There is a popular saying that you might have heard which goes something like this, “Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.”
First of all, the reality is that no person is going to heaven regardless of dying or not. The one exception is the person whose name and title is Yahushua the messiah. As you know, his circumstances were just a little bit different. (Another topic for a later time.)
Second, all persons will in fact die before the Judgment Day whether they believe so or not. Even Yahushua had to submit to this reality.
Is there really any merit to the idea that some select group of believers can actually take a shortcut to paradise by avoiding death?
Let’s begin our investigation to find out the truth of the matter.
For those who believe that they will never experience death the following verses would seem to indicate the opposite:
And just as IT IS APPOINTED FOR MEN TO DIE ONCE, and after that comes judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)
Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and SO DEATH SPREAD TO ALL MEN because all men sinned. (Romans 5:12)
FOR AS IN ADAM ALL DIE, so also in messiah shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22)
It is important to recognize that in the last two verses it didn’t say some or many die. Notice that “ALL DIE.”
Well, what about all those other verses that seemingly show the opposite is true and that there were some people in Scriptures that never experienced death like Enoch and Elijah? Could it be that they were able to take a shortcut to paradise?
The story of Enoch’s so-called translation is found in Genesis 5:22-25. Here the prophet Enoch is said to have “walked with eloahim, then he was not (found), for eloahim took him.” In the book of Hebrews it is popularly rendered to mean “translated”:
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because the diety had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased the deity. (Hebrews 11:5)
First notice that in neither Genesis 5:22-24, nor Hebrews 11:5, or anywhere else in Scriptures for that matter, is it said that Enoch “went to heaven.”
A closer examination of both the Old and New Testaments prove quite another meaning around the story of Enoch’s “translation.”
Our attention is first drawn to the statement from Genesis 5:24, “And Enoch walked with eloahim, and he was not (found), for eloahim took him.” The phrase, “And Enoch walked with eloahim,” is taken by some to mean that Enoch was walking with eloahim in heaven.
The first problem is that Enoch is specifically said to have been walking with eloahim for 300 years prior to eloahim taking him (Gen. 5:22-23). The inconsistency is therefore manifest that they would have him walking in heaven before he was taken to heaven.
The error of this view is further revealed in Genesis where the same expression “walked with eloahim” is mentioned regarding Noah, a man nowhere said to have gone to heaven:
Noah, a righteous man, had been perfected among his peers; Noah walked with eloahim. (Genesis 6:9)
Next, the expression “he was not,” stated with regard to the disappearance of Enoch, is in Hebrew ayinnu, a form of ayin, from ay, meaning “to be nothing or not exist,” and more precisely is a “query” asking “where?”
The Greek Septuagint version renders this word oume heurisko, meaning, “was not found.” Therefore all that it says is that the men who sought his life could not find him.
The Hebrew word for “took,” in the expression, “and eloahim took him,” is laqakh, meaning, “to take (in the widest variety of applications):—accept, bring, buy, carry away, drawn, fetch,” to “take away,” and “take, lay hold of, seize . . . be taken away.”
The Greek in the ancient Septuagint version renders this term metetheken, a form of metatithemi, meaning, “to place differently,” “to transfer, i.e. (lit.) transport.”
Therefore, eloahim “transferred,” “transported,” or “carried away” Enoch, carrying him away from where he had been dwelling and taking him to another place. The passage in Hebrews carries the above two meanings in its discussion of Enoch, reporting:
By trust Enoch was metetethe (transported) not to see death, and was ouch heurisko (not found), because the deity metetheken (transported) him; for before his metatheseus (being transported) he had borne witness that he well-pleased the deity. (Hebrews 11:5)
Then what is the true meaning behind the statements in Genesis 5:24 and Hebrews 11:5?
The key to these two passages lies in the ancient extra-biblical book of Jubilees, which states that eloahim took Enoch from the children of men after he had testified against both the sinning angels and men regarding their evil.
And he (Enoch) testified to the Watchers (angels), who had sinned with the daughters of men, for these had begun to unite themselves, so as to be defiled, with the daughters of men, and Enoch testified AGAINST ALL (i.e., both angels and men). And he was taken from amongst the sons of Adam, and we (the sacred angels) conducted him INTO THE GARDEN OF EDEN in majesty and honor, and behold there he wrote down the condemnation and judgement of the world, and all the wickedness of the children of men. (Jubilees 4:11-25)
This text then lists the four most sacred places of Yahweh. Each is specifically said to exist “ON THE EARTH”: (1) the Garden of Eden, (2) and the mountain of the qadim (front, east side), (3) and on this mountain that you (Moses) are this day, Mount Sinai, (4) and Mount Zion, which will be sanctified in the new creation for a sanctification of the earth. (Jubilees 4:26)
The evidence from Jubilees is clear. Enoch was taken from among men and placed in the garden of Eden, one of the four places ON THE EARTH sanctified by Yahweh. It was not to heaven that Enoch traveled, but to Eden. The wicked men who sought Enoch’s life because of his testimony were unable to find him, in part because mankind had been banished to the land east of Eden after Adam and Eve had sinned.
What the “Rapture Advocates” have failed to read is the clarification given at the end of the commentary in Hebrews. During the discussion from Hebrews 11:1-6, the author tells us about several people in the ancient world who trusted in Yahweh: namely Abel, ENOCH, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah.
In summary, the book of Hebrews makes this startling statement, “ALL THESE DIED in trust, not having received the promises (Hebrews 11:13).”
Accordingly, Enoch died, just as Abel, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah did, never having received the promise of eternal life.
