If there is one person mentioned in the Bible who has always intrigued Christians, it is Enoch. Especially that comment made about him in Genesis 5:24, “and he was not, for God took him,” has struck Bible readers and led them to wonder what kind of man Enoch was and what God did for him.
However, this unusual experience of Enoch is actually not the most important feature of his life, nor the one on which we should focus most of our attention. Rather, how Enoch lived on earth should impress us even more than how his earthly life ended. The key truth God wants us to remember about him is summed up in the simple description: “Enoch walked with God.”
Who was Enoch?
Enoch first appears in the biblical record in a rather morbid chapter. For if one reads Genesis 5, which contains the first biblical genealogy and lists the descendants of Adam till Noah, several things impress. One is the lengthy lives these ancients lived—most of them over 900 years. The other is that their lives, though lengthy, all ended in death (except for one). It is clear that the Holy Spirit is telling us that the world was a different place after Adam’s fall. It was a world where human life was long and difficult and led finally to the grave—a far cry from the perfect bliss of the original state of man in the garden of Eden.
It was into this fallen world that Enoch also was born and where he had to spend his days. Genesis 5 says little factually about him. It mentions the name of his father Jared and the name of his son Methuselah. And it mentions how long he lived on earth—365 years.
However, Enoch is mentioned in two other places of Scripture—both in the New Testament. The Letter of Jude, vv. 14 and 15, informs us that he was the seventh generation from Adam, and more significantly that he was a prophet, who spoke of God’s judgment to fall on the ungodly and their depravity. This indicates that, already in Enoch’s time, the world had become a wicked place. It was becoming ripe for the awful judgment of God to come in the worldwide flood of Noah’s time. But God was already warning sinful man through the proclamation of Enoch.
The other reference to Enoch in the New Testament is in Hebrews 11—the noted “heroes of faith” chapter. There, the inspired author cites the two main truths about Enoch brought out in Genesis 5, namely, that Enoch walked with God and that God took him. But Hebrews expands on what we read in Genesis 5, specifically citing the faith of Enoch and the manner in which God took him, by translating him, so he did not pass through death.
Enoch’s Walk with God
Let’s focus, however, on that most important characteristic of Enoch’s life singled out in Genesis, as well as in Hebrews 11. He “walked with God.” The phrase occurs twice in Genesis 5, first in verse 22, which says: “Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters.” Enoch was 65 years old when his oldest son, Methuselah, was born.
Does Scripture mean that Enoch’s walk with God began at that point in his life? Did he undergo some kind of conversion experience upon the birth of Methuselah? We cannot say for sure. But for the last 300 years of his earthly life, Enoch walked with God. And so, this marked the essential nature of his life. That’s why verse 24 sums it up simply as: “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.”
What does it mean that Enoch “walked with God?” Does it mean that Enoch went literally strolling with God, as God did with Adam and Eve in Paradise? I do not believe so, even though God can and did appear at times in human form to talk and walk with men. But the phrase “walking with God” must be understood in a spiritual sense. It is a typical biblical expression for the relationship God’s children have or should have to Him. The Bible speaks, for example, of our obligation to walk in the truth, or walk in the light, or walk in the ways of the Lord.
Trust in God
There are three main actions involved in walking with God. One is trust in God or faith in Him. This is, in fact, the basic requirement for walking with God. The prophet Amos once asked the question: “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” That means we must be reconciled to God. To be sure, it is our covenant God who has initiated this agreement to walk with us. For it is not in the sinner’s nature to want to walk with God. It is God who sent His Son to walk with us and among us on earth, so that by His life and death He might draw us to God.
At the same time, walking with God demands faith on our part. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” And the writer of Hebrews, in chapter 11:5, also makes a point of mentioning Enoch’s faith: “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death.” And that verse ends: “Now before he was taken, he was commended as having pleased God,” which leads the writer to continue in verse 6: “And without faith it is impossible to please him [God].” That tells us clearly that basic to Enoch’s walk with God was his faith in the Lord. He had a firm trust in the true God who had revealed Himself to Enoch.
