Since Enoch and Elijah did not die, but were taken into Heaven, did they receive glorified bodies? (I’ve also recently read accounts that this is a misinterpretation of Scripture: Did they really not die?)
THE SHORT ANSWER:
Hebrews 11:5 clearly says that Enoch did not die. (“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.”) The same Hebrew verb used in Gen. 5:24 referring to Enoch, is used in talking about Elijah being “taken away” by God, and the only interpretation consistent with the text is that Elijah did not die. In Heaven, we will all have glorified bodies. Even though Enoch and Elijah were translated in their physical body, that body was corrupted. God must ultimately clothe them in incorruptibility in order to be in the New Heaven for eternity.
Revelations 11:3 mentions two witnesses. It is not possible to positively identify who these two individual are for certain. For me, it would be most satisfying if these two were Enoch and Elijah, for reasons to be explored below.
ENOCH: We find Enoch mentioned in Genesis 5:21-24. He appears to be the 6th generation from Adam through Seth (i.e., the 7th generation from creation and thus represents a special number). Enoch is a model of godliness. In contrast, Lamech is 6th from Adam through Cain, and was one who made his sword his God (cf. Gen. 4:17-24). Enoch had a consistent and close “walk” or life, pleasing to Elohim—the One True God. This defining issue is emphasized in the Scriptural context: the other genealogies in this part of Genesis all open with “and after he begot xxxxxx he lived zzz years...”; whereas, with Enoch, it uniquely points out “he walked with God.” This is important because it is the reason for God favoring Enoch during the time of a rapidly degrading earth by sin, as early history runs up to the Flood during Noah’s time (who ended up the only righteous man on earth).
Gen. 5:24—”And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” This second emphasis on “walk with God” is placed immediately adjacent to “he was not” (which is a customary way of saying “he departed from the world”, e.g. Ps. 39:13—”before I go away, and am no more”). Thus, the common, understood meaning of what happened to Enoch is “translated”. Every other individual in this Genesis genealogy ends with “and he died.” In contrast, this glaring variance must indicate an intentional different meaning. The statement “God took him” involves the same word as that used with Elijah (II Kings 2:3, 5—”Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today”). To bolster the meaning of the word in the Scripture, we can look at the same word-root used in the ancient Gilgamesh Epic (Tablet XI, 196) where the protagonist
Utnapishtim says: “And they took me, and set me in the mouth of the rivers.” Hundreds of years later, the Ethiopic Book of Enoch (a book actually quoted by Jude in his Epistle in verses 14-15) tells a story combining Genesis and Gilgamesh, where in verse 17:8 it says that when the angels supposedly took Enoch on a tour of inspection of the entire world, he saw ‘the mouth of the rivers.’ This supports the idea that Enoch “ascended without dying.” The Apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus 44:16 also shows that common early Jewish interpretation sees Enoch as not dying—”Enoch pleased the Lord, and was translated, being an example of repentance to all generations.”
What happened to him afterward is the question. Did he go directly to God’s presence because of his close walk and belief in the True God, as a believer in the line of Seth, through whom the Savior would come? Or, did he go to Sheol, to await the call of God to final resurrection. It must be the former, for what would be the purpose of taking Enoch without dying, only to place him in the same place as all who die?
Since Enoch was young when God took him, only half the normal age of others in that era, it could symbolize not experiencing disease or corruption. Even so, he was sinful. If he did not die, he will not be resurrected. Then how does he get a glorified body? He must have been forgiven because of his faith. Rom. 5:12, 14 tells us that sin resulted in death, but God also is the one redeeming from death. Also, 1 Cor. 15:20-21 tells us that Christ is the first-born of resurrection, not glorification. Thus, Enoch could have received a glorified body and not contradicted Scripture. In fact, 2 Cor. 5:4 says we are “changed” or “clothed upon” with a new body, and this passage does not directly tie the body to first being resurrected, even though the normal way will be through resurrection from death (1 Cor. 15:42).
Jude 14-15 is a statement similar to one in the apocryphal book of 1 Enoch (verse 1:9), which was well known to Jews in the time of Jude. The Holy Spirit moved Jude to use a truthful quote, one which his readers would immediately recognize, and thus it became Scripture. Obviously Enoch was special in the Old Testament; and, that special recognition was still highly respected in the New Testament era for his notoriety as a prophet, prophesying (proclaiming) the One True God.
ELIJAH: The Scriptures are clearer about what happened to Elijah. We are told in II Kings 2:3—”Now the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?’” The conclusion of that notification is found in II Kings 2:11—“Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horse of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into Heaven.” While this does not use the specific words to say Elijah did not die, it clearly is meant in context to imply only that.
