2 Kings 2:11 say

And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

But John 3:13 say

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

Did John forget about Elijah?

  • A very good question!
    – Steve
    Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 6:23

3 Answers 3


According to Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. II, "ascended" in John 3:15: "Equivalent to hath been in. Jesus says that no one has been in heaven except the Son of man who came down out of heaven; because no man could be in heaven without having ascended thither" (italics in the original).

It appears that Jesus' emphasis was not the trip to heaven, but being in a place of heaven that only He has entered. I don't know where Elijah ended up, but it evidently wasn't in the same localized area where Jesus was.


There is a vast difference between ascending and being taken up. Taken up as in the case of Elijah means that he was taken to Heaven by another power, in this case by a whirlwind. To the contrary when Jesus ascended it was own power.

So John's statement is correct both Elijah and Enoch were taken to heaven alive:

Genesis 5:24 KJV And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

but only Jesus did it by himself.


Heaven has multiple meanings: the atmosphere/sky, the realm of the stars, and the abode of God.

What Jesus is speaking of in John 3 is about "heavenly things," in reference to God. He says that no one has been with God in heaven (to understand the "heavenly things") except the Son of Man (himself). The kind of closeness that Jesus is talking about is something that no human has experienced.

John 1:18 (NASB)
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

This is the unique position to which Jesus refers in John 3.

The word translated "heaven" in 2 Kings 2:11 is שָׁמַיִם (shamayim, 8064) which can mean all three of these things. When Elijah was taken up into heaven, he was taken up into the sky. The statement might imply that he was "with" God in some sense, but not in a different way than Enoch (Ge 5), and probably not in a different way than any other righteous person who has died. It is certainly not overtly implied that he has become as intimate with God as deity is with himself.

  • 2
    I get the feeling there is a fuller answer behind this. If you have time can you expand your answer? Commented Jan 30, 2014 at 16:13

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