DIG: Why was Enoch the one exception to the reign of death? What does it mean for Enoch that God took him away? Why Enoch of all people (see Hebrews 11:5-6)? If Methuselah was the oldest man in the Bible, how could he die before his father?
REFLECT: When was the last time you felt that you walked with God? How could the picture of ADONAI taking Enoch away have anything to do with you? What can we learn practically about walking with God so that we can follow Enoch’s example?
Some leaders are made in a moment. Others are defined by a lifetime. This was true of Athanasius, a fourth-century believer who stood firm over many decades by refusing to compromise, even when it seemed the whole world was against him. Athanasius lived in Alexandria, Egypt, during the historic transition within the Roman Empire. Emperor Constantine had ascended to the throne and put an end to the imperial policy of persecution against Christians. But the Church’s newfound acceptance and rest didn’t last long. An apostate named Arius became an influential teacher against the deity of Messiah and, therefore, the doctrine of the Trinity.
The truth about the deity of Christ and the Trinity had been foundational doctrines of the Church since the time of the apostles. But the heretic Arius arrogantly challenged them both, claiming that God the Son was a created being who was inferior to, rather than equal with God the Father. In other words, he was the original Jehovah’s Witness! He perverted the true Good News and replaced it with a different Gospel (Galatians 1:6-10). Although his lies were unanimously condemned by the by the Council of Nicaea in 325, they remained popular even after his death in 336.
As early as 321, the twenty-three year old Athanasius began writing against the apostate teachings of Arius. In 328 he became the pastor of the church in Alexandria – one of the most influential churches in the Roman Empire. At great personal cost, “the saint of stubbornness” diligently dedicated his life to defending the deity of the Messiah and defeating the Arian heresy. Arius had powerful allies that made Athanasius’ life miserable. His life was in constant danger. He was banished from Alexandria five times and spent a total of seventeen years in exile because he would not back down. After defending the Trinity for more than fifty years, he died in 373. And ADONAI rewarded his faithfulness, empowering Athanasius to keep hold back the tide of apostasy at a crucial point in the history of the Church. During those long years of exile, when he felt almost completely alone, he didn’t give in.
Enoch was the same kind of man, who stood his ground over a long period of time. Like Athanasius, he boldly opposed the false teachers of his day, courageously confronting the faulty theology of the society in which he lived (see my commentary on Jude At – Enoch, the Seventh Generation from Adam, also Prophesied about These People). Even in the midst of a wicked generation, one in which God determined to destroy in the Flood, Enoch refused to bend to the whims of his culture. Some had used a Latin phrase to describe Athanasius, Athanasius contra mundum, meaning, “Athanasius against the world.” I am sure Enoch felt the same way, yet he remained faithful to the LORD.
Enoch, pronounced Chanoch in Hebrew,is the seventh generation and means dedication, consecration or beginning. Enoch’s name is also found in Cain’s line, but they are not the same people. The witness of Enoch is given to us as an oasis in this chapter. He is one of the few people before the Flood of whom we have any record at all.
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. There is an interesting contrast between the father and the son. Enoch does not die, but his son outlives him. Of the ten generations listed, Enoch had the shortest lifespan of 365 years, but his son Methuselah had the longest lifespan of 969 years.
After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked (this is the first use of the word walked in the Bible) with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. The word walked used here is the same word used with Adam and emphasizes fellowship and communion. To walk with God is another way of saying that Enoch pleasedGod. In fact, the Greek translation of the TANAKH translates the phrase exactly that way. The writer to the Hebrews sealed this meaning when he described Enoch’s life this way: he was known as a person who pleased God (Hebrews 11:5b NLT). Because Enoch sought to be pleasing to God, God was well pleased to be in fellowship with him.
Enoch understood that to walk with God included living in loving obedience to Him. As ADONAI told the Israelites when they were camped at the foot of Mount Sinai: If you live by My regulations, observe my commandments and obey them . . . I will walk among you and be your God and you will be My people (Leviticus 26:3a and 12b CJB). To walk in fellowship with ADONAI is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30). That kind of all-consuming love assumes obedience. As Yeshua told his apostles in the upper room: If you love Me, keep My commands (John 14:15). A few verses later He reiterated that point with these words: You are My friends if you do what I command (John 15:14).
Only three people in the Bible are said to have walked with God; Adam (3:8), Enoch and Noah (6:9). I am sure it was not easy for him to do so. The Bible teaches us that he was a preacher and a prophet. Being the seventh in the godly line of Seth, Enoch would have been a contemporary of Lamech, who was the seventh generation in theungodly line of Cain (4:18b-24). He stood against the corruption of his culture and walked with God for three centuries.
It is remarkable that Enoch would prophesy of what we recognize as the Second Coming of Christ even before the Flood or the First Coming! His prophecy is indeed the oldest human prophecy in the Bible. Actually, it may be considered as an expansion of the prophecy that the LORD made in 3:25, the promise of the eventual crushing of the serpent, Satan, and his seed. He had not left Himself without testimony (Acts 14:17), even in those days. The coming judgment was partially fulfilled in the great Flood, but its final fulfillment will be in the glorious return and triumph of the Lord Jesus Christ.96
Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God. He walked with God because he was God’s friend and liked His company. Moreover, he was going in the same direction as God, and had no desire for anything but what the LORD wanted. We walk with God when He is in all our thoughts; not because we think of Him all the time, but because all we think of naturally suggests Him to us. Everything we do has some connection to Him. When we fall into sin, we cannot rest until we have resumed our place at God’s side and are able to walk with Him again. It is constantly holding our lives open to the Lord’s inspection and in conformity to His will, and a readiness to give up what He finds contrary to His will. It is a cold and distant feeling when we are conscious of doing something that displeases Him. As you would instinctively avoid subjects which you know would hurt the feelings of a friend, as you would naturally want to please your company, so when the consciousness of God’s presence begins to have some weight with you, instinctively, you want to please Him.
Then he was no more, because God took him away. The King James Version says: and he was not. In the Hebrew it is one word, veeimemu, basically meaning he disappeared. Millennia later, another prophet, Elijah, was also snatched up to heaven without dying (Second Kings 2:11). As the writer to the Hebrews says: By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:5-6a). The rabbis teach that when Enoch died he was a righteous man, but his mind was easily tempted to turn away and do evil. So God took him quickly and he died before his time. Of course this view is just the opposite of what is stated in Scripture where it says he walked with God.
Enoch was taken up to heaven. The only way I know how to describe this is the way a little girl described it to her mother when she came home from synagogue. She said, “Teacher told us about Enoch and how he walked with God.” Her mother said, “Well, what about Enoch?” And the little girl put it something like this: “It seems that every day God would come by and say to Enoch, ‘Enoch, would you like to walk with Me?’ And Enoch would come out of his house and down to the gate, and he’d go walking with God. He got to the place that he enjoyed it so much that he’d be waiting at the gate of his house every day. And one day God came along and said, ‘Enoch, let’s take a long walk. I have so much to tell you.’ So they were walking and walking, and finally Enoch said, ‘It’s getting late in the afternoon, I’d better get back home.’ And God said to him, ‘Enoch, you’re closer to My home than you are to your home; why don’t you come on home with Me.’ And so Enoch went home with God.”97
Enoch’s being taken up to heaven is also a picture of the Rapture of the Church (see my commentary on Revelation By – The Rapture of the Church). Therefore, before the judgment of the Flood, God removed Enoch. But even Enoch did not entirely escape the consequences of sin because his son, Methuselah, also inherited the same death sentence as the rest of his family tree.