We find several provocative comments concerning death In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. One of these is found in chapter four. The writer tells us that the dead, as well as those not yet born, are better off than those of us who are alive. Why? He explains it is because of the wickedness in this world: “So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter. Wherefore I praised the dead, which are already dead more than the living, which are yet alive. Yea, better is he than both they, which hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3)
Job shares a comparable attitude during his time of affliction. Job, wishing he’d have died before he was born, expresses the despair and sadness that he experienced at one low point in his life. Among other things, Job lost all of his children in one day. But, Job never turned from God, though he grieved, he never turned from his faith in God. It is valuable to include these scriptures here because they so adequately describe the desperation that many of us have felt at some point in our lives, especially after losing a loved one. Job’s example teaches us to not give up.
“After this opened Job his mouth, and cursed his day. And Job spake, and said, Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived. Let that day be darkness; let not God regard it from above, neither let the light shine upon it. Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let a cloud dwell upon it; let the blackness of the day terrify it. As for that night, let darkness seize upon it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year, let it not come into the number of the months. Lo, let that night be solitary, let no joyful voice come therein. Let them curse it that curse the day, who are ready to raise up their mourning. Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark; let it look for light, but have none; neither let it see the dawning of the day: Because it shut not up the doors of my mother’s womb, nor hid sorrow from mine eyes.
“Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly? Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck? For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest, With kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves; Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver: Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light. There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master.
“Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave? Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in? For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters. For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.” (Job 3:1-26)
Job didn’t understand what was going on, as we often don’t, but his core beliefs did not waver. He hung in there, and God, in the end, rewarded him for it.
Returning once again to the book of Ecclesiastes, we find another thought in chapter seven, comparing birth to death. Here the writer claims that the day we die is better than the day we are born. “A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1) He continues in verse two: “Better to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.”
After contemplating that thought, perhaps we can conclude that he is observing the fact of how the good qualities in a person arise during a time of crisis or sorrow and how souls unite and grow closer at times of grief. At that time, the insignificant things drop from our mind and things of more value emerge. It brings to mind the hours immediately following September 11, 2001. For a short moment in time, we were as one. We find more confirmation concerning this as the writer continues: “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. (Ecclesiastes 7:3-4)
When reading the book of Ecclesiastes we need to keep in mind that the words are written to the man who walks under the sun, meaning us, man in the flesh. “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 the heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead. 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. 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.” (Ecclesiastes 9:3-6) This is speaking of our flesh bodies, not our spiritual bodies.
Paul describes death as an enemy, the final enemy that shall be destroyed. He also brings to light the fact that if Jesus were not raised from the dead, then we would not be raised from the dead, and our Christian walk would be a useless waste of time and energy. “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead raise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (I Corinthians 15:13-25) It is hard for most of us to even comprehend the non-existence of death.
To those who hear and believe, Jesus gives this reassuring promise. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24) Again he says: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” (John 8:51)
We should not take the words of that promise lightly. Apparently there are those who will not see death. He does not say they will not die, just that they will not see it. (The word “see” in the Strong’s Concordance is number 2334 and as a noun means, “look at, behold, view mentally” and as a verb means, “to perceive with eyes.”) How can that be? God can do whatever he chooses. Perhaps the spirit slips out before the body dies. Perhaps it happens during sleep, or so quickly we don’t see it.
At a later time when Jesus was speaking to Martha just prior to the resurrection of her brother, Lazarus, in John 11 he made a similar promise. “Jesus said unto her, 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. Believest thou this?”
We find a promise concerning death is again revealed in the Old Testament book of Hosea: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” (Hosea 13:14) And again in the book of Revelation we have this promise concerning the future non-existence of death. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
From these scriptures we have the promise that death will someday not exist.