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Did Enoch and Elijah Die?
Most Christians commonly assume that the Bible shows the prophets Enoch and Elijah as having been translated to heaven back in their times and that they are now living in an immortal state with Christ and God the Father (II Kings 2:1,11; Hebrews 11:5). The fact is, however, nothing could be farther from the truth. In no way do the Holy Scriptures teach that these two prophets are now immortal and in heaven.
It is the simplest thing in the world to show where the dead are at the present (both the righteous dead and the unrighteous dead) if one wants to rely solely on the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. They are presently in their graves (thoroughly unconscious in every way) and they are awaiting the resurrection from the dead (see Ecclesiastes 9:5; Psalm 6:5; 146:4; John 3:13). The inspired revelation as to the state of the dead shows that they "sleep in the dust of the earth" (Daniel 12:2) and that none of them will "awake" from his or her death state until after the great tribulation at the end of the age (Daniel 12:1,2). For those who are "in Christ," they will be resurrected back to life when Christ Jesus returns with his saints (the angels) at his second advent (I Corinthians 15:50-55; I Thessalonians 4:15-16). This is called "the first resurrection" (Revelation 20:5), and it is the plain teaching of Scripture. It solves so many problems to understand it.
Indeed, the only one who has ever lived in the flesh and has become an immortal being is Jesus Christ once he was resurrected from the dead. In fact, the apostle Paul in A.D. 63, over thirty years after Christ was resurrected from the dead, stated that Christ was the one "who only hath immortality" (I Timothy 6:16). To state otherwise, as so many people are prone to do today, is to be totally inconsistent with scriptural truth and is a patent absurdity. Immortality for Christians will only arrive when Christ returns. It is only then that "this mortal must put on immorality" (I Corinthians 15:53). The false teaching of the "present immortality" in Christ (which is the belief that the soul is immortal or that there is a continual living existence of the human personality which transcends the physical consequences of death) is a teaching which makes a mockery out of the inspired revelation of God that the dead remain dead (and will continue to remain in their graves) until their resurrections from the dead.
And let's face it, if mankind were created by God with an inherent immortality, then the "tree of life" in the midst of the Garden of Eden would have been a redundant item in the Garden. The first lie of the serpent was to tell Eve and Adam that God was a liar and that they would never die (Genesis 3:4). The serpent was trying to convince Eve that it was not necessary to take of the "tree of life" to attain an immortality because, according to the serpent, they had immortality already. He said: "Ye shall not surely die." Satan has been a liar from the very beginning (John 8:44) and he and his ministers (II Corinthians 11:14,15) are constantly perpetuating the same lie to human beings that "ye shall not surely die." At the present, however, some preachers are slightly modifying the serpent's teaching by saying that if you are "in Christ" then you are presently immortal and that you don't have to wait for salvation which is in accord with the scriptural teaching concerning the resurrection from the dead which will occur at Christ's advent. Its erroneous to say that Christians are immortal already. Nothing could be more wrong.
But what about Enoch and Elijah? Do we not read in the Scripture that Enoch did not die and that Elijah was transported into heaven? Let us first look at the matter of Elijah. The verse that makes some people thing that Elijah was taken into heaven where God lives is II Kings 2:11. This describes the scene when Elijah departed from his successor Elisha. It says: "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." From this, it has been surmised by many people that Elijah was taken to God's throne in heaven and has remained there alive ever since. In no way is this true.
The fact is, there are three usages of the word 'heaven' in the Bible. One is where the birds fly and the clouds exist (that is, our atmosphere) (Genesis 1:20). The second is where all the heavenly bodies are (Genesis 1:14-17). And the third is, indeed, the very region where God himself resides. This is even called "the third heaven" by apostle Paul (II Corinthians 12:1,2). Was it "the third heaven" into which Elijah was taken? The answer is clearly NO. We even have the express teaching of Christ himself that no one (man or woman) has ever ascended into the heaven where God resides. "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven" (John 3:13). This means that Elijah (who lived almost 900 years before the birth of Christ) could not have gone into the heaven in which God has his residence. He simply went upwards into the heavens where the birds fly and the clouds exist and was transferred to another location on earth.
Such a circumstance concerning Elijah was even anticipated by those who lived in Elijah's time and knew him personally. A righteous man by the name of Obadiah told Elijah that he believed God would cause "the Spirit of YHVH to carry thee whither I know not where" (I Kings 18:12). This shows that the power of Elijah to be transported by the Spirit from one place on earth to another was already recognized as possible by the people who lived at the time. And when Elijah handed over power to his successor, Elisha, he was indeed transported through the air out of the central area of Palestine into the kingdom of Judah in the south (II Kings 2:11). Elijah only went into the "first heaven" (the atmosphere of the earth), and not into outer space or the heaven of God's throne. This is made clear in the scripture because about seven years later we find Elijah still on earth (but this time living in Judah) writing a letter to the King of Judah (II Chronicles 21:12). So Elijah continued to live on earth.
Elijah was simply taken miraculously through the air to a location in southern Judah. The prophet Ezekiel experienced the same phenomenon in his day (Ezekiel 3:12-14) and even the evangelist Philip was similarly transported bodily through the air from a spot near Gaza to the city of Azotus a few miles away (Acts 8:39,40). Thus, Elijah was not taken to the heaven where God lived. The prophet died a few years after his "transfer" and is awaiting his resurrection from the dead (like all the saints of old). Of all who have lived in the flesh, Christ "only hath immortality" ( I Timothy 6:16).
Now what about Enoch? The answer is much the same. The apostle Paul in the Book of Hebrews says this about Enoch: "By faith Enoch was translated [Greek: transferred] that he should not see death; and was not found because God had translated [transferred] him: for before his translation he had this testimony that he pleased God" (Hebrews 11:5). Notice that Paul did not say Enoch did not die. He simply said he was transferred by God to a place where no death could be seen. Where was that place? The answer is plain but it may be a surprise to some people. Enoch was transferred into the Garden of Eden which remained on earth until the Flood. This was the place where God had His presence (Genesis 3:8; 4:16). This was a place where anyone taken into the Garden could talk to God face to face as the word "presence" signifies.
It was in the Garden that God was accustomed to walk in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). Now note this point. This Scripture says that two men were able to "walk WITH GOD" and these were Enoch and Noah (Genesis 5:22-24; 6:9), while later men such as Abraham were able to "walk BEFORE GOD" (Genesis 17:1). It was only 'in the midst of the Garden" that God walked, and to "walk with God' meant that Enoch was transferred into the Garden where he stayed in a permanent way in God's presence until his death. Noah was also permitted to "walk with God' in the Garden in Eden, but he was also allowed to leave in order to build the ark.
Thus, Enoch at the age of 365 was not found in human society any longer. As the Scripture says: "He was not; for God took him [transferred him in the Garden]." Where, as Paul said, "he should not see death" (Hebrews 11:5). Paul was not saying that Enoch would not die. He simply meant that Enoch was taken to a place where no death could be seen. And while in the Garden no death was seen. The same occurs in the New Jerusalem where it says "there shall be no more death" (Revelation 21:4). But Enoch did die (maybe near the time when the Garden ceased at the Flood) because Paul said "these ALL DIED" (Hebrews 11:13, and this obviously (as the context shows) including Enoch. This means that both Enoch and Elijah are like all other men. Both are dead and awaiting the resurrection at the second advent of Christ.
Ernest L Martin