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Hope of Life After Death Part 12 (Ecclesiastes 9:10; Matthew 22:32; 2 Corinthians 5:8


Ecclesiastes 9:10

(117) We have seen that Bible, from beginning to end, portrays man’s hope of future life after death in the resurrection. Job prayed: “Grant that in Sheol you would hide me until your anger is past, that you would set a time for me, and remember me.” (Job 14:13) This corresponds with what Jesus stated as recorded in John 5:28,29: “Do not be surprised at this, for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graves at the sound of his voice: those who did good will forth to life; and those who did evil will come forth to judgement.” Paul states: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised.”, and he continues: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith also is in vain. Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” (1 Corinthians 15:13,17,18, World English) Thus Paul considered the resurrection as the only hope of life after death.

(118) We have set forth the basic scriptures pertaining to life after death. The scriptures show that until the resurrection takes place in the last day, both good and bad go to Sheol, the realm of death, or the condition of being dead. “Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.'” (John 6:40; 11:23,24, World English) Sheol is described in Ecclesiastes 9:10 (World English): “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Sheol, where you are going.” Thus Solomon describes living and the dead under this present sun of vanity: “Tthe living know that they will die, but the dead don’t know anything, neither do they have any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.” — Ecclesiastes 9:5, World English.

(119) The Bible tells us that the soul dies and will return to life from Sheol (Greek, Hades) in the last day. “The soul that sins, it shall die!” (Ezekiel 18:4, King James II Version) “Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them. They were judged, each one according to his works.” (Revelation 20:13, World English) Regarding the soul of Jesus, we read prophetic words of the Messiah to his God: “You will not leave my soul in Hades, Neither will you allow your Holy One to see decay.” (Acts 2:27; quoted from Psalm 16:10, World English) Nowhere does the Bible ever state that the human soul never dies or that it is immortal.

(120) But doesn’t the transfiguration of Moses and Elijah prove that they were not really dead? (Matthew 17:2,3) And what about the statement of Jesus regarding Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that God is not a God of the dead but of the living?” (Matthew 22:32) These texts have often been used to support both the immortal soul theory and the eternal torment theory. But let us examine these scriptures closely.

Moses and Elijah on the Mount

(121) It is thought by many that Moses and Elijah appeared in person to the disciples and Jesus. (Matthew 17:1-8) However, Jesus told his disciples expressly that what they had seen was a VISION Matthew 17:9. Peter in his second letter explains that the vision foreshadowed the glorious kingdom of the Messiah, therefore fulfilling Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:28. — 2 Peter 1:16-18.

(122) The word rendered “vision” in the Greek is horama. This word occurs twelve times in the New Testament, and in each instance it is properly rendered “vision.” To take two examples: in Acts 9:11,12, we read: “The Lord said unto him [Ananias], Arise and go into the street that is called Straight and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold he prayeth and hath seen in a vision [horama] a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him that he might receive his sight.” The man seen by the blind Saul of Tarsus was evidently not a reality, but a vision. In Acts 12:7,9, we read: “Behold an angel of [Jehovah] came upon him and a light shined in the prison, and he smote Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly…And he went out and followed him and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel, but thought he saw a vision” — horama. Peter thought that what he had seen was a vision, and did not say that it was reality. These examples make it evident that the word horama used by the Messiah indicated that Moses and Elijah were not really present on the Mount, but only appeared to be there. The whole scene was a vision.

(123) To say that Moses and Elijah actually stood with the Messiah on the Mount would be to contradict the teaching of the Scriptures that Jesus was the first to rise from the dead. — Acts 26:23; I Corinthians 15:20.

God Is Not the God of the Dead But the Living
Matthew 22:32

(124) This text is frequently quoted as a proof that the dead are not really dead. A study of the context will show that the Messiah was speaking here of the resurrection, and that the passage teaches exactly the opposite of the commonly received meaning. His words in the preceding verse are: “As touching the resurrection of the dead.” He did not say: “the resurrection of the living,” for that would have been nonsense. It was in view of the resurrection that Jesus could say that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not the God of the dead but of the living. This agrees with what the apostle says in Romans 4:17: “God quickeneth [makes alive] the dead and calleth those things which be not as though they were.”

(125) Two other texts frequently brought forward to support the theory that believers at death “do immediately pass into glory,” are 2 Corinthians 5:8, where the apostle Paul says he is “willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord,” and Philippians 1:23, where he expresses a “desire to depart and to be with the Messiah.” It is evident, however, from other scriptures (see 2 Timothy 4:8), that the apostle did not expect to be immediately ushered into the presence of the Lord the moment he laid aside his “earthly tabernacle.” He knew he must remain asleep in death until the return of the Messiah at the last trump, when he would be awakened in the first resurrection, and so be ever with the Lord.

