After His resurrection Jesus had gone into Galilee to meet the Disciples, as He had promised them He would do (Matt. 26:32); and there He spoke to them what is commonly declared to be “The Great Commission” (Matt. 28:19, 20): “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Motivated by this order, many Christians have zealously proceeded to the remote parts of the earth, declaring the name of Jesus to savage hordes, even as others of their fellows engaged in great drives to raise millions of dollars to finance those who would “save” the poor heathen. Up to now, at least, it must be admitted that their efforts have been far from successful. Even in those countries claiming to be Christian the practice of The Golden Rule is much conspicuous by the failure of the large majority to make even a token attempt to observe it. After more than nineteen hundred years of this effort, this dismal failure does indeed call for some reflection.
First of all, let us consider a critical translation of Jesus’ words: “Go, disciple all the nations, immersing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things which I have enjoined upon you.” Clearly enough, from this more exact translation, The Great Commission was not an order to convert the whole world – it was merely intended to win disciples from the various nations. And to what purpose? Our text says, “Immersing them into the name” – that is, into the heart and mind, the disposition of the Father and of the Son.
This conclusion is clearly corroborated by reference to Acts 19:1-7, where the twelve men there assembled had told the Apostle Paul that their baptism had brought them substantially nothing, that they had been given the baptism of John. Whereupon, “having heard this, they were immersed into the name of the Lord Jesus.” So their previous immersion in water had failed to “disciple” them; it was only after they had been immersed “into” the name of the Lord Jesus, and Paul had laid his hands upon them, that the gifts of the spirit came to them. All during the Age, much immersing has been done, and is still being done, without bringing the recipients “into” the name into the disposition of the Lord Jesus. And, if this has not been accomplished in them, then the ritual has been merely an exercise in futility – an immersion of water and words only, with the participants in no better condition than they were before the ceremony.
“THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM”
It is frequently stated that “Jesus went about.... preaching the gospel (the good news, glad tidings) of the Kingdom.” (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; Mark 1:14, etc.) This Kingdom was an important feature of His ministry, so much so that the Disciples themselves were much imbued with the thought. Even after His resurrection He spoke to them “of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3,4), which prompted the question from them: “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel.” This they did before the Holy Spirit had been given them; and Jesus’ answer is companion to The Great Commission in Matthew: “Ye shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
During the evening of the last Supper, Jesus had told them, “I go to prepare a place for you.... I will come again, and receive you unto Myself.” (John 14:2,3) Not yet having received the Holy Spirit, the Apostles received these statements much as natural men, considering them from material standpoints. And they were much persuaded that His “coming again” would be in a very short time, this opinion aided in large measure by the experience at the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-23). In the course of that conversation Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him – probably a discreet prodding for the three times that Peter had denied Him the night of the betrayal. Then Jesus informed him that his death would be a violent one, imposed upon him by other hands, at which Peter pointed to “that disciple whom Jesus loved” (the Apostle John) with the query, ‘‘And what shall this man do?” (vs. 21) This would be better translated, “Lord, and what of this man?” In other words, if Peter was to die in gruesome fashion, what about this particular favorite of Yours – How will he die? ‘‘Jesus says to him, If I wish him to abide till I come, what is that to thee?” (vs. 23) “The report, therefore, went out among the brethren, that that Disciple would not die,” although Jesus said no such thing. However, the tale persisted, so much so that certain ones in Corinth thought the Kingdom had already been established, and that they were then reigning. (1 Cor. 4:8)
It seems reasonably certain that the Apostle John lived to the age of about one hundred years. Thus, he was one of the last – if not the very last – to see Jesus while He was on earth. The Roman army under Titus captured Jerusalem in the year 70 AD.; and few, if any, of the Jews who were in the city at that time escaped execution. The Apostle John lived for thirty years, more or less, after that event. Just where he was at that particular time we do not know, but we can be certain he was not in Jerusalem then. However, until the day he died, there could be some surface substance to the tale that he would survive until the Savior came the second time, as He had promised He would. But the death of the Apostle did definitely eliminate any further credence in the story, which, as John himself stated in the last verses of his Gospel writing, had no real substance to it in what Jesus had said to Peter.
