What does it mean when the Bible says God ‘translated’ someone?

According to widespread Christian preaching, God took two people to heaven without them first dying. Why and how this was done is not answered in scripture, just that they were here one moment and not the next. There is, however, a Greek term for this event; it is said that God ‘translated’ them to his abode. This idea or doctrine goes back in history to the King James Version of the Bible, where English words such as ‘taken’ or ‘transferred’, were sometimes written as translated.

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A well-known English dictionary describes one meaning of ‘translate’ as “to explain something in a way that is easier to understand.” Maybe that worked well back in 1611 when the English language Bible was first published, but today this term only adds confusion to already mysterious events. No wonder modern bibles use other words that are much more descriptive to us.1 More about this is later in the study.

Anyway, this Greek thought was applied to two Old Testament characters that seem to have had mysterious disappearances. One is Elijah and the other is Enoch — their demise is still being argued by scholars after thousands of years.



Elijah, has no documented background information to draw upon for insight, other than being described as a Tishbite2 (1 Kings 17:1). But he became a priest and a prophet of God and the leader of a guild or school called ‘Sons of the Prophets’3 (see 2 Kings 2:3). Elijah became very important in Israel’s history and, even today, a place is reserved for him at the Jewish Passover Seder,4 because of his predicted return5 (see Malachi 4:5-6).

In the school, one of his students was a disciple and protégé named Elisha, who would become Elijah’s successor. As Elijah and Elisha strolled together, the Bible says, “as they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven,” (2 Kings 2:11, NRSV).6 Believing that he may have been cast out of the whirlwind, they searched for him for three days, but to no avail.

Although not recorded as such, many scholars believe this is an instance of being ‘translated’— that rare action when God snatches or transfers someone up to heaven without dying — something like the coming rapture in which many Christians believe. Is that what happened? Let’s try to analyze this scripture in 2 Kings.

In Hebrew, ‘separated’ (pârad) means to break through or separate apart.7 In Hebrew, ‘whirlwind’ (çe˓ârâh) means a hurricane or storm,8 or even, I suppose, a ‘dust devil’.9 And of course, in Hebrew, ‘heaven’ (shâmeh) means to be aloft or in the sky or place where the clouds move, but can also mean even higher, as well.10 So, if it was describing heaven, was it the first heaven (sky), the second heaven (celestial), or the third heaven (God’s home)?11

A few scholars believe God just thought it was time for Elijah to retire — removing him to a protected place on earth that would give him a peaceful and quiet life — a reward for being such a fine prophet and miracle worker. I don’t think so!

Let me offer a different suggestion derived from scripture. First, Elijah lived during the reign of King Ahab of Israel and his queen-wife, Jezebel. This evil woman was a sworn enemy of the Hebrew’s God, Yahweh, and she hated his prophet Elijah, as he was instrumental in removing hundreds of the priests of the pagan god Baal. Jezebel condemned him to death, but Yahweh protected Elijah (1 Kings 18). Could it be that God used the whirlwind event to relocate Elijah from certain harm from the Queen’s pending capture of him? (See References & Notes for a link to a study about Jezebel and her influence today and in the end of this age.)12

And the second reason for him not going to heaven is that there is a later biblical reference to Elijah being alive that most people don’t realize. This later and final mention of him in the Old Testament is located at 2 Chronicles 21:12. Chronicles is the last book of the Bible, as listed by the Jewish Tanakh.13 (The final book in the Christian listing of the Old Testament is Malachi.)

In the Chronicles scripture, Elijah sent a letter to King Jehoram of Judah charging him with behaving unrighteously and he predicted God would strike him and his nation with a plague. Interesting is that this is the only known written message from the great prophet.14 Also interesting is that it was sent sometime after his being taken away in the whirlwind. In fact, one creditable source, The Handbook of Jewish Thought, puts Elijah’s letter being delivered to Jehoram seven years after he was snatched off the road near the Sons of Prophets school.15 I think Yahweh just removed Elijah to another location some distance away to keep him safe from capture.



