Finding Hope in the Midst of Crisis :: By David R. Reagan


(This 2009 article is Dr. Reagan’s edited excerpt from his book, Living for Christ in the End Times, 2000 pub. date.) It is as current today as it was then.

Can Bible prophecy give us hope?

Hope is essential to life. Without it, people descend into deep depression or commit suicide or simply lie down and die.

During the Holocaust, Viktor Frankl, who later became a world-renowned psychiatrist, was a prisoner in one of the Nazi death camps. He observed that every year as Christmas approached, hope would sweep the camp that the prisoners would be released on Christmas day. It was an irrational hope, but it was hope. Then, when Christmas would come and go without a release, hundreds of prisoners would just lie down and die. Without hope, they could not live.1 Frankl concluded, “It is a peculiarity of man that he can only live by looking to the future.”2

A Desperate Need

The world desperately needs hope in these end times. We live in a world of increasing fears — fear of nuclear holocaust, fear of economic collapse, fear of plagues like AIDS, fear of terrorism, fear of war, and — of course — fear of life and of death.

Our nation needs hope. Our economy has collapsed. People are losing their jobs. Houses are being foreclosed. Corporations that have been American icons for over a hundred years are declaring bankruptcy. Retirement funds have been wiped out. Many people are feeling a sense of desperation for the first time in their lives.

Everywhere people are looking for hope, and that includes Christians. Some might respond by saying, “Christians are the only ones who have any hope!” That is true, but the problem is that most professing Christians cannot articulate their hope beyond a vague statement like, “My hope is heaven.”

An Ignored Virtue

I came to this realization one day when I was reading Paul’s great love poem in 1 Corinthians 13. It ends with the famous phrase: “There are three things that remain [or abide] — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

As I thought about those words, it suddenly occurred to me that I had heard hundreds of sermons on faith and hundreds on love, but I could not think of a single one about hope.

At that moment, the Lord impressed upon my heart that hope is the most ignored of the Christian virtues. I knew instantly why that is true. It’s because hope is directly related to one’s knowledge of Bible prophecy, and there is no topic in the modern Church that is more ignored than prophecy.

Stop and think about it for a moment. What is your hope? How would you explain it to an unbeliever? Could you get beyond the words, “My hope is heaven”?

My Heritage

During the first 30 years of my life, I received almost no teaching about Bible prophecy, and I lived with little hope. If you would have asked me to define my hope, I would have given you a pathetic answer, based more on Greek philosophy than Hebrew theology.

I was taught that if I died before the Lord returned, I would experience “soul sleep.” In other words, I would lapse into total unconsciousness and lie in my tomb until the Lord returned. At His return, I was taught that a “big bang” would occur that would vaporize the universe. My soul would be resurrected, and I would go off to an ethereal world called Heaven where I would float around on a cloud and play a harp eternally.

For me, it was a grim picture. I didn’t like the idea of lying comatose in a grave for eons of time. The “big bang” scared me to death. I was repulsed by the idea of becoming some sort of disembodied spirit without any individuality or personality. I certainly could not get excited about playing a harp forever. In fact, I found that idea downright hilarious.

You see, I grew up in a church that believed it is a terrible sin to play a musical instrument in a worship service. Yet, we were going to play harps in Heaven eternally! It made no sense to me, so I wrote it off as a bunch of silly nonsense.

I had no one to blame but myself because I did not study God’s Word as I should have. When I finally started doing that, and the Holy Spirit began to lead me into a study of Bible prophecy, I started making discoveries about the future that ministered great hope to my spirit. In fact, I got so excited about my discoveries that I started jumping the pews and hanging from the chandeliers, shouting “Hallelujah”! and “Praise the Lord”! People thought I had gone Pentecostal overnight! No, I had just discovered God’s marvelous promises for the future that are designed to give us hope in the present.

The Fallacy of Soul Sleep

The first discovery I made concerned “soul sleep.” I found out it is an unbiblical concept. It is true that when we die, our bodies “sleep” metaphorically, but the spirits of the dead never lose their consciousness.

Jesus clearly taught this in His story about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). When they died, their spirits went to Hades. The rich man’s spirit went to a compartment in Hades called “Torments.” The spirit of Lazarus went to a compartment named “Abraham’s bosom.” On the Cross, Jesus referred to Abraham’s bosom as “Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The two compartments were separated by a “great chasm” which could not be crossed.

In Jesus’ story, both men are pictured as fully conscious. They even carry on a conversation with each other. Their souls are not asleep.

Further evidence of consciousness after death can be found in Revelation 7. John has been taken up to Heaven and is being given a tour of the throne room of God. He sees “a great multitude… from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues,” standing before the throne of God “clothed in white robes” and waving palm branches in worship (Revelation 7:9). They are fully conscious as they sing, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:10).

John wants to know the identity of these people. He is told that they are martyrs for Christ coming out of the “great tribulation” (Revelation 7:14).

Here are two scenes in Scripture of people after death who are fully conscious.

