Ecclesiastes and the dead

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Ecclesiastes can’t be used to say that there is no consciousness after death, because the author, Solomon, explicitly states that he does not know.  Adventists ignore several key points about Ecclesiastes; an ignorance that is necessary to maintain their theology of the soul.

King Solomon, Russian icon

King Solomon, Russian icon

Eccl 1:3,9,14 – these verses show the context of Solomon’s writing – he is writing about the physical world, as it appears to living people, what is “under the sun“. He isn’t writing about the spiritual life that comes after death. He uses the phrase “under the suntwenty-seven (27) times in the book! Clearly he means it.

Eccl 2:14 says that the good and the wicked go to the same fate. Eccl 3:19 says that man and animals share the same fate. Clearly the author is writing about THIS side of the grave.

Eccl 12:7 – “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (KJV) – this is one of two places where Ecclesiastes speaks of what comes after death, and it says the spirit returns to God.

Eccl 3:21 is the other verse that speaks of the spirit of man, and it says it’s different to the spirit of animals, because it goes upward instead of downward (presumably to God and not to the earth).

There will be many places in the Bible that write about the human condition this way, e.g. Psalms 146. We can make one of two choices:

  1. Misconstrue those passages speaking from a physical perspective as speaking of the afterlife, and then having to perform some quite amazing hermeneutical engineering to convert those passages that clearly speak of consciousness after death into something else, or …
  2. Understand the literary context, and accept those passages speaking from a physical perspective as speaking from a physical perspective, and those speaking from a broader perspective (including the spiritual life) as they are too.

Further reading:

Soul sleep – are the dead alive in heaven, or not? … by Stephen Korsman
And no man hath ascended up to heaven … by Stephen Korsman
The Bible disproves soul sleep … Ecclesia Triumphans [Internet archive]
An Examination of Conditional Immortality, Soul Sleep, and Annihilationism … by Phil Porvaznik [Internet archive]
Absent from the body, present with the Lord – What does Paul teach in 2 Corinthians? … Dale Ratzlaf

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