Mysteries Under the Sun

Ecclesiastes 9:1‑8  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 6
"For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them. All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath. 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 their 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 anything, 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 forever in anything that is done under the sun. Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment."—Eccles. 9:1-81For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them. 2All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath. 3This 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 their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead. 4For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. 5For 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. 6Also 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. 7Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. 8Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment. (Ecclesiastes 9:1‑8).
The preacher had been occupied with certain mysteries as to the death of the righteous and the wicked—mysteries which greatly perplex to this day, and which could not be understood without this book of Ecclesiastes. Sometimes the circumstances attending the death of a well-known child of God are so terrible, and even the death itself, that we exclaim, How can this be? What can it mean? "There is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness." (Chap. vii. 15.) Strange as this may sound, yet it is a fact which we know occurs. A true Christian, through loss of reason, or some -other cause, comes to a sad end, and, as to this life under the sun, he perishes. He dies, and is buried; whilst the notorious wicked live—it may be next door—to old age, in much worldly comfort and prosperity.
It is also true that " There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death; and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that arc given to it." (Chap. viii. 8.) And again, " Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him: but it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God." (Chap. viii. 12, 13.) He may go on for a time, as if death and judgment would never overtake him, but come they will, and then he will prolong his days no more.
But here, in this life under the sun, there is this mystery. " There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked: again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous." (Chap. viii. 11-14.) Now, no one can deny that this does sometimes happen. It is very mysterious. That a truly justified man should come to such a terrible death, through loss of his reason, as might only be expected to happen to a wicked man; and that a wicked man should die peacefully in his own bed, as people say, "He went off like a lamb!"
And further, "All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath." (Chap. ix. 2.)
Is it not well, when some terrible event happens to a justified man, to ponder the words of scripture? The fact is thus distinctly recognized, that, as to this life, with all its circumstances, there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked. Yes, it is so. The same pains, infirmities, sickness, death; in pestilence, or in war; the utter failure of the mental powers in old age; yea, the dissolution of the body—there is one event to the wicked and to the righteous. In either case it is the same: " For the living know that they shall die; but the dead know not anything, 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 forever in anything that is done under the sun" (Chap, ix, 5, 6.)
This is most solemn, but is it not absolutely true? But, mark well, these scriptures only speak of the things that are seen, the things under the sun. Go back but a few hundred years, is it not so? The wicked and the righteous are both alike utterly forgotten. They may have toiled in righteousness, or reveled in sin, one event has happened unto them. They have no portion or reward in this world "under the sun"—the memory of them is forgotten.
" For all this I considered in my heart, even to declare all this, that the righteous and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God." Precious words of comfort! However sad and perplexing their end may have been, " their works are in the hand of God." Oh, the riches of His grace! No circumstance of body or mind can change His love. There we can leave them.
And yet it is most true, "No man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them." All things come alike to all, that is, in this world, under the sun. Is it not most sad that great numbers take this scripture, or pervert it, as though it proved that no man, by any means, can know that he is saved? This scripture describes facts under the sun.
It proves that nothing that can happen, either to the justified or the wicked, is sufficient, in this life, to determine whether he has the favor of God, or not. That is, no providence under the sun, however painful or pleasant, tells of this. We may be stricken with sorrow at the death of a well-known believer. How solemn the voice to us! " There is one event to the righteous and to the wicked." And we can declare this, " that the righteous and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God." And this is all we know from all travail beneath the sun. Thus, if reason be fled, and the end so sad as to crush our hearts, let us remember, this does not prove, in such an extreme case of sorrow, that the sufferer has lost the favor of God. No, wondrous words! " one event to the righteous and to the wicked." He knoweth why, and we can leave the righteous and all his works in the hand of God.
What has God to say to us in all this? Let us bear Him. "Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works." God would have us personally to cultivate a cheerful disposition as a remedy against morbid depression; but also to one who knows what it is to eat the bread of the table of the Lord with joy—not to be saved, but because he is saved eternally—what untold joy! And to drink the wine, not hoping to get redemption through His blood, but because he has redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins, and, having this, now God accepts his works. But let all know, that to cat the bread, and drink the wine, as a means of getting saved, is abomination in the sight of God. C And now, if you can eat the bread, and drink the wine, in real joyful thanksgiving for redemption, then, " Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment." Let no mysteries or perplexities under the sun take away this devotedness and holiness of walk. This is exactly what Christendom in the end has not—the white raiment, and the anointing with oil. (Rev. 3:1818I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. (Revelation 3:18).) But let thy garments be always white; would the very appearance of evil, not to get saved, but because thou hast eternal redemption, and, having that, " let thy head lack no ointment." (Chap. ix. 7, 8.)
How divinely perfect is the word of God! Without this book of Ecclesiastes, we should be utterly perplexed with what sometimes happens to the Christian under the sun, not only during his life, but even in his death. But there this inspired book stops; and by the things that happen to him here under the sun, of his future state we know nothing.
We must not, however, suppose for a moment that the light the Holy Ghost gives in this book, as to the things that may take place in common with the righteous and the wicked under the sun, sets aside the solemn teaching of other parts of scripture, as to the Fathers discipline of His children, as is seen in Heb. 12:1-141Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. 4Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. 5And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 12Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. 14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:1‑14); or even the death of the body, in some cases, as governmental judgment in discipline, as in 1 Cor. 11:27-3127Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. (1 Corinthians 11:27‑31).
Let us now look for a moment at the resurrection contrast. (Read 2 Cor. 4:14-v. 9.) Light breaks upon this dark scene. No longer, no man knoweth, but," Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you."
We do not look here at the things that are seen beneath the sun, but at the things which are not seen, and eternal. " For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
All is now changed. "Always confident, knowing that whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord." All is intelligent confidence. We are not here under the sun. The house may be dissolved—this does not shake our confidence. It may be sad, and painful; but we see beyond. " It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory." " And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."
Both these scriptures are equally true. In the death of the righteous and the wicked, one event happens to both. Yea, the righteous may be allowed to die as the wicked; and the wicked, on the other hand, as the righteous. But not so the resurrection. Whatever may have been the death of the righteous, the justified believer, he is raised in glory, he is caught up, to be with and like his Lord. Unbounded and eternal joy awaits him. Yea, and even at dissolution, he knows that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.
But to the wicked, the condemned unbeliever, his destiny is now also as clearly revealed. He may have closed his eyes as the righteous; he lifts them up in hell, being tormented. And when the righteous, raised from amongst the dead, shall have reigned with Christ through millennial days, then the rest of the dead shall be raised, to stand before the great white throne. Then no more will happen one event to the wicked and the righteous. The righteous then will be forever blest in the glory of God; the wicked be forever in the lake of fire. (Rev. 20; 21)
"Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white, and let thy head lack no ointment."