Who Ascended to Heaven First?

Originally posted 5/1/2010.

Genesis 5:23-24: “And all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And he walked with God, and was seen no more: because God took him.”
Comment: God “translated [Enoch] into the earthly paradise” [ST III, q. 49, art. 5, ad 2], which is “shut off from the habitable world by mountains, or seas, or some torrid region, which cannot be crossed” [ST I, q. 102, art. 1, ad 3].

2 Ki 2:11: “And as they went on, walking and talking together, behold, a fiery chariot and fiery horses parted them both asunder: and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”
Comment: St. Elijah the Tishbite “was taken up into the atmospheric heaven, but not in to the empyrean heaven, which is the abode of the saints” [ST III, q. 49, art. 5, ad 2].

1 Maccabees 2:58: “Elijah, for his burning zeal for the law, was taken up to heaven.”
Comment: See above.

John 3:13: “No one has gone up to Heaven except the one Who has come down from Heaven, the Son of Man.”
Comment: Here Christ confesses that He is the only one Who, at that time, had ascended into the empyrean Heaven, not merely the atmospheric heaven. At the time of Jn 3:13, Heaven was not open to any of the righteous forefathers on account of the original sin infecting their human nature (but not their person) [ST III-S, q. 69, art. 6, ad 1]. Christ opened the gates of Heaven by His Passion [ST III, q. 49, art. 5, corp.]: “But when Christ came as High Priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, He entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with His own Blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-12). After Christ opened the gates of Heaven by His Passion, He descended into hell, the hell of the limbo of the righteous forefathers, and broke the gates thereof, and led all their souls to Heaven [ST III, q. 52, art. 5, corp.]: “You also by the blood of Your testament have sent forth Your prisoners out of the pit, wherein is no water” (Zechariah 9:11).

Hebrews 11:5: “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and ‘he was found no more because God had taken him.’ Before he was taken up, he was attested to have pleased God.”
Comment: See above.

Thus Christ was the first to ascend to Heaven. The Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary was the second; she was assumed body and soul into Heaven many years after the Ascension of her divine Son.

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