Elijah Taken Up in a Chariot of Fire, Giuseppe Angeli (1712-1798) | Source: Biblical Art on the WWW
Dispensationalism appropriates the catching away of Elijah in support of the ‘rapture of the Church’ theory. This teaching assumes Elijah did not physically die, having been taken directly into God’s presence in Heaven. There he waits patiently to physically return prior to the second coming of Christ. In my opinion, Dispensationalism is a doctrine built upon speculation.
A Quote from gracethrufaith.com
‘Enoch and Elijah are two Old Testament examples of men taken live into heaven. Neither of them died first. In Enoch’s case he is specifically described as “walking with God.” Elijah of course went in a chariot of fire that swooped down and picked him up in a whirlwind. The Bible doesn’t describe their destination specifically, but some scholars have speculated that they were raptured just as the church will be. If that’s the case, they were pushed forward in time and given perfected bodies allowing them to survive in the presence of God. Enoch has no further mission that we know of as far as Earth is concerned, but Elijah continues to be involved with mankind being anticipated at every Passover and present in spirit at circumcisions. He also appeared on the Mt. of transfiguration with Moses and will serve with him as one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11.’
‘The Bible doesn’t describe their destination specifically, but some scholars have speculated that they were raptured just as the church will be.’ Surely, doctrine cannot be built upon speculation. Let’s speak when the Scriptures speak and be silent when the Scriptures are silent.
‘they were pushed forward in time and given perfected bodies allowing them to survive in the presence of God.’ This statement is not only unscriptural, it contradicts the discussion Christ had with Nicodemus.
Joh 3:13 KJV And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
Only Christ who is fully God and fully man can ascend to and descend from heaven.
There is an interesting paradox in the Scriptures concerning Elijah’s location when he sent his ‘writing’ to Jehoram, king of Judah, after his ‘rapture to heaven’! Many scholars have pondered this problem without producing a convincing explanation. I am persuaded the most obvious answer is the most likely, although it might incite an adverse response, nevertheless, it is sufficient to eliminate the Elijah endorsement of the ‘rapture theory’.
Elijah’s ‘Writing’ to Jehoram King of Judah
Elijah prophesied the death of Ahaziah the King of Israel who reigned from 853-852 BC, therefore, he was still on the scene… 2 Kings1:1-18
2Ki 3:11 KJV But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may enquire of the LORD by him? And one of the king of Israel’s servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.
Jehoram, king of Israel, reigned after Ahaziah from 852-841 BC. He called on Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to do battle with the Moabites around 852-851 BC. Elijah was no longer around and Elisha prophesied the Word of the Lord to the kings in his place.
The timeline proves Elijah was taken by the Lord prior to the Moabite rebellion in 852-851 BC, before Jehoram, king of Judah, the son of Jehoshaphat, came to the throne in 848 BC. Elijah could not have sent a letter to Jehoram if physically taken up into heaven in 852-851 BC.
2Ch 21:12-15 KJV And there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of David thy father, Because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah, 13 But hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like to the whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and also hast slain thy brethren of thy father’s house, which were better than thyself: 14 Behold, with a great plague will the LORD smite thy people, and thy children, and thy wives, and all thy goods: 15 And thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day.
Elijah wrote to Jehoram King of Judah who reigned from 848-841 BC, declaring a terrible death awaited him for his evil ways. How did Elijah send this writing? Apparently, the Lord had taken him up in a whirlwind into heaven approximately 4 years earlier.
There are scholars who use this paradox to dispute the inspiration of the Scriptures. Others say it was a misunderstanding and Elisha sent the writing, or perhaps there was another prophet by the name of Elijah. Some claim Jehoram was co-regent with his father Jehoshaphat about 853 BC, there are no Scriptures to support this, but it is plausible. The conclusion drawn is Elijah may have been around during the early days of Jehoram’s co-regency.
2Ch 20:31-32 KJV And Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah: he was thirty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Azubah the daughter of Shilhi. 32 And he walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD.
‘doing that which was right in the sight of the LORD‘ It is unlikely Jehoshaphat would have allowed his son to act wickedly during a co-regency, since he was a good king.
2Ch 21:4 KJV Now when Jehoram was risen up to the kingdom of his father, he strengthened himself, and slew all his brethren with the sword, and divers also of the princes of Israel.
Jehoram’s evil deeds occurred after he became king in his own right in 848 BC. Elijah’s writing contained a summary of the evil Jehoram had already done, not what he would do in the future. For example, it was after Jehoram became king he murdered his brothers.
2Ki 2:11 YLT And it cometh to pass, they are going, going on and speaking, and lo, a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and they separate between them both, and Elijah goeth up in a whirlwind, to the heavens.
The word ‘heavens’ is the Hebrew word ‘shamayim’ or ‘shameh’ meaning the sky, the area of the clouds, also the higher area of the stars and the planets.
The same word is used:
‘If I shut up heaven that there be no rain’… 2 Chronicles 7:13
‘And God called the firmament Heaven’… Genesis 1:8
Personally, I believe the ‘rapture’ of Elijah involved his removal to another location, not into God’s presence in Heaven.
Paul ‘Caught Up’ to Paradise
Why is it assumed that Elijah was taken alive in his physical body into God’s presence? God is Spirit and the Kingdom of God is a spiritual Kingdom, why would any saints be translated in their physical body into such a realm?
2Co 12:2-5 KJV I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.
Paul was spiritually translated temporarily into God’s holy presence in ‘third heaven’.
Philip’s ‘Harpazo’ Caught Away to Azotus
Act 8:39-40 KJV And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
In my opinion, Philip had a similar physical experience to Elijah when ‘the Spirit of the Lord’ translated him to Azotus.
Dispensationalism also holds the view that Enoch was ‘raptured’ to heaven, thereby giving credence to the dubious ‘rapture’ theory.
Gen 5:24 YLT And Enoch walketh habitually with God, and he is not, for God hath taken him.
‘translated–not to see death’ The Scriptures do not confirm Enoch was translated alive to Heaven.
Heb 11:5 YLT By faith Enoch was translated–not to see death, and was not found, because God did translate him; for before his translation he had been testified to–that he had pleased God well.
Heb 11:13 YLT In faith died all these, not having received the promises, but from afar having seen them, and having been persuaded, and having saluted them, and having confessed that strangers and sojourners they are upon the earth.
‘In faith died all these’ Enoch was included with the faithful who died, not having received the promises… Hebrews 11:5
I believe it is unsound to propose that Elijah was translated physically to another place where he remained until his death and sent his writing from there.
In my opinion, Dispensationalism has subtly tapped into the imagination of many believers through intriguing speculative theories that cannot be supported by Scripture.
What do you think?