The Mount of Transfiguration (cf. Matt. 17:2-3) has both Elijah and Moses (one translated and one died) appearing in the presence of God the Father and God the Son (transfigured to His Revelation 1 visage: “face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light”). Both of these Old Testament individuals “talked” with Christ and were seen by the disciples. I assume from this that they were recognizable and bodily present in some form.
THE TWO WITNESSES: Revelation 11:3-7 & 11-12—“And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth, and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. These have power to shut Heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire. When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. ....
Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from Heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to Heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them.”
The identity of the two witnesses is impossible to know for sure. However, the meaning of the passage is not in question. Here is what we know for sure:
a. “The witnesses of mine” is used with definite article, showing specific reference, suggesting two individuals who would be known.
b. They will prophesy in sackcloth, showing they are preachers of repentance.
c. They are two lampstands and olive trees standing before God. John is echoing Zech. 4:2-3—“I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it...Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left;” and. Zech. 4:11-14 “What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?....These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.” These two witnesses are lights to the world, anointed by God as prophets of the time.
d. God will protect His Word being proclaimed by consuming fire. (Jer. 5:14—“Behold I will make My words in your mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them”; Heb. 12:29—“For our God is a consuming fire.”)
e. They will have the same miraculous confirming powers that Elijah and Moses had to indicate that their words were from the One True God. Elijah called down drought (cf. 1 Kings 17:1, James 5:16) and fire (2 Kings 1:10); and, Moses turned water into blood (Ex. 7:14-18) and brought plagues (Ex. 8:12).
f. They will die after 3-and-a-half-years, when God allows it.
g. Their bodies will lay on the street, unburied, for 3 1/2 days of ignominy (symbolizing the 3 1/2 years of preaching) to give people time to mock and be set up for the next event. Much as Jesus was in the grave for 3 days during which Satan savored his apparent victory before it turned to defeat..
h. They are resurrected and brought to Heaven. After 3 1/2 days the “breath of life from God entered them” and God called from Heaven “‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to Heaven in a cloud”
There are several possible interpretations as to who these witnesses might be. Some of the more popular follow. As I mentioned in the beginning, my favorite is Enoch and Elijah:
1. Enoch and Elijah—both of these O. T. figures were prophets and both never died. We know that Adam and Eve were created in flesh which was not corrupted and intended to last forever. Thus, it is not impossible for God to have kept Enoch and Elijah bodily with Him until their final ministry unfolded. Hebrews 9:27 assures us that “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” Since the two witnesses eventually do die, this would nicely complete this Scripture for all men. The two witnesses are clearly prominent prophets. Enoch’s reported words, stated in Jude 14-15, fit with an End Times ministry: “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.” After dying, the witnesses are resurrected and gain a glorified body. The primary negative argument used against seeing Enoch as one of the witnesses is that the passage in Revelation indicates miracles that Moses did in Egypt. However, wonders and miracles are done to authenticate God’s Word. Using miracles of water to blood and plagues, well known to almost everyone in the world, would not demand that only Moses can be this Prophet.
2. Moses and Elijah—these figures are indeed clearly suggested by the miracles mentioned in this passage of Revelation. However, God often used fire and plague throughout the Old Testament as signs to confirm that the God of Israel was behind the activities. Holders of this view (and the one above) cite Malachi 4:5, which tells us that “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” Jesus said that John the Baptizer was a fulfillment of Elijah (Matt. 17:11-12). Yet, it does not rule out Elijah coming again. And Deut. 18:18 refers to Moses saying, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren.” This does not say that Moses himself would come back. We know that Christ came as “a prophet like Moses” (Jn. 6:14, Heb. 3:3) Deut. 34:5-6 clearly tells us that Moses died, God buried him, and no one knows where. Jude 9 (a popular view is that this is alluding to the pseudepigraphical Assumption of Moses; other see it as a parallel to Zech. 3:1-2) suggests to some that Michael took the body of Moses. If one of the witnesses is Moses, then he must die twice.
3. These two witnesses could just be individuals who come “in the spirit of Elijah and Moses” from among believers living after the Rapture, who would be “modern day prophets for the True God” in the End Times. This view does not present any real problems.
4. These two witnesses are not individuals; rather, witnessing Churches. John uses the symbolism of “lampstands” in chapter 1 of Revelations as symbols of Churches. There are two Churches because of the “second witness” requirement in Deut. 19:15 (“One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits, by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.”) Such an interpretation makes the death, three-and-a- half-day unburied, and resurrection rather forced.
I hope this discussion has clarified your question and given you some interesting additional appreciation for God’s Word.