A Man with the Courage to Speak Up
HOW many people have the courage to speak up for what is right when everyone around them is doing the wrong thing? Do you? Suppose the issue is religious or spiritual. Is there any advantage in speaking up?
Early in human history there lived a man with the courage to speak up on spiritual matters. He was Enoch, the son of Jared. Enoch was the seventh man in the genealogical line from Adam, the father of the human race.—Gen. 5:18; Jude 14.
‘ENOCH WALKED WITH GOD’
What kind of person was Enoch? Though imperfect like all of us, “Enoch kept walking with the true God.” (Gen. 5:24) He pursued a course of righteousness in accordance with God’s revealed truth. His life harmonized with the will and purpose of Jehovah God. And, surely, Enoch had faith that great blessings would come through the seed of God’s “woman.” (Gen. 3:15) There is no stated indication that any other man ‘walked with God’ in Enoch’s day. At least he seems to have been singled out as unique in that respect.
RELIGIOUS CLIMATE OF THAT DAY
The spiritual situation among mankind had deteriorated to a marked degree by the time of Enoch’s birth in the year 3404 before the Common Era. As the years had passed, godless deeds had become more and more numerous. Adam’s son Abel, as God’s witness, had called upon the name of Jehovah, and had suffered martyrdom for his faithfulness. (Gen. 4:4-8; Heb. 11:4) More than a century later, Adam’s son Seth fathered a boy named Enosh. What happened in the days of Enosh? We are told in Scripture: “At that time a start was made of calling on the name of Jehovah.” (Gen. 4:25, 26; 5:3, 6) Was this a revival of true worship?
No, it was not. Hebrew scholars hold that this text should read “began profanely” to call on God’s name, or, “then profanation began.” The Targum of Palestine states: “That was the generation in whose days they began to err, and to make themselves idols, and surnamed their idols by the name of the word of the Lord.” Apparently this was a misuse of Jehovah’s name. Possibly men applied it to themselves or to certain persons through whom they pretended to approach Jehovah in worship. Or they may have applied the divine name to idols.
In any event, that blasphemous “calling on the name of Jehovah” certainly did not result in a return to the pure worship of the true God. Those people were not walking with God. There is no record of any man walking with God until Enoch was born, 387 years after the birth of Enosh. By Enoch’s day, shocking ungodly deeds were common and false worship prevailed. Despite the spiritual corruption that surrounded him, however, Enoch “went on walking with the true God.”—Gen. 5:22.
ENOCH SERVES AS GOD’S PROPHET
Faithful Enoch did not remain silent about religious error and ungodly practices. As a man of outstanding faith, he was one of the “so great a cloud of witnesses” of Jehovah. (Heb. 11:5; 12:1) Enoch—a mere imperfect human standing as an isolated witness among wrongdoers—had the courage to speak up.
“Look!” declared Enoch, “Jehovah came with his holy myriads, to execute judgment against all, and to convict all the ungodly concerning all their ungodly deeds that they did in an ungodly way, and concerning all the shocking things that ungodly sinners spoke against him.” (Jude 14, 15) Yes, Enoch spoke courageously as a faithful human prophet of God. In fact, Enoch’s prophesying likely was made known by preaching, even as Noah later was a “preacher.” (2 Pet. 2:5) However, Enoch was not a campaigner acting on his own initiative. He spoke as he was motivated by Jehovah’s holy spirit or active force. So, while Enoch had the courage to speak up, he did this in the strength that God imparts.—Phil. 4:13.
How the disciple Jude, who recorded Enoch’s words in the first century C.E., knew about that prophecy is not revealed. It is not found in the writings of Moses who compiled the Genesis account. Nevertheless, Jude wrote under divine inspiration, and therefore the inclusion of Enoch’s prophecy in his letter establishes the genuineness of those words.
Jude was discussing certain “ungodly men” who had slipped into the Christian congregation. (Jude 4) With reference to them he cited Enoch’s prophecy about Jehovah’s coming to execute judgment against the ungodly. Surely those words had telling effect in the first century.
But just think about the effect of Enoch’s prophetic words upon the ungodly men living in his own day! Would those wrongdoers enjoy hearing that ‘Jehovah will come with his holy myriads to execute judgment against the ungodly’? Obviously not! It certainly took courage and the backing of Jehovah to speak up in the midst of those unrighteous practicers of false religion. How they must have wanted to still Enoch’s tongue!