But of those who had reposed strong belief in the legend, we can well appreciate the disappointment that must have been theirs when the last glimmering hope was fully subdued in the death of John. And as those remaining ones expired – with still no evidence of a second coming – we can readily understand how a situation arose that was identical with the one confronting the Jews when Moses remained so long in Mount Sinai: “When Moses delayed to come down out of the mount (as Jesus was seemingly also doing after his ascension to the Heavenly Mount), the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.... and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.” (Ex. 32: 1-6) This situation with Israel saw an exact reproduction in the Gospel Age after Jesus had been away from this earth for several hundred years, and still no evidence of His return. He had promised the Kingdom upon His return, and it became very easy for those disappointed Christians to talk themselves into believing that perhaps He had meant that they should take on this task themselves, since there was just nothing to indicate that the Lord would be doing it Himself.
The Kingdom reign was to be a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-4); and the members of the Christian Church gradually determined that they should engaged upon the thousand year task of making earth ready as a proper preparation for His return. This had its first potential impetus when Emperor Constantine called the Council of Nice in 325 AD. mainly to determine whether the Trinity should be determined as the accepted faith of the general church. Arius was the champion of the truth against this error; and history says of him that he was a man of clear intellect. Yet only two of that vast assembly of church prelates agreed with him. The vast majority – about 250 – decided otherwise, and the Emperor agreed with them; and from that conclave emerged what is now commonly known as “The Apostles’ Creed.” Arius was banished from the Roman Empire, and forced to take refuge in northern Africa, where he died eleven years later – not, however, without leaving his “footprints on the sands of time,” for he left behind him a flourishing colony of Christians zealously contending that there is but “one God” (Eph. 4:6). And what name did they attach to themselves? Why, Arians, of course!
THE COUNTERFEIT REIGN
In due time came the Pope of Rome, claiming for himself universal sovereignty over “the Church which is His Body.” By 799 this had made such an imprint upon people and rulers alike that Charlemagne of France virtually ceded his authority unto the Pope; and thus began “the Holy Roman Empire” – the beginning of that thousand-year reign which would cause “every knee to bow, and every tongue to confess that Christ is Lord.” (Phil. 2:9-11) During the next thousand years the determination that the Church should convert and rule the world was supported by the armies of the various countries, and by all the ingenious tortures that the human Intellect could devise. It was indeed a full counterfeit of that glorious reign which the Lord Himself had promised would ‘‘wipe away all tears from their eyes.... no more death, neither sorrow or crying, neither any more pain.” (Rev. 21:1-4)
The colossal fraud of the whole arrangement was finally toppled over by Napoleon in 1799 (just a full thousand years after Charlemagne, also of France, had set it up), when he took the Pope captive to Paris, where he eventually died. Thus was furnished to the whole world clear evidence that the papal claim of supremacy in church and civil court was nothing more than a vicious myth. In all of this the Lord was saying in effect once more: “I have seen this people.... let Me alone....that I may consume them.” (Ex. 32:9,10) It is little wonder that so many ‘‘protesters’’ arose with Martin Luther and other noble reformers over the past five hundred years, although great effort is being made today to forget the past crimes, and let us all join in a grand brotherhood of man, with the Fatherhood of God. But, as one wit has expressed it: There are too few brothers, and too many hoods. The real reign of Christ is self-evidently an occurrence yet future.
THE CHURCH’S REAL MISSION
Based upon a misunderstanding of The Great Commission, a misunderstanding based somewhat upon the poor and inaccurate translation found in the King James version of the Bible, The Church has vigorously engaged upon an attempted conversion of the world when our Lord delayed His return. But it should by now be apparent to the ordinary believer that it has not been God’s purpose to have it so; otherwise, He would have accomplished it. Either that, or we are forced to the miserable admission that He has been too weak to do it. This latter is certainly contradicted by the record of Gen. 1:3, 14, 16: “God said, Let there be light: and there was light.... lights in the firmament of the Heaven to divide the day from the night.... and it was so.... God made two great lights, the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: He made the stars also.” Here is a clear record of power unlimited – a power so awesome that man would be forced to bow the knee before it whenever the command goes forth. It is clear that God has not been “trying” to do something for the past nineteen hundred years that was a little too much for Him!
