The Bible tells stories of great men who were noble examples of faith in God. Through the moral darkness of this world, they shine as stars in the midnight sky, helping all who want to build upright characters to cooperate with God.
1) Yes, I have always felt that since we can go through life only once, we should learn to build noble, upright characters. I feel that the reading of biographies of great men and women is a great help to us in this direction.
Answer: In Genesis the first noble character is Abel, who was slain by his brother Cain. Heb. 11:4 says: "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts, and through it he being dead still speaks." "Not as Cain who was of the wicked one who murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother's righteous." (1 John 3:12)
2) In Heb. 11:5 I read: "By faith Enoch was translated so that he did not see death, and was not found because God had translated him'; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." Is this story in Genesis?
Answer: Yes, Gen. 5:21-24says, "Enoch lived 65 years and begot Methuselah. After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years, and begot sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were 365 years. And Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him." This record is unique. When a Chinese Christian dies, his friends sometimes say, "God took him." But this is not Bible language. The Bible has different ways to refer to a man's death, but never says, "God took him". Only when a man goes to heaven without dying, does the Bible say that God took him.
3) It is a strange case, and many find it hard to believe. Is there any other man who was taken by God to heaven?
Answer: Yes, the prophet Elijah, recorded in 2 Kings 2:9-12. Here again the Bible says he was taken away. We need to rectify the idea many people have about the state of the dead. Many think that when a man dies, his soul either goes to heaven or to hell. But to comfort his friends and loved ones, it is customary among Chinese Christians to say that the dead has been "called to heaven", or "God has taken him away". This is generally understood to apply to the disembodied soul. Now if it is true that the souls of Christians go to heaven at death, then there will be two kinds of human beings in heaven. Most of them will be disembodied souls, while at least two men ----Enoch and Elijah---will have bodies as well as souls. That would be a strange society! Pray tell: Is heaven really composed of two kinds of people?
4) That is a real problem! Some do have a hazy idea of the state of the dead. What is the best way to speak of it?
Answer: Jesus calls it a sleep, because all the dead will one day rise again. In 1 Thess. 4:13,14 Paul also calls it a sleep. He said, "I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if you believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus." Note the words "even so", which means that all who sleep in Jesus will rise from the grave in the same manner as Christ was brought out by God from the grave. So we should speak of dead Christians as "asleep in Jesus."
5) I see it is best for Christians to use Bible language. It is also a comforting thought for the bereaved to know that their loved ones are asleep. But what about the story of the rich man and Lazarus? Aren't they disembodied souls?
Answer: You have brought up a vital topic which we must deal with later. We will make a special study on the state of the dead as revealed in the Bible. Today we are studying the lives of three great men: Abel, Enoch and Noah. There is one more point in the life of Enoch that deserves our attention: He was taken to heaven without seeing death to teach the world an important truth. Genesis repeats the words, "Enoch walked with God." It is a beautiful thought. A man walking with God for three hundred years! One Bible commentator Ellen White wrote these words about Enoch:
"Of Enoch it is written that he lived 65 years, and begat a son. After that he walked with God 300 years. . . During those earlier years Enoch had loved and feared God and had kept His commandments. He was one of the holy line, the preservers of the true faith, the progenitors of the promised Seed. From the lips of Adam he had learned the dark story of the Fall, and the cheering one of God's grace as seen in the promise; and he relied upon the Redeemer to come.
"But after the birth of his first son, Enoch reached a higher experience; he was drawn into a closer relationship with God. He realized more fully his own obligations and responsibility as a son of God. And as he saw the child's love for his father, its simple trust in his protection, as he felt the deep, yearning tenderness of his own heart for that first-born son, he learned a precious lesson of the wonderful love of God to men in the gift of His Son, and the confidence which the children of God may repose in their heavenly Father. The infinite, unfathomable love of God through Christ became the subject of his meditations day and night; and with all the fervor of his soul he sought to reveal that love to the people among whom he dwelt." Patriarchs & Prophets, p. 84.
6) These are precious thoughts. If that is how Enoch walked with God, I think that we too can reach that standard.
Answer: Yes! I believe that if we take matters as seriously as Enoch, we certainly can and should learn to walk with God in our daily lives. Note how Ellen White points out below that it was in daily living that Enoch walked with God:
"Enoch's walk with God was not in a trance or vision, but in all the duties of his daily life. He did not become a hermit, shutting himself entirely from the world; for he had a work to do for the world. In the family and his intercourse with men, as a husband and father, a friend, a citizen, he was the steadfast, unwavering servant of the Lord. . .
"For three hundred years Enoch had been seeking purity of soul. For three centuries he had walked with God. Day by day he had longed for a closer union, nearer and nearer had grown the communion, until God took him to Himself. He had stood at the threshold of the eternal world, only a step between him and the land of the blest; and now the portals opened; the walk with God, so long pursued on earth, continued, and he passed through the gates of the Holy City---the first from among men to enter there." Op.cit., p. 85-87.