Enoch was one of the pre-flood Patriarchs. While the other Patriarchs deaths are mentioned in scripture, this is not so for Enoch. The Bible, in Genesis, simply states, “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him,” (Genesis 5:24). He was 365 years old at the time.

There is much more to the story of Enoch in one of the apocrypha16 texts that carry his name, the Book of Enoch,17 which is asserted to be authored by him. Although not now included in the biblical canon, there is evidence that the book was well known, accepted, and studied among many groups of Jews at the time of Christ and before.18 And Enoch is actually quoted in the New Testament at Jude 1:14-15. Many scholars believe Enoch was ‘translated’ when God took him. They say he was transferred to heaven, even though that is only their assumption.

One biblical dictionary calls our Lord translating someone “a special act of God”19 and it all derives from two different New Testament Greek words being used through reinterpretation. In any case, the New Testament references ‘translation’ of someone from one place to another in the books of Colossians and Hebrews. (Word emphasis below is added by me.)

“He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins,” (Colossians 1:13-14). (Note: ‘transferred’ is called ‘translated’ in the KJV.)

“By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death; and ‘he was not found, because God had taken him.’ For it was attested before he was taken away that ‘he had pleased God’,” (Hebrews 11:5). (Note: the KJV writes ‘translated’, ‘translated’, and ‘translation’ for these three uses of ‘taken’.)

The bold underlined English words in the above Colossians and Hebrews scriptures are translated from the Greek word metathesis which means a transferral possibly to heaven, otherwise as change or removing.20 The two words in bold type only are from the Greek metatithemi which means to transfer or transport.21 It’s very confusing, isn’t it?

To me, that Colossians scripture does not suggest someone being physically snatched away if they are facing Satanic influence. I believe that passage is about our moral character. If we find ourselves facing evil, the Spirit of God can transfer (or transform) us into a spiritual state of mind to better handle the evil confrontation. You are, therefore, rescued by God’s spirit.22

Now, there is one more example of the quick transfer of a person in the New Testament. This one should be mentioned because it definitely fits the definition of a ‘translation’, although not referred to as such. This reference is in the book of Acts of the Apostles when Phillip baptizes an Ethiopian eunuch.

“When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched23 Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus,24 and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea,” (Acts 8:39-40).


Some Other Weird Stuff

While I’m fairly confident that Elijah was not raptured to heaven but only moved to a different location on earth, I must give exception to Enoch’s experience. The last part of the apocryphal Book of Enoch does explain Enoch’s visits to heaven. He doesn’t go to heaven by dying or evading death, but just visits through received visions, dreams, and revelations that he describes,25 some of which concern the Messiah, the destiny of the fallen angels, and the final judgement upon humankind.

But if Enoch did physically go to heaven, it may not have been a personal visit with Almighty God, but possibly just a tour of some part of deep space. Or maybe, an invitation to sit in on the Divine Council as an observer. If someone wishes to learn about God’s Divine Council, see the article “What is God’s Divine Council?” A link is listed in References & Notes.26

I’ve even heard some serious discussion from some very smart and informed biblical scholars discussing the possibility of ancient other-world spacecraft, or some form of advanced teleportation technology used by ancient visitors to this planet.

Either the Elijah or the Enoch occurrence may be better explained if some form of flying craft were involved as transportation. An aircraft or spacecraft could have been described in those ancient human times as chariots of fire, and the exhaust would most certainly have caused strong but short-lived winds to blow around the area when descending or ascending. I know you won’t hear of this thought in most churches, but that is actually a belief that some church leaders talk about in private.

And, although teleportation is a science fiction concept, it would explain how the snatching away of people could have taken place. Serious modern science is moving closer to making this technology a useful reality. It has, in fact, already been demonstrated on a small scale in the laboratory.