During “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4) there have been three dispensations, or Ages – The Patriarchal, the Jewish and the Gospel Ages; all of them “faith” Ages, with the Gospel Age being by far the most Important. At the very outset of this Age Jesus “abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light (made it clear for the first time) through the gospel (the ‘good news’ of the Kingdom)”—2 Tim. 1:10. And for the promulgation of this ‘good news’ St. Paul says of himself, “Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.” And in sympathy with this St. James says “How God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name (a privilege first offered to the Jews, which, when rejected by them, brought forth the expression from Paul: ‘Lo, we turn to the Gentiles’—Acts 13:46).... After this (when the fullness of the Gentiles be come in) I will return and build again the Tabernacle of David... that the residue of men might seek after the Lord (when His Kingdom is finally established in power and great glory, forcing every knee to bow)”—Acts 15:14-18.
During these three Ages certain called-out ones have preached righteousness, which has restrained somewhat the tendency toward depravity so prevalent all about us. This has been more apparent in the Gospel Age, as Jesus said it would be. “The Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin (will point out the evils of this present dispensation through those who have the Holy Spirit), and concerning righteousness (will teach the world the correct conduct as against the evils now prevalent), and concerning judgment (will explain the judgment as it will truly be when the Kingdom is established)”—John 16:8. But up to now all of this has simply been a ‘‘witness’’ of things to come a mere token of the glorious actuality.
THE JUDGMENT DAY
In Acts 17:31 St. Paul declares, “God hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained.” It is clear that that “day” was in the future when Paul said what he did; and St. Peter states that “the heavens (the present ecclesiastical systems) and the earth (the present social order), which are now.... are reserved unto the day of judgment,” (2 Pet. 3:7) But the Apostle Peter then clarifies his statement with these words: “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years,” which is further confirmed in Psa. 90:4: “A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past.” St. Paul further states in 1 Cor. 6:2: “Do you not know that the saints shall judge the World?”
The Scriptures thus draw a sharp line of demarcation between the “saints” and the “world” – or between the elect and the non-elect. This is further emphasized in Rev. 20:4: “I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God (the saints, as described in Rev. 6:9).... and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” And Rev. 5:10 tells us where this reign shall be: “Thou has made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”
A SECOND COUNTERFEIT REIGN
As stated aforegoing, the Roman Church seized upon such texts to establish themselves as earth’s rulers for a thousand years – from 799 to 1799; but of the true reign it is written, “There will be no night (error) there.” (Rev. 21:25) Just the reverse of that was true, however, under the terrible papal reign. That reign is now recorded in history as The Dark Ages, because the “night” of sin and death and error was so intense that not even a good clear record of it is to be found in the history books.
It is a sound observation that history often repeats itself; and this is often true in religious history, just as it is true in secular records. Comes now here in the end of the Age the Jehovah’s Witnesses, attempting on a smaller, but hardly less sanguine scale, to establish themselves as the rulers for a thousand years. They would now have us believe the Kingdom has been established under them; and, while they do not themselves perpetrate the same violence in the same manner as did the Roman Church, nevertheless, they are telling us that their select group will take gleeful note of the blood bath that they now predict for the Armageddon that lies just ahead. Their prediction is that their faithful “dedicated” devotees are to survive that carnage, and on into the Kingdom of peace that will follow – never any more to experience death. Let us note, however, that this prediction has been broadcast for quite a few years now; and time itself is shaking the confidence of many of them, as they note the death of many of the faithful – touching them in like manner as it does the world in general. Up to now, at least, the Angel of death has shown very little respect of persons, as the processions to the cemetery proceed much the same as in times past.
