Homer Hoeksema was professor of Dogmatics and Old Testament in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
The book of Hebrews emphasizes in this connection that Enoch walked by faith. And the application ofHebrews 11:6, that without faith it is impossible to please God, is made in connection with the fact that Enoch pleased God.
It is in itself impossible to please God without faith. For without faith we are enemies of God. Without faith we will not seek God, cannot and will not strive to be pleasing to Him. All that is not of faith is sin.
But this is especially true of Enoch as he lived in the midst of an ungodly and openly rebellious world. As long as pleasing God requires little or no overt self-denial and loss from an earthly point of view, one may put on a show of being desirous to please God. In such a situation it is possible to belong outwardly to God’s people while one’s heart is far from God. This is possible as long as the lines are not tightly drawn. But when pleasing God means a battle and suffering, it is different.
This is especially on the foreground in Enoch’s case and in Hebrews 11. The world stands diametrically opposed to those who please God. They commit ungodly deeds and speak hard things against God. For this reason, they also stand against God’s people. To be pleasing to God means to stand over against the world. The result of this, in a world such as that in which Enoch walked with God, is suffering, hatred, reproach, persecution, loss of all things.
This was the case with Enoch very plainly. The world developed in wickedness; in that world Enoch was a lone witness.
This is a facet of the history of the prediluvian world which must not be overlooked. There were undoubtedly fierce persecutions at that time – persecutions which increased as time went on. Perhaps it may be thought that this is speculation. Yet a more careful study of the biblical account brings outrather clearly that this must have been the case. It could not have been different. Consider the following in this connection:
1.We have the first instance of such persecution at the dawn of this period, when Cain kills his brother Abel because Abel was righteous. This, as we have pointed out previously, was the first manifestation of the battle between the two seeds. It was not mere fratricide, but the persecution of the righteous by the wicked.
2.If we gather the data of the Word of God about the time of Enoch, there can be little doubt that also his day was a time of persecution. We have pointed out that it is reasonable to assume that Enoch was a contemporary of Lamech the Terrible, who sang of his violence in boastful poetry before his wives. What was the nature of that violence of Lamech? Judging by the fact that Lamech stood in the line of Cain and that the sins of the fathers are visited in their generations, and judging by the fact that Lamech himself makes mention of Cain in his proud and boastful song of violence, one can only come to the conclusion that Lamech’s violence was of the same kind as Cain’s. It was not merely violence in general against his fellow human beings, but violence against God’s people, even as Cain’s violence was of that kind.
3.This is suggested strongly by Hebrews 11:5. First of all, the expression “he was translated that he should not see death” suggests that violent death threatened Enoch—especially since his translation took place at the unusually early (for that period) age of 365 years old. The words “he was not found” suggest that they were looking for Enoch, that they sought his life, but that God snatched Enoch out of their reach.
4.This is in harmony with the analogy of all the history of God’s people in the midst of the world. If from the days of Enos the Sethites began to call upon the name of the Lord, what else could be expected in the light of all subsequent history than that they would be persecuted for the sake of God’s name? This is a matter of general experience for God’s children, a rule of the gospel. Did not our Lord say, “They have hated me; they shall also hate you”? Moreover, is the probability of such persecution not in harmony with the analogy between this prediluvian period and the period immediately before our Lord’s return? And is it not to be expected that in respect to persecution also this prediluvian period would be typical of the time before Christ’s second advent?
In this connection, we may point out that such persecution would also be a significant factor in explaining that there were only eight souls saved in the Flood. This persecution would naturally have a double effect. On the one hand, it would cause many of the true children of God to perish before the Flood, would have the effect of decimating their numbers. On the other hand, many others, driven by fear and the threat of persecution partly, and partly also attracted by the allurements of the ungodly world, would reveal themselves as unfaithful and would forsake the generations of the sons of God and amalgamate with the wicked generations of Cain. Thus it always is in the history of God’s cause. Thus it will be in the days before the coming of the Son of Man. Thus it must have been in that period also.
But, to return to Enoch, for him to occupy such a position was impossible without faith. For, as Hebrews puts it, he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. The meaning is not that one must merely believe that God exists. All men are in the deepest depth of their heart convinced that God is. This is inescapable. But to know that God is as our God, the God of our salvation, to know by faith that God is on our side, and that, therefore, the vast majority, as it were, is on our side—only in that strength of faith is it possible in the midst of a wicked world to please God.
To believe—in spite of all appearances to the contrary—that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him is necessary. To have the confidence that those who seek Him in His covenant communion, who seek Him in all their ways, who diligently inquire what may be His will regarding their life, who seek His glory, His kingdom, His cause—to have the confidence that such will surely be rewarded by God is necessary.
This is possible only by faith, faith which is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. For it does seem, when God’s people are oppressed and persecuted and destroyed, and when the wicked prosper and are in power and flourish, as though the very opposite is true, as though they, not the righteous, are victorious. But faith is the evidence of things unseen. And by faith Enoch knew that God was on his side, and he was assured that God is a rewarder of them that seek Him.
But this also means that Enoch is the product of God’s sovereign grace, that what he was was due to the fact that God realized His own promise in him. For to walk with God and to be pleasing in God’s sight one must be like God in his deepest nature, like God in righteousness and holiness. But this is a matter of grace. By nature we are in darkness, lost in guilt and corruption. It is only by the grace of Christ that we become spiritually like God. Thus it was with Enoch. He was a man of faith. This means that he clung not to himself and his own strength and his own works, but to the unfailing promise of God. This faith was not of himself; it was the gift of God.
Thus the history of Enoch—a sample, remember, of what was true in principle of all the line of Seth—is a clear revelation of the fact that the promise of the two seeds and of the enmity between them was realized by God Himself in those prediluvian times.
The same is true of the translation of Enoch. It is the revelation of the power of God’s promise: Enoch had the victory by faith!
In Genesis 5:24 we read, “And he was not; for God took him.” Literally, the text reads: “and not he….” This peculiar expression concerning Enoch in the midst of the series of saints of whom we read each time, “and he died,” distinguishes Enoch. In Hebrews we read that he was translated, that he should not see death, and that he was not found.
This can only mean that Enoch did not see temporal death. In this respect he was privileged above the rest of the saints at that time. Without death, he was bodily and spiritually so changed that it was possible for him to live with God in heaven, even as he had walked with God on the earth. As such Enoch became a type of the saints who will be living at the time of Christ’s coming and who shall also be immediately changed.
The reason for this reward lies in the fact that Enoch was a great witness. As such, he was hated and persecuted by the wicked. His translation is a concrete proof that God is the rewarder of them who diligently seek Him, and that not the wicked, but His people, the seed of the woman, have the victory.
By faith he was translated. It was not because of his faith: for faith is never meritorious. Neither was it because of the works of his faith: for also those works are a gift of God to us, that we should not boast. But it was in the way of faith that Enoch was translated. In that way he pleased God; and the end of that way is the sure reward.
But the translation of Enoch was not only his personal reward; it is also a testimony of a clear sign. It was a sign to the wicked world of that day that Enoch’s prophecy was true, and that the Lord was indeed coming for judgment upon an ungodly world. It was a sign that they who walk with the devil shall walk to the devil, that they hasten to everlasting destruction. On the other hand, it was a sign—and what a source of comfort that must have been to the church in those times of tribulation—that the Lord surely rewards the godly with everlasting glory.