1 Enoch on the Eternal Doom of the Wicked
The conclusion of the story of the rebellion of the Watchers in 1 Enoch is their terrible binding and eternal imprisonment:
Go, Michael, bind Shemihazah and the others with him, … bind them … in the valleys of the earth, until the day of their judgment. … Then they will be led away to the fiery abyss, and to the torture, and to the prison where they will be confined forever.
Blake’s drawing above illustrates Canto 31 of Dante’s Divine Comedy. After seeing what he mistakenly thinks is a ring of towers surrounding a central deep, Dante is told by Virgil about the Giants who are sunk to their waists in a well whose massive drop leads to Cocytus, a great frozen lake of the lowest region of hell. Their defiant rebellion, born of the same envy and pride that ruled the fallen angels who “rained down from heaven” in the beginning, was the more terrible and destructive because of the coupling of their evil will with the brute force of their mighty stature. Now reduced to pale mountainous shapes amidst the chaos, they stand eternally unmoved by the sharp fires of lightning above and the rude blasts of icy storm winds swirling upward from below.
Repentance and Salvation for the Wicked
Both the Book of Moses and the Book of Giants contain a “prediction of utter destruction and the confining in prison that is to follow” which is similar in some ways to 1 Enoch. From the Book of Moses we read:
But behold, these … shall perish in the floods; and behold, I will shut them up; a prison have I prepared for them.
Likewise, in the Book of Giants we read: “he has imprisoned us and overpowered yo[u.”
Although these three accounts are similar in a general way, there is an important difference between the outlook of 1 Enoch and that found in the Book of Moses and the Book of Giants—namely the possibility of repentance and salvation for those who have sinned. Jed Woodworth summarizes:
What is the fate of those who perish in the flood? In [1 Enoch], there is one fate only: everlasting punishment. Those who are destroyed in the flood are beyond redemption. For God to be reconciled, sinners must suffer forever. Enoch has nothing to say because God has no merciful side to appeal to. In [the Book of Moses account], however, punishment has an end. The merciful side of God allows Enoch to speak and be heard. God and Enoch speak a common language: mercy. “Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look,” God says to Enoch after the flood. There is hope for the wicked yet:
I will shut them up; a prison have I prepared for them. And that which I have chosen hath pled before my face. Wherefore, he suffereth for their sins; inasmuch as they will repent in the day that my Chosen shall return unto me, and until that day they shall be in torment.
The Messiah figure in [1 Enoch 45–47] and in [the Book of Moses] function in different ways. In [the Book of Moses], the Chosen One will come to earth at the meridian of time to rescue the sinners of Enoch’s day. After the Messiah’s death and resurrection, “as many of the spirits as were in prison came forth, and stood on the right hand of God.” The Messiah figure in [1 Enoch] does not come down to earth and is peripheral to the text; he presides over the “elect” around God’s throne but does not rescue the sinners of Enoch’s day. “In the day of trouble evil shall [still] be heaped upon sinners,” he tells Enoch [in that account].
Though the Book of Giants similarly does not hold out the possibility of salvation for the gibborim once they have died in their sins (in contrast to the Book of Moses), it does record Enoch’s hope for them if they repent in this life: “Now, then, unfasten your chains [of sin]… and pray.” Images of repentant sinners pleading for forgiveness may be precisely what we see in the Manichaean Cosmology Painting shown above.
Likewise, in Moses 6:52, Enoch preaches that it is not too late for the wicked if they heed the commandment of the Lord “that all men, everywhere, must repent.” In this respect, the outlook of the Book of Moses and the Book of Giants toward Enoch’s adversaries are similar to each other and different from 1 Enoch.
Is there evidence in the Book of Giants that any of the gibborim repented? Though we find no evidence in currently known Book of Giants fragments from Qumran, hints that some of the gibborim responded to Enoch’s call to repentance can be found in one manuscript of a Manichaean version of the Book of Giants. As summarized by Matthew Goff:
According to Text G, one half of the giants are moved westward and the other eastward. The westward group is relocated in cities specifically built for them—thirty-two cities in an area near Mount Sumeru, the omphalos mundi [i.e., “navel of the world,” the center of the sacred—cf. the gathering of the righteous to the city of Enoch?] of Indian tradition. No reason is given as to why the giants are placed in cities. The division of the giants along an east-west axis suggests two opposed fates for them—one half was killed and the other survived. This could be explained by positing that some of the giants repented and changed their ways while others did not.
Additionally, Goff reports:
In text E [of the Manichaean Book of Giants] the [gibborim] are divided into two camps, one of which rejoices in seeing the “apostle” [i.e., Enoch] and the other, described as “tyrants and criminals,” becomes afraid when they see him.  … The Manichaean Book of Giants and the Kephalaia preserve two traditions that are significant for the interpretation of the Qumran Book of Giants. One, some giants became remorseful for their crimes and confessed and, two, that a substantial number of giants were not killed but rather lived in cities built for them.
