The Ultimate Reward

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. 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. – Hebrews 11:5-6 ESV

We don’t know a whole lot about Enoch. Other than what we read about him here in Hebrews, the only other mention of him is found in the book of Genesis. He’s part of a genealogical list that shows the line of mankind from Adam all the way to Noah.

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. –  Genesis 5:21-24 ESV

Enoch lived to the ripe old age of 365, but his time on earth was short compared to that of his father (962 years) and son (969 years). Enoch, as the genealogical list suggests, lived in the days before the flood. While there have been many suggestions to explain why men lived so much longer in those days, no one really knows why. But we do see that, over time, the longevity of man diminished dramatically; most likely as a result of the ongoing effects of sin and the curse of death on the human body.

But Enoch lived over three centuries. In our day, it is rare for anyone to make it to the single-century mark. But the remarkable thing about Enoch was not his lifespan, but his departure from this earth. The Genesis account tells us “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, says he “was not found.”

He was on this earth for 365 years and then, one day, he was gone. But unlike every other man listed in the genealogical record found in Genesis 5, Enoch didn’t die. He is the only one on the list whose name is not followed by the words, “and he died.” Enoch was taken. He could have lived longer, but God decided to remove Enoch from the earth and transport him to heaven. The author of Hebrews adds another strange twist to this already bizarre tale.

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death. – Hebrews 11:5 ESV

Verse 5 stands in direct contrast to verse 4 and the life of the first character in the great “hall of faith.” Abel, the son of Adam and Eve, is commended for his faith but recognized for his untimely death.

…he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. – Hebrews 11:4 ESV

Abel exhibited faith but died at the hands of his own brother. Yet, Enoch was spared the fate that all men have faced ever since the fall. He was glorified and received his redeemed body without having to suffer the inevitable and inescapable reality of death. He was there one day and gone the next. The Scriptures simply tell us “he was not found, because God had taken him.”

But why was Enoch rewarded with this one-of-a-kind experience? The text simply states that it was because of his faith. Living in a time of unparalleled evil and immorality, Enoch remained faithful to God. When everyone else around him was pursuing wickedness and involved in rampant evil, this man had chosen to believe in the promises of God. To fully understand Enoch’s status as a righteous man living among the unrighteous, one must consider the sorry state of affairs on earth at the time. Ever since the fall, the moral decline of mankind had spiraled out of control. Some 669 years after the “rapture” of Enoch, things had become so bad that God decided to wipe out all of humanity.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” – Genesis 6:5-7 ESV

At that point in the human story, there was only one man left who remained faithful to God, and that was Noah. The Genesis account states that “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8 ESV), and then it adds that “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9 ESV). Notice that last sentence. It is the same thing said of Enoch.

Enoch walked with God – Genesis 5:22 ESV

Two times in the Genesis passage, we are told that “Enoch walked with God.” The Hebrew word translated as “walked” is hālaḵ and it can be used to refer to the physical act of movement or to living one’s life. Another way of translating this statement is that Enoch lived his life in communion with God. It is the same idea expressed by God to Abraham in Genesis 17. “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless’” (Genesis 17:1 ESV).

Abraham was to live his life with an awareness that he was doing so under the watchful eye of God Almighty. Every aspect of his life was being conducted in the presence of the all-knowing, all-seeing God. But when God told Abraham to “be blameless,” He was not demanding perfection. The Hebrew word for “blameless” is tamiym and it means “complete, whole, entire, sound” (Hebrew Lexicon :: H8549 (KJV). Blue Letter Bible). Abraham was being told to live his entire life, his whole life, with the constant awareness that God was watching. There was to be no compartmentalization, no hidden areas. He was to live as if God was with him at all times because He was.

And that is how Enoch lived. He lived by faith, believing that God was with Him every day and in every circumstance. Enoch couldn’t see God, but he believed in Him. The author of Hebrews explains that “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” (Hebrews 11:6 ESV).

Enoch believed that God existed even though many around him did not. That genealogical record found in Genesis 5 gives us an abbreviated glimpse of mankind’s trajectory from the fall of Adam to the days of Noah. In the very next chapter of Genesis, we read, “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart” (Genesis 6:5-6 NLT).

By the time we get to the days of Noah, we find that “God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence. God observed all this corruption in the world, for everyone on earth was corrupt.” (Genesis 6:11-12 NLT). The path from Adam to Noah was not an easy one. It was filled with increasing sin, violence, godlessness, and wickedness. The further man got away from the garden, the dimmer his recollection of God became. And in the midst of this downward spiral, Enoch stood out like a bright light. He was a beacon of faith in the midst of the darkness of man’s increasing sinfulness. He believed God existed and that He would reward those who pleased Him.

The text tells us, “before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.” He had lived a life that pleased God – by faith. He was not self-seeking, but God-pleasing. He lived as if God existed and as if God was walking with him every moment of every day. His God was not distant or disinterested in his life. His God was near and lovingly involved in every aspect of his daily walk. He lived to please God – by faith. He lived to obey God – by faith. He lived to bring glory and honor to God – by faith.

To walk with God requires faith in God. You have to believe that He exists and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). You have to believe that He sees and that He cares. Enoch longed and hoped for the reward of God without ever really knowing exactly what the reward might be. It is likely that Enoch would have lived many more years on this earth, just like his father and son. But God rewarded Enoch by taking him in mid-life, and by sparing him the suffering and pain associated with death. He also didn’t have to endure what would have likely been a prolonged period of old age. In those days before the flood, men enjoyed long lives, but they still had to face the inevitable reality of sin.

Enoch had faith in God and he was rewarded by God with escape from the curse of death.

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death. – Hebrews 11:5a ESV

Enoch provides a foreshadowing of the hope that is found in Jesus Christ. There is an ultimate reward for all those who place their faith in God by trusting in His Son’s sacrifice on the cross on their behalf. As Jesus told Mary and Martha at the graveside of their brother, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die” (John 11:25-26 NLT). Enoch was raptured and never died. Because of his faith, he was rewarded with his immediate glorification and entrance into God’s presence.  He went to be with the LORD. And that same hope awaits all those who place their faith in Christ. That is why the author opened this chapter with the reassuring words: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV).

Every child of God is to live their life on this earth believing that God is a rewarder of those who seek Him and that His ultimate reward is a death-defying escape from this world into His eternal Kingdom. Whether by death or by rapture, every saint will experience the fulfillment of God’s promise of eternal life, but that reward can only be accessed by faith.

Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. – Hebrews 11:6 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.