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25 January 2011

A Conflict in the Bible?

"From the Bible John 3:13: 'No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.' Also from the Bible 2 Kings:2:11 'As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.' Hmmm seems to be a conflict there. Iago

There's no conflict at all. The Tabernacle, spoken of so often in the Book of Hebrews, is an earthly representation of Heaven. As with Heaven, the Tabernacle had three parts to it. The first was the "Courtyard," then "the Holy Place," and finally "the Holy of Holies." If anyone entered the Holy of Holies (the very presence of God and the Ark of the Covenant) he would be instantly killed by the Justice of God because of his personal sins. There had to be a blood sacrifice to provide a temporary covering for his sin. The high priest, God’s chosen mediator with His people, could only enter that area once a year, on a prescribed day called "the Day of Atonement."

So anyone who died before the redemptive work of the Savior (the shedding of His blood on the cross), didn’t go into the presence of God in Heaven, but into the part of Heaven called "Paradise" (see Luke 23:43). If you study the death of Lazarus (Luke 16:20-31) you will see that he went to "Abraham’s Bosom" (another name for Paradise). The Apostle Paul spoke of actually seeing Paradise (see 2 Corinthians 12:2-4).

A thick curtain separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The Temple in Jerusalem was a replica of the tabernacle, having a massive 60 foot high, 30 foot wide, 4 inch thick curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. The moment Jesus cried "It is finished," that curtain ripped “from the top to the bottom” (see Mark 15:38). The tearing of it from the top down, meant this act must have come from above, signifying that God Himself had provided a way for sinners to enter His presence, and thus live forever.

Each of those who entered Paradise didn't go there because they were good people. They were sinners who were saved by the grace and mercy of God, through the simplicity of faith (trust). They trusted that God would eventually provide a Savior, so that their sins could be completely forgiven (you can read all about this in Hebrews 11).

So Elijah would have gone into the first heaven (Paradise) until Jesus completed His redemptive work. Nowadays, all who die in Christ (trusting in His shed blood) go straight into the presence of God. Their sins are forever forgiven.

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