I am one of the teachers who believes that the Old Testament saints were transferred from the heart of the earth to heaven after the resurrection Christ. The argument goes like this:
- In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham's bosom, the place where Lazarus was comforted, was directly next to hell (Luke 16:22-26).
- Hell is connected with the direction of down in the Bible (Psalm 55:15; Isaiah 14:15; Matthew 11:23). Jesus spoke of going to the "heart of the earth" for three days and nights (Matthew 12:40) and also speaks of being in "paradise" (Luke 23:43) during this time (which would match Abraham's bosom and is next to hell). Evidently, hell is in the center of the earth as was paradise, or Abraham's bosom, in earlier times.
- The Bible refers to Jesus leading captivity captive when He ascended on high (Ephesians 4:8). Paul connects paradise with the third heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. These and other verses lead us to believe that the Old Testament saints were transported to heaven at the time of the ascension of Christ.
- The speculated reason for this transfer is that the blood of Christ had not yet been applied to the Old Testament saints since Jesus had not yet died. We know that their full redemption awaited the death and resurrection of Christ. He "is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance" (Hebrews 9:15). It makes sense that their entrance into heaven was not realized until the blood of the Lamb was shed and applied to their souls.
However, as you note, there seem to be exceptions in the case of Enoch and Elijah who were translated into heaven. Moses, who was evidently resurrected before the death of Christ, also presents a problem. I do not have an absolute answer, but I would like to make some observations:
- It is only speculation that the saints had to wait for the shed blood of Christ before they could enter heaven. It makes sense to me, but there is no direct statement of scripture that says this is the case. There could be other reasons for their wait as well.
- We say that no defiled thing can enter heaven. This is certainly true of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:27) and one would think it true of the heavenly temple. However, Satan has access to some level of heaven as we see in Job 1:6. Surely, nothing is more defiled than he is.
- God practices levels of access in the design of the earthly tabernacle and temple, with different levels of access in the courtyard, the main tabernacle, and the holy of holies. Perhaps He has levels of access in heaven as well.
- And, despite what our doctrinal logic tells us, scripture tells us that Enoch "was not; for God took him" (Genesis 5:24) and "was translated that he should not see death" (Hebrews 11:5). It also tells us that "Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (2 Kings 2:11). God clearly gave them a special privilege and portion. Just like miracles, they were allowed to break the rules, so to speak. I am convinced that God enjoys messing up our neat systems so we will have to keep coming back to Him for truth. God's full truth will always be greater than any system man can conceive.