Although reference to Enoch comes just in four verses in the Old Testament (Gn. 5:21-24), Enoch has occupied a distinctive place in the Jewish thought due to:
"There was one who pleased God and was loved by him, and while living
among sinners he was taken up.
He was caught up lest evil change his understanding or guile deceive his soul.
For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years;
for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness.
Yet the peoples saw and did not understand, nor take such a thing to heart,
that God's grace and mercy are with his elect, and he watches over his holy ones." (Wi. 4:10-15).
In the New Testament, St. Luke mentions Enoch in the genealogy of Christ (Lk. 3:37), and the Epistle to the Hebrews places him on the list of the heroes of faith, "By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, and was not found because God had taken him; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God" (He. 11:5).
It is evident, therefore, that taking Enoch up to heaven was a natural consequence of his leading a long life in communion with God, "Enoch walked with God"(Gn. 5:23). This communion was established on a solid faith in God. Therefore, when Enoch reached the perfection ascribed to him by God, He did not leave him on this earth,
with its wickedness which could tarnish the minds of the most holy saints,
"For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire
perverts the innocent mind". God took Enoch up before God's wrath fell
on man through the flood. This perhaps will give us consolation when we
see the righteous departing while still young, or the ministers of God's
word taken up while at the peak of their ministry.
The seven persons who were taken up to heaven:
Enoch was the first person who ascended to heaven in his own human flesh. The holy Scriptures tell us that seven persons have been taken up to heaven, three of whom ascended to heaven and are still there (Enoch, Elijah and the Lord Jesus), and two were led up by the Spirit in a revelation:
1. Paul the Apostle: "It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago - whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man - whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows – how he was caught up into paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." (2Co.12:1-4)
2. John the apostle: "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day ... After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I had heard was like a trumpet speaking to me, saying, come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this. Immediately I was in spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne." (Rev.1:10, 4:1-2)
The other two were mentioned in a prophecy by St. John, where he spoke
of their ministry and their testimony which resulted in their death, and
their coming to life after three and a half days, followed by their ascension
to heaven. (Rev.11:3-14)
Was Enoch a prophet ? What is 'the Book of Enoch'?
There is no doubt that Enoch was a prophet, having summoned all generations to repentance (Si. 44:16), an act which was in fact a warning that was not comprehended by his contemporaries (Ws. 4:15). He was also a prophet standing as a symbol of Jesus Christ. In talking about the day of judgment and the destruction of the corrupt men, St. Jude the apostle, tells us in his letter, "Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men saying, behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him". (Jude 14-15)
This prophecy was mentioned in a book called Enoch (Enoch 1:9), which is a Jewish book believed by scholars to have been written between 165 and 64 BC. The book was translated into Greek, but most fathers of the church consider it as 'unauthentic'(2); it was rejected by all churches with the exception of the Ethiopian church. This is why it has only been preserved in an Ethiopian translation (from Greek). In 1947, parts of the book, written in Aramaic, were discovered among the manuscripts of the Dead Sea. The book captured the attention of the Bible scholars because of the relationship it carries with the New Testament, providing prophecies on the Lord Jesus as the 'Messiah' where He is called the 'Son of Man', and references to the 'Kingdom of God'. Some scholars believe that certain parts of this book have their origin from Jewish tradition that was known at that time.
(1) This is one of the "excluded" books. These are a number of the Old Testament books included in the Septuagint translation, and were included in the English translations of the Bible until the past century, but have been excluded from some Protestant translations. These books were acknowledged to be canonical by the early fathers of the church as well as the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
(2) "Pseudepigrapha", which are writings that date as far back as the second century BC. They do not carry the names of their real authors but rather assume fictitious names like Adam, Enoch or one of the apostles.