What about the fate of Mahaway, the go-between of the prophet and the gibborim and the seeming dual of the Book of Moses Mahijah/Mahujah? Jens Wilkens reminds the reader that in one Book of Giants text Enoch called out Mahaway’s name “very lovingly” as they met. Wilkens continues by observing: “One is tempted to postulate an emotional relationship between this particular [gibbor] and Enoch. The former obviously is not as corrupted as his fellows.” To answer the question about Mahaway’s fate, we turn to Wilkens’ summary of the contents of a Middle Persian fragment that deals with the violent death of the gibborim:
In lines 8–10 of the verso we find the following statement: “the great angel has slain that messenger whom they had.” As Mahaway is the messenger par excellence of the [gibborim] both in the Enochic tradition from Qumran and in Manichaeism, the text apparently refers to him.
Whether Mahaway was repentant or recalcitrant when he died we are not told directly, but the fact that the account relates his being slain by “the great angel” evinces the belief that he remained too long in the “tents of [the] wicked” and for that reason, if for no other, he ultimately shared in their sad demise.
Enoch’s Mission as a Foreshadowing of Postmortem Evangelization
In this short article, we cannot do justice to the details of the sharp disagreements among modern Christians on the fate of those who have died without having the opportunity to hear and understand the Gospel or whether those who have so heard may be afforded the possibility of repentance. But in a popular book entitled What About Those Who Have Never Heard? Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized, John Sanders has assembled the views of proponents (Sanders himself included) of three important positions, of which he gives the following thumbnail sketches:
Ronald Nash presents a view that he calls restrictivism. According to this view, God provides salvation only in Jesus Christ, and it is necessary to know about the work of Christ and exercise faith in Jesus before one dies if one is to be saved. …
John Sanders advocates a position known as inclusivism. In this model God saves people only because of the work of Christ, but people may be saved even if they do not know about Christ. God grants them salvation if they exercise faith in God as revealed to them through creation and providence. …
Gabriel Fackre propounds the view he calls divine perseverance (sometimes called postmortem evangelization). According to this view, those who die unevangelized receive an opportunity for salvation after death. God condemns no one without first seeing what his or her response to Christ is.
Obviously, the third position is closest to that of the Latter-day Saints. Though this view “has been the dominant interpretation [from at least AD 150] until recently, [it] has been strongly criticized by several writers” as being inconsistent with New Testament teachings.
Those who accept the possibility of postmortem evangelization, including not only Latter-day Saints but also early Christians and selected scholars from outside the Church, frequently cite 1 Peter 3:18–20 and 4:5–6. But it is not common knowledge among Latter-day Saints that Peter is making allusion to Enoch in these verses.
In the most radical version of this interpretation, 1 Peter 3:19–22 has sometimes been translated to include a parenthetical statement that describes Enoch’s preaching mission to the rebellious sinners of Noah’s time. For example, in James Moffatt’s New Testament translation, we read:
19 It was in the Spirit that Enoch also went and preached to the imprisoned spirits 20 who had disobeyed at the time when God’s patience held out during the construction of the ark in the days of Noah, the ark by which only a few souls, eight in all, were brought safely through the water. 21 Baptism, the counterpart of that, saves you today (not the mere washing of dirt from the flesh but the prayer for a clean conscience before God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ who is at God’s right hand—22 for he went to heaven after angels, authorities, and powers celestial had been made subject to him.
As an argument for substituting this translation for the awkward King James Bible phrase of v. 19 (“in which also he went”), advocates note that adding the letter chi to the Greek text changes “in which also” to “Enoch also” (i.e., ΕΝΩΚΑΙ thus becomes ΕΝΩΧΚΑΙ). A textual error of this sort, it is argued, could have been produced by an accidental or deliberate omission by a scribe. Though the hypothesis is intriguing, most contemporary scholars consider it very unlikely.
Notwithstanding the improbability of the translation above, George Nickelsburg does not doubt that Peter is “alluding to the tradition about the Watchers” of 1 Enoch,” and in 1 Peter 3:19–20 “attributes to Jesus a journey to the underworld that parallels Enoch’s interaction with the rebel watchers,” while comparing “baptism with the purifying effects of the Flood.” If Nickelsburg is correct, then Peter’s writings imply the hope that God’s mercy will be extended even to the wicked who rejected Enoch while they lived on earth, such that, through eventual repentance and the power of the Atonement, they might eventually “live according to God in the spirit.” Arguing on the basis of 1 Peter and Moses 7:37–38, Hugh Nibley gives hope of eventual deliverance for these souls:
Those in prison, chains, and darkness are only being kept there until the Judgment, which will liberate many, not only because of their repentance, but through the power of the Atonement. … It was specifically the spirits who were disobedient in Enoch’s day who were to enjoy the preaching of the Lord and the promise of deliverance in the meridian of times.
