Was John the only one who was not to taste of death until a certain time in the far future? What about Enoch? Die he ever taste of death? We know he “walked with God.” We know “God took him.” But what does that mean?
At a time when everyone seemed to be living 700 to 900 or more years (incredible as that sounds), we know that Enoch only lived 365 years.
On the other hand, his son, Methuselah, was the oldest living man on record, dying at the ripe old age of 969 years. So, Enoch’s lifespan of 365 years needs to have an asterisk associated with it.
And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah:
And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:
And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. (Gen. 5:21-24.)
Paul, several thousand years later, knew of this and testified to the Hebrew saints:
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:5-6.)
By inference, we may postulate that John was also translated “that he should not see death,” that he might “tarry” until the coming of Jesus in power and great glory. It appears that John and Enoch still had things to do for God on earth that required their “living” presence.
By this, I mean, that for whatever reason, John and Enoch needed their corporeal bodies to continue God’s work on earth, which they no longer would have had, had they died. Of course, those bodies would need to incur some sort of change so they would not die. Hence, we have translation, whatever that entails.
While it is not specifically mentioned as a translation, it appears that Elijah, and perhaps Moses as well, were translated. Elijah, according to the reports, was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind, while “there appeared a chariot of fire” to distract Elisha from seeing him taken away. (See II Kings 2:1-11.)
We also know that the burial place of Moses was never found, although it is said that he died and was buried by the Lord. (See Deuteronomy 34:5-6.) Still, we have no proof of that.
It is not so much important that Elijah and Moses were translated, but rather that it be understood that translation was a known fact among the early apostles.
While the word “translation” was not mentioned in the context of John, the circumstances surrounding his tarrying and Enoch’s translation are too close to consider mere coincidence. It is therefore my belief and contention that John the Beloved was translated that he might not taste of death so he could perform a special mission for Christ, as outlined in the Book of Revelation.
The question may then be asked: If John and others were indeed translated, does that mean they’ll never have to die? The short answer is, “No.”
Remember, Jesus did not say that John, for instance, should not die, only that he was to tarry. Paul also talked about death in his discourse on the resurrection:
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22; emphasis mine.)
Here, we see that Paul made no exceptions for translated beings. And we know he was aware of them.
I suspect that the deaths of translated beings will be short and quick, as those Paul mentioned a few verses later:
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52.)
In summary, John was beloved of Jesus; an apostle and special witness of Jesus Christ, his works and mission; a prophet; a great revelator; and a lover of all mankind. He was translated in order to continue his work among the children of men.
We would all do well to emulate this great man.