By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him. (Hebrews 11:5)

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. (2 Kings 2:11)

If Elijah and Enoch (funny they all start with the letter E) where translated what does John 3:13 mean, NO MAN has ASCENDED to heaven?

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    What's the relevance here? Why is this important? This question desperately needs more context. – wax eagle Apr 10 '13 at 15:40
  • VTC: Truth question. – Jas 3.1 Apr 10 '13 at 17:31

In the risk of sounding way too much catholic :p here is my answer:

Ascension and Assumption are two different things. Catholics believe that only Jesus came down from heaven and went up to heaven on his own power. This is called Ascension. Others like Enoch, Elijah and of course Bl. Virgin Mary were taken up by God. (i.e., not by their own power) This is called Assumption. Catholics and Orthodox have always explicitly differentiated Ascension and Assumption.

Also it is interesting to note that in 2 Corinthians 12:2, Paul speaks of a man who was caught up to the third heaven (presumably by God) and came back alive.

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  • What is the bases for the doctrine of the assumption of Mary? – Andrew Jun 22 '14 at 20:45
  • I am sorry, its too broad to answer here. But please see here and here. – Jayarathina Madharasan Jun 23 '14 at 5:07
  • I'm not asking you to answer another question, just to cite your sources in your answer. Thank you for adding these links. – Andrew Jun 23 '14 at 7:52

It should be noted that the Scriptures do not record the specific place to which Enoch was taken--only that he was taken.

For Elijah, he was taken up to heaven. However, the word heaven is used to refer to different things, namely the sky, the domain of the stars, and the dwelling place of God. It seems that Elijah arose into the sky, specifically. Wherever else he may have gone, we cannot be sure.

Thus, when Jesus says that no man has ascended into heaven, it seems that He is referring to heaven as the dwelling place of God and that Elijah must now, then, have gone there.

The story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16) identifies a place of the dead referred to as "Abraham's Bosom". In this place, the rich man, who was in a place of torment, could see Lazarus and Abraham. This does not appear to be the dwelling place of God. On the Cross, Jesus referred to a place called Paradise, where the penitent thief would soon be with Jesus.

A common understanding, then, is that there was a place of paradise for the Old Testament saints, distinct from the dwelling place of God which we call heaven. This appears to be a place of waiting until the penalty for sins was paid, as it says in the last part of Romans 3:25

...This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed. Romans 3:25b NASB

After Jesus died, it is understood that Paradise was taken into Heaven, the dwelling place of God.

Thus, Jesus was correct in asserting at that time that no man had ever gone into heaven except for He Himself who came from heaven. Old Testament saints had gone to Paradise, but not Heaven.

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  • By story you mean parable, not an event that actually happened. – fгedsbend Jun 2 '13 at 17:25
  • @fredsbend Whether or not the account of the rich man and Lazarus is a parable or not is debatable. I hold to the position that it is an actual account, given the fact that two of the characters are named, one of them being the patriarch Abraham. – Narnian Jun 3 '13 at 11:38

In order to answer your question we need to look at the definition of "heaven". Heaven could mean different things in different contexts. In some cases the "paradise" that @Narnian referred to could be considered heaven. However, returning to the presence of God the Father is considered to be the ultimate "heaven". Since returning to the presence of God the Father requires a soul to be perfectly clean, it would stand to reason that Jesus is the only person who qualifies. Thus, in this instance no man has ascended to that ultimate heaven to which Jesus alone was qualified to enter.

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