Death Swallowed up

The central principal of the foregoing argument is summed up in…


1 Corinthians 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.


For, flesh and blood see Matthew 16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

In speaking of bodily resurrection Paul has no material body in mind. The perishable cannot inherit the imperishable. So self-evident is this that Paul discloses the secret purpose of God.

At the Advent of Christ we shall all be changed, whether dead or alive at the moment when the trumpet blast announces His arrival. For the conditions of that new order of life demand that this corruptible nature of ours should be clad in an immortal vesture.


2 Corinthians 5:4 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.


When our mortality has been replaced by immortality the full meaning of Isaiah’s mighty affirmation will be seen (the quotation in Cor 15:54 is taken from Isa 25:8). In the form of the Greek translation known to Paul the words “for ever” in that citation are superseded by in victory.


Isaiah 25:8 He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall He take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.


That WORD provides the rest of the keynote for the rest of that chapter.

Hosea 13:14 (quoted, although with a considerably adapted meaning), in verse 55 “O death where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”  is flung down in triumphant challenges to death. But even in this moment of exultation at the thought of victory over Christ’s death, Paul cannot separate the empty tomb from the cross. It is sin that has invested death with terror that has brought desolation to the heart of man by aliening him from God. (Rom 5:9—7:12 forward)

It is the Law that gave power to sin. (Rom 4; 15, 5:20, 6:14, 7:1—25. Gal 2:16, 3:10, 13, 21; 5:1—3).

So then, “the Word of the cross” is made complete in the risen Saviour. God be thanked, who offers us (read thus for giveth us) the victory of both sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. To the careless reader the closing words form an anti-climax.


1 Cor 15:58  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.


To Paul the only justification to this inspired speculation and argument is the glory of the Lord made known by the victorious advance of His gospel and kingdom. He there finds a wagon to hitch to the star of the Christian hope. Apostolic preaching, the Christian’s faith, is not vain,


1 Corinthians 15:4 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.


Vain = (having no real value, worthless). Neither is the toil of those stedfast heroes who share the travail that gradually brings in the KINGDOM of GOD.



We have been so deeply influenced by the Greek doctrine of the mortality of the soul that Paul’s teaching sounds remote from modern thought. Later Judaism is working out a belief in a future life adopted the idea of a resurrection of a material body of flesh and blood. The dead sleep beneath the earth until the Day of Judgement.


Daniel 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.


John 5:28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,


Which is also the day of resurrection. The future life was generally conceived in material terms, but our Lord’s rebuke of the Sadducees is evidence of a spiritual interpretation with which His interrogators should have been familiar.


Mark 12:18--25

18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him with a question.

19 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.

20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children.

21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third.

22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too.

23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”


24 Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?

25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven”.


To the Jew of the first century the Greek doctrine was no more than a faint hope of a shadowy survival. He craved for the preservation of the entire personality, and this could be secured, according to Jewish psychology, only by the restoration and reanimation of the body. (see H Wheeler Robinson, Religious ideas of the O.T., chapter4, section 4). Now Paul shared the Jewish belief in a general resurrection at the end of the age, and he carried over into his Christian thought much of the Apocalyptic imagery in which the hope of Judaism found expression. This is very evident in First and Second Thessalonians, and First Corinthians, though it fades from this time on.

However; the notable feature of Paul’s teaching is his insistence on the spiritual nature of the future life, and the spiritual character of the resurrection body. The body which decays in the tomb does not rise again.  …“Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” The body which is “raised” is medium of expression and communication fitted to the spiritual conditions of the new life of the persistent self. Paul takes up the question again in…


2 Corinthians 5:1--10

01 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

02 For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven:

03 If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked.

04 For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.

05 Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.

06 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:

07 (For we walk by faith, not by sight :)

08 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

09 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him.

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.


Compare Spenser. An Hymne in Honour of Beautie:

“For of the soule the bodie forme doth take;

For soule is forme, and doth the bodie make.”


Christ, Who was crucified for our sins, died, and was buried in a crypt; and after three days He was resurrected.

Indicating to us the TRUE meaning of being on this fallen earth where Satan is “prince of the air”.

·        The suffering to be endured as He did,;

·        The humiliation; as he did.

·        Forgiveness, as He did.

·        Stripped of raiment as He was.

·        Ignored as He was.

·        Being denied as He was.

·        Thirsting as He did.

·        Dying for our sins, as He did.


Jesus as Jehovah incarnate not only shewed us how to die, but very much how to live; not in this fallen earth of flesh, but in the Spiritual Kingdom. During a passage in the South Atlantic to free the Falklanders from the invasion by the Argentines, it was my duty to hand out last will and testament forms to my crew. This action brought much consternation (amazement or dismay that hinders or throws into confusion) to those who were involved. After a short pause, I added;


“We have all been taking the pay, and enjoyed the jollies for a number of years to provide the service which we are trained for, and joined up for, however; it is now time we earned that pay.”