(126) The word “depart” in the latter text is (Philippians 1:23) definitely not the best translation of the Greek word analusai. (Strong’s Number 360) In Luke 12:36, the same Greek word is rendered “return” in the King James Version. Applying this rendering also Philippians 1:23 would have Paul stating that he was having a desire to return, and to be with the Lord. This rendering would fit perfectly with Paul’s belief that he would be with Jesus when he returns from the sleep of death. Some, however, claim that “return” may not fully accurately express the meaning of analusai; the word can also be understood to mean “to be loosed again.” This meaning actually embodies the thought of returning to a former condition. Paul expected to sleep unconsciously in the sleep of death, but his desire was not for death, but to return from the unconscious condition to be again conscious. Paul was in a “strait betwixt two” things — whether to live or to die. Both had advantages, and he did not know which he would rather choose; but he presented the third option: to “return” or “to be loosed again” from the prison-house of death by the Lord at His second coming, was indeed far better than either of these other two things, and this is what the apostle earnestly desired above all else. Nevertheless, if one insists that Paul meant “depart,” this rendering still does not mean that he would immediately be with the Lord in death, and certainly would not support the inherent immortal soul/spirit theories. It would simply mean that he would depart from this life and that the next thing he would know he would be with the Lord in the last day when Christ returns (John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; Hebrews 9:28), the day of the resurrection (John 5:28,29; 6:39,40,44,54), in harmony with the rest of the scriptures. —

2 Corinthians 5:8

(127) Regarding the other scripture (2 Corinthians 5:8), we find that if we think a little about what the apostle actually wrote it becomes clearer. 2 Corinthians 5:8 reads: “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (King James Version) Does this scripture say anything about what becomes of a believer at death? Absolutely not! What does it mean? The apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, is writing concerning the pilgrimage of the believer, those seeking to become joint-heirs with the Messiah, during the present evil age. In 2 Corinthians 5:6,7, we read: “Being therefore always of good courage, and knowing that, while we are at home [Strong’s Greek No. 1736, to be in one own country] in the body, we are absent [Strong’s 1553, to emigrate, i.e., (fig.) vacate or quit] from [Jehovah]; for we walk by faith, not by sight.” This is very similar to Asaph’s psalm. (Psalm 73:24,25) As long as we are feel “at home” in our present surroundings, we are not walking with Jehovah, therefore we are absent from him. “We are of good courage, I say, and are willing rather to be absent [Strong’s Greek 1553, to emigrate] from the body, and to be at home [Strong’s Greek No. 1736, to be in one own country] with [Jehovah].” (2 Corinthians 5:8) It is our desire, not to be at home in the body so as to make our present surroundings our country, but to mortify the deeds of the body, so as to walk with Jehovah in the spirit. (Romans 8:1-13) “Therefore also we make it our aim, whether [Strong’s 1535, if too] at home [Strong’s Greek No. 1736, to be in one’s own country] or [Strong’s 1535, if too] absent [from our body, Strong’s 1553, to emigrate, i.e., (fig.) vacate or quit], to be well pleasing to him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9) If we are finding our home or dwelling with God, or if we not making our home in our present body, we are also striving to make ourselves acceptable to Jehovah. “For we must all be revealed before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) It is the things that the disciple of Jesus does now, in his present conditions, that determine how he is judged before the judgment seat of the Messiah. This is the reason we are to keeping striving to be well-pleasing to Yahweh while serving him. (verse 9) Thus we see that 2 Corinthians 5:8 says nothing about what happens to the believer at death.

(128) Some claim that such passages as Ecclesiastes 3:19,20;9:2,3,5,10 cannot be used to refer to the state of the dead. Now according to these passages, the same thing happens to both men and beasts, in that they all die, and the dead know nothing. This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event for all. How do the traditionalists explain away these scriptures? One writer refers to Ecclesiastes 12:11: “The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.” According to the writer the goads mean problems and the nails mean solutions. How the author arrives at this conclusion is not explained, but, using this interpretation, he explains:

“The goad, according to that interpretation, would be that which perplexes the man who looks at things from the standpoint of the earth (under the sun’). Well as it looks from here, is it not true that men and beasts all die, and that when they die the lose all direct contact with this world? Are not all the same in that respect? But there is a nail, a solution. Viewed from the region of the sun, the author of Ecclesiastes knows that the lot of the righteous is not the same as that of the wicked (Ecclesiastes 2:26). Also he knows that there is, indeed, a life after death. Man’s spirit does not go out of existence. On the contrary, Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.'” — The Bible on the Life Hereafter, by William Hendricksen

(129) There is no reason whatsoever for the above explanation except that one wants to hold onto the traditions of man. The Bible itself never gives us the interpretation that the quoted writer gives, nor do the statements in Ecclesiastes conflict with the rest of the Bible. It may conflict with traditionalists’ ideas of “going to heaven” at death, but nowhere does the Bible hold out the hope of “going to heaven” when one dies. With these thoughts in mind let us look further at the claims made in BLH book.