This article was adapted and expanded from Bradshaw, Jeffrey M., and David J. Larsen. Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel. In God’s Image and Likeness 2. Salt Lake City, UT: The Interpreter Foundation and Eborn Books, 2014, pp. 49, 149.
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———. II Peter and Jude: A Handbook on the Greek Text. Waco, TX: Baylor University, 2011.
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Compare from the Manichaean Kephalia (I. Gardner, Kephalaia, Chapter 45 (Codex 117), p. 123): “Again, before the watchers rebelled and came down from heaven, a prison was fashioned and constructed for them in the depths of the earth, below the mountains.”
For discussions of the theme of the imprisonment of the wicked at the time of Noah as it appears in the Bible, see J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, Caption to Figure E24-1, p. 588; P. H. Davids, II Peter, pp. 9-11, 69-70; J. H. Neyrey, 2 Peter, Jude, p. 202; P. H. Davids, Letters, pp. 48-51, 225-226; C. Rowland et al., Mystery of God, pp. 58-59; G. W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, p. 560; J. C. VanderKam, Enoch, p. 172; A. Y. Reed, Fallen, pp. 104-107; P. J. Achtemeier, 1 Peter, pp. 239-274.
What are the chances that there is some mixing or cross borrowing between the stories of people who lived on earth in Enoch’s time and what may have been taught about the war in heaven in the pre-mortal existence? This might account for the differences in the eternal fate of the wicked in that those who lost their first estate have lost it forever but those who opposed Enoch in their second estate still have the potential to receive the gospel and inherit a kingdom of glory.
John Sanders (as cited by Gabriel Fackre in J. Sanders, Never Heard, pp. 86–87) writes the following with regard to the history of the concept of postmortem evangelization:
From at least the second century there was no more well-known and popular belief, including the Descent to Hades, the overcoming of Death and Hades, the Preaching to the Dead, and the Release of Souls, and its popularity steadily increased.” That the doctrine was taken for granted by AD 150 is evident from the fact that the heretics Marcion and the Valentinians, who were criticized on most of their beliefs by the early Church Fathers, were not challenged at all on this point. Both the early Fathers and the heretics agreed that Christ descended into hell. … It can be concluded from this that the doctrine of Christ’s descent into hell and the release of souls therefrom was established by the end of the first century. The only question this time involved who was released.
On early Christian apocrypha relating to the “harrowing of hell,” see J. K. Elliott, Apocryphal, The Gospel of Nicodemus or Acts of Pilate, pp. 185–204; G. A. Anderson, Perfection, pp. 155–176; E. Hennecke et al., NT Apocrypha, 1:470–481.
There are many reasons for suspecting that 1 Peter is familiar with Enochic traditions. … Also of interest is the reference in 1 Peter to Christ making a proclamation to spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:18–20). Many understand the imprisoned spirits to be the angels who are familiar from the Book of the Watchers; these mated with mortals, shared forbidden knowledge (G. W. E. Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch 1, chapters 6-8, pp. 174-201), and were imprisoned in an abyss or pit prior to the final conflagration (ibid., chapters 9–18; 21, pp. 202–289, 297–299). Comparable to the setting in the Enochic narrative in the Book of the Watchers (see ibid., 10:1-3, p. 215), the Petrine author links the captive spirits at the time of the flood (1 Peter 3:20). Jesus’ encounter with the imprisoned beings in 1 Peter 3:19–20 is likened to Enoch’s viewing of places of punishment and intercession for the rebellious watchers.
K. C. Bautch, Peter, p. 23 also describes connections in other apocryphal texts attributed to Peter:
Brief allusion is made to Jesus’ preaching to the dead in the Gospel of Peter (J. K. Elliott, Apocryphal, 39–42, pp. 156–157), but visits to the realm of the dead, a paradise, and places of post-mortem punishment are arguably the focus of the Apocalypse of Peter (ibid., pp. 593–612). … Similarly many of the early Enochic texts, especially chapters 17–36 of the Book of the Watchers, concern the patriarch’s visit to the realm of the dead and places associated with post-mortem punishment or eschatological blessing.
Cleanse the earth from all impurity and from all wrong
And from all lawlessness and from all sin;
And godlessness and all impurities that have come upon the earth, remove.
Other allusions to 1 Enoch might also be cited, e.g., ibid., 108:6, p. 551:
And he said to me, “The place that you see — here are thrown the spirits of the sinners and blasphemers and those who do evil and those who alter everything that the Lord has said by the mouth of the prophets [about] the things that will be done.