Thus, here again, time itself has forced them to “reform” somewhat from their onetime positive promises. Just recently we discussed this point with one of their “dedicated” adherents – a lady well along in years. Forced to admit the truth of our contentions, she also admitted she “may not” live through Armageddon – or even until then. Here again the Witnesses show their kinship to the Roman system, which has ever been ready to change any of their teachings where ‘policy’ seemed expedient. However, “the leopard can’t change his spots.”
Above we quoted St. Paul’s statement that “the saints shall judge the world”; and our Lord had said of these saints, “Fear not, Little Flock, it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” – the reign over the earth. At present the Witnesses have much over a million of their “dedicated” partisans – hardly a “little flock” by any standard. Nor do we see any abatement of the evils of this world; in fact, they are very much on the increase since they began their “reign” – which is hardly the description given us in the Bible when our Lord’s Kingdom is established for the purpose of blessing “all the families of the earth.” And note the close similarity of the old Roman claim to the Witnesses’ present one: No salvation outside of our organization; but damnation (annihilation in Armageddon) to all who refuse us. Just a slight variation to the old Roman claim of eternal torment for all the heretics, even as they sold salvation in the form of indulgences to any and all who had the price and would bow the knee to them. Certainly, we have no wish to be facetious in the comparison we now offer; it is public property to all who would recognize it. The Roman Church gave the edict – Heaven for the faithful; Hell for the heretics. The Witnesses now give the edict – The Kingdom for the faithful; eternal annihilation in Armageddon for the heretics. Clearly enough, a second counterfeit reign!
GOD’S WORD EXPOSES COUNTERFEITS
Before the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 by the Roman Army it is clearly apparent that many Christians were so imbued with the thought of an imminent return of the Lord that it was necessary for the Apostle Paul and others to protest vigorously their false expectations. One such expression is found in 2 Thes. 2:1-10, parts of which we quote from the Diaglott translation: “We entreat you, Brethren, concerning the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (to establish the Kingdom for which He had taught them to pray), and our assembling to Him (in power and great glory), that you be not quickly agitated in mind, nor alarmed, neither by a spirit, nor by a discourse, nor by a letter as from us, as though the day of the Lord was present. Let no one delude you by any means, because the apostasy must come first, and there must be revealed that Man of Sin, that son of destruction, the opponent who lifts himself above everything called Divinity or Majesty; so as to seat himself in the temple of God.” St. Paul had written to the Corinthians, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?”—l Cor. 3:16. Thus, “seating himself in the temple of God” is simply another way of saying that the apostates would be so much in the majority that they would submerge the true Christians; and, until they had seen that accomplished, they could be sure the Lord had not returned, or the Kingdom set up.
Then, to emphasize, the Apostle continues, “Do you not remember that while I was with you, I said these things to you?... Then will be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus will annihilate by the appearing (bright shining) of His presence.” While it may be contended that that annihilation is now in process, as “knowledge shall be increased” in the time of the end (Dan. 12:4), It is certainly not yet an accomplished fact. Therefore, there definitely cannot be any visible Kingdom yet, because the Apostle is emphatic that the “annihilation” of the apostasy must be accomplished before the Kingdom’s inauguration.
Another point may be considered here: The Bible clearly teaches, and our own personal experience confirms that truth, that all men do not have the quality of faith (2 Thes. 3:2). Therefore, they cannot display or put to use something they do not have. This leads to the fact that men are presently divided into a faith class and a non-faith, or unbelief class. And, of the non-faith class, as well as of the faith class, there are many variations. The Apostles, who were born with faith in their very blood stream, “said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5) And it is also written, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6) Yet, the Roman Church for hundreds of years, and the Witnesses now in our day, would tell us there is no Kingdom hope for this unbelief class – i.e., for those now living. Nor even yet for the faith class that cannot agree with and become “dedicated” to their interpretation of the Scripture.
