What happened to Elijah?

ElijahChariotQuestion: What happened to Elijah when the fiery chariot took him away?


Answer: I believe the Bible always provides its own answers. What it says is always right; and what it says is always enough.

Alexander Campbell made famous this nineteenth-century expression: “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.” This hermeneutic pattern is found in 1 Peter 4:11. There, Peter wrote:

“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

I am limited to respond only with what the Bible does say. This is not a negative thing, for it is as it should be. Robert Stein wrote:

“We assume that a reasonably intelligent person is logically consistent, and therefore we seek to interpret what he says in one place in the light of what he says elsewhere. It is a basic rule of hermeneutics that a particular teaching should be interpreted in the light of general teaching, that is, in light of its context. Every teacher expects that his pupils will not take his words out of context. That context is the totality of what he has said or written elsewhere” (Robert Stein, Difficult Sayings in the Gospels, Grand Rapids, Baker, 1985, 36-37).

Stein saw that the context in which something is spoken or written must be adhered to if one is to establish absolute truth. Thus, if a person takes a biblical teaching away from its already established context, they will arrive at a different conclusion than was originally intended.

Anything taught to be “biblical Truth” must fit within the already established perimeters found in the Bible narrative. This is just honest Bible hermeneutics 101. Though it is a rule, some Bible teachers unfortunately not always follow it. With this in mind, your question’s answer is found in what’s already recorded in the Bible. Though the Bible never explicitly tells the outcome of Elijah’s flaming exodus, it does state that “NO ONE HAS ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (Joh 3:13 ESV). As a result we know that whatever happened to Elijah that day did not include him ascending into heaven. We also know that he did not die and resurrect because Jesus is proclaimed to be the first to obtain the promised resurrection of the dead (See 1 Cor 15:20, 23; Act 26:23; Col 1:18; Rev 1:5). Established facts such as these both limit and explain what did happen to Elijah. Consequently, unless someone can show where the Bible says otherwise, the limited information about Elijah’s departure is all we actually know. Anything additional to this would be speculative at best.


Copyright © 2009 TK Burk. All Rights Reserved.

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