The story of Elijah’s journey into the heavens is also explained by understanding that he only passed through the first heavens, i.e., the earth’s atmosphere. To begin with, in 2 Kings we read:
And it happened, as they (Elijah and Elisha) were going on and speaking, that, behold, a chariot and horses of fire; and they separated between the both of them (i.e., between Elijah and Elisha), and Elijah went up in a whirlwind into the heavens. (2 Kings 2:11)
Reminiscent of Enoch’s disappearance, men afterward were sent to look for Elijah but were unable to find him (2 Kings 2:12-17). This story is understood by many to mean that Elijah, like Enoch, did not die but ascended up into the third heavens where father Yahweh resides.
In this piece of scriptural history, those believing in a shortcut to heaven feel they have found their primary article of proof.
It is certainly true that in this scripture we are told that Elijah “went up in a whirlwind into the heavens.” However, Elijah had not died, he went up bodily.
As a result, we again have an apparent contradiction in Scriptures; for Yahushua, long after Elijah’s experience, just as strongly asserted that “no one has gone up into the heavens except he (the messiah) who came down out of the heavens (John 3:13).”
What heavens, then, did Elijah go up into? This detail is explained not only by the facts surrounding Elijah’s departure but in the story of the subsequent events.
Now’s the time to pay close attention to the following five points of chronology.
1. Elijah’s departure took place shortly after the death of Ahaziah, the son of Ahab, king of Israel, who ruled but two years, beginning in the seventeenth year of the sole reign of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (1 Kings 22:51-52; 2 Kings 3:1).
Therefore, Elijah ascended into the heavens at the beginning of the reign of Jehoram, the son of Ahab and brother of Ahaziah, the king of Israel who succeeded Ahaziah in 847/846 B.C.E., spring to spring reckoning.
2. The following from 2 Kings confirms point 1. Jehoram, the king of Israel, began to reign in the eighteenth year of the sole reign of Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah (847/846 B.C.E.).
He ruled for 12 years (2 Kings 3:1). The date of Elijah’s ascension, therefore, is in the year 847/846 B.C.E., spring reckoning, at the time that King Jehoram became king.
3. Elisha, who succeeded Elijah as prophet, after Elijah’s ascension, went to Jehoram, the king of Israel, just after he took his throne. At this time Jehoram was allied with Jehoshaphat in a war against the nation of Edom (2 Kings 3:1-27). This detail shows that Jehoshaphat was still alive after Elijah’s ascension.
4. In the fifth year of Jehoram the king of Israel (843/842 B.C.E.), Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, became the king of Judah while Jehoshaphat was still alive (2 Kings 8:16-17; 2 Chron. 21:5,20).
5. AFTER the death of Jehoshaphat, the prophet Elijah WRITES A LETTER to Jehoram, the king of Judah, foretelling him of his impending death! Two years later, Jehoram, the king of Judah did in fact die, having had a sole reign of eight years (2 Chron. 21:1-20). Jehoram died in 836/835 B.C.E.
Accordingly, Elijah’s letter must have been written in about 838 B.C.E., shortly before Jehoram’s death and some 9 or so years after Elijah’s ascension in 847/846 B.C.E.
The question now arises, “How could Elijah send King Jehoram a letter some 10 years or so after his ascension if Elijah had already gone to the third realm of the heavens?”
Josephus Provides Insight
Our answer lies in the book of Jewish Antiquities written by the Jewish priest Josephus during the first century C.E. Josephus gives the same sequence of events as reported in the Scriptures (Jos. Antiq. 9:2:1-9:5:3).
In one of the variant texts of this book we read, “a letter was brought to him (Jehoram, king of Judah) from the prophet Elijah, FOR HE (ELIJAH) WAS STILL UPON THE EARTH (Marcus, Jos. vi, p. 53, note c)!”
Elijah never went beyond the first heavens. He merely “went up in a whirlwind into the heavens,” meaning our immediate atmosphere. The heavenly realm he proceeded through was the same one in which birds fly.
The angels (eloahim) that took him up simply placed him back upon the earth, where he remained, like Enoch before him, concealed from the people.
That Elijah remained hidden, as Enoch had been, is also revealed in another passage from Josephus. He writes:
Now about that time Elijah disappeared from among men, and to this day no one knows his end. He left behind him a disciple Elisha, as we have already related. However, concerning Enoch, who lived before the Flood, and Elijah it is written in the sacred books that they became aphaneis (viewless, unseen), and no one knows of their death. (Josephus Antiquities 9:2:2)
Elijah and Enoch, therefore, both became “viewless,” or “unseen,” that is, they were hidden from view. Yet, both were still on the earth. The fact that “no one knows of their (Elijah and Enoch’s) death” or of Elijah’s “end” does not mean that they did not die, only that no man was around to witness or record it.
The evidence demonstrates that Elijah and Enoch never went beyond the first level of heavens, the atmosphere surrounding the earth. Elijah and Enoch, like every other man born of flesh, were incapable of entering into the third realm of heavens.
In accordance with the words of Yahushua and the Scriptures, no man has ascended into the third heavens where father Yahweh resides, and this includes men like Enoch and Elijah.
In both cases, Enoch and Elijah, after being taken up from the earth by eloahim, were carried through the first heavens and then once again placed upon the earth. Like all men, except for Yahushua the messiah, Enoch and Elijah died on the earth.
We’re actually not finished with this subject yet. We will continue with the so-called New Testament “Rapture” proofs in our next post titled Rapture Redux.