that would be an easy mistake for me
or you. (However, they are more similar in English than in Hebrew.) Or perhaps
the chronology of the chapters in 2 Kings is wrong. Maybe, the liberal scholars
suggest, 2Kings 3 should come before 2 Kings 2. The scribe was confused and
wrote his history in the wrong order. Others have suggested that perhaps the
letter was written much earlier, when Jehoshaphat and Jehoram were both alive
and reigning as co-regents (a common practice for a father to install his heir
while he is still alive). However, the text specifically says "after Jehoshaphat
rested with his fathers" in verse 1.
I am sure that many other dodges and excuses are possible,
but if you have a high view of biblical inspiration and textual integrity, as I
do, then you must concur that Elijah truly wrote the letter after he was taken
away. Maybe he wrote it from heaven and it was delivered by angels, some have
postulated. If so, it did not shock Jehoram into repentance. He died 2 years
later in severe pain from bowel disease.
A more down to earth and realistic scenario is that Elijah
was taken into the sky by a chariot of fire in a whirlwind and set back down to
earth somewhere far away and safe, but still alive in his body regular. He
was decommissioned as a prophet and went to pasture in retirement. Elijah lived
for several more years, possibly in Turkey, Babylon, or Egypt. Later, probably by
inspiration he writes a letter to Jehoram, the evil son of his good friend
Jehoshaphat. Elijah and Jehoshaphat had had a long history. They worked closely
together. The letter is much more powerful coming from a trusted advisor of the
father king, than it would have been from the new generation of prophet Elisha.
The letter is delivered in the traditional fashion by
messenger. Elijah can not come in person, as he has been decommissioned. At some
point after the writing of the letter, Elijah dies a normal human death and is
buried to await the resurrection. Of course, this is historical fiction. I
cannot prove a word of it from our known history. It is a plausible solution to
the given facts of the text.
What I can prove comes from theology. This is why I
am certain that neither Enoch nor Elijah went to the celestial heaven of God's
Rom 5:12 "Therefore, just as sin entered the
world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to
all people, because all sinned."
Romans 5:12 tells us that human death is a direct result
of human sin. Death is part of the curse levied against Adam: to dust you shall
return (Gen 3:19). Without redemption from God, all people will ultimately and
finally die in hell. The bible calls it the second death. Graciously and
mercifully God has provided redemption. We can escape death through Jesus
Jesus defeated death by his resurrection. The bible tells
us that Christ is the first man to conquer death.
Colossians 1:18(NKJV) "And He is the head of the body,
the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all
things He may have the preeminence."
Revelation 1:5(NKJV) "and from Jesus Christ, the
faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings
of the earth. "
1 Cor 15:20 (NKJV) "But now Christ is risen from the
dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep."
Firstborn from the dead means that Jesus is the elder
brother of all believers. He is the first human to be resurrected and the first
to never ever die again. Likewise, firstfruits indicates the beginning of the
resurrection harvest. Nothing comes before him in preeminence, chronology, or by
any other measure.
Heb 2:10 "For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all
things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make
the captain [archēgos] of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Jesus is the archēgos of our salvation. This Greek
word literally means to bring forth from the beginning. Another words pioneer,
predecessor, original leader by example. Jesus furnished the first cause of
eternal life. Using this very same Greek word, Heb 12:2 calls Jesus the author [archēgos]
of our faith. In Acts 3:15, Jesus is the archēgos of life itself. He is
the pioneer of Life Eternal. Captain is a good translation, for the captain of
an army platoon
always leads the charge in a battle.
This is theologically critical for a Christian to believe and
acknowledge. Jesus is prime. Enoch nor Elijah received eternal life before
This single point should be overwhelmingly enough, however additional
evidence exists. For Enoch and Elijah to be bodily raptured to heaven and
never physically see death would be in contradiction to the epistle of Hebrews.
Heb 9:27 "And as it is appointed for men to die once,
but after this the judgment."
Some dispensationalists have speculated that Enoch and
Elijah have only temporarily avoided this clause. They think that perhaps these
two will return as the 2 witnesses of Rev11 and then have their chance to die.
They would be at least 2500 years old at that point. Even if the 2 witnesses are
individual persons (of which I am not dogmatically convinced), their being 2500years old would be in
violation of Genesis 6:3.
Gen 6:3 (NKJV) "And the LORD said,
'My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for
he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.'"
Granted, this decree was given after Enoch's departure but
hundreds of years before Elijah's birth.
Remember, Jesus said to Nicodemous in John 3:13 that no
one had ascended (literally 'gone up') to heaven. Likewise Jesus also
John 6:46 (NKJV) "Not that anyone has seen the
Father, except He who is from God."
The point that Jesus is making is that no human had ever
been to heaven, except Himself. No regular human had ever seen God. This precludes bodily
ascension and spiritual ascension of the soul in the afterlife as of that point
in history. (BTW- The Resurrection and Pentecost changed the course of afterlife
for believers. This is the major tenant of my book, Dead Soul Syndrome. The New Testament experience most
certainly DOES include being with God in heaven. But remember, these words were
spoken before the resurrection of Christ, a watershed event for history.)
A final thought about the return of Elijah: Malachi 4:5
speaks of Elijah returning before the great day of the Lord. This is metaphor.
Jesus said in Matt 11:14 that John the Baptist was Elijah in fulfillment of the prophecy.
Yet John bar Zechariah himself denied it in John 1:21. John was not literally
Elijah. He was not reincarnated. But John was the message of Elijah, he came in
Elijah’s shoes (another metaphor). Likewise, the 2 witnesses in Rev.
11 (if they are individuals) will also come in the shoes of Elijah and Enoch and Moses and all of the
other great prophets. But these future witnesses are not yet born. They are not
literally the ancient prophets. They will be people uniquely born in that day,
but carrying a very old message.
Enoch and Elijah did not physically go to heaven without
bodily death before Jesus' redemption from death. Enoch and Elijah
did not receive a glorified resurrected body before Jesus. Enoch and Elijah did
not live in heaven as a spirit for 1000's of years before Jesus created a path
of eternal life. This only leaves one option- they died on earth.
Understanding this concept of the primacy of Jesus, that
Jesus laid the path to heaven, that Jesus opened the door to God's presence is
an important aspect of my book Dead Soul Syndrome. I advocate the soul sleep of
righteous believers before the resurrection of Jesus. They were forgiven, but
not yet redeemed. They still suffered from the consequences of sin, which is
death. Spiritual death separated them from God. Only after the resurrection of
the Messiah would all of the OT saints be granted a spiritual life in the
comfort of heaven awaiting the bodily resurrection. What happened to Enoch
and Elijah is the same thing that happened to ALL men before the Pentecostal
era. They simply died, rested in the grave and waited for the calling of their
God. That call came loud and clear when Jesus Christ rose from the grave.
Jesus alone is foremost. He is the captain of our
salvation (Heb 2:10). He is the chief apostle and head priest of our confession
(Heb 3:1). Immortality and spiritual life for believers (including Enoch and Elijah) must follow
after Jesus Christ.