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Friday, August 19, 2011

"Has anyone ascended into heaven?"

Question:

Jesus says, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man” (John 3:13); but, the Bible says, “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; For God took him” (Genesis 5:24); that “And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven” (2 Kings 2:11) and “Enoch was translated that he should not see death” (Hebrews 11:5). So which is it: has anyone ascended into heaven, or not?

Answer:
Interesting to note what Jesus says in the previous verse: "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12).

Jesus’ statement about ascending into heaven is in the context of a conversation and is not some independent mystical inculcation. Jesus is speaking with Nicodemus, a teacher who has not understood the very lessons he should be teaching. Jesus says, “You must be born again” (John 3:7). Nicodemus shows his confusion, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9). Jesus replies, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and no not understand these things?” (John 3:10). Apparently there is something cultural and historical that this teacher knows but has not understood. The open minded will examine and search out these things alluded to in the text.
Jesus points out that Nicodemus does not merely lack understanding, but that he is clinging to ignorance. “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:11-12) Understanding comes through faith because this is a spiritual truth.

How does one get to heaven? How is one reconciled to God? Can one merely just “go up?” We cannot ascend through reason or understanding, knowledge or good works. We cannot find a way there ourselves. Those mentioned in the Old Testament proofs reveal relationships with God that are worth investigating. Enoch, Elijah and Enoch did not find their way to God on their own accord; rather, God approached them first. He, as it were, descended and as a result of God “stepping down,” they ascended.
Here is the message: “You must be born again” (John 3:7) in order to enter heaven and God made the way possible by descending into time and space to pay the penalty for your sin in order that you may be able to enjoy forever The One who makes Heaven what it is!

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