Ecclesiastes — Lesson 8



- The book of Ecclesiastes seems to be a reflection on life -- a life that does not give God the proper reverence or place.

- The title Ecclesiastes means preacher.

- It would be a mistake to assume here is a preacher of great wisdom who is preaching a normal or usual sermon before the congregation of Israel.

- Ecclesiastes is described as a rambling lecture on many aspects of life and its meanings -- no evident pattern or organization to the whole of the book.

- Main thesis of the book seems to be "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!"

- Gaining wealth and power, indulging in frivolities and pleasure, striving for achievement and personal recognition are useless -- "striving after wind."

- Pessimism expressed in the book looks to the hopelessness of life without a redeemer -- the futility of life without hope.

- Writer shows how experiments of everything under the sun -- from wisdom to pleasure and power and riches to promoting social good and flawed religion -- fail to give life meaning.

- This is the second of five lessons intended to consider the question, "Why?"

- First, the sameness and indifference of the universe -- bad things happen to good people and with the same frequency as they happen to bad people.

- Next, we'll look at death as the certain and final end of life.

- Modern man in a state of denial regarding death.

- Death is the one appointment we all must keep.

- Most inconvenient thing in life, but also most obvious -- like an elephant in your kitchen.

- Listed as one of the things for which there is a season. Eccl. 3:2 -- A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.

- This lesson will examine three primary questions:

- Why did Solomon identify this as a source of vanity?

- What has man done to explain the source of vanity apart from God?

- Is it a source of vanity to the Christian? if not, why not?

1. How does the subject of death relate to Solomon's discussion

of vanity? (1:4-11; 2:16-19)

- Death seems to render many of the things he's talked about as ultimately worthless.

- 1:4-11 -- Observing natural processes indicates that nothing is left over from one cycle of nature to another.

- Generations of human beings come and go much as the sun rises and sets, or as the wind blows, or streams flow.

- Wisdom. 2:16 -- For there is no remembrance of the wise man more than of the fool forever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool.

- Wisdom can't shield us from the inevitability of death.

- 2:17 -- Solomon placed great value on what he had accomplished. He realized that he too would die and everything he worked for would be left behind "unto the man that shall be after me." (18) Verse 20 seems to be saying that this caused him to become depressed.

2. What does Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 tell us about Solomon's perspective on the meaning of death?

- Eccl. 3:19-21 -- 19. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them; as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they all have one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. 20. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. 21. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

Two views concerning this passage

- Key points made by Solomon:

- Evidence of our senses indicates that humans and animals have a similar fate.

- All living things are "of the dust" and turn to dust again.

- When we consider empirical evidence from Solomon's perspective of everything "under the sun," there's nothing to indicate whether humans have something more left over. Nothing to indicate whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down to the earth.

- What does Solomon conclude as a result of this perception in verse 22?

- If we can't know what will come after our lives under the sun are over, we might as well enjoy what work we've been given to do.

- No one who is here, under the sun, would know. The answer must come from one who is from beyond the sun.

- If death is, as it seems to be in Ecclesiastes at this point, the final end, then life's story is vanity with a vengeance.

- However, there was a firm conviction among God's people of the resurrection and of life after death. Man is not merely a beast, but must give an account for his behavior as stated in verse 17.

- II Samuel 12:27 -- (David speaking) I shall go to

him, but he shall not return to me.

3. How does the thought of death influence Solomon's thoughts about riches in Ecclesiastes 5:13-17?

- 5:13-17 -- 13. There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. 14. But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand. 15. As he came forth from his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. 16. And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that laboured for the wind? 17. All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.

- Solomon says he's seen people who have accumulated riches at great sacrifice to themselves (12 -- the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep).

- Basically Solomon is saying, "Why work so hard at gaining riches if death will only strip it all away?"

- Wealth can't endure (13-17).

- Can't be taken with us when we die. (5:15).

4. What in Ecclesiastes 9:2-6 seems to indicate Solomon's despair regarding the subject of death?

- 9:2-6 -- 2. All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath. 3. This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live,and after that they go to the dead. 4. For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. for the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 6. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.

- The view expressed in 9:2-6 represents Solomon's view while in rebellion against God.

- View from an earthly and materialistic viewpoint, as characteristic of what is done "under the sun."

- Whether they live in righteous or wicked ways, with hearts full of evil or goodness, all humans will eventually join the dead.