Ibid., 16:1, p. 267:
The day of the consummation of the great judgment [i.e., the day when the spirits of the wicked giants will have no more power over humankind]
Ibid., 21:10, p. 297 (see also 21:6):
And he said, This place is a prison for the angels. Here they will be confined forever.
Additional allusions are found in the pseudepigraphal Odes of Solomon, probably a Jewish-Christian text from about AD 100. For example, J. H. Charlesworth, Odes, 17:9, p. 750:
And from there he gave me the way of his paths,
And I opened the doors which were closed.
Ibid., 34:5, p. 757:
And the chasms were opened and closed;
And they were seeking the Lord as those who are about to give birth.
Ibid., 42:10–20, p. 771:
11. Sheol saw me and was shattered,
And Death ejected me and many with me. …
14. And I made a congregation of living among his dead;
And I spoke with them by living lips;
I order that my word may not fail.
15. And those who had died ran toward me;
And they cried out and said, “Son of God, have pity on us.
16. And deal with us according to your kindness,
And bring us out from the chains of darkness.
17. And open for us the door
By which we may go forth to you,
For we perceive that our death does not approach you.
18. May we also be saved with you,
Because you are our Savior.”
19. Then I heard their voice,
And placed their faith in my heart.
20. And I placed my name upon their head,
Because they are free and they are mine.
[W]hile one portion of the human race are judging and condemning the other without mercy, the great parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care, and paternal regard; he views them as his offspring; and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men, causes “his sun to rise on the evil and the good; and sends his rain on the just and unjust” [see Matthew 5:45]. He holds the reins of judgment in his hands [see Psalm 11:7; D&C 39:16, 18]; he is a wise lawgiver [see Isaiah 33:22; James 4:12; D&C 38:22; 64:13], and will judge all men [D&C 137:9], -[not according to the narrow contracted notions of men, but]- “according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil” [see 2 Corinthians 5:10; Alma 5:15]; or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey India: he will judge them “not according to what they have not, but according to what they have;” those who have lived without law, will be judged without law [see Romans 2:12; 2 Nephi 9:25–27; Alma 29:5; D&C 29:49–50], and those who have a law, will be judged by that law [Alma 42:21–23]; we need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the great Jehovah [see Moroni 10:34; D&C 128:9], he will award judgment [see 2 Nephi 2:10] or mercy [see Zechariah 7:9; Matthew 23:23; Alma 41:14; D&C 43:25; 88:40; Moses 6:61] to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed; the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information; and his inscrutable designs [see D&C 3:1] in relation to the human family: and when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess, that the Judge of all the earth has done right [see Genesis 18:25; Psalm 94:2].
The situation of the Christian nations after death is a subject that has called forth all the wisdom, and talent of the philosopher, and the divine; and it is an opinion which is generally received, that the destiny of man is irretrievably fixed at his death; and that he is made either eternally happy, or eternally miserable’ [see Alma 41:3-6] that if a man dies without a knowledge of God [see Hosea 4:1; 1 Corinthians 15:34; Words of Mormon 1:8; D&C 137:7], he must be eternally damned [see Mark 3:29; D&C 19:7; 29:44]; without any mitigation of his punishment, alleviation of his pain or the most latent hope of a deliverance while endless ages shall roll along. However orthodox this principle may be, we shall find that it is at variance with the testimony of holy writ; for our Saviour says that all manner of sin, and blasphemy shall be forgiven men wherewith they shall blaspheme; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven [see Mark 3:28-29], neither in this world, nor in the world to come [see Matthew 12:31-32]; evidently showing that there are sins which may be forgiven in the world to come; although the sin of blasphemy cannot be forgiven.
Peter also in speaking concerning our Saviour says, that “he went and preached unto [p. 759] spirits in prison, which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah.” 1 Pet. iii, 19, 20. Here then we have an account of our Saviour preaching in prison [see D&C 138:18]; to spirits that had been imprisoned from the days of Noah [see Alma 10:22; D&C 138:9, 28; Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:41]; and what did he preach to them? that they were to stay there? certainly not; let his own declaration testify; “he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised”—Luke iv, 18, Isaiah has it;—“To bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness from the prison house.” Is. xlii, 7 It is very evident from this that he not only went to preach to them, but to deliver, or bring them out of the prison house. Isaiah in testifying concerning the calamities that will overtake the inhabitants of the earth says, “The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgressions thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall and not rise again. And it shall come to pass in that day; that the Lord shall punish the hosts of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in prison, and after many days shall they be visited” [see Isaiah 24:20-22; D&C 88:87]. Thus we find that God will deal with all the human family equally; and that as the antediluvians had their day of visitation [see Isaiah 10:3; 1 Peter 2:12; Mormon 9:2; D&C 56:1, 16; 124:8, 10]; so will those characters referred to by Isaiah, have their time of visitation, and deliverance, after having been many days in prison.