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The Rapture of Enoch
In Defense of the Faith
Friday, July 06, 2018
Alf Cengia

Was Enoch raptured by God? And who cares anyway?

The other day I was reading through a commentary on Hebrews by R. Kent Hughes. Enoch is one of the examples of faith modeled in that book and one of the antediluvian patriarchs. While I'm familiar with some of the conjectures surrounding Enoch, I'd never really given him much thought. Hughes' commentary stirred my imagination - which is always dangerous.

And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. Gen 5:24

This pithy verse begs more questions. What does it all mean?

Most of us have seen theories postulating Noah and Lot as rapture types etc. There are heated debates as to whether Noah prefigures the pretrib rapture. Posttribbers point out that his family was preserved within the flood. Of course this is because the earth needed to be replenished.

Perhaps the Noah and Lot examples aren't great pretrib rapture types. But Enoch appears to be different - at least to me. Aside from one or two other passages, he is also mentioned in Heb 11:5 and Jude 1:14. These give us a little more information to add to our picture of Gen 5:24.

Why did God take Enoch?

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. Heb 11:5

In his Genesis Commentary Arnold Fruchtenbaum says that the Hebrew word "walked with God" in Gen 5:24 is "hithaleich." It's the same word used of God walking around Eden. It emphasizes "fellowship and communion. According to Hughes "walked with God" and "pleased God" means the same thing. That was the point of the Hebrews writer - without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6).

Hughes notes that Enoch served as a prophet for over three centuries preaching future "unwelcome judgment" (Jude 1:14-15). Hold that thought!

Speaking of Enoch's "translation" Hughes writes:

[Enoch's] perishable body put on an imperishable body (1 Cor 15:52-53), because it is written that that "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable" (1 Cor 15:50). (p 305)

So was this Enoch's Pre-Cross rapture? I Don't Know. One inevitable objection will be John 3:13 - “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven–the Son of Man.” Rather than unpacking the arguments here, I'll point to this GotQuestions Article.

Another likely objection will come from those who believe Enoch is one of the witnesses of Revelation 11:3-7. How can someone with a glorified body die again? What about Elijah? Of course all this presupposes the identity of the witnesses. Nevertheless these are fair questions which I don't have hard and fast answers to.

One very interesting side issue is the First Resurrection.

Amillennialists, postmillennialists and posttribulationists insist it's a one-time event. They object to the pretribulational concept of the First Resurrection being a Category which occurs in stages. For instance, Mike Licona and Craig Blomberg dispute whether the Matt 27:50-53 resurrection-saints event literally occurred.

In contrast, Historic Premillennialist of the 19th century Andrew Bonar wrote:

These are all saints, and they are coming out of their graves to honour the Holy One. Perhaps the reason Christ did this was to show a sample of His power. These saints were the first-fruits of the resurrection, and when He went up they would be His body-guard, nearer Him than the angels.

More recently Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor (The Final Days of Jesus) wrote:

These Old Testament or intertestamental believers receive resurrection bodies (unlike Lazarus who came back to life only to die again), bear witness to Christ's resurrection, and ascend to heaven sometime leading up to Jesus' ascension. (p 163)

It's significant that these people aren't pretribulationists yet their position technically aligns with the pretrib concept of a First Resurrection Category! You can call it First Fruits if you prefer.

What do we do with all this? While some of the above is speculation, there are some concrete principles in the example of Enoch which we can consider. We know he walked in faith and pleased God. He warned that future judgment was coming to the world. He was removed so that he wouldn't see death - an allusion to the future flood?

I see modern parallels...

Today there are many Enochs warning about imminent world judgment. And, as in Noah's day, there are scoffers who go about their businesses as usual (Matt 24:37-38; 1 Thess 5:2-3; 2 Pet 3:3-4).

The Philadelphian church was also promised removal from the hour of trial which would overtake the world (Rev 3:10). For discussions on whether Rev 3:10 means removal from or protection within see Richard Mayhue's article. This hour of trial is still pending.

John Niemelä contends that the expression in Rev 3:10a “because you have kept my command to persevere” belongs to v 9. See his arguments HERE and HERE. The rest of v 10 then stands on its own. In other words it should read thus:

9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie - indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you because you have kept My command to persevere.

10 I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Rev 3:9-10

The significance of this is that it excludes a so-called tribulation test for exemption from the hour of trial.

Surprisingly, prewrath scholar Charles Cooper agrees with Niemelä's grammatical proposition. Cooper also sees this as a rapture promise. However, he claims it supports prewrath because he assumes the church is on the earth during Antichrist's Great Tribulation.

The passage gives no such requirement. In fact in 2 Thess 2:7-8 Paul declares that the Lawless One is God's judgment on those who have rejected the truth. Likewise, there were no stipulations or a Catch 22 clause for Enoch's removal from this world. He was also taken up long before Noah came into the scene.

So in conclusion I propose that Enoch could well be a type or precedent for a pretribulational rapture. May we all cultivate the kind of faith Enoch and the Philadelphian Church had, for the time is at hand!


About Alf Cengia 

Last week: Training for the Tribulation

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