Enoch's experience had another lesson for his generation. 57 years before he was taken to heaven, the news of the death of Adam, the progenitor of our race, filled all mankind with despair. Since the first man made by God has fallen in the grave, what hope is there for his descendants? The certain fate of all humanity caused many to lose hope. Now, 57 years after Adam's death, the news of Enoch's ascension sent a message of hope to every heart: There's a way out! Learn from Enoch's example and walk with God. But it is a pity that his example was followed by only one man---Noah.
7) So Noah was another great character recorded in Genesis. Please tell us what the Bible says about him.
Answer: We read: "Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God." So this is the only other man the Bible says, "walked with God". And God had a special plan for him. For by this time the world had become very corrupt. We read in Gen. 6:5, "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. . . So the Lord said, 'I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.' But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. . . Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
"The earth also was corrupt before God, and was filled with violence. . . And God said to Noah: 'Make yourself an ark of gopher-wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. . .The length of the ark shall be 300 cubits, its width 50 cubits, and its height 30cubits. . .And behold, I Myself am bringing the flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; and everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark---you, your sons, your wife, and your son's wives with you.. . . And you shall take for yourself of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to yourself; and it shall be food for you and for them.' Thus Noah did: according to all that God commanded him, so he did. "Then the Lord said to Noah, 'Come into the ark, you and your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, male and female.'
"In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights. . . The waters increased and lifted up the ark, . . And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heavens were covered . . .and the mountains were covered. . . And all flesh died that moved on the earth. . . Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive. . . And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days. . . And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided. The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were also stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained. . . Then the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat. . . "And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, that the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and indeed the surface of the ground was dry. . . .And God spoke to Noah, saying: 'Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and your sons' wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing. . . Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. . . Then God spoke to Noah . .saying: 'Behold, I establish My covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, . . .Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood ; . . This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you; for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.' " (Gen. 6:9-22; 7:11-24; 8:13-20; 9:8-13)
8) This is an interesting story. Since it is a world-wide event, do other races beside the Jews have such a history?
Answer: Yes, historians have found over 30 races who have preserved age-old legends of a world-wide flood. Babylonian cuneiform tablets have a similar story, but are corrupted by polytheistic details. Only the Bible preserves a scientific record of the year, month and day of the beginning and ending of the rain and the resting of the ark on Ararat.
The Chinese legend of "Nu-Wa smelting five-colored rocks to patch up the heavens" harks back to the Bible scene of Noah offering sacrifices on a rocky altar, whose smoke ascends against the backdrop of a five-colored rainbow spanning the "patched-up" heavens which are raining no more. Nu-wa is the oldest patriarch in Chinese ancient history.
The names of two of Noah's sons, Shem and Japheth, are preserved in the names of Shen-nong and Fu-xi, two oldest patriarchs contemporary with Nu-wa. Note the phonetic radical of Shem coincide with Shen-nong, and the "ph" and "th" in Japheth tally with Fu-xi. The "xi" is pronounced hsi, which is the Hebrew pronunciation of "th". The "Ja" in Japheth is a weak consonant easily lost in transmission. One may ask: why is Ham's name not also found in Chinese legend? One possible explanation is that the Chinese people hold to an ancient tradition of filial piety. Ham was cursed
for dishonoring his father, so probably, the Chinese refused to place his name in the roster of revered ancestors.
9) Can you present scientific evidence to show that the whole earth was truly once submerged under deep water?
Answer: Yes. There are two universal geological phenomena which are best explained by the Bible flood story.
Another condition observed in coal mines is big diagonal tree trunks stabbing through two or three seams of coal. They prove that multiple seams of coal were rapidly formed in a short space of time. If the diagonal tree trunks were exposed for a million years before another seam was formed, they would have decayed long before turning into coal.
10) All this is very convincing. The Bible record is scientific. Do the New Testament books also speak of the flood?
Answer: Jesus said, "As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of man be."(Matt. 24:37)
In 2 Peter 3:5 we read: "This they willfully forget: that by the word of God, the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." It is a fact that the flood in Noah's day buried extensive beds of coal and buried much marine life which yielded the present oil fields, to be fuel for the last day. Peter says, "Since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness." (2 Peter 3:11) Let us follow Enoch and Noah's example and walk with God. Their lives prove that it is possible to live holy lives in a sinful environment.
We have studied the lives of three great men, and touched upon two important topics: the state of the dead and the second coming of Jesus. We invite you to join us again next time as we study the topic of the second coming of Jesus.
We also invite every one of you to accept the eternal life which Christ the Son of God offers you now.