There is an old saying that two things in life are inevitable: death and taxes. This is said tongue-in-cheek, since of course not everyone in the world pays taxes—Kuwait, for example, is a tax-free country—but nearly everyone in the world pays taxes. Taxes seem like an inevitability, though circumstances are conceivable in which they are not (for example, if one is destitute). Death, however, does appear to be inevitable. Even with all of our scientific and technological advances, no one in modern history has lived past the age of 122, and most people in the world’s most developed countries are dead before they reach the age of 80. Further, there is, from the human point of view, the possibility that anyone who is now alive could die at any time. The Bible teaches that death was not part of God’s original plan for the human race. Death entered the world as a direct consequence of sin (Gen 2:17). The human race was placed under a sentence of death as punishment for the sin of Adam, who was the forefather of the human race. Romans 5:12 states, Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin. It may be surprising, then, to know that the Bible does not teach that everyone will die. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ, as the second Adam, has conquered death, and has overcome the power of death by rising from the dead (Rom 5:17; 1 Cor 15:21-22). The Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 15:52-53 that not everyone will die, although all men will have their mortal bodies changed. Specifically, when Jesus will take those who have believed on Him during the Church Age to heaven, living Christians will simply have their bodies changed, rather than raised from the dead (cf. 1 Thess 4:13-18). It seems, as well, that believers who are alive at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ (the millennium) will also have their bodies changed before the final judgment, rather than dying and being raised from the dead (see Revelation 20). One could also note the famous Old Testament story of Elijah being taken to heaven alive in a whirlwind, rather than dying (2 Kgs 2:1-12). However, Elijah evidently will return to the earth during the tribulation period, and will be killed at the midpoint of this period (cf. Mal 4:5; Matt 17:11; Rev 11:1-13). But there is another great man of God in the Old Testament who was also taken to heaven without dying, specifically so that he would not see death (according to Hebrews 11:5). This was Enoch, the father of Methuselah (Gen 5:21-24). Enoch was taken to heaven a mere 57 years after the first man, Adam, succumbed to the sentence of death. Although Adam’s lifespan of 930 years seems extraordinary by today’s standards, in fact the death of Adam must have dealt a terrible blow to the human psyche. Because Adam lived so long, perhaps some were holding out hope that he would never die, that the curse would not come to pass, and that men could, possibly, just keep on living indefinitely. After Adam’s death, hope seemed to end; the futility of life had sunk in like a hard reality—when suddenly the principle of death was violated in Enoch’s case. The translation of Enoch so short a time after the death of Adam showed that death was not the final sentence for the human race. Death will not prevail in the end, by God’s grace. Easter Sunday is now only two weeks away. What does the “translation” of someone who lived so long ago as Enoch mean to us today? Here is the question from a different angle: what would it mean to you if you found out that one of your own ancient ancestors had never died, but was still alive? In fact, everyone in the world today is descended from Noah, and Enoch was Noah’s great-grandfather. The story of Enoch ought to be a great encouragement to every one of us, because Enoch was an ancestor of every one of us. That means that every one of us has in Enoch an ancestor who did not die! Christian, take heart! Let no one tell you despairingly that everyone who has ever lived has died. Yet if we can draw hope from the fact that one of our ancestors did not die and will never die, how much more hope can we take from the fact that Enoch’s endless life was made possible by the fact of Christ’s (then-anticipated, now-fulfilled) conquest of death through His resurrection from the dead? Whether we live or die, those of us who have believed in Jesus will someday live with Him forever in glorified, immortal bodies.
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