And in the same way, any person today who desires to walk with God must have a true faith in Him. God does not walk with unbelievers. He walks with His saved people. Indeed, their faith in Him and in His Son is not only a one-time act, but a daily, ever-present attitude. We should walk with God by faith each day and moment.
Communion with God
So, Enoch’s walk involved faith. And secondly, it involved fellowship or communion with God. When two friends walk together, they do so to enjoy each other’s company. They find delight in sharing their thoughts and experiences. They speak together, laugh together, and commiserate together. They confide in each other—often at a deep level.
That’s also how it should be when we walk with God. And no doubt this was true of Enoch. He confided in God. He spoke to God. He expressed His love for God, His need of God, and His dependence on God.
The one Person who walked closest to God on earth was unquestionably His own Son, Jesus Christ. He enjoyed perfect communion with God. It was a most intimate fellowship the Savior had with His Father. Jesus desired and needed that fellowship, and therefore would regularly draw apart from the crowds and His own disciples to spend time with His Father.
Walking with a friend involves a two-way communication—speaking and listening to one another. The same is true for walking with God. It involves our speaking with God—which we do, and which Enoch did, and even Jesus did, by means of prayer. But fellowship with God also demands listening to Him—which we do, and which Enoch did, and even Jesus did, by meditating on God’s revealed Word and will. A Christian cannot walk with God unless he is faithful in prayer and diligent in the reading of God’s Word.
Obedience to God
But a third and equally necessary element of walking with God is obedience. The apostle John emphasized that in 1 John 1:6: “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie, and do not practice the truth.” One cannot walk with God and live in sin. It is, of course, the case that God’s people still sin—even daily. Yes, the best of saints have but a small beginning of true obedience, and such sin hinders our walk with God. Even so, we can still walk with Him, when we confess our sins and receive His forgiveness and seek to abide by His will.
We can be sure that Enoch—who was a sinner, no doubt—needed to confess His sins daily as he walked with God. But as a forgiven sinner he had the desire and will to obey God. The overall pattern of His life was one of pleasing God.
The lesson of Enoch’s life for all believers in Christ is that they walk in obedience to God’s commands, as we read in 2 John verse 6: “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments.”
How can we walk with God? And how can our walk be closer with Him than what it is? Think of Enoch. Walk by faith, walk in fellowship, and walk in obedience to our covenant Lord.
Where did Enoch’s walk with God lead to? How did it end on earth? The Bible tells us it occurred in a most unusual fashion. After a life of 365 years—which seems incredibly long for us today, but was short for his time—Enoch’s earthly journey ended. Genesis 5:24 tells us only: “and he was not, for God took him.”
“And he was not” is not very specific. We say of persons who die: “They are no more.” And the phrase “God took him,” is also one still used today to speak of a person taken by God in death. However, the context of Genesis 5 makes what it says about Enoch distinctly different from what happened to the other ancients mentioned in the chapter. Of each of them, it is said: “and he died.”
There was obviously something very different about the end of Enoch’s earthly life. And that difference is made very clear in Hebrews 11:5: “By faith, Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death.” In other words, God took Enoch to heaven without his passing through the gates of death. It was, of course, a miracle. For death must take place for sinners to enter the perfection of heaven. It is the way our sinful natures and sin-corrupted bodies are removed.
For Enoch that happened without death. So, we call this “Enoch’s translation.” It was not only that he was transported to heaven without dying (as Elijah also would experience later). It also means Enoch was instantly perfected and glorified, so he was suitable for his life in heaven. This was God’s reward for Enoch’s walk with Him—not of Enoch’s deserving. Yet, it was a gift to him of God’s gracious design, a special blessing of God to this saint of old.
God’s children today may not receive such an unusual reward. But our ultimate reward is the same. Those who believe in Christ and walk with God can also anticipate the blessing of being transported into His presence and receiving the gift of perfect life with Him—in soul when we die, in soul and body when Christ returns and our bodies are raised to life immortal.
In the eternal creation, all the saints will walk in perfect joy and fellowship with their God.
Rev. James Admiraal is a retired pastor in the URCNA. He served most recently as pastor of Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI. He also served for several years on the board of Reformed Fellowship.