While teleportation is nowhere near that presented in Star Trek (“beam me up, Scotty”), it is no longer only science fiction. In just the last three decades, physics has gone from science fiction to science fact. The current record in distance of teleported energy is 1400 kilometers (870 miles) from Earth to a satellite in orbit, which was set in 2017. Since then, they have also transported matter (atoms), but at shorter distances.27

I have written an article on the related subject of quantum entanglement and the Bible. For those interested in going down a rabbit hole of strange-but-true ideas, read “Quantum Entanglement: Wacky Physics or God’s Design?” See the link in References & Notes.28



Humans may travel into the two heavens of sky and space, but not the third heaven, which is the abode or Kingdom of God. Flying in the air, and traveling into orbit and possibly exploring outer space may be accomplished, but concerning the heaven where Yahweh and Jesus now live is out of bounds and has always been so for humans. As said in our Lord’s own words, “No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, (John 3:13).

So, in this world, at this time, Jesus has been the only human who has ever entered God’s Kingdom. For this reason alone, it would have been impossible for Elijah and Enoch to have gone there.

This strange idea of translating a person from one place to another sounds magical or exotic, whereas just transporting someone from one place to another seems like a normal everyday event. I think that if different words had been chosen in the KJV, this confusion would never have arisen.

The music selection to accompany this study is called ‘Spaceship’ by LeAnn Rimes. It was written in the early days of the Covid lockdown and is a song of loneliness, confusion, and frustration caused by the craziness of the global pandemic. She has her own experience of being ‘translated’ at the end of the video. Intimate footage was photographed by her husband, actor Eddie Cibrian. It is will-done, considering it was recorded using only an iPhone.29 Selected lyrics are below and a link to the music video is listed in References & Notes.30

Whoever’s out there in the stratosphere,
Got a question for the cosmic engineer.

How much pain can we bear being human?
I’m pretty sure that my mission is done here.
How much more do you want from me?
Haven’t I earned the right to be a nominee?

Hey God, why don’t you take me home?
Beam me up, I got a ticket to board.
Yeah, you know I’m coming home anyway,
So, we might as well blast off today.