That is what we must all do when the time comes; Jesus showed us the way back to the Father, and life, and how to bear the suffering implemented by the enemy and his cohorts while we are here. Being a disciple of Christ is costly, but the cost is well worth it.  


Ecclesiastes 1: 9—11

09 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

  10 Is there any thing whereof it might be said, ‘See, this is new?’ it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

  11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are come with those that shall come after.


These verses by “Koheleth” demonstrate admirably the inherent problem we have with memory, even to what we did on our last birthday twelve months ago, or even before that.

·        Yet since creation we have been here for nearly six thousand years.

·        The world that then was2 Peter 3:5—6, which was destroyed by water.

·        Where we have been promised to be taken.

·        How we will get there?

But by turning our backs on God we are in a state of deniance, to Him, and to all that has gone before; and is to come. What Koheleth means is that life is empty and without profit—apart from God. Life (here on this fallen earth) is a weary monotony, and endless treadmill! We are born, we toil, and we die. The next generation takes up the gauntlet, only to repeat the same mistakes made by others, before they too die. (so much for evolution) Without God and His promises, there is nothing to look forward to, and we accept our lot as martyrs.


Ecclesiastes 12—18 The Quest for Wisdom.

Koheleth first seeks through wisdom for the summom bonum, or highest happiness.. The author here impersonates Solomon, who, as a rich king, possessed the necessary resources to investigate and experiment, to travel far, and exhaust all possible sources of wisdom. By wisdom he means practical wisdom, especially God’s plan for each individual life: “God’s—World Plan” or Providence. In ancient Israel there grew up a class of Hokhma, or “Wisdom” writers known as “the wise”…


Jeremiah18:18 Then said they, Come and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.


…alongside the priests and prophets, who as philosophers cared nothing for the ritual of the former, and quite as little for the distinctively national ideals of the latter, but who interpreted life from the human point of view, and accordingly are sometimes spoken of as “the Humanist of Israel” However; Koheleth in his search for practical wisdom found that crooked things could not be made straight—apart from God, and that all his searchings were but vanity, and a striving after wind. This last phrase, “a striving after the wind,” is a very strong expression, occurring seven times in the book (1:14, 2:11, 17,25, 26. 4:6, 6. 6:9), and signifying, literally, “a feeding on wind,” hence a disappointing desire.  In verse 16 there is an obvious anachronism, inasmuch as David alone preceded Solomon as king in Jerusalem.


Ecclesiastes 1: 16 I communed with mine own heart, saying, “Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem:” yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.


Koheleth finds it difficult to impersonate King Solomon…


Compare Ecclesiastes 2:7, 9.

7 I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were before me in Jerusalem.

9 So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem: also my wisdom remained with me.


In v 2:12 he gives it up altogether, dropping the mask of royalty which he had assumed at the beginning. (1:12)


Ecclesiastes 2:12 And I turned myself to behold wisdom, and madness, and folly: for what can the man do that cometh after the king? Even that which had been already done.


 His pathetic wail in verse 18 over his failure in not finding happiness in the investigation of “wisdom” reminds one of the Arabic proverb, “A wise man is never happy.” Compare Matthew Arnold’s lines on Goethe:


“And he was happy, if to know

Causes of things, and far below

His feet to see the lurid flow (LURID = causing horror or revulsion: gruesome)

Of terror, and insane distress,

And headlong fate, be happiness”


Chapter II Koheleth’s Second Quest--through pleasure.

Turning from wisdom to wine, the Sage plunges into all sorts of sensuous delights; not, however, as a vulgar sensualist. In v2 there is a touch of Buddhism, which teaches that if men would avoid disappointment and pain they must crucify their inordinate (disorderly, unregulated) desires. Like Solomon, Koheleth built for himself beautiful palaces, and secured concubines and servants very many, but his satisfaction was only superficial and temporary; for when he took an inventory of all his joys and pleasures derived from this source, all was emptiness, and there was no surplus or net gain in reserve. And so pleasure  like wisdom, failed utterly to satisfy—apart from God. 


12—17 Wisdom & Pleasure

Koheleth pauses before making a third experiment to compare wisdom and pleasure; and he finds that while one excels the other as far as light excelleth darkness, yet one event happeneth to them all, namely, there is no remembrance forever. (v16) Both are equally a disappointment—apart from God! And so he concludes, “I hated life, because all was emptiness and a feeding upon wind.” Life’s compensations were altogether inadequate; the preacher’s soul still yearned for something higher.


Chapters 2:18—6:12 Koheleth’s Quest for Happiness through Work and Wealth

Since God ordained labour in the Garden of Eden before the fall, surely labour, Koheleth reasons, ought to yield happiness and satisfaction worthwhile. But alas, he finds even labour and riches fail to secure genuine happiness, for various reasons.


