What about Enoch and Elijah?

Q. I firmly believe what the Church teaches concerning the Blessed Virgin, that she was assumed into heaven. This means that there are only two glorified bodies in heaven, that of Jesus and His mother, Mary. What happened to Enoch (see Gn 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kgs 2:11)? Am I right in assuming both of them died, since no one can see the face of God and live?

P. Bayona, via email

A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D: 

In Genesis 5:24, we read, “Enoch walked with God, and he was no longer here, for God took him.” This seems simply to say he died. Meanwhile, 2 Kings 2:11 records, “As they [Elijah and Elisha] walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”

Neither Enoch nor Elijah was taken into the heaven of God’s dwelling place. Three different uses of the word “heaven” occur in sacred Scripture. Sometimes it refers to the atmosphere which surrounds our planet (see Gn 7:1-12, RSV: at the flood ”the windows of the heavens were opened”). Sometimes “heaven” designates outer space (Ps 8:3, RSV: “When I look at your heavens . . . the moon and the stars which you have established”), or the word can mean God’s dwelling place (2 Cor 12:2: “the third heaven”). Which meaning of the term “heaven” is intended in 2 Kings 2:11 regarding Elijah’s leaving the scene? Elijah was not taken into God’s dwelling. Consider this: When Elijah left the scene, the sons of the prophets evidently believed Elijah had been taken to another place. At their urging Elisha allowed 50 men to search for Elijah for three days, but in vain. Now note the scriptural chronology. After Elijah’s disappearance, Elisha had an encounter with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (2 Kgs 3:11-20). The latter was succeeded by his equally wicked son Jehoram. Several years into Jehoram’s reign “he received a letter from the prophet Elijah” (2 Chr 21:12). God had simply removed Elijah to another place, after which, of course, he eventually died.