Another striking similarity between the Roman Church and the Witnesses is this: The Roman Church stoutly claims to adhere to the teachings of the first “pope,” Saint Peter; the Witnesses make the same claim respecting their founder, That Servant. Without detailing all the vagaries and contradictions to both of these positions, we confine ourselves to this item of a faith class in this present Age, and now quote from the first “pope”: “The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (at His second Advent to establish His Kingdom)... receiving the end (the purpose) of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” (1 Pet. 1:7-9)
And the Witnesses in like manner declare their adherence to the teachings of That Servant, who was very emphatic in his belief that the non-faith class could not possibly receive a fair trial now because of their inherent limitation, coupled with the failure of many of the heathen even to hear that Name – and there “is no salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) For “God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” (See Rom. 11:31-32) Also, Jesus Himself said, “When the Son of Man cometh (at His second Advent), shall He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) The clear inference is that true faith would be a very scarce article when our lord returns, which is a direct refutation of the large memberships to be found in the Roman Church and with the Witnesses. But they both boast of their numbers as their strength, even though we know from Scriptural authority, therein lies their weakness.
It requires little argument that love of life is the strongest desire in most of us. Thus we can find little fault with the Jews at Sinai, when Moses gave them the Law and the promise along with it that “the man that doeth these things shall live in them” – at which “all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do.” (Ex. 24:3) And the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers were crafty enough to tell King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon many centuries later what he wanted to hear: “O king, live forever.” (Dan. 2:4; 3:9)
Therefore, when the Roman Church promised immortality (immunity against death) to their faithful adherents, they were telling them something they wanted to hear, which made it easy to believe. And when the Witnesses now tell their “dedicated” devotees they will live right on through Armageddon, and never die, they are also telling them something they want to hear – which makes it easy for them to believe, and understandable that their numbers are increasing rapidly, even as they boast. The founder of their Movement, That Servant, never advocated such a teaching – nor did he boast of his numbers. The nearest support he ever gave to it was to quote Zeph. 2:3, “Seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.” That this is merely a hope for those who do that, and not a definite assurance and promise to all the meek, is better revealed in Rotherham’s translation of the text: “Seek Yahweh, all ye lowly of the land, who have wrought what He appointed, Seek righteousness, seek humility, Peradventure ye shall be concealed in the day of the anger of Yahweh.” There is nothing at all in this surmise to justify the express promise of survival now made by the Witnesses to lure proselytes to their banner. Certainly, it is to the advantage of all worldlings to “seek meekness,” because it will be only the meek who will inherit the earth. (Matt. 5:5)
OTHER RELATED ERRORS
St. Paul clearly taught that the World’s judgment was future (Acts 17:31); St. Peter clearly taught that it was future (2 Pet. 3:7,8), and that it would continue for a thousand years – not just for a few years here in the end of the Age, as the Witnesses now proclaim for those now living. And in this they are joined – in less positive manner – by some of our very prominent evangelists: Make your decision for Christ now, even if you don’t clearly understand what you are doing; you don’t have to understand the Bible (the good Word of God) to know God. But the Prophet tells us in direct and simple speech just the reverse of all this: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord (the great judgment day of which Peter and Paul wrote).... that I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts... and they shall no more teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother (as the Witnesses and others are now feverishly attempting), saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity (their violations of the Law of Moses), and I will remember their sin (for crucifying the Lord of Glory) no more.” (Jer. 31:31-34)
In a lesser sense, the Laymen’s Home Missionary Movement also now offers a limited perversion of the foregoing. They tell their proselytes that salvation for the elect is no longer available to them (although they admit we are still in the Age of faith, which is only for the elect), but they may consecrate themselves now as a future refuge when the Kingdom is eventually established – although their founder, Pastor Johnson, never taught any such thing; in fact, he directly disputed it. But this doesn’t bother them either – any more than the gross perversions of the teachings of their founder disturb the Witnesses.