(130) First of all, Ecclesiastes 2:26 presents a riddle. In effect Solomon asks: “Is God giving to a man that is good in his sight wisdom, and knowledge, and joy, while to the sinner he gives travail, to gather and to heap up, that he might give to him that is good before God? This also is vanity and vexation of spirit.” That this verse must be looked upon as riddle can be seen from what is said directly after: “This too is vanity and chasing after the wind.” It is true that after the day of judgment God will set all matters right, but in this present world, it is not so. Not all good people experience wisdom, knowledge, and joy in this present life; likewise not all who are wicked receive travail, to gather and to heap up, that he might give to him that is good before God. Indeed, we find that generally the reverse is true. As Solomon later states: “There is a vanity that is done upon the earth: that there are just men, to whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there are wicked men, to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity.” — Ecclesiastes 8:14.

(131) Job similarly observed: “Why do the wicked live on, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? Their children are established in their presence, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, and no rod of God is upon them. Their bull breeds without fail; their cow calves and never miscarries. They send out their little ones like a flock, and their children dance around. They sing to the tambourine and the lyre, and rejoice to the sound of the pipe. They spend their days in prosperity, and in peace they go down to Sheol.” — Job 19:21:7-13, New Revised Standard Version.

(132) Likewise Jeremiah says; “Righteous are You, O Jehovah, when I might complain to You, yet let me speak with You of Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are all those dealers of deceit at ease?” — Jeremiah 12:1, Green’s Literal.

(133) Further Malachi states: “Now we call the proud happy. Yes, those who work wickedness are set on high. Yes, those who tempt God are even saved.” — Malachi 3:15.

(134) Additionally, the rest of the Bible agrees with the Solomon’s observations regarding man’s subjection to vanity. “Surely every man standing is all vanity.” (Psalm 39:5) “For the creation was subjected to vanity, not willingly, but through him subjecting it.” — Romans 8:20.

(135) In the same manner, the rest of the Bible agrees with Solomon’s description of death. “His breath (Hebrew, rûwach, Strong’s No. 7307, wind, breath, power) goes forth, he returns to the earth. In that very day his thoughts perish.” (Psalm 145:4) Now if man should continue to think, even if he no longer had his human form, this scripture simply could not be true. “The dead do not praise Yahweh, nor do any who go down into silence.” (115:17) Again, this scripture could not be true if the righteous were still alive and praising God even though dead. Job agrees that all go to the same place: “They shall die alike in the dust, and the worms shall cover them.” (Job 21:26) And with this the apostle Paul agrees: “Therefore, by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, because all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12) As a result, the God subjected man the the present sun of vanity. (Ecclesiastes 1:2,3,13-15; Romans 8:20-22) Thus there is no reason for rejecting the statements in Ecclesiastes concerning the condition of the dead.

(136) But some say that Ecclesiastes 9:10 does not mean to exclude all activity from the “life after this life” not any more than the saying of our savior recorded in John 9:4 (Night is approaching when no man can work’). According to this argument such expressions refer only to the cessation of all toil under the sun,’ that is, of all human activity here on earth. — Commentaar op het Oude Testament, p. 205.

(137) In actuality John 9:4 has nothing to do with Ecclesiastes 9:10, nor with life after death. John 9:4 is referring to the falling away “when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own unrighteous desires they will collect for themselves teachers, having itching ears.” (2 Timothy 4:3,4) This happened with the foretold apostasy and the development of a religious heirarchy and its subsequent suppression of truth. (Matthew 13:24-30; Acts 20:29,30; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:3,4) Although this falling away had already begun in the first century, the apostasy was restrained for only a short while. (2 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 John 2:18,19; 2 Corinthians 11:4) The apostasy spread rapidly after the death the apostles and developed into a religious heirarchy under which no man could actually do work in harmony with truth. Nor does Ecclesiastes 9:10 purport to say anything about the life after this life,’ that is, the resurrection. In the life after this life during the resurrection one will certainly be able to work, devise, think, and perform. — Isaiah 26:8.

See also our studies:
Under the Sun – What Does It Mean?
Did Paul Expect to Not Sleep in Death?
Elijah’s Ascension Into the Sky

Click Here for Index to Hope of Life After Death
First published in 1995, Updated 2005,2006,2014

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