Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Did Elijah Go to Heaven, Die, or Just Relocate?

I have recently discovered something about Elijah the prophet which I have never heard preached in any church that I have attended, nor any prophecy teacher mention, although I have recently found out that I am not the first person to have caught this.  Before I say what this piece of information is, I would like to lay down a foundation so that when I finally reach my conclusion, you the reader may see how I came to that conclusion.

Before we can look at the incident of Elijah disappearing, we must first take a quick look at his history. It appeared that Elijah had a habit of suddenly disappearing on people. 1 Kings 18:10 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.” People were always hunting Elijah, and when they found out where he was, they would go after him, but he was always gone no matter how quickly they got there. This seemed to have been a pattern of his life, from the comment Obadiah made. In this passage Obadiah was very concerned that while he went to speak to Ahab, Elijah would be whisked of to who knows where, per his usual manner, and not be found and Obadiah would be killed as a result. “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:” It was known that the Spirit of the Lord was transporting Elijah around to various places. Now it makes much more sense of what was to follow when Elijah would be taken away one final time.
2 Kings 2:1-11 "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. And Elijah said unto him, Elisha, tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Jericho. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they came to Jericho. And the sons of the prophets that were at Jericho came to Elisha, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the LORD will take away thy master from thy head to day? And he answered, Yea, I know it; hold ye your peace. And Elijah said unto him, Tarry, I pray thee, here; for the LORD hath sent me to Jordan. And he said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went, and stood to view afar off: and they two stood by Jordan. And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground. And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so. 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."

Now God (or Elijah) had apparently told the other prophets that Elijah would be taken from them, for the sons of the prophets (there seem to be a lot of sons from a lot of prophets - whether God's prophets or prophets not of God, I know not) were all showing up to tell Elisha that Elijah was going to be taken from him. His response was always, "Yes, I know. Just be quiet." So Elisha also knew in advance. Whether God told him directly or Elijah told him, we don't know anymore than how the other prophets and their sons found out. The fact remains that everybody seemed to know that Elijah was going to be taken away by God. But, what exactly did the prophets understand was meant by Elijah being "taken away?" Apparently they expected him to be taken to some other location, as had happened before, even though he was taken by a whirlwind into "heaven." We read the following account.

1 Kings 2:15-18
"And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him. 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.
And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, Send. They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not. And when they came again to him, (for he tarried at Jericho,) he said unto them, Did I not say unto you, Go not?"

They saw Elijah carried off in the first heaven, the sky, expecting him to be transported to another location as had apparently happened before, when the Spirit took him. There are three heavens in Scripture, and they are distinguished by the context of the passage. The first heaven is the atmosphere and sky. The second heaven is outer space, and the third heaven is God's abode. We know this because Paul spoke of the third heaven as God's abode (paradise). 2 Corinthians 12:2
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.” If there is a third heaven, then there must also be a first and second heaven. In Geneses 1:14 we hear of the heaven of outer space where the sun, moon, and stars are. “And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:” This is the second heaven. The first heaven is naturally the one closest to us, the atmosphere above us. Genesis 1:20 “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.” They were under the impression (from previous scenarios) that Elijah had been transported to another location, but were apparently fearful that somehow he had been dropped along the way before he got to his destination, which was sort of silly. Hence the desire for a search to be conducted. Now Elisha understood that Elijah would not be found his time, for the mantle of prophet had been passed to him. Elijah was being retired and his continued presence in the land would undermine Elisha's position. He knew that God would remove Elijah far enough away that his position would not be questioned. Now while some might say that this (God transporting him to a distant location) is not what is meant, it is not the only time in Scripture that God whisked someone off in the air to transport them to another place. Ezekiel was transported this way, as was Philip.

Ez. 3:12-15
"Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the LORD from his place. I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a noise of a great rushing. So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the LORD was strong upon me. Then I came to them of the captivity at Tel-abib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days."

Acts 8:39-40
"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."

In both cases, the spirit lifted them up into the first heaven and took them away. He didn't take them away from earth, though. He simply transported them to a different location very quickly via air travel, as He had done to Elijah, per Obadiah's statement.

So now there is a question as to which heaven is really meant. Could Elijah go to heaven, the place of God's abode? Was that possible? Well, there was no way he could go to God's heaven in human mortal form, for no man has looked upon the face of God and lived. Ex. 33:20
"And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live." John 3:13 "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." So we know that Elijah could not live and go to heaven.

The next question becomes, could Elijah die and go to heaven? Before Christ ascended, those who died in the Lord went to Paradise. Paradise is a different location from heaven. Again, Christ tells us in John 3:13
"And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." Up until Christ ascended, He tells us that no man has ascended to heaven. If we say that someone has, then we make Christ a liar. As to Paradise vs. Heaven, the Scripture tells us the difference.