GOD STEPS IN
Those ungodly persons must have desired to kill the one that God was using to denounce their false worship and “ungodly deeds.” But any plans of that sort were thwarted. How? “Then,” we are told, “[Enoch] was no more, for God took him.” (Gen. 5:24) Jehovah did not permit Enoch’s opposers to kill His loyal prophet. Rather, God “took him.” Yet, what does that mean?
On this matter, the Christian apostle Paul wrote: “By faith Enoch was transferred so as not to see death, and he was nowhere to be found because God had transferred him; for before his transference he had the witness that he had pleased God well.” (Heb. 11:5) Dr. James Moffatt rendered the text this way: “It was by faith that Enoch was taken to heaven, so that he never died (he was not overtaken by death, for God had taken him away).” But how could that rendering be true? Psalm 89:48 asks: “What able-bodied man is there alive who will not see death?”
Enoch was an imperfect man. From his forefather Adam, he had inherited sin and death. “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin,” wrote the apostle Paul, “and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12) Moreover, Jesus Christ declared: “No man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man.” (John 3:13) Hence, Enoch died, but God did not take him to heaven.
Instead, “God took him” by removing Enoch from the scene in a peaceful death when this faithful prophet was 365 years old. (Gen. 5:23, 24) That was far below the life-span of most of his contemporaries. Enoch did not die a violent death at the hands of his persecutors. Nor is there any Scriptural indication that he suffered the effects of failing health that so often leads to death. Therefore, Enoch apparently did not experience the pangs of death. In such case, he did not “see death” in that he was not aware of dying.
After this courageous prophet died in some undisclosed place, Jehovah disposed of his body in secret, even as was the case later with Moses’ body. (Deut. 34:5-7) Enoch’s foes never were able to find his body and subject it to any abuse.
In some way, then, “Enoch was transferred so as not to see death” after “he had the witness that he had pleased God well.” (Heb. 11:5) The Greek word here rendered “transferred” means “transfer,” “transport” or “change the place of.” It is suggestive of what happened to the apostle Paul, who was transferred or caught away “to the third heaven,” or “into paradise.” In that state Paul apparently received from God a vision of the future spiritual paradise of the Christian congregation.—2 Cor. 12:1-4.
Since Enoch was a prophet, possibly God “took” him while Enoch was in a similar state of rapture. Jehovah may have put him to sleep in death while Enoch was in a prophetic trance, enjoying a vision of the paradise of God’s new order wherein Jehovah “will actually swallow up death forever.” (Isa. 25:8) In Enoch’s case, the resurrection from the dead may bring with it a transition from enthralling vision to marvelous reality.—Acts 24:15.
OF WHAT BENEFIT TODAY?
Godly persons of today can benefit greatly from the experiences and fine example of Enoch. Like him, they can ‘walk with God’ in faith, living in harmony with the divine will and purpose. Though imperfect like Enoch, they can be faithful witnesses of Jehovah, even as he was.—Heb. 12:1.
Jehovah is not ‘taking’ godly persons off the scene today as he “took” Enoch. But by means of the holy spirit, God is sustaining his people as they face persecution for righteousness’ sake. They are able to rejoice despite various trials, confident that God will not permit them to experience more than they can bear. (Matt. 5:10; 1 Cor. 10:13; 1 Pet. 1:6, 7) Yet, if they should die in faithfulness, like Enoch these godly ones have the resurrection hope.—John 5:28, 29.
Whereas Christians have not seen the future earthly paradise in vision, it is very real to them. They know that it will be established. (Luke 23:43) Even now they are enjoying a spiritual paradise.
In harmony with Enoch’s prophetic warning, Jehovah executed judgment against the ungodly during the flood of Noah’s day. But that prophecy is also of encouragement to Christians today, for it shows that at the destruction of Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, and during God’s war at Har–Magedon, ungodly persons will be destroyed, cut off by God’s holy myriads. The Lord Jesus Christ will be in charge of that executional work.—Rev. 16:14-16; 18:1-24; 19:11-16.
Like Enoch, therefore, Christians today boldly declare God’s message, whether it relates to divine judgments against the ungodly or has to do with His glorious purpose to bless mankind under the rule of the heavenly Kingdom. About such things Jehovah’s Witnesses have the courage to speak up.