When taking my view of what scripture says about the heart of the earth, and how I believe all the righteous of old dwelt there as a holding place, there was only one argument that was really a stumbling block for me. There are more stumbling blocks when you believe Jesus simply went up to heaven when He died, so I knew which view I would stick with in the end. However, not having an answer is really hard. The argument is “If all the righteous of the Old Testament went to the heart of the earth when they died, how do you explain Elijah and Enoch? It even specifies Elijah went up to heaven (2 Kings 2:11).” A good question indeed. First, we must establish the foundation to my entire argument with clear scripture.
“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” -John 3:13Jesus says that no man has ever entered (the third) heaven but He Himself. This means that not a single dead person prior to Jesus’ resurrection has ever entered that Holy place where God dwells. Knowing this, the first assumption we are to make is the fact they are all somewhere else. This place is the place Jesus called “Paradise,” which is in the heart of the earth. The second assumption we are to make is that Enoch and Elijah did not enter the third heaven. Because of this, any mention of “heaven” in the lives of Enoch and Elijah are to always be seen as a reference to the sky/atmosphere.
“And as Obadiah was in the way, behold, Elijah met him: and he knew him, and fell on his face, and said, Art thou that my lord Elijah? And he answered him, I am: go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And he said, What have I sinned, that thou wouldest deliver thy servant into the hand of Ahab, to slay me? As the LORD thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee: and when they said, He is not there; he took an oath of the kingdom and nation, that they found thee not. And now thou sayest, Go, tell thy lord, Behold, Elijah is here. And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth.” – 1 Kings 18:7-12What we need to see in this passage is that Elijah was “translated” (transported) many times before. The Spirit of the Lord acts like a whirlwind and lifts Elijah up into the sky, causing him to fly to various places around the globe, usually mountain tops. Whenever the enemies of God came to look for Elijah , after reported “Elijah sightings” they could never find him. It is apparent that Elijah had a habit of “disappearing” and that it was known amongst the people that the Lord did this thing (v.12). Obadiah’s understanding was that Elijah always was “whisked away” whenever his life might be in jeopardy. Whenever the King’s men came to apprehend Elijah, God picked him up and took him away from the imminent danger, so he should not see his own death.
“And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel. And the sons of the prophets that were at Bethel came forth to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he said, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace.” -2 Kings 2:1-3Once again, this portion of scripture shows that God was going to translate Elijah again, and the people of Bethel knew the routine. Eventually, Elijah was taken by a whirlwind accompanied by chariots of fire into the sky and out of the sight of Elisha (2 Kings 2:11-12).
“And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master: lest peradventure the Spirit of the LORD hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said, Ye shall not send.” – 2 Kings 2:16Notice that the onlooking people went off to look for Elijah, knowing where God usually takes him. Why would they go on a three day journey through the countryside to find a man who isn’t even on earth? These people knew that Elijah was transported from one “earthly” location to another. This is made clear in the scripture because about seven years later (7 years by comparing II Kings 3:1, I Kings 22:42, and II Kings 8:16) we find Elijah still on earth having written to the King of Judah, Jehoram:
“And there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of David thy father, Because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah...” – 2 Chronicles 21:12So we see that the scripture shows that Elijah continued to live on earth. According to Josephus (Antiquities Of The Jews 9:2:2), Elijah and Enoch disappeared from the people so that nobody knew of their death. It is interesting to note that the only other person God did this with was Moses (Deut 34:6). Elijah was picked up bodily and placed down in a different location. The prophet Ezekiel experienced the same phenomenon in his day (Eze 3:12-14), and even Philip was identically transported bodily through the air, from a spot between Jerusalem and Gaza, unto the city of Azotus a few miles away (Acts 8:39-40).
“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.” – Hebrews 11:5Enoch walked the way God instructed him to. This means that Enoch, as Elijah would later also do, confronted the people with God’s truth. He warned them of what would befall them if they did not turn from their evil ways and turn to the true God, creator of heaven and earth (Jude 1:14). The people always attempted to destroy God’s prophets as they were not willing to hear sound doctrine or acknowledge their sin. The truth of the matter is that God took Enoch away to live out his last days elsewhere or maybe even to die immediately elsewhere, but not at the hands of the wicked who sought to kill him for his preaching against them. We know that Enoch, a mere man, did eventually die. Hebrews 11:13, in referring to Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Sarah, says that these all died in faith.
So as you can see, scripture is once again proven true and reliable. Jesus is correct when He says “No man has ascended up to heaven.” Enoch, Elijah, and the rest, did not make it passed the first heaven.