In the Scriptures we see the word "hell" used, but in fact the words "Sheol" (Hebrew) and "Hades" (Greek) which are translated as "hell" are both merely the world of the dead, both the righteous and unrighteous. The place of the dead is divided into two compartments. The place of the righteous dead is called "Paradise," and the place of the unrighteousness is called by several names, "abyss," "gehenna," and most commonly, "hell." That this is indeed the case is shown by the parable that Jesus tells about Lazarus. While it is a parable, Christ is not making up the locations. The story is not based in lies, but in truth.

Luke 16:19-31
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."

Hades (or Sheol) is a place of two compartments. Between these compartments is a great gulf which keeps them separate and allows at least hell to see into Paradise (although due to the fires, it is doubtful that Paradise can see into the torment of hell. It wouldn't be much of a paradise to see others suffering.)

Christ did not go to heaven when He died. He went to Paradise. Luke 23:43
"And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise."

We are told in Psalm 16:10
"For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (sheol - the paradise section) neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." and in Acts 2:27 "Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (Hades - the paradise section) neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." The verse in Acts is a quoting of the verse in Psalms which shows that Sheol and Hades are the same place, and neither of them is heaven, but in this case the compartment referred to is paradise, as it is where Christ is said to go.

Why did Christ go to Paradise instead of heaven? Because all of the Old Testament saints had gone there when they died. Until Christ died on the cross, people's sins had not truly been covered, for we are told in Hebrew 10:4
"For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." Therefore they could not enter into the presence of God until their sins were wiped clean. Only Christ's death could do that. Paradise was a lovely holding place until Christ died for their sins and they could go to heaven. They had to wait to receive the promise. Hebrews 11:13 "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." Once Christ died, he descended (Yes, paradise and hell are in the bowels of the earth) into Paradise in Hades, then when He ascended, He took those souls who were captives in Paradise with Him to heaven. Ephesians 4:8-10 "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)" Psalm 68:18 "Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them." As further confirmation that He did not go to heaven, Christ told Mary not to touch Him for He had not yet ascended to heaven. John 20:17 "Jesus saith unto her, touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God." Paradise is now empty. Now when believers die, they go directly to heaven. 2 Corinthians 5:8 "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord."

So now we have shown through Scripture that Elijah, dead or alive, could not possibly have been in heaven before Christ ascended, so when it says that "when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind" it could not possibly mean the third heaven of God's abode. The only two heavens left are the second (outer space) and our atmosphere or the sky here on earth. As it is improbable that God would put Elijah on another planet, he was either transported to another location on earth, or was transported to Paradise by death. Those are the only two options.

Now that we have established that, we need to determine did Elijah die and go to Paradise, or did he get relocated and live out his life and die years later? Before we can determine that, we need to lay down some facts that may initially seem irrelevant, but are very much not.

The kings of Israel and Judah are a little hard to follow, because it was the custom of the time to have reigns overlap. David was anointed king long before Saul died. Kings were kings for life, however to make sure that the person of choice was in line for the throne (there was a lot of fighting and murder over these thrones) the heir to the throne was chosen and anointed and began to reign alongside the current king (usually his father) while the king was still reigning. This created an overlap in reigns and served an important purpose. Death could come suddenly through illness, murder, or on the battlefield, or the king could become incompetent to reign due to age or illness, and it was crucial that someone be in place to continue things smoothly. In one case, Israel lost their king before another had been put in place. As a result there was a division among the people and for a number of years there were two candidates for the kingship, but no definitive king. Finally one was able to overcome the other and became king.  Now that this practice is understood, I would like to lay out a timeline of the kings before and after Elijah. Below there are several kings with the same name.  The kings' names will be abbreviated as per the key, and in bold print. It is a little confusing, as I have had to abbreviate to make the chart fit, so you will need to refer to the key. As is seen, there are overlaps in both nations.  Just to help, Israel's kings are Ahab, Ahaziah, and Jehoram (or for ease of distinguishing, because these two names are interchangeable in Scripture, we will call him Joram). Judah's kings are Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, (a different Jehoram) and Ahaziah (a different Ahaziah). I have also put the verses that show us this timeline.


Israel's Kings
AH = Ahab, reigned 22 years then died.
AZ = Ahaziah, reigned 2 years then died.
JR = Joram, reigned 12 years then died.

Judah's Kings
JP = Jehoshaphat, reigned 25 years then died.
JH = Jehoram, reigned 8 years then died
AZH = Ahaziah, reigned 1 year then died.

EL = Elijah. He is put in approximately when he was taken.

The number in parenthesis is the number of the year of the king's reign. e.g. (4) = 4th year of his reign. When there is a number beneath the name, it is a continuation of specifying the year of his reign. When a king overlaps another king, their name starts in the year of the reign of their predecessor.

