If we believe that Enoch was taken to heaven (Genesis 5:22-24, Hebrews 11:5), or that Elijah was taken to heaven (2 Kings 2:1-11, Matthew 17:1-9, Luke 9:28-36), or that Moses was resurrected (Jude 9, Matthew 17:1-9, Luke 9:28-36), how do we explain the following verse?
John 3:13, "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven."
I have been having an interesting study with my friend "author" from Preaching the Gospel about whether anyone is in heaven, or whether everyone is still sleeping in the grave until the resurrection. This question was one that I have had before, but never dwelt upon. Every time I read John 3:13 I would pause, and wonder. Not to mention the fact that 1 Corinthians 15:22-23 says, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming."
I was talking to my wife about the discussion being had, and asked what she made of John 3:13, to which she replied something to the effect of, "I think it means that no one has ascended by themselves, Jesus had to help them."
I thought that her answer was just too simple, so I didn't give it much thought until today, when I found a pastor stating the same thing. (Guys, always best to listen to your wife right away!)
The word "ascend" comes from the Greek word "anabaino," which means "arise, ascend, climb up, rise up." Notice that the Bible says Enoch was taken, and Elijah was taken up, not that they "ascended," "climbed up," or "arose" of their own power. God needed to take them, because they could not ascend on their own.
The first use of the word "ascending" in the Bible is found speaking of Jacob's ladder in Genesis 28:12, "Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it."
The first use of this word by John, the author of the verse we're studying, is found a few verses before the passage we're studying (John 3:13) in John 1:51, "And He (Jesus) said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.'"
So we see Jesus saying you will see "angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man," then a few verses later saying "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven."
Friends, Christ is the bridge between heaven and earth. He is the only way any of us will ever get to heaven. So if we look at John 3:13 in this light, then it is true indeed that "no one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven."
In regards to Hebrews 11:5, which states Enoch "was taken": The Greek word translated as "was taken" is "metatithemi" which means "carry over, change, translate." This word is found only one other time in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 7:12 says, "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." So we could read the previous verse as stating Enoch "was changed."
The alternative is that Enoch "was taken" simply means he died, or was taken somewhere else. And that Elijah was taken to heaven simply means he was taken into the air (another meaning of the word used for "heaven") and placed somewhere else. You can find a more in-depth look at this view at "author's" site, Preaching the Gospel.
So this topic is very interesting to myself and others, what do you think?
Remember, above all, to always seek God earnestly in prayer and through study of His word. And to always keep an open mind and not to become set in your own doctrines. We should always remember and follow the example of the Bereans, of which it is said in Acts 17:11, "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."
I have certainly had to examine a few of my own beliefs because of this topic, and I continue to do so. I invite you, also, to be open to examining all doctrines and beliefs by the Bible, and the Bible only, and to let Him, through the Spirit, lead us into all truth! (John 16:13)
"I wanna love You" by Vocal Union
God bless you and keep you!