Heaven in Old Testament?


In says in the Catechism:

Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell”— Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek—because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical. (CCC 633)

This says “all the dead” went to “hell”, which means that noone was in heaven before the death of Jesus.

So in the Old Testament it tells of prophet Elias going to heaven.
And in the New Testament it tells of Moses and Elias appearing in splendor with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Appearing as they did in splendor seems to imply they were in heaven.

Does anyone have an answer?


The concept, idea, belief in an eternal soul did not exist with the ancients not even the ancient Hebrews. They believed that when you died, that was it. Now the concept and belief of the soul grew over time and that knowledge is hinted at in the Bible (ref book of Maccabees). But by the time of Jesus, it was accepted by many. However, even during the time of Jesus, there were some Hebrews that did not belief in the soul. So the writings in the Old Testament writers had a different idea and vision of death. But in the Catholic sense, I don’t think that “hell” is referring to the place of fire that we now associate with the word. It sounds more like Purgatory in your reference. Even this word “hell” has gone through a transformation in our understanding and meaning and is now used differently than in past times.

There were probably people in Heaven before Jesus came. But probably only few. The Bible mentions that two people were ascended into Heaven(?), with a possible third. I’m not sure if it was actually Heaven as we understand it that is meant in the Bible or if they were just in a nicer waiting area than the rest of the people waiting for Jesus to arrive. They were Enoch, Elias, and possibly Moses. Moses’s body was ascended according to an apocryphal book. Who is to say that there weren’t more? But your right, the New Testament hints that Moses was ascended.


There were probably people in Heaven before Jesus came. But probably only few.

Jesus in John 3:13 claims that no one has ascended into heaven except himself, the Son of Man.

We also learn the by the Redemption of Jesus Christ, ALL mortals, who were conceived in Original Sin, IOW, all the offspring of Adam and Eve, were in need of redemption before they could enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.


Here is tract from David Armstrong, a well recognized apologist, that argues that Enoch and Elijah (not Elias my mistake) were assumed (were in) into Heaven. David Armstrong states that the Church has not ruled for or against Enoch and Elijah being in Heaven before the Incarnation but that the Bible text hints at this. In my scholarly opinion, if they weren’t in the Heaven as we understand it, they were in fancy place waiting.


I have always believed, since scripture speaks of “3 heavens” (2 Cor 12:2), and scripture elsewhere, as you noted, says no one has been to heaven except Christ, that Enoch and Elijah went to a different level of heaven or perhaps “Abraham’s bosom” where the other old testament saints went until Christ opened the gates of heaven.

However, I will point out that, as noted by Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers, John Paul II once stated (not in an inffalible pronouncement) his belief they went to “heaven”

“The depiction of heaven as the transcendent dwelling-place of the living God is joined with that of the place to which believers, through grace, can also ascend, as we see in the Old Testament accounts of Enoch (cf. Gn 5:24) and Elijah (cf. 2 Kgs 2:11)” [General Audience, July 21, 1999].


In the parable of the rich man - poor man, the poor man was in the bosom of Abraham, while the rich man was suffering pain, and between them was a gap that could not be breached.

I have read where this describes the one place where all the souls of the dead before the death of Jesus went. But the good were separate from the bad. And that the compartment of the good was called sometimes “paradisio”.

And so the poor man who was in Abraham’s bosom was the “paradiso” not the real heaven that Jesus’ death gave us … the beatific vision.

Could it be that where Elias went was not truely the heaven of beatific vision, but rather that of where the just go awaiting the beatific vision, called “paradisio”? And also that of the good thief to whom Jesus said, “you will be with me today in paradise”. And of course Jesus’ soul too after death went to this place as well.


DOH!!! I forgot to post the link to Dave Armstrongs tract. I’m sorry. Here it is.



This is very interesting. I wonder if “transcendent dwelling-place of the living God” means the beatific vision or he had something else in mind.

And if this is his opinion or it is something more than that?


The Book of Enoch states that there are 9 or 10 heavens. I know I know it’s not in the Canon but it is quoted in scripture so it’s validated. We can pick and choose what we like and believe and follow from this book just like we do the rest of the Bible correct? :smiley:


The fact that a non-canonical book is quoted or alluded to in scripture (and I don’t know whether that is true of the book or Enoch or not) does not validate the non-canonical work. As to the Bible (cannon), I do not (nor does the Church condone) picking and choosing what to accept - it is fully and all the Word of God. Of course, there are interpretive issues since verses need to be evaluated by reference to the entirety of scripture as God will not contravene Himself within the word.

Hope that helps




Well I don’t see anyone stoning their daughters now a days but that’s besides the point. I was joking. :smiley: But regarding the book of Enoch, it was quoted Jude 1:14. If this book was good enough for the apostles or disciples, it’s good enough for me.


Hi Brian, here is a follow-up. The link is to the article to the online Catholic Encyclopedia New Advent. It states that the Book of Enoch was quoted.



even a broken clock is right twice a day. The fact that a verse from a book (not part of the cannon) is quoted or alluded to (if it was) in a cannonical book doesnt mean everything else in the book is “cannon” and true. The broken clock is wrong the rest of the day.

Also, how do you know the quote even comes from the book of Enoch. The quote could have come from another source with the quote also included in the book of Enoch?

In terms of stoning (though as you said, besides the point) we are not under the mosaic law any longer per the new covenant (teachings in the new testament).






As the gates of Heaven were only opened after the death and resurrection of Christ how could Elias be in Heaven prior to that? As Elias was one of the just then he falls under the Church teaching on this.

CCC 637 In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened Heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him.


Like St. Augustine said, if it weren’t for the Church he would never believe the Bible. Likewise I say, that I believe the Church’s Doctrine first, and interpret the Bible in light of that doctrine. That is not to say that God can not do whatever He wills. We know that an exception was made for the Virgin Mary with regard to Original sin. But that was not as an honor to her as much as a requirement for the Holy Incarnation.

All of this debate surrounds individual interpretation of tiny snippets of Holy Scripture. I would rather believe as the Church teaches, than have my interpretation of Scripture require all sorts of special exceptions and places be created to support it. :slight_smile:


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