Translation of Elijah

Scripture: 2 Kings 2:11, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4, Jude 1:9
This broadcast discusses the translation of Elijah into heaven and what the Bible says about death and heaven. Did Elijah simply get picked up and set somewhere else? Is there evidence elsewhere in Scripture that Elijah was in fact taken to heaven?
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Today we are going to continue the subject which was introduced in our last broadcast. In that broadcast we gave the evidence that the patriarch Enoch was translated and taken to heaven without seeing death.

Today we will consider the case of Elijah, God's prophet who was caught up to heaven in a whirlwind. But again let me urge you to get the full background on the subject by writing for broadcast 419. Will people go to heaven? That is broadcast 419. It provides the necessary background that we don't have time to go into now.

But let's take a close, Bible look at the experience of Elijah. Many distortions have grown up around the simple account of his translation to heaven. The words of the Bible are exceedingly plain. 2 Kings 2:11 says, "It came to pass as they still went on and talked, that behold there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." Friends, what could be clearer?

But those who hold that no human being ever has or ever will go to heaven, have objected that Elijah was only caught up into the atmospheric heaven and not into Paradise where God's throne is located. They contend that God had decided Elijah's work was complete, and he needed to be removed to make way for Elisha. Therefore God sent a whirlwind to scoop up Elijah and deposit him safely in a remote area out of sight of the people.

Now, friends, it is undeniably true that the Bible speaks of three heavens, and one is the atmospheric heaven where the birds fly. Then there is the stellar heavens where the stars and planets are whirling in space. The third heaven, which Paul described as Paradise, 2 Corinthians 12:2, 4, is where the throne of God is located, far above the sun, moon and stars. But we will show clear evidence that this unique whirlwind of fiery horses and chariot did not merely move the prophet from one earth spot to another.

You know, friends, this theory that God just picked up Elijah and dropped him somewhere else is nothing new. When Elisha, Elijah's successor, returned from witnessing the translation, he was met by fifty sons of the prophets. They said, "Behold now there be with thy servant 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 and upon some valley." 2 Kings 2:16. Elisha said, "Ye shall not send." But they pressed him until finally he told them to go. They searched high and low, mountaintop and valley, for three days, but did not find Elijah. At last they gave up, for it is impossible to find a man who is in heaven, no matter how thoroughly one searches on the earth. When the fifty came to Jericho, where Elisha was, he dryly observed: "Did I not say unto you, Go not?"

The mountain or valley idea must have become widespread immediately following the translation. According to Elisha's experience with the mocking children it seems to have been a common topic of conversation in the homes. As the prophet went from Jericho to Bethel "there came forth little children out of the city and mocked him. And said unto him, ‘Go up, thou bald head. Go up, thou bald head,' and he turned back and looked on them and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she-bears out of the woods and tare forty and two children of them." 2 Kings 2:23, 24. Now, friends, here is conclusive evidence of God's disapproval on those who disbelieve Elijah's translation. It was a costly but needed lesson. Is not God as displeased with today's disbelief as He was with that of the sons of the prophets and the mocking children?

The Bible gives even further evidence that Elijah is still alive. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record the experience of the transfiguration of Jesus on the Mountain. Jesus appeared in all of his glory just as He will at the Second Coming. On either side of Him, also glorified, were Moses and Elijah. Proponents of the view that Elijah died raise two questions about this experience. First, they point out that the Bible clearly states that Moses died and was buried. No one can deny this, but the same Bible also describes the special resurrection of Moses from his Nebo grave. Notice how Satan tried to prevent Michael, the Angel of the resurrection, from raising Moses to life again. "Yet Michael the Archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, the Lord rebuke thee." Jude 9. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:16 it is the "voice of the archangel" which opens the graves of the righteous dead when Jesus comes at the end of the world. We have to conclude that this Angel by the side of Moses' grave, contending with Satan over the body of Moses, had to be there for one purpose only, to resurrect Moses. And the transfiguration experience is proof positive that Michael prevailed over Satan. Moses was taken to heaven and later appeared with Elijah and Jesus on the mountain top. Paul adds the final proof of Moses' resurrection in Romans 5:14. He said "nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses ...," proving that the power of death was broken for the first time in the resurrection of Moses.

The second point that critics make is that Jesus called the transfiguration a "vision" when talking to the disciples in Matthew 17:9. They contend that the disciples only saw a vision or a dream and not real people at all. But in Mark 9:9 it says, "tell no man what things they had seen." And Luke 9:32 specifically states that they were awake, not asleep or in a trance, when they "saw His glory and the two men that stood with Him."

Besides, friends, the Greek word that is translated "vision" can mean to see a vision alright, but it can also mean to see someone in the body and recognize them physically. In fact, the same word is used in Luke 24:34 to describe Christ after his resurrection, and in Hebrews 9:28 to describe the second coming of Jesus. Are we to believe that Jesus at the resurrection and at the second coming appears only as a vision or apparition? It is preposterous to even suggest this. The Apostle Peter made completely clear what the transfiguration was all about in 2 Peter 1:16-18. "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount." The transfiguration was a miniature of the Second Coming, and Moses was there to represent those who died and would be resurrected when Jesus comes, and Elijah was there to represent those who would be alive when Jesus returned and would never taste even the first death.

Friends, I hope you get that point, for it is the death-blow to this whole false idea that no one has ever gone to heaven. It is claimed that Elijah must have died because "In Adam all die," 1 Corinthians 15:22, and because it is "appointed unto men once to die." But this is wresting Scripture, for Paul clearly states in 1 Corinthians 15:51 "That we shall not all sleep" (that is die); and in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 he says, "we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them (the resurrected righteous) in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air."

No, friends, there is no contradiction in Scripture. Enoch, Moses, Elijah and a number of others are in heaven right now. But most important of all, Jesus is there and He is preparing a place for us.

Here is what he said in one of the most beautiful passages of scripture. "Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." John 14:1-3.

Throughout the ages, heaven has been the goal, the objective of God's people. In the book of Hebrews, Paul lists many of the great heroes of the Bible and tells how their faith made them righteous. But what was this faith? Paul calls faith the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Faith, then was a steadfast belief in the existence of a particular goal for which they were striving and their earnest seeking of their objective was counted to them for righteousness by God. What was that goal?

Ah, friends, this ought to settle forever the question of whether people go to heaven or not. Listen to the plain words of Scripture: "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. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from which they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city."

Yes, friends, the great goal of God's people throughout history is the city He is preparing in Heaven. And He promises to come again to take His people to that city. This is the blessed hope Paul talks about, the second coming of Jesus. "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord." 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17.

Notice the two groups of God's people. Those who are in their graves, and those who are alive when Jesus comes. The dead, who are called to life by the voice of the archangel were represented by Moses at the transfiguration of Jesus and the living who are caught up to Jesus were represented by Elijah who also was caught up to heaven without seeing death. Both groups are taken to the city Jesus has been preparing.

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