Thursday, September 6, 2018

Genesis 5:21-24

Several questions about the first book of the Bible have often perplexed me. I can readily identify two of my questions from a cursory reading of Genesis 5:21-24.

1. How are we to reconcile the age ascribed to humanity in the early pages of biblical history?
2. What are we to make of Enoch (and the later account of Elijah in 2 Kings 2:11) having never tasted death but being taken up into the presence of God?

As to the first question, humanity was not originally created to die and "the condition of man in paradise would not be immediately exhausted" (Keil & Delitzsch). Yet, over time, as people became increasingly separated from the presence of their Creator, their longevity of life began to decrease significantly. The fact that some individuals now live into their early 100s falls under the category of what theologians refer to as common grace.

The second question is more perplexing to me, primarily because I wonder about what it suggests about the afterlife. We know that the apostle Paul says that the dead will rise at Christ's second coming but, until that event, believers who have died remain separated from what will ultimately become their glorified bodies (cf. 1 Cor. 15:35-52; 2 Cor. 5:1-10). Yet, what of Enoch and Elijah who never tasted death?

In my research and contemplation on this subject, I propose a few conclusions for you to ponder.

Notably, Christ is the first fruits of the dead, meaning He is the first to experience resurrection (cf. 1 Cor. 15:20-23; Col. 1:18). Scripture does not say that Jesus is the first to experience a glorified body, only that as the second Adam, after having tasted death, Christ was fully resurrected to a glorified state. Those who perish in Christ will receive their new glorified body when Jesus returns. Until then, their soul finds rest in the heavenly realm awaiting the full consummation. Where we reside and what this looks like no one can ascertain: the fact that Moses was "identifiable" at the Mount of Transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17:3) fills my heart with curious anticipation.

Theologically, as to Enoch and Elijah, I believe they provide a precursor to the hope that resides for the people of God. Those who "walk faithfully with God" (Gen. 5:21, 24) and who are alive at Christ's return will be immediately taken up to a glorified state. Enoch and Elijah were never resurrected because they never died; however, they could have been instantly glorified (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Some have even speculated that Enoch and Elijah were taken up in advance of when they shall stand as the two witnesses of Revelation 11, in which case they will both eventually taste death (cf. Rev. 11:7).

Practically, I believe what we read about Enoch in Genesis 5 should challenge every follower of Christ. Enoch was not sinless. In fact, the text indicates that his relationship with the Lord did not begin until he turned 65. And, as is true with every believer, something sparked his pursuit of God. For Enoch, that something appears to be when he became a father (cf. Gen. 5:21-22).

Once Enoch trusted in the hope found only in the promises of God (which find their "Amen" in Christ), he gave himself completely to that relationship. Jude 14, 15 makes it clear that Enoch offers an example of one who stood up and stood out for the Lord during some of the most perilous of times. An example, by the way, that I contend had a profound influence on his lineage - upon his son Methuselah, down to his grandson Lamech, and along to his great grandson Noah!

So, in spite of my unanswered (perhaps unanswerable) questions, one definitive truth from the historical account of Enoch stares each of us in the face. If we are a follower of Christ, we are called to walk faithfully with Him so as to proclaim the Gospel in these perilous times and to leave an example of godliness for those who will come after us. This is the main lesson we should learn from Enoch.


TAKE TIME TO REFLECT:

That which sparked my desire to follow after Christ and to leave a legacy of godliness was: 

_____________________________________________________________________________.


TAKE TIME TO REVIEW:

from runner-up to Best Devotional Commentary - "When it is affirmed of Enoch that he walked with God, it implies that there had been a time when Enoch and God had not been at agreement, but that something had occurred to put them at agreement, and that after this agreement they had then walked together" (Carroll).
     Let me also add a word from the Apostle Paul here: "Much more then, having now been justified by [Jesus'] blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. 5:9-10).
     Reconciled essentially means to be put back into agreement with. To be in agreement with God, Enoch had to trust in the promises of the Messianic seed. To be in agreement with God, we must trust in the fulfillment of those promises in the death and resurrection of Christ. Are you in agreement with God? If so, through the indwelling and communing presence of the Holy Spirit, walk with Him.

from runner-up to Best Academic Commentary - "The phrase 'walked with God,' which is only applied to Enoch and Noah (ch. 6:9), denotes the most confidential intercourse, the closest communion with the personal God, a walking as it were by the side of God, who at that time still continued His visible social intercourse with men (vid., 3:8). It must be distinguished from 'walking before God' (ch. 17:1; 24:40, etc.), and 'walking after God' (Deut. 13:4), both which phrases are used to indicate a pious, moral, blameless life under the law according to the directions of the divine commands. The only other passage in which this expression 'walk with God' occurs is Mal. 2:6, where it denotes not the piety of the godly Israelites generally, but the conduct of the priests, who stood in a closer relation to Jehovah under the Old Testament than the rest of the faithful, being permitted to enter the Holy Place and hold direct intercourse with Him there, which the rest of the people could not do" (Keil & Delitzsch).