ARE HEBREW SCRIPTURE PATRIARCHS IN HEAVEN? – Did Elijah send a letter to King Jehoram after his ascension into heaven? – 2 CHRONICLES 21:12: “then a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet….”
JEHOVAH’S WITNESS ARGUMENT:
Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that no person who lived prior to the coming of Jesus Christ went to heaven. In order to support their ideology, they explain Elijah’s ascension into heaven as a temporary removal from one place on earth to another and claim that Elijah reappeared on earth to send a letter to King Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:12), years after he went up to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11).1.
There is no indication that Elijah went up to heaven before he sent the letter to King Jehoram of Judah. We read at 1 Kings 22:50 and 2 Kings 1:17 that Jehoram became King of Judah two years before a different King Jehoram became king of Israel. It wasn’t until the NEXT chapter at 2 Kings 2:11 (during the reign of this other King Jehoram of Israel) that we read of Elijah’s ascension into heaven.
It is important to note that nowhere does the Bible give a specific year for Elijah’s translation into heaven. We only know that it happened sometime during the reign of King Jehoram of Israel. Since King Jehoram of Judah (who received the letter from Elijah) had already been reigning two years by the time King Jehoram of Israel took the throne, Elijah could have easily sent his letter to King Jehoram of Judah before his ascension into heaven at 2 Kings 2:11.
2 Chronicles 21:19 notes that Jehoram of Judah began to experience the effects of the condemning words in Elijah’s letter two years before he died in the eighth year of his reign, so it is reasonable to conclude that Elijah’s letter and his subsequent transportation to heaven occurred sometime between Jehoram of Judah’s second to sixth year of reign.
Furthermore, if Elijah was planning to reappear on earth and resume his ministry after ascending into heaven for a few years, one would have to question why Elijah spoke of being “taken from” his apprentice Elisha and why he would have gone to the effort of requesting for Elisha a “double portion” of his spirit upon leaving.2. Such commitment to Elisha would hardly seem relevant if Elijah was to resume his work on earth only a few years after the whirlwind incident. Thus, we see that not only does the Scriptural account negate the Watchtower’s view of Elijah’s ascension, but the circumstances surrounding the event speak of the permanence of his ascension into heaven (that is in the Abraham’s bosom portion of Hades described at Luke 16) until he appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration at Matthew 17:3. We also read of other Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament) patriarchs dwelling in heaven at Hebrews 11:13-16 and Matthew 8:11.