Paul’s Affirmations

The Apostle Paul affirmed consciousness after death. In 2 Corinthians 5:8, he wrote that he would prefer to be “absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” He repeated this sentiment in his Philippian letter where he wrote, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). He elaborated on the meaning of this statement by adding that his desire was “to depart and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23). Paul had no concept of lying comatose in a grave for eons of time. Upon death, he expected to be with the Lord immediately.

The Intermediate State

My second discovery was that we are not destined to an ethereal existence as disembodied spirits. Immediately after death, both the saved and the lost receive a body that I am going to call an “intermediate spirit body.” I have given it that name because it is a body that is intermediate between our current fleshly body and the ultimate, glorified body that saints will receive at the time of their resurrection.

The Bible does not tell us much about this body except that it is tangible and recognizable. An example of it is found in 1 Samuel 28 where we are told that King Saul, in his rebellion against God, sought the counsel of a witch. She, in turn, attempted to call up her familiar demon spirit. Instead, the Lord sent Samuel who had died some time before. The moment Samuel appeared, both the witch and Saul recognized him.

Another example of the intermediate spirit body can be found in Matthew 17 where the story is told of the Transfiguration of Jesus. This was when His disciples were given a glimpse of His coming glory. As they witnessed this marvelous event, suddenly two people appeared and began talking with them. The two were Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1-5).

Additional examples of intermediate spirit bodies can be found in the two biblical scenes I have already mentioned: The Rich Man and Lazarus in Hades (Luke 16) and the Tribulation Martyrs in Heaven (Revelation 7).


When Jesus returns, the Bible says He will bring with Him the spirits of the saved (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). He will resurrect their bodies in a great miracle of re-creation (whether their bodies are preserved, rotted, cremated, or dissolved in the ocean). In the twinkling of an eye, He will reunite their spirits with their resurrected bodies and will then glorify their bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:15-16). Then, those saints who are alive will be caught up (raptured) to meet the Lord in the sky, and they will be transformed on the way up (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

All my life I have heard people say, “There are two things in life that no one can avoid: death and taxes.” That statement is wrong. The only thing we cannot avoid is taxes and more taxes. A whole generation of believers will avoid death — the generation living when the Lord returns for His Church. It’s no wonder that Paul concluded this great passage in 1 Thessalonians by saying, “Therefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

What is a glorified body? Paul wrote a whole chapter about the topic in 1 Corinthians 15. He said our glorified bodies will be imperishable, gloriously pure, powerful, and spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). Paul further states that the glorified body will be immortal, and as such, will no longer be subject to death (1 Corinthians 15:53-55).

The Nature of the Glorified Body

Paul made a statement in his letter to the Philippians that I think provides us with a framework for understanding what our glorified bodies will be like. He wrote that when Jesus returns, He “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). In other words, our glorified bodies are going to be like Jesus’ resurrected body.

Now, think about that for a moment. After His resurrection, Jesus had a tangible body that could be touched and recognized (Luke 24: 41- 43 and John 20:27-28). People had difficulty recognizing Him at first, but that is understandable. If you buried your best friend one day, and he knocked on your door the next, would you recognize him? Wouldn’t you assume he was someone who looked like your friend? Once the disciples realized that Jesus had truly been resurrected, they had no more difficulty recognizing Him, even at a distance (John 21:1-7).

So, Jesus had a body similar to the ones we have now. It was tangible and recognizable. It was also a body that ate food. Jesus is pictured eating with His disciples several times, including a meal of fish on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (Luke 24:30-31, 41-42, and John 21:10-13). I must admit that I get excited when I read these accounts of Jesus eating, and also when I read about our eating with Him in Heaven at the “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7-9). I have this fantasy that we will be able to eat all we want in our glorified bodies and not have to worry about gaining weight! (That should be sufficient to prompt many of you to shout, “Maranatha!”)

A Different Dimension

The resurrected body of Jesus was similar to ours in many respects, but there were also some differences. Jesus’ body seemed to have a different dimension to it, for He could pass through a wall into a locked room (John 20:26), and He could move from one place to another almost instantly (Luke 24:30-36). One moment He was on the road to Emmaus, the next He was in Jerusalem, and then He would appear in the Galilee area.

His disciples were so startled and frightened by His ability to vanish and reappear suddenly at another place that they thought they were seeing a spirit. But Jesus countered that idea immediately by telling them, “Touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39). When the Word says that our glorified bodies will be “spiritual” in nature (1 Corinthians 15:44), it does not mean we will be ethereal spirits. It says our natural body will be raised a spiritual body, not a spirit. We will still have a body, but it will no longer be controlled by the old sin nature, the flesh. Rather, it will be a body yielded completely to the control of the Holy Spirit.

There is one other thing the Bible reveals about the glorified body that should be a source of great comfort. The glorified body will be a perfected body. That means the blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will walk, and the mute will speak. Those who are mentally impaired will have their minds healed (Isaiah 29:18-19, 32:3-4, and 35:5-6). There will no longer be any pain or death (Revelation 21:4). God will “wipe away every tear,” and “there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Revelation 21:4).

Meaningful Activities

My first discovery was that there is no such thing as “soul sleep.” We remain conscious after death. My second discovery was that we are not destined to be disembodied spirits. We continue to have a body — first, an intermediate spirit body, and then a glorified body. My third discovery was that we are not going to be bored stiff playing harps for eternity. We are going to be engaged in some meaningful activities.

