No Man Has Ascended Up To Heaven
As supposed evidence that people go to heaven rather than sleep in an unconscious existence awaiting the return of Christ, some commentators and preachers say that Enoch was taken to heaven by God. What does the Bible say?
The Bible says that Enoch walked with God, and according to Jude he preached for God:
“And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 1:14.15).
The Bible tells us in Genesis 5:24 that at some point, he was not, for God took him. Enoch lived 365 years and then he was not. So the Bible clearly says that Enoch lived and then he was not.
In Hebrews 11 we read:
“By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”
Neither Genesis 5 nor Hebrews 11 says that God took Enoch to heaven, only that he was translated. Many claim this means God took Enoch to heaven. However, the Lord Jesus said:
“No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven - the Son of Man” (John 3:13 - CSB)
There is no manuscript that translates this verse as follows:
“No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven - the Son of Man (and Enoch)” (Italicized words are mine).
The Lord Jesus said that no man has ascended to heaven. I choose to believe the Lord Jesus.
Where did God take Enoch? The Bible doesn’t say. It just says he was translated.
What does it mean that Enoch was translated? The only other verse the word “translated” is used is Colossians 1:13, and it says that “(God) hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:” This certainly doesn’t mean that God had taken Paul and his readers to heaven. But they had been transferred from light to darkness. Evidently Enoch was transferred elsewhere, and the Bible leaves it at that.
What does it mean that Enoch was translated that he should not see death? It has been suggested that the death that Enoch did not want to see was not his own death, but the death of his descendants in the coming flood. More likely, Enoch was supernaturally moved by God from a situation in which he likely would have died, perhaps at the hands of those who hated his preaching. We see that God relocated his servants at other times in the Bible:
“And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.” (Acts 8:39-40)
“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. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces.” (2 Kings 2:11-12)
Significantly, we read in Hebrews 11:13 that those named in the previous verses “all died in faith.” Enoch is included in that list of names. I may not have the exact answer as to where Enoch was taken, but I know the Bible says that no man has ascended to heaven and that Enoch eventually died. I will choose to believe the Bible.
Perhaps an observant reader noticed that the Bible says Elijah, “went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11).
The Bible speaks of three heavens:
“And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day” (Genesis 1:8). This is the atmosphere of the earth, where the clouds are found.
“And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be” (Genesis 15:5). This is where the planets and stars are found.
“I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven” (1 Corinthians 12:2). This is the location of God’s throne.
Since the Lord Jesus specifically said that no man had gone to heaven, he obviously was speaking of the location of God’s throne. However, Elijah was caught up into the earth’s atmosphere and transferred to another place, from which he wrote a letter years later (2 Chronicles 21:12-15). King Jehoram received a letter from Elijah, discussing his actions after Elijah had gone up in the whirlwind. How did this happen if Elijah wasn’t alive somewhere on the earth? Perhaps he was living in a remote area of God’s choosing until his death. We aren’t told. But the Bible doesn’t say that Elijah appeared to him in a vision, and certainly God could have sent an angelic messenger to Jehoram if needed. The fact that a letter was received from Elijah aligns with the biblical truth that no man has ascended to heaven, but Elijah, like Enoch and Philip, had been relocated by God.
I believe that Enoch and Elijah both eventually died and will be resurrected when Christ returns. What a glorious day that is going to be for all those who have died in faith.
Though they may differ from one another in some details, here are some sources for more material on Conditional Immortality:
Lecture by Edward Fudge - Video