- Inevitability of death poses a problem:

- They know nothing (5)

- Have no more reward (5)

- Memory of them is lost ((5)

- Empirically speaking, they have will never again have any share in what is done under the sun (6).

- Solomon appears to be seeking for meaning only in the affairs and pleasures of this physical life. Perhaps he's recounting his religious philosophy during the times of his apostasy.

- Seventh Day Adventists use verse 5 as proof of their false doctrine that "resurrection is a restoration to life of the non-existent dead . . . No soul is conscious after death."

- Refuted by Christ in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Luke 16:19-31.

- Matthew 22:32 -- God is the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, and that he is the God of the living, not of the dead.

- In 9:7-10 we see Epicureanism -- Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

- This is a worthless philosophy, unless death is the end of everything.

- I Corinthians 15:32 -- " . . . what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die."

- Evidently the position Solomon accepted during the days of his apostasy. Also seen in 1:9, 1:15, 3:1-9,14-15.

- In 9:11-12 Solomon asserts that the time of death is unpredictable. Verse 11 -- " . . . but time and chance happeneth to them all."

5. Is death a source of vanity and hopelessness to the Christian? How should we regard death?

a. Physical death -- necessary for bodies constituted as ours are. Physical decay is inescapable.

- The most natural of events. Hebrews 9:27 -- It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.

- Mortality, in God's plan, is outlined in Genesis 2-3. Adam and Eve rebelled against God and were denied further access to the Tree of Life. Their status as creatures proceeded, then, to its natural conclusion.

- Bible speaks of death as the result of sin. Genesis 2:17 -- God said to Adam, "in the day that you eat of it you will die."

b. Spiritual death

- Ezekiel 18:20 -- The soul that sinneth it shall die . . .

- Paul in Romans 1:32 spoke of certain sinners "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death . . . "

- Romans 6:23 -- For the wages of sin is death.

c. Victory over death -- Romans 7:24-25 -- O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

- The scriptures face death as they face all reality. The emphasis in scriputure, however, is in life; death is treated as that from which we are saved.

- Christ took upon our nature "that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil."

- Christ used death to deliver men from death. Through death, Christ put away sin. Romans 6:10 -- For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

- The extent of the victory over death that Christ won is indicated by his resurrection.

- Romans 6:9 -- Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

6. What does Christ's victory over death mean for us as Christians?

- We can face death without fear. Psalm 23:4 -- Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

- The believer will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6 -- Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

- Paul said, For me to live is Christ; to die is gain. Philippians 2:21.

- Those who die in the Lord are blessed. Revelation 14:13 --

. . . Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

- Believers go to the Father's house to be with him. John 14:1-4 -- Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

- We can have comfort concerning those who have died and are asleep in Jesus. I Thessalonians 4:13-18 -- For I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

- In life or death, we are the Lord's. Romans 14:8 -- For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's.

- Jesus is the resurrection and the life. John 11:25-26 -- I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

- Nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God. Romans 8:38-39 -- For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

- Death will be swallowed up in victory. I Corinthians 15:55-57 -- O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


- Solomon's understanding of death seemed, at least during the times of his apostasy, to be marked by pessimism.

- In the first chapter, observing natural processes indicates that nothing is left over from one cycle of nature to another.

- He seems to indicate that he doesn't fully understand what will come after our lives under the sun are over. We might as well enjoy what work we've been given to do.

- No one who is here, under the sun, would know. The answer must come from one who is from beyond the sun.

- If death is, as Solomon seems to be saying, the final end, then life's story is vanity with a vengeance.

- This lesson regarding Solomon's views of death drives home the need for a saviour.

- We don't have to view death as something mysterious or dreadful. We can approach it with confidence because of our faith in Christ, who was victorious over death.

- Romans 5:21 -- That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.


1. How does the subject of death relate to Solomon's discussion of vanity? Ecclesiastes 1:4-11; 2:16-19

2. What does Ecclesiastes 3:19-21 reveal about Solomon's perspective on the meaning of death?

3. How does the thought of death influence Solomon's thoughts about riches in Ecclesiastes 5:13-17?

4. What in Ecclesiastes 9:2-6 seems to indicate Solomon's despair regarding the subject of death?

5. Is death a source of vanity and hopelessness to the Christian? How should we regard death? Psalm 23; Philippians 2:21; Rev. 14:13; John 14:1-4; I Thess 4:13-18; Romans 14:8; John 11:25-26; Romans 8:38-39; I Cor 15:55-57

6. What does Christ's victory over death mean for us as Christians?

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “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 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)