Did the Lord Jesus Christ forget about Elijah being taken upwards into Heaven by way of whirlwind when He stated that no man has ascended to Heaven? Skeptics of the Bible undoubtedly see this as a factual contradiction in the biblical text, thus undermining the veracity of the scriptures or the Deity of Jesus Christ.
- Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 2 Kings 2:11, NKJV
- “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.” John 3:13, NKJV
The issue, as you can see, is simple: Did Jesus err in explaining to Nicodemus, “No one has ascended to heaven…”? Without a proper understanding of the context at hand, it is easy to slip into the realm of doubt alongside the skeptics making this accusation against the scriptures.
Jesus is not talking about those who have been taken to Heaven bodily (Enoch, Moses, Elijah). Such events were not in view here, for the issue at hand was one coming from Heaven to teach heavenly things: “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” says the verse preceding out text above in John 3.
The issue of having someone go to Heaven to bring back heavenly wisdom has faced God’s people for thousands of years, and we see in Deuteronomy 30:11,12 that, “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?'” (NKJV).
It is along this vein that John 1:18 rests: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (NKJV).
So we see that no man has ever gone to Heaven for the purpose of returning with wisdom. However, we have the Son of God coming down from Heaven as the man Christ Jesus, declaring heavenly things.
When Jesus’ words in John 3:13 are understood in the context in which they appear, the “contradiction” disappears. Praise the Lord that His word is perfect!