Nearly everyone is familiar with the story of Elijah being carried away by a whirlwind up into heaven, but Yeshua said, “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
This may seem like a contradiction at first, but if we let the Bible interpret itself, we find that there are no contradictions.
There are two questions we need to ask. Why was Elijah taken? and where was he taken?
It is important to note that Elijah told Elisha three times, “Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me” - 2 Kings 2:2,4,6
and every time Elisha responded by saying, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” - 2 Kings 2:2,4,6
This shows us that Elisha was unwilling to leave Elijah and that he refused to let Elijah leave. Likewise, the sons of the prophets also spoke to Elisha twice saying, "Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?" - 2 Kings 2:3,5
The first six verses of this chapter are focused on the fact that God was going to take Elijah away from Elisha, because Elisha was unwilling to let Elijah leave on his own. But what happened next is where many people have gotten confused.
“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
I have heard many people say that Elijah was taken into heaven by a chariot of fire, but that is not what the Bible says. It says that the chariot of fire separated the two men, and that a whirlwind (or tornado) took Elijah into heaven. This is why the sons of the prophets said, “Look now, there are fifty strong men with your servants. Please let them go and search for your master, lest perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has taken him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley.” - 2 Kings 2:16
They did not conclude that Elijah was taken out of the earth, but that he was simply taken away to a different location.
So, why does the Bible say he was taken into heaven? You may not be aware of this, but the Bible calls different things as heaven. In Genesis, “God called the firmament Heaven” and explains that the birds fly in the firmament of heaven. The Bible also tells us that the sun, moon, and stars are in heaven. In fact, the word “heaven” seems to refer to anything that is above the earth. This is further illustrated in the flood record which explains that everything under heaven was covered in water.
“And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered.”
- Genesis 7:19
There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that Elijah left the earth. In fact, the Bible tells us that he wrote a letter to king Jehoram approximately ten years after his whirlwind ride.
“And a letter came to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, Thus says the Lord God of your father David: Because you have not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat your father, or in the ways of Asa king of Judah…” - 2 Chronicles 21:12
We know this letter was written long after the whirlwind took him, because Jehoshaphat was king at that time, and it was a number of years later when his son Jehoram became king. In fact, right after Elijah was taken, Elisha spoke with king Jehoshaphat.
“But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there no prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of the Lord by him?" So one of the servants of the king of Israel answered and said, "Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah.’" - 2 Kings 3:11
But the Bible explains that Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, did not begin his reign as king until after the death of his father.
“And Jehoshaphat rested with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the City of David. Then Jehoram his son reigned in his place.” - 2 Chronicles 21:1
“Now in the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, Jehoshaphat having been king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat began to reign as king of Judah. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem.” - 2 Kings 8:16-17
If Elisha spoke with king Jehoshaphat after Elijah was taken, and Jehoram did not begin his reign until after Jehoshaphat died, then how could Elijah write a letter to king Jehoram unless he was still on earth when Jehoram was king?
The only logical conclusion is that Elijah was taken up into the sky and transported to another location on the earth. He was able to write a letter to king Jehoram because he was still living on the earth when Jehoram was king.
The Bible does not contradict itself. Yeshua is still the only one who has ascended into heaven.