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John 3:13 Contradiction or Not?

The popular belief is that Enoch and Elijah were translated up to heaven where God abides. If this is true, how do we explain Christ's words in John 3:13?

John 3:13 states, "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven."

Of the translation of Enoch, we have these passages:

  • Genesis 5:24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
  • Hebrews 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

Although the passages do not say specifically that Enoch went to heaven, it sure seems that he went to be with God. I will admit that this could be argued, but what was the purpose of God taking the one who walked with Him if he was to be taken to a place where he would not be in continual fellowship with God?

But look at the statements concerning Elijah:

  • 2 Kings 2:1 And it came to pass, when the LORD would take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.
  • 2 Kings 2:11 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.

These verses teach specifically that Elijah was taken up into heaven.  Again, this might be a different heaven. Others have written and questioned how these men could be in heaven before the shedding of the blood of Christ. Yet, I might add that Satan has access to heaven--at least some part of it (Job 1:6). Perhaps these men did not yet have full access to the glories of heaven or were not able to enter the throne room. Obviously, I am not certain here. But the Bible seems to put them in heaven when they were taken up by God.

This brings us back to the original problem. If no man had ascended up to heaven until Christ ascended, how could Enoch and Elijah be there? At the least, according to the plain statements of scripture, "no man hath ascended up to heaven" even though Elijah "went up by a whirlwind into heaven." Is this a contradiction? Not at all.

The Bible does not say that Elijah ascended to heaven. It says that he was taken up. The word 'ascend' means to go up. It pictures someone or something that goes up of its own strength. The word 'ascend' comes from the Latin word for 'climb' and it literally means to climb up. We speak of someone ascending the stairs. The first biblical use of the word is in Genesis 28:12 where Jacob sees "a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it."

John 3:13 does not teach that no one has ever seen or entered heaven. It teaches that no man ever climbed up into heaven by his own power. The only one who has ever ascended to heaven in His own strength is the One who originated in heaven and came down to earth before He ascended. I hope this helps explain the verse to you.