Q: I was listening to your teaching on 2 Kings where it describes Elijah ascending into heaven, I remember Jesus saying that no one has ascended into heaven except the One that came down. Could you please clarify?
Let's begin with the verse you alluded to in your question. It says:
No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. (John 3:13)
And yet, 2 Kings 2: 11b clearly says:
And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
Several attempts to explain this apparent contradiction have been made over the years by Bible teachers and students of the Word, but quite honestly, none of them have been terribly satisfying. Personally I believe the problem is not with the text, but rather with our limited understanding.
For starters, we know so little about heaven. In 2 Corinthians 12 the Apostle Paul writes about being taken up to the "third heaven." Good grief! We hadn't ever heard anything about a first or second heaven!! And yet Paul doesn't attempt to explain himself which means we are left with a mystery. I've heard some interesting theories attempting to define this third heaven, but they are all just good guesses. We just don't know.
And all we really know about the statement made in John 3:13 is there was something completely unique about the ascension of Jesus. It was entirely unlike what happened to Elijah. But that's all we know.
Jesus told a story recorded in Luke 16 that spoke clearly of a holding place for those who died in faith. It wasn't heaven, per se, but it was a place where we believe the righteous dead congregated prior to Jesus' death on the cross. It was only after His death and resurrection that we believe the gates of heaven were opened for us. This mysterious place may have been called "heaven" in an Old Covenant context, we really don't know.
The bottom line is that heaven is largely a mystery. We are in the dark on specific aspects of heaven and God has chosen to allow us to remain there for His own reasons. What we do know is that the ascension of Jesus was entirely unique in that it had not been accomplished by any other person.
All Scripture references quoted from the ESV (English Standard Version)