Q&A: Did anyone ascend into heaven before Jesus?

Did anyone ascend into heaven before Jesus?

Question

Did anyone ascend into heaven before Jesus? Enoch and Elijah were taken into heaven, therefore isn't John incorrect in John 3:13?

Answer

Genesis 5:24: Enoch walked with God, and he was not,for God took him.

2 Kings 2:11: And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

Heb. 11:5: By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.

While God did take Enoch and Elijah up to heaven prior to Jesus, John is not incorrect. Indeed, both Enoch and Elijah went immediately into God's presence in heaven (2 Cor. 5:6, 8; Phil. 1:23), but John 3:13 adds a stipulation concerning the Son of Man. Christ was first in heaven — the third heaven [1] — then descended, and then ascended back into the third heaven. Neither Enoch or Elijah first descended from the third heaven, so there is no discrepancy.

Note

[1] There are three heavens; the first refers to the earth's atmosphere (Deut. 11:17; 28:12), the second being outer space (Psa. 9:4, 6), and the third is considered where God dwells (cf. 1 Kings 8:27; Psa. 2:4).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).