ENOCH’S TRANSLATION THAT HE SHOULD NOT SEE DEATH (Hebrews 11:5)
The Bible states that it is appointed unto man once to die. (Hebrews 9:27) That is the rule for every man since the Fall of Adam in Paradise. Through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin death, and death passed on to every man. (Romans 5:12) All men must go into the grave of corruption, either awaiting the resurrection unto life or to receive their body to enter into the destruction and desolation of hell. There are a few exceptions to this rule of dying and to being raised in immortality of life. Paul calls this a “mystery.” Writes he in I Corinthians 15:51, 52 “Behold I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed!”
There were two saints in the Old Testament that did not “see death,” that is, they did not die as other men and women, and then be buried awaiting the resurrection. Abel was the first thus to die, be it then as the first blood of all the saints under the altar. But not so was the case with Enoch, Elijah and perhaps Moses. These did not see death. The phrase “not to see death” we find also in the New Testament Scriptures. In Luke 2:26 we read that it was revealed to Sir-neon by the Holy Ghost “that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” In the Genesis account of the generations of Adam that we read “Noah was not found, for God took him.” It was an act of God different from the common way in which God removes men from the earth. It was not through death! There was not a funeral for Enoch. And there was no burial of his body. And no one went about to announce his death. The text-gives the impression that evil men sought for Enoch as well as the righteous, even as men did in the case of Elijah. (II Kings 2:16-18)
This translation was a wonder of God’s grace, a prey figuration of the changing of those, elect, who will be still living on earth when Christ returns in the glory of His Father. The term “translate” is used only of the elect, in the bringing about of their salvation in Christ. In Colossians 1:13 we read “Who (the Father) hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” Here the apostle is referring to the act of grace in Christ whereby we are completely brought from sin and death, by means of regeneration, calling, justification in the hope of the final glorification. Christ is the firstborn of the full harvest, and we shall, therefore, with him arise in the blessed resurrection. That too. is “translation!” However, here is a translation in which a regenerated saint, who has already been translated from death to life in Christ, is so changed from the earthly house of this tabernacle that he is completely translated without needing to pass through the act of dying; he did not see death.
We agree with Calvin that we need not speculate here as to details. We have but to accept the Scripture account, and try to understand from the text somewhat of the reasons for it. In a word: it was a reward of the Lord for faith!
ENOCH HAD RECEIVED TESTIMONY THAT HAD BEEN RIGHTEOUS (Hebrews 11:5)
Surely this testimony which Enoch received cannot merely refer to the fact that the Scriptures give Enoch this testimony. There are those who would thus interpret and limit the meaning of the phrase “before his translation he received testimony.” We believe that this does not do justice to the phrase “before his translation.” In that case this phrase must mean that the Bible states that he was righteous before he was translated. Now this is true enough in itself, but it does not do justice to the tremendous life’s struggle of three hundred years of walking with God. Besides, the form of the verb is perfect passive tense. It means that Enoch had testimony all through his weary years that he was righteous up to each present moment. He was truly righteous in the sense that he was justified by faith in the blood of the Lamb. However, the emphasis here seems to fall on the fact that Enoch was subjectively righteous by the Spirit of sanctification and life. His life was such that he walked with God. He was not perfect in the sense of the teaching of perfectionism. But he had a great delight in the law of God after the inward man. He sought out diligently to do the will of God and confessed all his sins and shortcomings and failures. He preached in his day and exemplified his own preaching in an exemplary godly life. No, he was not a recluse, a man who withdrew himself from the affairs of life and the problems of the church of Christ in his day. He stood in the forefront of the battle, wielding the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. With the shield of faith he quenched all the fiery darts of the Evil One. And having done all he stood! Yes, he stands in the battle also when he has run the race, and has fought the good fight, he stands!
For the day in which Enoch lived was a very evil day!
