Hebrews 11:5, “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.”
Enoch’s faith is the segue into the hub of Hebrews 11 in verse 6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” As I continue this series, remember that verse 6 is the lens through which we interpret all of Hebrews 11: without faith it is impossible to please God.
Enoch is one of the most mysterious characters in the Bible. He and Elijah are the only two people in human history to go to Heaven without dying. We don’t know much about Enoch other than that he was the father of a man named Methuselah and lived for 365 years. Beyond that, all we know is, “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24). Why would God take Enoch before he even died? Scripture does not give us an answer. So because God doesn’t give us an answer, He obviously doesn’t want us to know, which means we’re not supposed to know.
The point in Hebrews is not that God took him before he died, but that he was commended as having pleased God before he was taken. We’ve come across the word “commended” a couple times already in Hebrews. In Hebrews 11:2 we saw that we receive our commendation by faith. Likewise, with Abel we saw he was “commended as righteous” because of his sacrifice by faith. Interestingly enough, “commended” is a far translation of the Greek word used, μεμαρτύρηται (memartúretai), which is the perfect passive form of μαρτυρέω (marturéo), so literally, “having been witnessing.” To translate the passage literally, it would read, “For before he was taken [literally transformed, changed, removed] he had been witnessing to have pleased God.” So Enoch’s life was apparently indicative of one who pleased God. Likewise, Abel’s life was indicative of doing good works by faith rather than self-justification. And because of Abel’s faith, his good works were pleasing to God.
It is evident so far, then, that whatever we do by faith is pleasing to God. We don’t know what Enoch did that pleased God so much, but apparently everything he did was driven by faith since he pleased God immensely. We ought to do the same, not so we may be caught up in Heaven before we die, but in service to our Lord and neighbour. Let us live so that we are remembered for our good works, but not good works that we may shine, but rather that Christ should shine. By faith even we will not see death—that is, eternal death. We will surely die on this earth, but because we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1), we will not see the second death.
Stay tuned for next time when we look at our next example of faith: Noah.