IV. Extraordinary Success. Elias and Enoch will Return
It is certain that neither Elias nor Enoch are dead. It is written, Enoch walked with God and disappeared. (Gen. 5:22-24). Enoch, according to the wise man, was pleasing to God, who placed him in paradise. (Ecclesiasticus 44:16). And St. Paul says that Enoch was removed, that he might not see death. (Heb. 11:5). The Scripture is still more explicit relative to Elias. He is said to have been walking in company with Eliseus on the banks of the Jordan when he was carried off in a fiery chariot to heaven. (4 Kings 2:11). Eccelsiasticus (48:9) and Machabees (Book 1, 2:58) allude to the same fact. All the Fathers are in perfect accord on this point and teach it as an apostolic tradition; we shall quote here only St. Irenaeus (Lib. 4, c.30). The disciples of the Apostles say that those who were carried off from this world otherwise than by death were placed in a terrestrial paradise and that they will remain there till the end of the world in an incorruptible state.
Theologians assign many reasons for this signal favor. They maintain that God desired to show by the preservation of these two men during so many centuries the possibility of the indefinite permanence of man upon earth and to confirm our faith in the general resurrection of the body, for, as the sequel will show, these men shall die and rise again at the Last Judgment.
V. Conjectures on the Place of Their Sojourn and on the Kind of Life They Lead
Where are they? No one knows. Ecclesiasticus says that Enoch was translated to paradise (44:16), whence some of the holy Fathers have concluded that they dwell in the terrestrial paradise; but the term "paradise" is amphibological and may signify any place of repose and delight, for it appears to be certain that the terrestrial paradise no longer exists, at least since the Deluge. Some of the Fathers, with St. Jerome, believe that they have been translated to some heavenly body. (Hier, in Amos. 9). It is in this way that they account for the fact of Elias being carried off in the heavens. But the word heaven may also mean the atmosphere with which the earth is surrounded. Hence it is more probable that they were conveyed to a part of the earth yet unexplored, a delightful paradise that will not be discovered before the end of the world. (Suarez de Myst. vit. Christi.).
But how do they live in this unknown place since it is certain that they are not yet in a glorified state? They know God only by the same means we do, namely, by faith and reason, or contemplation; they do not behold Him face to face, as do the elect. Their bodies are not yet endowed with the qualities of those that are glorified. However, it is certain that their life is different from ours. As St. Augustine remarks (de peccat. merit 3), their life is neither of earth nor of heaven. They are no longer pilgrims in this world, and it is very probable that they are unable to merit until they return to this life again. St. Thomas asserts that they live on the fruit of the Tree of Life, which was Adam's food before he sinned. Or, to speak more correctly, with St. Jerome (Epist. ad Panmach.), their bodies are spiritualized, and consequently do not need food as we do to sustain life. If they use any, it must be a spiritual food which God knows how to furnish. This opinion of St. Jerome is very probable since this kind of food suits best those who live on the word of God and who take their delight in contemplating His perfections. (Bernard, Serm. 6, de Ascens. Domini.). If it is certain that they are unable to offend God, that they are totally delivered from all the irregular movements of concupiscence, it is not unlikely that they are frequently visited by God and His angels and favored with many revelations. Can it be said that they ignore the accomplishment of the mysteries of the Incarnation and work of our salvation? Did not Elias assist at the Transfiguration of Our Lord? (Mat. 17:3; Mk. -9:3; Lk. 9:30). It is also probable that they know and are interested in what takes place in this world. Many miracles wrought through the intercession of Elias prove that they are not complete strangers to human events.
VI. Will Elias and Enoch Return? and How Will They Oppose Antichrist?
To deny that Elias and Enoch will return in person would be, according to Bellarmine and Suarez, if not heterodoxy, at least erroneous. Their coming is announced by the Sacred Scriptures in four different places. The prophet (Malachias 4:5) says: "I will send you Elias the prophet before the coming of the great day of the Lord, and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers." Again, in Ecclesiasticus 48:10, it is said that Elias was "predestined in the judgments of times to appease the wrath of the Lord, reconcile the heart ofthe father to the son, and to restore the tribes of Jacob." Finally, we read in the Gospel according to St. Matthew (17:11), "Elias indeed shall come and restore all things."
