Summary: Spend your kid's inheritance while you can. After all the world will die with you. This is the wisdom of the world. Is that any way to live? And what happens to you when you die?
Does the World End when You Die?
Does the world end when you die? For many, the answer is yes. These people would say that the world came into existence when they became aware of it as an infant, when they could identify themselves for the first time. These same people would hold that the world comes to at end when they die. Whether the world existed before they were born for others doesn’t matter. And if it exists for anyone afterwards, it doesn’t matter. Spend your kids inheritance while you can; they will probably blow it anyway.
The Preacher in the book of Ecclesiastes was fixated on his own death. This gloomy theme appears throughout the book. Death had come to the Preacher long before he took his last breath. Everything that he undertook in order to amuse himself crashed when he started thinking about the fact that he had an appointment with death.
In this text, the Preacher compares wisdom and folly. As long as there is life, he notes that there is a day and night difference between them. The wise man can see where he is going, but the fool goes blindly on. This is what conventional wisdom says to us as well. But once death is introduced into the equation, what is the difference for the person who thinks that this life is all there is. The wise man and the fool die, sooner or later. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes does not reveal much hope in life after death, and even these slim possibilities are dyed with gloom and judgment. So the Preacher becomes fully depressed and asks the question: “Is this all there is?”
The result of all his wearisome labor was that he would suffer the same fate as the fool. In many ways, he was even a bigger fool than the fool himself. The fool is blind to the uselessness and despair of life where the wise man can see where life is leading to and what that means to his dreams under the sun. The fool under the sun can eat, drink, and be merry until death surprises him. The wise man under the sun knows that darkness is coming and that he and the fool are both blind to what comes next.
The Preacher like many in this world tries to make the best of it. He can leave a legacy. His fame can outlive him. But history renders fame into dust just like decay for the body does. Soon most of one’s works, however great, are rendered to the gloom of the library that few read. Most people have not attained to the greatness of Solomon, yet in this country, how many people could write an intelligent paragraph about him? Fame dies by a thousand cuts. As more and more people have to be squeezed into the history books, then more and more has to be cut out from the distant past. The Preacher knew this too. And each time he remembered it, he was cut to the heart with despair. We read in the last passage how egotistical Solomon was. A greater punishment cannot be inflicted upon an egomaniac that to become irrelevant. The egotist wants to be remembered for good or for ill. And if the truth be known, we all have this in us, we just lack the means of becoming famous. This is why we have spectacular acts of public violence. People will do just about anything to be recognized, whether for good or ill.
The Preacher also knows that preserving his legacy through his own children is useless too. It is proverbial that the heirs are famous for squandering the legacy given them. We can only think of the younger son in the story Jesus tells of the prodigal son. And preserving one’s legacy through building projects prove to be futile also. What has become of the ten wonders of the ancient world? Of them, only the shell of the great pyramid remains. The same will happen to all the wonders of today’s world as well.
The Preacher for all his wisdom is brought to utter despair. He has no answer for death, which for him is the ultimate, and therefore, only reality. This is the view from under the sun for countless people. Even the Christian gets caught up in this worldview. The question I want to ask is whether there is an alternative view. What is the view from God in Heaven?
The Scriptures present the alternative to the human dilemma. The Bible teaches us that the Triune God created us in His image. God also gave us the lordship over all the earth, to subdue it. Death was not a part of the original equation for Adam and Eve. It was only when Adam and Eve disobeyed God that the curse of death came upon us. We lost control over the earth in that murder, wars, thorns, and thistles have plagued our existence since. By the fall, we fell from being over creation to under it. The very earth and sun which we were given authority over became our lords. They were excluded from the life of God and the world as they knew it to a cursed earth.