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Some argue that Elijah died and was not really taken into heaven because John 3:13 says that "no man hath ascended to heaven".

John 3:13 (KJV) And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, [even] the Son of man which is in heaven.

To further their argument they say Elijah was still on Earth and not in heaven because he wrote a letter to Jehoram.

2 Chronicles 21:12 (KJV) 12 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.

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    Great question. Some factors to explore: (A) Does "ascended" have the idea of "returned" here? (B) Does "ει μαι" mean "if not" ("unless") here? (C) Does 2 Chronicles refer to the same "Elijah"? (D) Did 2 Chronicles 21 definitely take place after Elijah's death? (E) There is another NT passage that suggests Elijah was "transferred"; does the Hebrew actually mean that he "ascended" in the way Jesus did? ...anyway, I haven't studied this particular question in depth (yet), but these are some of the things I would look at before drawing conclusions. – Jas 3.1 Jan 20 '15 at 18:37
  • Welcome to BH.SE! Please take our site tour. and check out what makes us different from other sites that study the Bible. I'm not going to unilaterally close it (but I'd be in support of community close votes), but this assumes a lot theologically (that these texts are contiguous, that they are speaking about the same thing, that there is a need to resolve any perceived or actual contradiction between the two texts, etc.) and doesn't really start from a specific text. – Dan Jan 20 '15 at 20:00
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    Re: John 3:13, see this thread on Christianity.SE. – user862 Jan 20 '15 at 20:03
  • If we look beyond biblical tradition and consider other Near Eastern traditions, there is arguably a good explanation for Elijah's chariot ride into heaven, if that is an acceptable answer. – Dick Harfield Jan 20 '15 at 20:42
  • @kdigital We might want to consider what happened with Enoch in Gen 5:21-24 also. – John Martin Jan 21 '15 at 7:46
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The OP presents two arguments used by some in the issue of Elijah being or not taken to heaven. @gutenburgb have already addressed the second one and I'll address the first one.

The original verb for the quoted "no man hath ascended up to heaven" (KJV Joh 3.13) is ἀναβέβηκεν, which is the perfect active indicative of ἀναβαίνω, to go up, to ascend, acc. to Zodhiates, ref 1.

The context of the passage is that Jesus is saying to Nicodemus that he did not believe in His words, even though when He was only talking about the ἐπίγεια (those upon the Earth), then how would he believe if Jesus begin talking about the ἐπουράνια (those upon heaven)? Moreover, Jesus said that He knows and He's a witness of the things He sees in heaven:

ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω σοι ὅτι ὃ οἴδαμεν λαλοῦμεν καὶ ὃ ἑωράκαμεν μαρτυροῦμεν (SBLGNT Joh 3.11)

What Jesus is saying is that He had (full) access to heaven, even though he was talking to Nicodemus upon the Earth. It means that he was doing something that no man had done before: having an active access to heaven—He needed not to be taken to heaven, passively, but He could actively go there.

So this verse cannot be used to rule out Elijah (and also Enoch) being taken to heaven.

This is what I see from the context and from the greek grammar (verb voice and mood).

  • For what it’s worth (probably not a lot), 1 Kings 2:11: wayyaʿal ʾēlîyyāhû basʿārâ haššāmāyim - “And Elijah went up/ascended (active) by a whirlwind into heaven.” The LXX introduced the passive ἀνελήμφθη. – Susan Jul 15 '15 at 20:20
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From my study I have come to the conclusion that Elijah wrote the "writing" before he was taken to heaven. It seems pretty clear that by "the prophet Elijah" the writer of Chronicles is not referring to a different Elijah.

The Hebrew word miktab (translated "a writing") is also used in 2 Chron. 35:4 which says:

And prepare yourselves by the houses of your fathers, after your courses, according to the writing of David king of Israel, and according to the writing of Solomon his son.

No one assumes these verses are saying that David and Solomon wrote their "writing" during the time of 2 Chron. 35 so there should be no reason to assume that Elijah was on earth at the time the writing came to King Jehoram.

As a prophet Elijah be able to prophesy of things that had not happened. He told Ahab it wouldn't rain for 3 1/2 years.

Elijah received similar messages from God about the sons of Ahab (one of whom was also named Jehoram):

And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house. 1Kgs 21:28-29

Also Elijah's messages were brought out another time after he was taken to heaven:

Wherefore they came again, and told him. And he said, This is the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel: And the carcase of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel; so that they shall not say, This is Jezebel. 2Kgs 9:36-37

So why couldn't he have written a message to Jehoram before he was taken to heaven? Elisha or someone else might have delivered the "writing" at the right time.

Barnes and Wesley say that 2 Kings 2 (Elijah's ascension to heaven) was not in chronological order with the rest the account but it seems more likely that he wrote it before his translation.

As to the question of whether Elijah was actually transported to heaven or just through the atmosphere to another place: God's chariot is in the clouds and the wind (Ps. 104:3) and His angels are a flaming fire. These are the same terms mentioned in the Elijah story. If we let the Bible interpret itself it would appear that God sent His own chariot (or likely even came down Himself) to get His prophet. Isaiah 66:15 also refers to God's chariots like a whirlwind "when He comes."

There is an account in the Bible where someone was transported only horizontally. Philip was "caught away" to another city (Acts 8:39-40) but no chariot, no whirlwind, no expectation of something great happening.

It is pretty obvious from the text that this was an unprecedented occasion. It says twice that Elijah was taken "up" to heaven. Up is vertical. There is no reason for a whole chapter if he was only transported to another place. And while the sons of the prophets went looking they didn't find him, as Elisha said they wouldn't.

  • What is the question(s) you are asking? I think you are asking more than one question, in which case you could consider editing this to be separate questions. Also, what writing by Elijah are you referring to in para 1? – Dick Harfield Jan 31 '15 at 22:53
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Elijah may have been "relocated" by the Lord. This would explain several things. First, as you mentioned, the likelihood of the Elijah mentioned in 2 Chronicles, someone who would have been in the natural life span of Elijah, is significant. The writer of the Kings and Chronicles was either the same person (presumably Jeremiah), or they relied heavily on the Book of the Kings as a source. So the mention of a prophet named Elijah in 2 Chronicles would have most likely been specified if someone other than the notable prophet.

Second, the sons of the prophets who conversed with Elisha after Elijah's transfer believed him to be in another location on earth.

2Ki 2:16 And they said to him, Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men. Please let them go and seek your master, lest the Spirit of Jehovah has taken him up and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley...

They may have observed Elijah being transferred laterally rather than vertically as many believe.

Taken into heaven probably means the first heaven (atmosphere). Scriptural examples: Gen 1:14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night

Psa 78:23 though He had commanded the clouds from above, and had opened the doors of the heavens;*

  • "Shamayim", the word used for heaven, Strong's Number: 08064, is the same word used in Ezekiel 1:1 when the heavens opened and he saw God in his throne, not the firmament, atmosphere or something else. – Labanino Apr 20 '18 at 17:02

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