And in all of this, our Lord Himself offers direct contradiction to the efforts of all such teachings in John 17:6-9: “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world.... I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me.” Yet, the record is clear also that God does love the world: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Here is given us an irrefutable distinction between the faith class (those who have responded to the call of salvation in this Age), and the non-faith class (all others not included in the elective salvation) who will receive their salvation under easier conditions, when their thousand-year judgment day is fully established. This is further confirmed by St. Paul in Gal. 3:8, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel (the good news of the Kingdom), saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” And in Gal. 4:28, the Apostle clarifies this further: “We, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise” (the elect of God who will eventually bless all the families of the earth – the non-elect – in the great Judgment Day).
All of which finds substance in the words of Jesus: “If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31,32)
Sincerely your brother,
John J. Hoefle, Pilgrim
QUESTIONS OF GENERAL INTEREST
QUESTION: – Why is it that the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Dawns, the PBI, etc., observe the Memorial on April 1, but we keep it on March 30?
ANSWER: – We do not know why those different organizations use April 1, unless it could be that they are influenced by the moon becoming full this year during April 2, a day which begins at 6 p.m. April 1 Bible Time. As for ourselves, we consider our method of finding the Memorial date relatively simple:
Each November we ask the Naval Observatory at Washington for the date of the next Vernal Equinox and the date of the new moon nearest that Equinox Jerusalem time. That is the date we accept as Nisan 1 – unless it would bring Nisan 14 before the Equinox; in which case we would use the following new moon. After that, thirteen days bring us to Nisan 14; and Exodus 12 tells us that the “remembrance” is to be kept on that date without any variation. In fact, the only way the moon enters into the matter at all is to determine Nisan 1; after that it is a simple matter of adding 13 to that date. Had we waited this year until the moon becomes full, it should be clear enough that we would be holding our Memorial on Nisan 16 (April 1 being two days later than March 30); and that is the date of the resurrection, and not the date of the crucifixion. There is nothing whatever in the Bible to support such a date for us. We believe our readers will readily agree that in such cases we should follow the Bible, rather than any Jewish custom or other method, regardless of how deeply rooted that time had seemed to venerate the methods of others for the occasion.
QUESTION: – Sometime ago some one gave me a Herald of the Epiphany, subject Where Are The Dead? It is interesting, but what about Enoch and Elijah – and Moses who appeared at the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus? Where was, and is he? Shouldn’t we conclude that those good men are in Heaven?
ANSWER: – The transfiguration recorded in Matt. 17:1-13, and the whirlwind experience of Elijah have misled many Christians into believing these two men must be in Heaven; but Jesus Himself was very emphatic that “no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the son of man.” (John 3:13) St. Paul adds strength to this statement in Acts 26:23, “Christ should be the first that should rise from the dead”; and further in 1 Cor. 15:20, “Christ has become the firstfruits of them that slept.” As respects Moses and Elijah in the transfiguration scene, Jesus said it was “a vision” (vs. 9); and a vision is somewhat after the manner of a dream where one might see a dead relative. However, such a dream would be no proof at all that the relative was alive, or in heaven.
In 2 Chr. 21:12 it is stated that Elijah wrote a letter to King Jehoram of Judah; and that was about eight years after his whirlwind experience that had taken him from Elisha after they had crossed Jordan. Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that Elijah was removed by the fiery chariot to some remote spot, but not taken into heaven.
In 2 Kgs. 2:12-18 “the sons of the prophets” insisted upon a three-day search for Elijah, lest he be in distress upon “some mountain or in some valley.” These were educated men, in nowise considered stupid; and they certainly did not believe Elijah had gone up to God’s throne, or they would have known better than to go searching for him. They were persuaded they would be able to find him, although their search proved unsuccessful.
As for Enoch, it is simply related that “he was translated that he should not see death.” (Heb. 11:5); but there is no hint here that he was “translated” to God’s throne. And we may be certain that he was not taken there, as the Bible never contradicts itself. If Jesus had been wrong in John 3:13, that “no man hath ascended into heaven,” He could just as easily be wrong in other places, which would make Him a fallible teacher, and not worthy of our implicit confidence. St. Paul further says of all three of these men that “they received not the promise: God having provided same bettor thing for us (the Christ company), that they without us should not be made perfect (raised from the dead, perfected in the resurrection)”—Heb. 11:39,40.