(1)   The Uncertainty of Having a Wise and Worthy Successor.

This is the first of eight obstacles to happiness. In view of this uncertainty the author recommends the sober enjoyment of life while it lasts; for who can enjoy himself apart from God?


Jeremiah 22:15 Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him?


Material and physical enjoyments may be fleeting, but they are nevertheless real, and they are the gifts of God.




There we have it! The unfolding of all that we are led to believe, and yet to a man “Koheleth” who has everything, is unable to find happiness—apart from God. To those who have sought such paths to happiness and are unable to find it, then the answers is simple, get God in your life. The answer seems so simple, yet faith will make it happen.


Then one thinks one has no faith at all indeed,

one feels that no faith will come.

Justification is by grace alone,

through faith working in love.


(2)   The Hopelessness of Struggle Against an Arbitrary God.

A second obstacle in the way of obtaining happiness through labour and money-making is the fact that one’s lot in life is wholly in the hands of an arbitrary God. This section, consisting of fourteen couplets, teaches that business depends on whether the times are propitious, (favourably disposed) and that only God can make them so. Everything is transient and temporary; what profit is there labouring for gain? God has even set the world in man’s heart, so that man cannot find out the work that God hath done from the beginning even to the end. 


Ecclesiastes 3: 11 He hath made everything beautiful in His time: also He hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

The world. Hebrew ‘ōlām = the ages; or the world (in relation to time). Here, put by Fig Metonymy (of Subject) for that which is inscrutable by man, viz obscurity as to the past and the future ages, resulting in man’s incapacity for finding out. or comprehending the whole of what God doeth. This has resulted from the fall.


The word ōlām, here translated “world,” is used in later Hebrew in the senses of both “cosmos” and “eternity” ; elsewhere in Ecclesiastes it is used in the latter sense only, and so it seems preferable to render it as “eternity” here as is done in the text of the A.S.V. (Compare A.V.). The author’s aim was probably to set “eternity” over against “time” (the word “time” occurring over thirty times in the book). In v12 the thought of doing good is to be understood in the sense of enjoying life! And in v13 the idea of food and drink as “the gift of God” is anything but Epicurean! (Devoted to the pursuit of sensual pleasure, especially to the enjoyment of good food and comfort.) Being a reverent theist (v14) Koheleth found in God’s unchanging purpose sufficient warrant to trust Him.


(3)   Injustice in the Law Courts 

The third obstacle to obtaining satisfaction and happiness through labour and riches was injustice in the law courts: in the place of judgement, wickedness was there. This was probably true of both church and state God at least disciplines men to prove them, and to show that they themselves are but as beasts; both men and beasts alike being victims of chance.


(4)   Oppression

This is a fourth obstacle to thwart him in his quest. And they had no comforter. This really aroused Koheleth’s feelings of compassion that, like the suffering patriarch (Job 3:11—16), he praised the dead which are already more than the living which are yet alive; yea, better than them both, as Cicero and Sophocles also felt, is it never to have been (Compare Eccles 6:3 7 :1) 


Job 3:11—16

11 Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?

12 Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck?

13 For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest,

14 With kings and counsellors of the earth, which build desolate places for themselves;

15 Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver:

16 Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light.


Ecclesiastes 6:3 If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he.


Ecclesiastes 7:1 A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth.


(5)   Competition.

A fifth obstacle is competition and envy—envy being but another form of oppression, for it can be as inhuman as tyranny. But inasmuch the businessman cannot altogether retire from the field, let him shun the rivalries and jealousies of the struggling business world; and, “having food and raiment, let him therewith be content.”


(6)   Disappointment in Riches.

The fact that riches do not satisfy is the sixth obstacle to Koheleth’s struggle for satisfaction through wealth. The miser is never satisfied…


Ecclesiastes 4:8 There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.


Compare Ecclesiastes 5:10 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.


…in verses 9—12, on the other hand, by means of a series of proverbial sayings, Koheleth shows the profitable advantages of business partnership. The school of Epicurus emphasised a similar type of friendship; but there are no distinct proofs of dependence of the one upon the other. This section closes with the familiar and oft-quoted maxim, a threefold cord is not quickly broken. This maxim of course, should not be forced to refer either to the Trinity or to Paul’s celebrated of faith, hope, and love.


1 Corinthians 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.


The continuation and conclusion of this section is found of the argument is found in Ecclesiastes 5:10—12, separated from these verses by a series of unrelated and miscellaneous utterances.

Verses 13—16 seem to point to some definite historical person, like Alexander Balas, or Ptolemy Epiphanes, who as youths rose up and usurped their thrones. Moffatts translation of this section is most suggestive; its moral being that usurpation and anarchy avail nothing, inasmuch that even royal treasures are but fleeting.   


