“All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” So I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?" (Ecclesiastes 3:20-22)
These verses are often attacked for teaching a sub-Christian view of the afterlife. The truth is, Solomon isn’t dealing with the afterlife at all. He’s simply pointing out that from an earthly perspective no one can say what happens when we die.
Sam is 12 years old and has been raised in a Christian home. One evening he crawled up on the bed and with tears asked a question that had been troubling his heart. “What if when we die, there’s no God? What if we just die and then we can’t think anymore?” Death is so final that you can’t help but wonder sometimes what if “nothing happens” when we die. How would you answer Sam’s plaintive question? Since we will all die someday—and since the cemeteries are adding and not subtracting people—on what basis do Christians have a hope that goes beyond the grave?
Over the last 20 years I have conducted funerals for all kinds of people. Most of them have been older people, but occasionally I do a funeral for a younger person, and sometimes I have the sad duty to officiate at the funeral for a child or an infant. The circumstances vary but this much is certain. At the moment of death the truth about individuals comes out. You can fake your religion most days, but you can’t fake it when you stare death cold in the face. In that moment Jesus makes all the difference in the world. In the saddest moments I have seen the light of God on the faces of those who have lost their loved ones. Through their tears they smile because they know Jesus, and he has made all the difference.
He is truly the answer to death for all of us. As D. L. Moody lay dying he exclaimed, “Earth is receding; heaven is approaching. This is my crowning day.” Many have felt that way as they came to the end of life. For those who know Jesus, death is the passageway that leads to eternal life.
Lord Jesus, thank you for a hope that death cannot destroy. You died and rose again so that I might live forever with you. Amen.
Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.