Why Was Enoch Allowed to Go to Heaven without Dying?
- Connor Salter Contributing Writer
- 2021 8 Jul
Enoch is one of those Old Testament characters that we don’t get many details about, but what little we get makes him really stand out. He’s mentioned once an Old Testament list of ancestors and twice in New Testament letters, with few details about his faith but hints that he had a very special relationship with God. Here is what we know about Enoch and why he’s important.
Who Was Enoch in the Bible?
According to Genesis, Enoch was one of Adam’s descendants, not from Cain or from Abel from Adam and Eve’s third son, Seth. Specifically, Enoch was Seth’s great-great-great-grandson, and also Noah’s great-grandfather. In an age where many people lived well past the century mark and God hadn’t laid down a 120-year limit yet (Genesis 6:3), Enoch became a father at 65 years old and lived to be 365 (Genesis 5:23). Genesis 5 also appears to say that Enoch didn’t die: he “walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24).
Luke mentions Enoch in his list of Jesus’ ancestors (Luke 3:37), going all the way back to Adam. Hebrews 11 mentions Enoch in a list of “the ancients,” Israelite ancestors who are commended for their great faith. Hebrews also clarifies that God “taking Enoch away” is not an expression. He didn’t die, and his family didn’t lose him in mysterious circumstances.“He was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death… For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5-6).
Outside the canonical Bible, there are at least three ancient books attributed to Enoch. These books are often listed as part of the Pseudepigrapha:
· The Book of Enoch (or 1 Enoch)
· The Book of the Secrets of Enoch (or 2 Enoch)
· The Hebrew Book of Enoch (or 3 Enoch, as well as various other names)
Most scholars (and in fact, the majority of Christians throughout history) have held that these three books are not divinely inspired Scripture, although there may be bits of truth in them. Jude 1:14-15 includes an anecdote that appears to be quoting 1 Enoch, where Enoch prophecies that he sees God coming with “thousands upon thousands of his holy ones” to judge and convict sinners. It’s hard to say whether Jude considered 1 Enoch to be Scripture or just believed that particular section. Because of this Jude reference, various early churches held 1 Enoch as Scripture before the Bible was officially canonized in the third century. Some canon revisions took place later, especially as Protestants and Catholics debated what to do about the Apocrypha. However, outside of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, no denomination believes that 1 Enoch is divinely inspired.
What Do We Know about Enoch?
Like many biblical characters who really only mentioned in genealogies, we don’t get too many details about Enoch’s life. We just have the basics (how long he lived, his father and descendants) and the surprising fact that he apparently ascended directly to heaven. Enoch is one of only two people mentioned in the Bible who didn’t naturally die, the other one being Elijah (see 2 Kings 2).
Based on the fact God directly took Enoch, and the way Hebrews 11 describes him as one of the ancients commended for their faith, we can assume he had a unique relationship with God. Hebrews 11 describes these ancients’ faith as having confidence in what they hoped for and assurance of what they could not see (Hebrews 11:1). The Bible specifically groups him with Abraham and other ancients who “were foreigners and strangers on earth,” (Hebrews 11:13) because they sought their heavenly home as their true country.
We also know that Enoch came from a family line of people who served God well. His ancestor Seth was Adam’s youngest son, and therefore not someone you would expect to be considered Adam’s heir. However, the Bible describes Seth as Adam’s son “in his own likeness” (Genesis 5:3), and traces Adam’s line through Seth instead of Cain. The implication is that Seth was a righteous man, Adam’s true spiritual heir. Later on in the family line, there was Enoch’s descendent Noah, also known for his righteousness. In a time where humans had become so wicked that God decided he wanted to start over, Noah was “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time” (Genesis 6:9). Still later, Enoch’s direct descendants would include Abraham, the nation of Israel, and Jesus himself. Given that high pedigree, it’s a great honor that Enoch was the only person in his family (other than later descendants Elijah and Jesus) who ascended directly into heaven.
Why Didn't God Let Enoch or Elijah Die?
Why exactly Enoch and Elijah got this special treatment is hard to say. The Bible suggests that Enoch’s great faith was why God took him away. Many of us wouldn’t describe Elijah as having great faith, given that he experienced great doubt after Queen Jezebel tried to kill him (1 Kings 19). However, Elijah did serve God faithfully under extreme circumstances and having doubts and some tough periods does not negate a person’s faith. Like Enoch, Elijah had faith in what he could not see, perhaps especially during the three-year drought when he had to trust God for food. There’s something refreshing about the fact that Elijah’s doubts didn’t disqualify him, and that along with Enoch, he was honored for his faith.
One possible reason that God selected Enoch and Elijah is that he has a unique plan for them. Many scholars believe that the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11 will in fact be Enoch and Elijah. These witnesses are described as prophesying for 1,260 days and being able to do miraculous things such as stopping all rainfall and turning water into blood (Revelation 11:3-6). Eventually, these two witnesses will be killed but will be resurrected and go up into heaven (Revelation 11:7-12). Scholars give various reasons why Elijah and Enoch (or possibly Moses) will be the two witnesses, particularly the fact the witnesses’ miracles are similar to Elijah’s miracles (maintaining a drought, etc.). The primary argument though, is that Hebrews 9:27 states that humans are “destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” This statement appears to refer to all of humanity, and the phrase is part of a description of how Jesus died once for all of humanity’s sins. So, the argument goes that for Jesus’ death to cover all of humanity, eventually Enoch and Elijah must physically die as well. Whether or not Enoch and Elijah will be the two witnesses is, well, something to determined.
Fun Facts About Enoch
He wasn’t the first Enoch. Genesis mentions two men who are named Enoch: the first is a son of Cain, mentioned in Genesis 4. As little as we hear about the famous Enoch, we know even less about his predecessor. The only real detail we get about him is that his father Cain built a city and named it after him (Genesis 4:17). This first Enoch would go on to have a son named Irad, and various descendants would follow before the great flood.
He may have been a bit of a disappointment to his family. Although Enoch didn’t die, it’s interesting that he only lived 365 years, which is pretty short compared to the rest of his family. Genesis 5 shows that his father Jared lived 800 years, and his son Methuselah is the oldest man recorded in the Bible at 969 years. So, Enoch was very much on the short end of his family’s longevity scale but had the distinction of never dying. This just goes to show you that you don’t have to one-up everyone else in the family to make an impression.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/ArtyFree
G. Connor is a freelance writer and journalist, with a Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing from Taylor University. He has contributed over 600 articles to various publications, including interviews for Christian Communicator and book reviews for The Evangelical Church Library Association. Find out more about his work here.
This article is part of our People from the Bible Series featuring the most well-known historical names and figures from Scripture. We have compiled these articles to help you study those whom God chose to set before us as examples in His Word. May their lives and walks with God strengthen your faith and encourage your soul.
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