Israel                                                                      Judah

AH (4)                                                                    JP (1) 1 Ki 22:41
     (20)  AZ (1)  1 Ki 22:51                                           (17)   
     (21)       (2)            JR (1) 2 Ki 3:1                           (18)   EL taken 2 Ki 2
                                       (5)                                      (22)    JH (1) 2 Ki 8:16-17
                                       (8)                                      (25)         (4) 1 Ki 22:42
                                       (12)  1 Ki 8:25               AZH (1)          (8)                                                 

The reason for laying this out is to be able to show where Elijah transferred the mantle of prophet to Elisha. In 2 Kings Chapter 2 we learn the story of Elijah between the death of Ahaziah of Israel in 2 Kings 1:18 and the beginning of the reign of Joram in 2 Kings 3:1. With this timeline we see that Jehoram of Judah began his reign five years after Elijah passed the mantle in the fifth year of Joram's reign. This is further confirmed by 2 Kings 3:11 when Joram goes to see Jehoshaphat and Jehoshaphat calls for a prophet. Elisha is the prophet that is now called in, as Elijah is no longer the prophet.

Here is where things get interesting. At some point after Jehoram of Judah begins his reign (probably several years after), but before the seventh year of his reign, he receives a letter from Elijah. 2 Chronicles 21:12-15, 18-20 "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, But hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like to the whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and also hast slain thy brethren of thy father's house, which were better than thyself: Behold, with a great plague will the LORD smite thy people, and thy children, and thy wives, and all thy goods: And thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day................And after all this the LORD smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease. And it came to pass, that in process of time, after the end of two years, his bowels fell out by reason of his sickness: so he died of sore diseases. And his people made no burning for him, like the burning of his fathers. Thirty and two years old was he when he began to reign, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years, and departed without being desired. Howbeit they buried him in the city of David, but not in the sepulchres of the kings."

According to this passage, Elijah is warning Jehoram that because he has gone a whoring like Israel, he will be smitten with a great disease of the bowels and die. This occurred two years before his death, which means that this letter came some time after year one (Jehoram needed the time to commit all these whorings) and before year seven of Jehoram's reign, as he reigned eight years and was ill for two of them. It most likely came several years after he began his reign, but if we start at year two of Jehoram's reign to the last year it could come, this letter would have come between six and ten years after Elijah left. This would seem to indicate that Elijah was still very much alive on planet earth.

Now some say that Elijah wrote this letter before he left and gave it into Elisha's hand to give it to Jehoram at the proper time. But nowhere in Scripture does it say that. It would seem that Elisha would have been mentioned as bringing it. Nor does it say that he gave it to a servant to deliver. It seems to me that God would have put that in to clarify that Elijah was actually gone and this was written long before the time it was received. It says that it comes from Elijah, not via someone else. The way the letter is constructed, it talks about Jehoram's whorings in the past tense, but his judgment as a future tense. It would seem if this was written a decade earlier, the grammar construction would have been more of a future past tense such as "when thou wilt have done thus and so," which is more of a prediction of a probability, or "thou shalt," which is a certainty, but still a future tense from Elijah's standpoint, not "thou hast," which is an accusation of an accomplished fact in the past.

There is one more thing that points to Elijah having lived out his live and dying. In Hebrews, the faith chapter, we are told about those prophets and great people of faith. Hebrews 11:13 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” Hebrews 11:32, 38b “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: …...they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” Hebrews 11:39-40 “And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” Elijah was known for having hidden in the mountains and caves, so these verses point to him as one of these people. It is speaking of all of the prophets and people of faith. All of the people listed in this chapter are said to have died in faith without receiving the promise. They could not receive the promise of eternal life in the resurrection as of yet. (Titus 1:2In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.”) They could not receive the promise before we did (that they without us should not be made perfect”) . Everybody gets eternal life (resurrected body) and the rest of the promises at the same time, including Elijah.

Given all of this information (the choice that Elijah could only have been relocated or died instantly upon being taken so that he could be transported to Paradise), it would seem that he was relocated to another place that was far enough away to not interfere with Elisha's ministry as prophet, but close enough that he knew what was going on and could write to the king warning him of the judgment God was going to inflict upon him. Just as all people eventually die, so would it seem did Elijah in his time. Now does this have any effect upon the theory that he is one of the two witnesses in Revelation? I do not have that answer. Moses died, yet many say he is one of the witnesses. The fact that Scripture says that man is appointed once to die and then judgment would seem to eliminate both, however we know that Christ (and His disciples) raised people from the dead, so they died twice. How can that verse and these circumstances be reconciled? I also have no answer for that. Personally I am beginning to think that the two witnesses will be two new people, but I guess nobody will know for certain until they come, as Scripture simply does not tell us enough to be able to know for certain. 

Now the question becomes - what about Enoch? That is fodder for another article.

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