Today: [Ecclesiastes 12] Absent from the Body – Present with the Lord. In this concluding chapter of Ecclesiastes we find a profound truth about mortality, eternity and one-ness with the Father. In chapter 12 Solomon describes the body winding down from a very mystical perspective. There is a point even in unregenerate man that their human spirit, the life principle God gave them when they were born, will return to God that gave it. The question is for every man and woman have they accepted the blood sacrifice of the cross so that when God does take the breath of life back to Himself will we find the open door of access available to us to be absent from our body and present with the Lord? Evangelical thinking on this subject is cloudy in some respects and Solomon’s insights help us better to understand the deep, mystical nature of our union with God even in the context of our own mortality.
[Ecc 12:1-14 KJV] 1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; 2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: 3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, 4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low; 5 Also [when] they shall be afraid of [that which is] high, and fears [shall be] in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: 6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
Chapter 12 of Ecclesiastes is one that I have looked forward to presenting for its subject matter and its beauty. Solomon here concludes his sum of human life and directs our minds to the weightier matters of eternal importance. Under the sun there is vanity, vanity and vexation of spirit but once we choose to look to God and seek first the kingdom then life finds its meaning and the soul finds its rest. Verse 1 begins with an exhortation to remember your creator in the days of your youth. There is a maturity that is denied to young people that will evidence itself by the wisdom gained once decades of life have passed into personal history. I remember many struggles and conflict I had in my early adulthood dealing with contradictions to God’s promise in my life that were resolved as I learned that God works from a broader perspective than my patience would allow. Many times I lamented at broken relationships and misunderstandings whose scales were balanced over time whereby I couldn’t learn the deeper lesson until the years had gone by.
Solomon’s lesson in Ecclesiastes is not “remember your mortality” but rather “remember your creator”. Your mortality is a matter of perspective. This life is but a vapor and sooner or later life will exhaust itself and we will meet our end. If all of hope and happiness is only to be found in the few short years we enjoy on earth, then there is no point to existence. The fact of the matter is however that you are an eternal being experiencing a temporal season of mortality after which unending life awaits in union with our God. Solomon states that while sun and moon endure nonetheless even strong men bow themselves in old age and though many doors may be opened in the city during the day they are closed everyone at night which is a reference to the reality of our own brevity and mortality.
The almond tree budding speaks of when the blossoms turn from pink to white even as the hairs of our head turn to snow as we grow older. Desires and appetites are diminished as we make our way from this transient sojourn to our long home in eternity. Solomon then looks beyond the natural perspective and gives us a mystical description of the end of life described as a silver cord that is loosed and a pitcher broken at the cistern of the well of life. Some suggest that the cord, the bowl and the pitcher speak of the spinal cord, the brain and the heart that wind down in advanced old age and eventually cease to function. This may certainly be true but that viewpoint does not exclude a deeper mystical meaning that we can only hint at pondering the enormity of the reality of death and the eventuality of our exit from mortality into an eternal state under one set of judgments or the other.
7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. 8 Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all [is] vanity. 9 And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, [and] set in order many proverbs. 10 The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and [that which was] written [was] upright, [even] words of truth. 11 The words of the wise [are] as goads, and as nails fastened [by] the masters of assemblies, [which] are given from one shepherd. 12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books [there is] no end; and much study [is] a weariness of the flesh. 13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man. 14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether [it be] good, or whether [it be] evil.
In verse 7 we see that our body formed of dust will now return to the earth from whence it came. This was not in the original plan of God but is a consequence of the fall and man’s disobedience when God told Adam and Eve:
[Gen 3:19 KJV] 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou [art], and unto dust shalt thou return.
Then verse 7 makes a statement that demands a deeper consideration: the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. What spirit is Solomon talking about? Let us rehearse again the history of man’s creation:
[Gen 2:7 KJV] 7 And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
You can see that God made man’s body and then breathed something of Himself into that lifeless form called “the breath of life”. The method of delivery was described as God breathing into man. In other words, God constituted man’s life – the life principle in man from the constituent components of His uncreated life. This is what man’s human spirit is made of – the “ruach / spirit” of God breathed into man in the beginning and passed on to every man and woman created on the earth. When a man dies God takes this portion of himself back to Himself thus Solomon’s description of the body returning to dust and the human spirit made up of God’s uncreated spirit returning back to God that gave it. Thus we learn something of the nature of man’s spirit in contrast to his soul. Remember the words of Job:
[Job 27:3 KJV] 3 All the while my breath [is] in me, and the spirit of God [is] in my nostrils;
What of the soul? Look back at Gen. 2:7 and you will see that God did not directly create the soul. The soul sprang into being when God put something of himself, his breath into man’s body. God breathed into man and he became. God breathe His spirit into man and soul came into existence because of the union of God’s breath or spirit and man’s body. This is interesting because this is where the mind, will, emotions, memory and self-consciousness reside – in the soul. In this transitory being whose existence is the result of something eternal of God’s breath entering into that lifeless physical form that God formed from the dust of the earth.
When someone dies, their spirit goes back to God that gave it. What happens to the soul? The soul only exists because of the union of the breath of God (man’s human spirit) and the body. When the body dies the spirit departs. The body goes back to dust and the spirit of man, the breath of God, the vital principle that makes man’s heart beat and his brain to think, etc., goes back to God. What of the soul? Does it simply cease to exist? Some hold that opinion. What of our self-consciousness? Jesus said that the Father is a spirit and that He himself was one with the Father. In other words the seat of Jesus consciousness (because he was sinless) was in his spirit and not in his soul. That is why he always refers to His soul in the third person. When we speak of our mind, will and emotion we almost always refer to it directly as “I think, I feel, I will”. Jesus did nothing of the sort. He wore his soul the way we wear our bodies. He understood his soul to be something external to himself, to His true sentience. At His core Jesus was one with the Father and He went to the cross to make a way for us to transmigrate the ground of the soul and to become as we were created to be one with the Father as He was one with the Father.
When someone dies who does not know Jesus as savior the spirit even of that person goes back to God but the sentience, the self-consciousness and awareness of that person is excluded from God’s presence both then and forever. However, when we have accepted the blood sacrifice of Christ the middle wall of partition between soul and spirit is broken down and we are one with the Father. Then when we die the spirit likewise takes flight but in this case we are one with our own human spirit, that Job says in reality is the extension of God’s uncreated life constituting our created mortality now returning to God for eternity. The lesson for us is that even a person not born again is breathing and walking around because God’s spirit constitutes his mortal existence and life. Paul points this out when he preaches to the men of Athens declaring to them the unknown god:
[Act 17:27-29 KJV] 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. 29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.
This is why Jesus said “as much as you have done it unto these you have done it unto me” because at a certain depth God is inside every man although every man is not inside of God. God gives, in fact God is the breath of every man but every man is not one with God unless they have accepted the reality of the shed blood of Calvary by which our soul then is free to become one with the Father at which time it is possible then that when we die and our spirit returns to God we are thus attached and one with our spirit and therefore eligible to be absent from the body and present with the Lord.
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