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Where Did Elijah Go?

"Then Elijah took his mantle, and rolled it up, and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you." And Elisha said, "I pray you, let me inherit a double share of your spirit." And he said, "You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if you do not see me, it shall not be so." And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, "My father, my father! the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" And he saw him no more." (2 Kings 2:8-12 RSV)

Elisha Watching Elijah In A Chariot Of Fire The Heavens

The term we know as heaven is the Old-English translation of the two original words in The Bible - the Hebrew word in the Old Testament is pronounced shaw-may, and the Greek word in the New Testament is pronounced oo-ran-aws. Both mean the same thing - either the sky, or the outer space above it, depending on what the writer was talking about at the time. Sky or space are quite accurate modern substitutes for heaven. For example:

"Heaven" translated meaning the sky, the atmosphere -

  • "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater." (Isaiah 55:10 RSV)

  • "and let birds fly above the earth across the firmament of the heavens." (Genesis 1:20 RSV)

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

"Heaven" translated meaning outer space, the abode of God -

  • "O Lord, God of our fathers, art Thou not God in heaven?" (2 Chronicles 20:6 RSV)

  • "So then the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God." (Mark 16:19 RSV)

  • "No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven, the Son of man." (John 3:13 RSV)

A Peaceful Retirement For A Faithful Old Prophet

Elijah's ministry was long and powerful, but eventually he could no longer perform his duties, as he himself stated: "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers." (1 Kings 19:4). So God had him call the younger Elisha, to continue the ministry: "So he departed from there, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing, with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his mantle upon him." (1 Kings 19:19 RSV).

When the day came when Elisha was ready to carry on alone, Elijah was then spectacularly transported away: "And as they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven." (2 Kings 2:11 RSV). The fifty men who were nearby (2 Kings 2:7), who witnessed the departure, knew that Elijah was taken somewhere else on earth because that's where they searched for him (2 Kings 2:15-18). They would not have looked for him on earth if they had seen him go straight up into space, like a rocket. They saw him fly away, across the sky, as does an airplane, headed for somewhere on earth.

Elijah was taken away to a safe and peaceful place on earth to live out the remainder of his years. If he were just to have died, he could have done that right where he already was (see What Happens When You Die?).

Jesus Christ plainly said, centuries after Elijah's departure, "No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven, the Son of man." (John 3:13 RSV)

Fact Finder: Was "the spirit and power of Elijah" actually The Holy Spirit of God in Elijah?
See Why Elijah?


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