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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, September 09 2021

Did God take Enoch and Elijah to Heaven?

A biblical event many cite to support the belief that the righteous go to heaven when they die involves the prophet Elijah. Some also believe Genesis 5:24 and Hebrews 11:5 declare that God took Enoch to heaven.

Hebrews 11:5 tells us, "Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death." The verse continues with a quotation from Genesis 5, saying that he "was not found." The wording implies that someone was looking for him to cause him harm, and that God protected him by removing him to a safe place. Some assumed that God took him to heaven, but the verse does not say that. "Taken away" ("translated" in the King James Version) is from the Greek word metatithemi and it means "to transfer to another place" (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, 1985).

What of Elijah—did God take him to heaven? Without reading the full account of the history of Judah and Israel, one might easily assume that 2 Kings 2:11 reports the death of Elijah and his subsequent removal from earth to heaven. Actually, the prophet did not die, as is borne out by the astonishing record of a letter that he wrote some years later! You can read this letter in 2 Chronicles 21:12-15.

What was the "heaven" to which Elijah was taken? Scriptures speak of three heavens:

  • The first, the atmosphere that envelops the earth (Genesis 1:8).
  • The second, what we call "space" (Genesis 15:5).
  • The third, the location of God's throne (2 Corinthians 12:2).

The prophet was supernaturally transported to a different location—through the "heaven" of earth's atmosphere—allowing his associate, Elisha to step into the office of the chief prophet to Israel.

The Bible teaches that "no one has ascended to heaven" (John 3:13). What we find in Acts 2:29 and 34 clearly illustrates this fact. It says that righteous King David was still in his grave about 1,000 years after his death! Remember Jesus' comment in John 10:35, "the Scripture cannot be broken." That is, its teachings are consistent throughout. The biblical teaching is that heaven is not the reward or the destiny of the saved.

A more complete explanation of all that the Bible teaches about the afterlife is available in our booklets Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? and What Happens After Death?

With time, he also came to understand the days observed by most of Christianity are not commanded in the Bible, and Scripture backed up his realisation that associating the name of Jesus with these days did not make them more acceptable: "... in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9).

While in high school, he also discovered that in the King James Version of the Bible the word translated as "Easter" in Acts 12:4 was an erroneous translation of the Greek word ‘pascha’, a word clearly meaning the Passover (described in Leviticus 23:5). It was not until the second century, long after the New Testament was written, that people began to replace the Passover observance with Easter.

Jesus and His family observed the Holy Days of the Bible, travelling to Jerusalem, when He was twelve years old, to observe the Passover (Luke 2:41, 42). John 7 also shows Christ keeping the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day (described in Leviticus 23:33-36) in spite of the threat of bodily harm. Jesus kept all of the annual festivals, not only because He was a devout Jew, but because God commanded them and He was setting an example for Christians today (Matthew 28:20).

These Holy Days were also observed following Christ's ascension. The disciples were gathered together to observe the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was sent (Acts 2:1), because Pentecost was still a "holy convocation," a commanded assembly (Leviticus 23: 15- 16, 21).

Gentile Christians also observed the biblical Holy Days. More than 20 years after Christ’s crucifixion, about the year A.D. 55, the Apostle Paul gave important instruction to the Church in the gentile city of Corinth, where most church members were gentile. A man was involved in an immoral relationship, and Paul instructed them to expel him from the church:"...Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump...For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with ...the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

The Corinthians had put out leaven to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but had not applied the spiritual lesson. Paul’s intent, by instructing them to "keep the feast," was not to spiritualize away the Days of Unleavened Bread, but to magnify them. The New Testament builds on the foundation of the Old by emphasizing the spiritual intent of the Holy Days.

Colossians 2:16, 17 is perhaps the most oft-quoted New Testament Scripture used to discredit the Holy Days: "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ."

Paul was not saying not to keep the Holy Days, he was addressing their proper observance. The Colossians had been introducing ascetic practices on the Holy Days, as they were being influenced to follow the commandments and doctrines of men (verses 18-23). If anything, these verses corroborate the practice of God's true Church in the first century was to observe these days,

Another misunderstood text is Galatians 4:8-10. Verses 8 and 9 refer to the practices of the Galatians before they knew the true God, and after learning the truth, they were beginning to return to these ‘weak and beggarly elements’. To say God's laws are weak and beggarly is blasphemous. These "days and months and seasons [times] and years" were pagan practices, possibly similar to astrology today.

When a person looks into the commands and examples in the Bible to determine which religious festivals to observe, there is only one choice to be found: the annual festivals and Holy Days of God. If we are to build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets and follow the example of Jesus Christ, we will faithfully observe these days, and come to learn more about God's plan of salvation for humanity.