UPWARD CALL
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but this is my one aim:
to forget everything that's behind, and to strain every nerve to go after what lies ahead.
I press on toward the finish line, where the prize waiting for me is the upward call of God
IN KING JESUS.
(Philippians 3:13-14)
#05-1107
by – Stuart H. Pouliot
January 11, 2011
Elijah: Where was He Taken?
As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which
separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven. (2 Kings 2:11 NASB)
It is often taught that when Elijah was taken up in a chariot of fire, he was taken to heaven, the place of God's
throne, or, as some call it, the third heaven . Since he was alive when this occurred, it is also taught that he did not
see death, that is, he became immortal. In other words, according to this view, Elijah has been alive and well since
the 9 th century BC, living in heaven with God. With this view, some claim that this proves that when believers die,
they too go to heaven to be with the Lord. One other view is that Elijah is a type of the saints who will be raptured
to heaven, as presented by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; that is, they are taken to the throne of God at the end
of the age.
But are these proper biblical views of Elijah? Are they supported by scripture, or do they conflict with scripture?
About 900 years after Elijah was taken up in a chariot, Jesus made a statement of fact that obviously disputes the
view that Elijah ascended into heaven, the place from which the Son of Man descended to earth. No one has
ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man (John 3:13).
Obviously, Elijah had not descended from heaven. Scripture is silent on the origin of Elijah other than he was a
Tishbite. However, James (5:17) tells us that he had a nature like ours, which means he possessed the same
weaknesses and frailties of the flesh as we all do, and this comes from occupying mortal bodies of flesh and blood
as we all do. If he had not descended from heaven, then according to the one who should know, it follows that he
had not ascended to heaven either.
Only Jesus, the Son of man, descended from the Father's throne, and only He was raised from among the dead,
according to the spirit of holiness (Romans 1:4), and deemed worthy to ascend back to heaven to be with His Father.
Christ entered into heaven itself to appear in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:24), that is, all mankind, as the
high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.
As further proof, Paul stressed the immortality of Jesus as the King of kings: Now to the King eternal, immortal
[incorruptible], invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever (1 Timothy 1:17). He who is the blessed
and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords who alone possesses immortality and dwells in
unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see (1 Timothy 6:15-16).
No mere mortal can stand in the presence of God; only one who is immortal, that is, beyond death, can do so. Keep
in mind that Paul wrote to Timothy years after Jesus had ascended back to the throne. Many had died before and
after Jesus' resurrection, and, according to Paul, no one possesses immortality, including Elijah and, I might add,
Enoch. Only King Jesus is presently immortal. Further, as the Son of man, Jesus is the first man born of a woman to
possess immortality.
If we accept these two premises as fact, then the question remains as to where Elijah was taken. What does it mean
that he went up by a whirlwind to heaven? To answer this, it is important to note that scripture speaks of more
than one heaven.
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Elijah: Where was He Taken?
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The first is the atmosphere around the earth in which the birds fly and our weather and climate are formed. For
example: Let the birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens (Genesis 1:20 NASB; also, Genesis
7:11-12; Job 35:11; Jeremiah 16:4).
The second heaven is outer space, the place of other planets, the moon, sun, and stars. Scripture speaks of the stars
of heaven (Genesis 26:4; Deuteronomy 1:10; 28:62; Isaiah 13:10). David wrote: When I consider thy heavens, the
work of thy fingers, the moon, and the stars, which thou hast ordained (Psalm 8:3 KJV).
The third heaven is generally thought to be where Jesus ascended to sit at the right hand of the throne in the
heavens (Hebrews 8:1). The designation of the third heaven is attributed to Paul who testified that he was snatched
away to the third heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2). However, there is an alternative explanation to the meaning of the
third heaven: Paul could have been referring to the third chronological heaven, specifically the one referred to in 2
Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1. According to Peter, there was a heaven long ago [the first chronological heaven (2
Peter 3:5)]; there is a present heaven that is reserved for fire [the second chronological heaven (2 Peter 3:7)]; and
there will be a future heaven in which righteousness dwells [the third chronological heaven (2 Peter 3:13)]. By the
way, the same applies to the earth. I would be remiss if I did not add that I see heaven as the place of God's abode
as more of a dimension or realm, as in spirit dimension, than a physical place trillions of light years from earth in
the far reaches of the universe but within God's creation. Earth is enveloped by God's realm.
So, into which heaven was Elijah taken? I believe the correct answer is the first heaven, the atmosphere around the
earth that gives us life. Most likely, Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind, which is more of a weather phenomenon,
like a violent storm, even a tornado, and transported to another region in the Middle East, much like when the spirit
of God snatched away Philip to Azotus after he shared with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:39). Having completed his
public ministry and passing the mantle to Elisha, Elijah lived out his days and died, much like Enoch.
There is one other proof that Elijah remained on earth after his chariot ride in the air. Second Chronicles refers to a
writing attributed to Elijah that was sent to Jehoram, king of Israel, perhaps 10 years after Elijah had gone up in the
whirlwind, indicating that Elijah was still alive on earth.
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 21:12 KJV)
As to be expected, there are some who challenge this conclusion, for it does not fit their template that when we
die, we go to heaven. In a side note, in The Companion Bible , E.W. Bullinger challenges this conclusion: "Why assume
that Elijah then sent it? It might have "come" as Holy Scripture comes to us today, though written in the past. It does
not say a "letter," [based on the Hebrew] but any writing written at any time; probably a prophetic writing to be
delivered at this particular time." This may be a bit of a stretch. Scripture does not indicate this, so why assume it?
Besides, Bullinger's conclusion leads to a direct contradiction of scripture regarding Christ being the only one who
is immortal and who has ascended to heaven.
But what about the time Elijah appeared with Jesus and Moses on the mount as Jesus was transfigured (Matthew
17:1-8)? Most likely, what the disciples witnessed simply transcended time. The Father opened the portal of time
and allowed the disciples to see outside of their time. I know that this may be difficult to comprehend, for we are
so locked into our mindsets of a physical world viewed linearly, but we need to realize that God is spirit, and His
realm is not bound by our space and time, perhaps without any linearity. After all, there are other examples of
transcending time, most notably, Paul who was snatched away to the third heaven and Paradise, and John who, in
spirit, was given vision of what would transpire shortly thereafter in his day and beyond.
This seems to be the most logical way to reconcile scripture and avoid obvious contradictions regarding immortality
and ascendancy. Simply, Elijah was transported, much like Enoch and Philip were, in order for Elisha to begin his
ministry.