Has No One Been to Heaven? Dr. Nicholas Schaser
In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.”
Yet this seems to contradict earlier accounts of people going to the heavenly realm: Elijah was whisked from our world and ancient Jewish tradition held that God took Enoch from the earth. D
id Yeshua forget his history? Not at all.
What About Elijah and Enoch?
According to Israel’s Scriptures, the Lord sends heavenly vehicles to lift the prophet Elijah to the heavens. The prophet is a passive passenger with the benefit of theophanic transportation. Likewise, the Septuagint says that Enoch lived a life walking with God and then “was not found, because God transferred him.” The Greek term for “transferred” is μετατίθημι (metatíthemi): to be “transposed” or “transported” to another place. Genesis is clear that God who does the transferring; Enoch does not ascend to heaven on his own.
What Did Jesus Really Say?
Jesus says of himself that “no one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” The word for “ascend” (ἀναβαίνω) comes from two Greek terms: ἀνά (aná), meaning “up,” and βαίνω (baíno), which means “to walk.”
Literally then, Jesus claims that no one apart from him has ever “walked up” to heaven. Whereas the prophets and patriarchs were taken up by God, Jesus distinguishes himself as the only human being in history with the power to come down from the Father and return to God’s realm.