Miscellaneous Injunctions.

Rash vowing and sham religion are condemned; because God is in heaven, and therefore transcendent, and it is impossible to bribe Him. In attempting to bribe God by rash vow making, the lips involve the whole body in sin; and an apology to the priest, or Temple-recorder, will be expected. Rather, He says, “Fear (revere) thou God; this being the second of a series of six references to “fear” in the book (Compare Ecc 3:14, 5:7, 7:18, 18:12—13, 12:13). To Hebrew wise men “the fear of God” was the portico of wisdom.   


Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.


In Vv 8—9 Koheleth encourages patriotism by exhorting his readers to trust in Providence, despite the fact that government officials, one rank above another, all accept bribes and are guilty of oppression; because, says he, there is one higher than the high who regardeth, and there be higher than they (referring to the King).

In verse 9, he probably means that “it is in every way an advantage to a land to have a king devoted to the cultivation of the soil,” as Mcfadyen translates it.


(7)   Unfortunate Investments.

Koheleth’s seventh obstacle to finding happiness through the acquisition of wealth is that large fortunes are of ten squandered through unfortunate investment and foolish speculation, causing bitter regrets. Better to be less ambitious, and enjoy what you already have. To enjoy present good, is the gift of God.


Ecclesiastes 3: 19 For that which befalleth sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing falleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.


Compare Ecclesiastes 3:13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.


1 Timothy 6:17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;


He who thus lives has less to guard, and he who will not brood over the brevity of life. “The miser is the Devil’s dupe” (one that is easily deceived or cheated : fool).


Proverbs 15:15 All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.


(8)   Inability to Enjoy Riches.

The eighth and last obstacle which seriously confronted Koheleth in his search for his summum bonum,  through labour and wealth, is the fact that a rich man is sometimes denied by Providence the power to enjoy his riches. The strain and stress robs him of his ability to enjoy them.


Ecclesiastes 2:22—23  

22 For what hath man of all his labour, and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun?

23 For all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity.


If a man beget an hundred children, and lives, cramped and unhappy, and dies without friends, an untimely birth is better than he. It is suggested here that Koheleth `may refer to Artaxerxes III (Ochus) who, after reining twenty years, was assassinated and his body thrown to the cats. The burials of Jezebel and Jehoiakim were likewise tragic.


2 Kings 9:35 And they went to bury her: but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands.


Jeremiah 22:19 He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.


What advantage has such? Asks Koheleth; and he answers, better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire (verse 9) ; in other words. “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”  Moreover, mortal man cannot cope with the fixed degrees of his maker, but lives hemmed in by fixed and inexorable rules, and his fate is sealed in advance. Here Koheleth borders closely on sheer fatalism, but Isaiah and Paul also approximate this philosophy of determination..


Isaiah 45:9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?


Romans 9:20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?


And so he conclude his long, vain search for happiness and profit along the line of labour and money making by confessing, with pathos, that man’s days of labour are after all but a shadow, because there is no hereafter. So sorely is he disappointed is he that he seems again to abandon, temporally at least, all hope of immortality.   


Some Closing Exhortations.

Vv 9—14 are by many regarded as an editorial postscript to the book; while others, like W P Paterson, regard them as “very probably genuine.” It is certainly strange that an author should speak of himself in the third person, and commend his own literary ability and wisdom as is done in verse 9—12.On the other hand it has been suggested that verses 13 & 14 contain the only worthy conclusion to the whole argument. Koheleth, like Bacon, was an inductive (The difference is inductive v deductive approaches to the same cognitive goals.) philosopher.  Having finished his inductions and investigations, he lifts up his voice, as it were, and announces,

“This is the end of the matter; all hath been heard; fear God and keep His commandments. : for this is the whole duty of man.”  These words are something more than an “orthodox conclusion, ”added by those who wished to secure for the book an entrance into the canon of Scripture; they constitute the principle teaching of the book—“the Wisdom of God” par excellence. (The word duty is printed in Italics because there is no Hebrew word for duty) can well be sacrificed for one that is far more characteristic of the entire book, namely “profit,” which we have seen, occurs in different synonyms some nine times. Fear God and keep His commandments” says Koheleth, for this is the whole profit of man.”  For God shall bring every work into judgement. This last sentence of the book brings contains the clearest statement concerning judgement in the O.T. According to Koheleth, life is an apprenticeship one long, but not endless, discipline. To fear God, therefore, and keep His commandments is the very essence of the Divine discipline, and the only way to wisdom and immortality.

Let a young man remember his Creator in youth, and he will naturally continue to fear God and keep His commandments. All through life, and when he dies his spirit will return unto God who gave it… On the other hand as Thomas Fuller remarks, “Short preparation will not fit us for so long a journey.”