Copyright © 2023, Dr. Ray Hermann

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References & Notes

  1. “Translate”, (The Britannica Dictionary, Britannica Group, retrieved 11 December 2023), https://www.britannica.com/dictionary/translate
  2. Tishbite: homesteader or returnee. From the noun תושב (toshab), sojourner, from the verb ישב (yashab), to sit or dwell. (Abarim Publications, retrieved 9 December 2023), https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Tishbite.html
  3. Sons of the Prophets: These were not literal sons but a group of figurative ones, that is, disciples. Membership in such a guild, group, or class did not imply a family relationship.
    Lowery, Kirk E., “2 Kings,” in Apologetics Study Bible, (Ed.) Ted Cabal, (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), p. 438.
  4. Passover Seder: Jewish holiday; a ritual feast that marks the beginning of Passover.
  5. For Christians, this prophecy (Malachi 4:5-9) was fulfilled by John the Baptist, of the New Testament, who prepared the way for the Lord. [Note by OBS: Malachi is the last book of the OT as used by Christians. Chronicles is the last book of the OT by Jewish listing. Compare Malachi 4:5-9 and 2 Chronicles 21:12.]
    Blaising, Craig A., “Malachi,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, (Ed.) J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), vol. 1, p. 1587.
  6. All scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989). Used by permission.
  7. Strong’s H6504. pârad, (paw-rad’); a prim. root; to break through, i.e. spread or separate (oneself):— disperse, divide, be out of joint, part, scatter (abroad), separate (self), sever self, stretch, sunder.
    Strong, James, The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996).
  8. Strong’s H5591. çe˓ârâh, seh-aw-raw’; from 5590; a hurricane:— storm (-y), tempest, whirlwind. (See “Strong’s” above for book citation.)
  9. dust devil: a strong, well-formed, and relatively short-lived whirlwind common on beaches and in deserts, sometimes occurs even in large parking lots.
  10. Strong’s H8064. שָÑמֶה, shâmeh, shaw-meh’; from an unused root mean. to be lofty; the sky )as aloft; the dual perh. alluding to the visible arch in which the clouds move, as well as to the higher ether where the celestial bodies revolve: (— air, × astrologer, heaven (-s). (See “Strong’s” above for book citation.)
  11. “Three Heavens”, (Learn the Bible, retrieved 8 May 2020), http://www.learnthebible.org/three-heavens.html
  12. Hermann, Ray, “Views of Jezebel through the Millennia”, (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 13 November 2023), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/views-of-jezebel-through-the-millennia/
  13. Tanakh: the Hebrew Bible; the canonical collection of Hebrew scriptures, including the Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Ketuvim.
  14. Walvoord John F. and Zuck, Roy B., (Eds.), Eugene H. Merrill in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), vol. 1, p. 635.
  15. Meyer, Lex, “Did Elijah go to heaven”, (Unlearn, retrieved 4 May 2020), https://www.unlearnthelies.com/did-elijah-go-to-heaven.html
  16. biblical apocrypha: The terms means “hidden away” and includes ancient texts thought to have been written some time between a few hundred years BC and up to 400 years AD. Some Christian Churches include some, to all, of these texts within the body of their version of the Old Testament.
  17. Book of Enoch: also called 1 Enoch and usually dated as far back as the third century BC. There are two more books about this biblical character, 2 Enoch and 3 Enoch, but they have little to no scholarly credibility; they were written between the first and fifth centuries AD.
    “Enoch (ancestor of Noah)”, (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation Inc., 30 April 2020), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enoch_(ancestor_of_Noah)#Enoch_in_the_Book_of_Genesis
  18. “Book of Enoch”, (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation Inc., 14 April 2020), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Enoch
  19. Youngblood, Ronald, et al. (Eds.), Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995), ‘Translate, Translation’.
  20. metathesis: Strong’s G3331, μετάθεσις, from 3346; transp., i.e. transferral (to heaven), disestablishment (of a law):— change, removing, translation.
    Strong, James, The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996).
  21. metatithemi: Strong’s G3346, μετατίθημι, from 3326 and 5087; to transfer, i.e. (lit.) transport, (by impl.) exchange (refl.) change sides, or (fig.) pervert:— carry over, change, remove, translate, turn.
    Strong, James, The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996).
  22. Jamieson, Robert, et al., Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, [original copyright 1871]), vol. 2, pp. 372.
  23. snatched: from Greek. Strong’s G726. ἁρπάζω, harpazo, (har-pad´-zo); to seize (in various applications):— catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force). See “Strong’s” above for book citation.
  24. Azotus: (also known as Ashdod), two and a half miles east of the Mediterranean Sea. One of the five chief cities of the Philistines, where they defeated Israel and captured the ark of the covenant.
    Brand, Chad, et al., (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2003), p. 124.
  25. Barker, Margaret. The Lost Prophet: The Book of Enoch and Its Influence on Christianity, (London: Sheffield Phoenix Press Ltd., 2005).
  26. Hermann, Ray, “What is God’s Divine Council?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 20 March 2023), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/what-is-gods-divine-council/
  27. Yanes, Javier, “Teleportation is Here, But It’s Not What We Expected”, (Open Mind BBVA, 29 October 2019), https://www.bbvaopenmind.com/en/science/physics/teleportation-is-here-but-its-not-what-we-expected/
  28. Hermann, Ray, “Quantum Entanglement: Wacky Physics or God’s Design?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 9 May 2019), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/quantum-entanglement-wacky-physics-or-gods-design/
  29. Patton, Alli, “LeAnn Rimes Releases Gripping New Music Video for ‘spaceship’”, (American Songwriter, 2022), https://americansongwriter.com/leann-rimes-releases-gripping-new-music-video-for-spaceship/
  30. “Spaceship”, Artist: LeAnn Rimes; Songwriters: Darrell Brown, Leann Rimes; Album: God’s Work, released 2022; (produced by Leann Rimes, Eddie Cibrian, and Darrell Brown; copyright: Country Cuban LLC & Creative Anarchy LLC; no YouTube license credits listed). Used under ‘fair use copyright’ for teaching under Section 107 of the United States Copyright Act of 1976 — MUSIC VIDEO: https://youtu.be/-MTQcTnr-M0
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