It was a day in which the church of God began to commit spiritual whoredom with the world, the sons of and daughters of Cain. The waves of worldly-mindedness swept over the earth and would engulf the faithful church. No, it was not yet persecution which Satan used. It was seduction of the sons of God by the daughters of men. It was the sin of amalgamation of the church and the world.
And in this world, both in the church and in the world, the name of Enoch was well-known. His voice was heard far and wide. And the testimony in the hearts of both the righteous and of the wicked was that Enoch was a righteous man, who stood for the cause and the kingdom of Christ in the world. This was all “before his translation.” Enoch was a faithful witness, and he preached, according to Jude, against the wicked. And his preaching has a very eschatological note. Writes Jude “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied to these, saying Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment and to convince (convict) all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” It was preaching that spoke of a day when Christ will judge the living and the dead. Such was the preaching of Enoch. Enoch was a prophet of God who spoke in God’s name, and he championed the cause of the LORD of hosts, who dwelleth between the Cherubims. And this judgment will begin at the house of God. (I Peter 4:17; Jude 1:14, 15)
Thus preached Enoch!
And preaching for three hundred years, and walking in godliness, he did not simply have a good reputation and name, but he had the testimony of God, all through his life and in this present time, through the Scriptures both of the Old and New Testament, that he was righteous.
He was righteous by faith! This point the churches’ of the Hebrews must clearly understand, lest they in their battle should slip back into perdition. Rather they must believe to the final obtaining of the redemption in Christ. Thus did Enoch gain the victory!
ENOCH’S TRANSLATION WAS A REWARD FOR HZS FAITH (Hebrews 11:6)
The text uses a very strong statement here. It is true and solid at the Rock of Ages Himself. It is this: that without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing to God. Enoch has the testimony that he was well pleasing to God every step of the way. He was in a completed state up to the present that he was well pleasing to God. This is indicated by the perfect infinitive “euaresteekenai” which is best translated “that he had pleased God.”
But how could a sinner like Enoch be well-pleasing to God? That is the question which is not merely academic; it is a practical consideration every day in the life of every Christian. Only by faith can a man be just. The just shall live by faith. And apart from faith, saving faith, it is impossible to please God. This is exemplified in the lives of the entire cloud of witnesses here singled out one by one in Hebrews 11, but this must have been true of Enoch in a singular way, that the Lord translated him that he should not see death. For faith was brought to a mighty test in the case of Enoch. He lived in evil times in which men were not heavenly minded, but more and more there was a falling back into perdition.
Now the faith of Enoch was the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen! Enoch walked by faith and not by sight, in regard to the coming of the Lord and the judgment of both the righteous and the wicked. When the Lord comes, the righteous shall be raised from the dead and taken up into glory. Enoch lived as Paul, who writes concerning his hope and trust upon the living God, while he labors and suffers reproach. Enoch looked for the reward.
And thus, by faith, Enoch is translated., His faith is rewarded, his hope is realized, his earnest expectation of the Eschatological is pre-figured in his own translation. Enoch’s end on earth is the great “Amen” of God to his servant’s life and preaching. It was more sure than even Enoch felt in his heart all his life-long. And it is a picture of the church lifting up her head even in these last days, looking for the coming and blessed return of Christ!
For Enoch life can be cast into a syllogistic form of reasoning. It is as follows:
1. No one can please God without faith.
2. Enoch was well-pleasing to God.
3. Enoch had faith, as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Enoch believed that God is. This was for him no philosophical inquiry concerning the meaning of Deity. No, it was for him a childlike trust in His heavenly Father, in His providential care. He believed that God, who cares for the sparrow on the roof-top, was his Father, who would not allow a hair to fall from his head without his will. He dwells in the secret-place of God, under the shadow of the Almighty, calm and secure amidst the rising floods which lift up their heads. Thus Enoch seeks out God’s will in the safety of confidence in God. And this faith trusted that God would reward him, take all his tears in His bottle, and wipe way all tears from his eyes.
And the answer to this life of faith is that it was a life placed on the altar of consecration here, which, in a twinkling of an eye, was continued in the Vision Dei in glory forever!