God Took Him (Genesis 5:21-24)
Have you ever noticed that when a family member dies you find out you had relatives you’ve never heard of and you didn’t even know existed? My great uncle died a few years ago, and we were rather close. At the funeral home, I met a lot of cousins I didn’t know I had. I was standing talking to Mom at the funeral home. She pointed to an older gentleman. She said, “Justin, that was your Papaw’s cousin.” “First cousin?” I asked. “Yeah,” said Mom. She went on to tell me how she had met him that night, and she proceeded to tell me the man’s whole life story. I’m sure that the rest of you have experienced similar things when you’ve had a death in your family.
Imagine, however, that when you go to the funeral home you meet the deceased for the very first time. You’ve never known a thing about him or her, but you go to the funeral home and you hear so many stories that you feel like you really knew the person. The very first funeral I ever preached was for a man I had never met. I had been working with the congregation for a few months, and a member’s brother died suddenly. The family had no one but me to do the funeral. I had to learn as much about the deceased as I could after he died.
Tonight’s text is really about a man like that–one we meet when his life on earth was over, Enoch. I say that we really learn about Enoch when his life on earth is over because as you’re reading through the genealogies, Enoch jumps right out and grabs you. He jumps out and grabs you because he did not die.
Here’s what we read about Enoch: “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Gen 5:24). What does the text mean when it says that Enoch “was not, for God took him”? The Hebrew word “took” occurs in 2 Kings 2 three times where the word refers to God’s taking Elijah in a chariot of fire. Notice verse 3: “Now the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that the LORD will take away your master from over you today?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I know; keep silent!’” The word also occurs in the Psalms to refer to God’s receiving souls after physical death. “God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, For He shall receive me” (Ps 49:15). “You will guide me with Your counsel, And afterward receive me to glory” (Ps 73:24). Thus, God’s “taking” Enoch definitely seems to mean that God accepted Enoch into glory.
From reading the account of man’s fall, I really don’t think that God ever intended for man to die physically. Notice that the tree of life in the Garden would keep man alive forever: “The LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” (Gen 3:22). Notice also that death is part of the curse to Adam: “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). It seems that God always intended for man to be taken out of this life without ever seeing death.
There’s much we can learn from Enoch’s life, and we desire to turn our attention to Enoch tonight.
Enoch’s Reputation Before He Was Taken
Enoch walked with God. Only one other time do we read that someone walked with God: “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God” (Gen 6:9). With Noah, walking with God is equated with being righteous and blameless. Perhaps we ought to see “walking with God as being righteous and blameless. The Septuagint reads: “Enoch pleased God.”
Notice Hebrews 11:5: “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” Notice that the author of Hebrews says that Enoch “had this testimony.” This Greek word basically means to show forth, to testify to. If Enoch had the testimony as one who pleased God, others saw that he pleased God. Enoch wasn’t one who pleased God in a vacuum; one who was afraid to let others know he was pleasing to God. He wasn’t one who pleased God when he went into the privacy of his home, but he sought to please God everywhere he went. What about us? Do we have a testimony that we please God–at work, at school, at home, at play, and in everything we do?
The author of Hebrews makes clear what walking with God means: walking with God means pleasing God. Walking with God isn’t some mystical experience that cannot be replicated. But, walking with God means that we please Him, that we honor Him, and that He is the focus of our lives. Are you pleasing God? Are you walking with Him?
Enoch was a prophet. Notice what we read in Jude: “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him’” (Jude 14-15). Enoch, because he was pleasing to God, was privileged to get a glimpse of the future, and that glimpse of the future involved the coming judgment. Enoch was quite an appropriate person to speak of judgment–he was a man who was blameless and righteous and pleasing to God. God was honored by Enoch’s life; thus, God could allow him to go out and say, “The God I serve, the God with whom I walk, is going to judge the world.”
Thus, Enoch’s reputation was that he was a good man and a prophet.
The Reason Enoch Was Taken
Honestly, we can only speculate as to why Enoch was taken and not allowed to see death. We know, however, that Enoch lived in a very difficult time. The world was about to be judged by a cataclysmic flood. God may have desired to spare Enoch the pain that would come from watching the world go so far from God. We can be fairly certain, I think, that many members of Enoch’s family died in the Flood because they were vile and wicked. Are we to think that Enoch, who had sons and daughters, only had the descendants of Noah and his three sons alive at the time of the Flood? God may not have wanted Enoch to have to watch his family become evil like the rest of the world.
We cannot be certain of why Enoch was taken, but there are some things of which we can be certain.
- We can be certain that our Lord loved Enoch. What a blessed thought! Even though Enoch was taken from this earth, the Lord loved him. “We have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 Jn 4:16). We dare not think that someone leaves this world because God doesn’t love that individual, for God is love.
- We can be certain that our Lord knows the future. “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure’” (Is 46:10). God may have known that the future on this earth would have not have been good for Enoch, thus He took him. God may have known that Enoch’s family was going to disappoint him, so He took him. God may have known that Enoch’s health could not withstand the coming Flood, so He took him. God may have known that Enoch was going to become unfaithful, so He took him. While all these reasons as to why God took Enoch are pure speculation, the fact that God knows the future and knows what is best is not speculation.
- We can be certain that our Lord does all things well. “Righteous are You, O LORD, And upright are Your judgments” (Ps 119:137). “Righteousness” means that one does what is right; God, in His righteousness, does what is right. God’s taking Enoch was right, because God does those things that are right. Several people have said when a loved one has died, “I hope that he was right with God, but I just don’t know. I really don’t know if he was faithful enough. I really don’t know if he tried hard enough.” It’s hard to hear family members say things like that, but we know that God will do the right thing, for God always does the right thing.
Enoch’s Residence After He Was Taken
Scripture simply records that God took Enoch without saying where Enoch was taken.
Examining the Scriptures, however, we can know where Enoch was taken.
- Enoch went to the Paradise of God. Remember the words of Jesus to the thief on the cross: “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43). Remember also the dwelling place of Lazarus: The rich man “lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Lk 16:23).
- We do not go to heaven when we die. No one has yet ascended into heaven, save Jesus: “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man” (Jn 3:13). You often hear people talking about an individual going to heaven when he/she dies. Yet, the dead in Christ actually go to Paradise where they shall await the resurrection of the dead.
If you were to die tonight, would you go to the Paradise of God to await the resurrection, or would you go to the place where the rich man in Luke 16 awaits the resurrection? Which place will you inhabit after death? Which place will you inhabit after the resurrection?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.