Relative to the return of Enoch, the Sacred Scriptures speak only once in a formal manner. Enoch pleased God and was translated into paradise, that he may come and give repentance to the nations. (Ecclesiasticus 44:16). And although they are not nominally specified in the Apocalypse, still it is plain to be seen that they are designated as the two prophets who will be the adversaries of Antichrist. (Apoc. 11: 3-12).
Elias and Enoch will come in person and not in spirit; such is the obvious meaning of the Sacred Scriptures and the holy Fathers. For why should God wrest them from the common lot of mankind and give them such a long life if it be not His design to confide to them an extraordinary mission at the end of the world? And moreover, would it not be most useful to men whose faith begins to waver to have a clear notion of the identity of the origin of the law of nature, of the written law, and of the law of grace, especially when that knowledge is obtained from men who bear witness to the time in which they lived, to the fidelity and veracity of our God.
VII. What to Think of the Return of Moses, Jeremias, and St. John the
Some of the Fathers, as also some theologians, have thought that
Moses, Jeremias, and St. John the Evangelist will also return on the earth before the end of the world. We shall cite some of the reasons upon which this opinion is founded.
St. Hilary (Can. 20, in Mat.), one of those who maintain that Moses will return, pretends that this prophet is not yet dead, and that since he witnessed the glory of the Saviour on Tabor in his first advent, he ought to bear witness to it also in His second coming. But these reasons are only little better than simple conjectures. Is it not said in Deuteronomy that Moses died and that the children of Israel bewailed his death for thirty days? (Deut. 34:5-8).
Some ecclesiastical authors believed that Jeremias was reserved to prophesy to the Gentiles (Jer. 25 :30), which he has not as yet done and because the Scripture does not speak of his death. But it may be said that he prophesied among the Gentiles in preaching to the children of Israel dispersed among the Babylonians and the people of Egypt. The fact of the Scripture saying nothing of his death does not prove that he is still living. Moreover, we are informed by tradition that he was stoned to death in Egypt and that his tomb was held in great veneration by the people of that country. (Epiphan. lib. de Prophet, vit.; Isidor. lib. de vita et morte Sane tor; Dorithen, in Synopsi.)
There are good reasons in favor of the opinion that St. John the Evangelist will return. They are as follows: Our Lord, in speaking to St. Peter, said of the beloved disciple: "Lo if I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee?" (In. 21 :22). While He says of the sons of Zebedee that they shall die martyrs. You shall drink of my chalice. (Mat. 20:23). It is certain that St. John was not martyred. The prophecy not being yet fulfilled, there is reason to believe that he has been reserved to fall at the hands of Antichrist; there appears to be no other motive for the delay of his martyrdom. In the Apocalypse (10:11), an angel says to St. John: "Thou must prophesy again to many nations and peoples and kings." This prediction is not yet realized and most probably will not till near the end of the world. To this may be added the fact that we have no relics of the holy Apostle and that singular things are said of his disappearance. He is said to have shut himself up in a tomb and then ordered those present to retire; when his disciples returned on the following day, they could find no trace of him, and since that time he has never been heard from. These facts show that St. John rather disappeared than died. This opinion is, moreover, sustained by concomitant reasons. Since in those latter times men will have the advantage of seeing and hearing two men as witnesses of the natural and the written law, why not someone to bear witness to the law of grace also? And who could do this better than St. John? He lived in the most intimate familiarity with Our Divine Lord and consequently is well calculated to bear Him witness and disclose the artifices of Antichrist since he foretold for centuries beforehand about the "man of sin." For these reasons St. Hippolytus (de Cons. Mundi.), St. Ambrose (in LUG. 7), Simeon Metaphraste (in Vita Joan), with others sustain this opinion.
However, it must be admitted that the contrary opinion is the more probable.