If you are a believer and you die before the Lord returns, you will go to Heaven where you will be involved in worship (Revelation 7:9-14) and service (Revelation 7:15). Admittedly, the Bible does not get specific about our worship and service, but we can be assured that we will find both to be fulfilling and edifying. It could also be that this will be a time of rest, preparing us for the time of vigorous service that will follow when the Lord returns to earth.

Judgment and Rewards

At the time of the Rapture (most likely before the Tribulation), both the living and dead in Christ will receive their glorified bodies. We will be in Heaven with the Lord during the Tribulation. This will be the time of our judgment, not to determine our eternal destiny but to determine our degrees of reward. Each of us will stand before the judgment seat of Jesus and be judged as to how we used our spiritual gifts to advance His kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:10). Our works will be judged as to quantity, quality, and motive (1 Corinthians 3:13-15 and 4:5). Some will experience embarrassment as all their works are burned up as worthless (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). Others will receive great rewards.

Some of the rewards will relate to the degree of ruling authority we will be granted during the Lord’s millennial reign (Luke 19:11-27). Others will consist of crowns and special robes. There will be a “crown of righteousness” for those who lived yearning for the return of Jesus (2 Timothy 4:7-8). A “crown of life” will be given to those who persevere under trial (Revelation 2:10 and James 1:12). Faithful elders and pastors will receive a “crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:4). Soul winners will be given a “crown of rejoicing” (Philippians 4:1 and 1 Thessalonians 2:19). An “imperishable wreath” will be given to those who exercise self-control (1 Corinthians 9:25). Even the clothing we receive will indicate our degrees of reward. It will in some way reflect “the righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 19:8).

At the end of this time of judgment, we, the Bride of Christ, will sit down at a banquet table in Heaven to celebrate our union with our Bridegroom, Jesus. The Bible calls it the “marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9). It will be a time of unparalleled celebration. The heavens will ring with “Hallelujahs”! (Revelation 19:1-6).

Witnesses of Glory

When the meal is completed, we will return to earth with Jesus (Revelation 19: 11-14). We will be there in our glorified bodies when His foot touches the Mount of Olives and that mountain is split in half (Zechariah 14:1-9). We will be there to shout “Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna to the King of kings!” as He rides down the Kidron Valley on His white horse and approaches the Eastern Gate. We will be there to witness the supernatural opening of that gate as it welcomes Jesus to the holy city of Jerusalem (Psalm 24:7-8):

“Lift up your heads, O gates, And be lifted up, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in! Who is the King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, The Lord mighty in battle.”

We will be there to shout, “Hallelujah”! when Jesus is crowned King of kings and Lord of lords and begins His glorious millennial reign.

The Millennial Reign

During the Lord’s reign, the Redeemed are going to be doing anything but floating around on clouds playing harps. We are going to reign with Jesus over those who are allowed to enter the Millennium in the flesh (which will be those believers who are alive at the end of the Tribulation). Jesus will reign over all the earth from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:1-4) as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). David, in his glorified body, will reign as king of Israel (Ezekiel 37:24). Those of us who will be glorified saints will be scattered all over the earth to assist with Jesus’ reign (2 Timothy 2:12).

Think of it — every person on earth who is in a position of governing authority will be a glorified saint. Some of us will be in administrative positions, sharing in Jesus’ reign as presidents, governors, or mayors (Luke 19:11-27). Others will serve as judges (1 Corinthians 6:3). Most of us will serve as “shepherds,” or teachers, trying to bring those who are born during the Millennium to faith in Jesus (Isaiah 66:18-21 and Jeremiah 3:15).

None of us will serve as legislators because the law will be given by Jesus Himself, and it will be perfect (Isaiah 2:1-4). There will be no abomination known as the Texas Legislature or the United States Congress. Nor will there be any lobbyists or political parties.

The Lord will rule with “a rod of iron” (Psalm 2:9 and Revelation 2:27). The government of the world will be a theocracy, with Jesus serving as both the spiritual and political leader. “He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices” (Zechariah 6:13).

We will be given the blessing of seeing this old sin-sick world flooded with peace, righteousness and justice, “as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). There will be no homeless people or hungry people (Isaiah 65:21-22 and Micah 4:4). Peace will envelop the earth (Isaiah 2:4). The Lord’s reign will be characterized by righteousness, fairness, and faithfulness (Isaiah 11:4-5). “The whole earth will acknowledge the Lord and return to Him. People from every nation will bow down before Him” (Psalm 22:27).

The Eternal State

When the Millennium ends and we move into the Eternal State, the Bible does not go into detail as to what our activities will be. It tells us only three things: we will see the face of God (Revelation 22:4); we will serve the Lord (Revelation 22:3); and we will reign with Him forever (Revelation 22:5).

Seeing the face of God is an exciting prospect, for the Bible says that no one has ever seen His face (Exodus 33:20 and 1 Timothy 6:16). I believe the promise of seeing God’s face means we are going to enjoy intimacy with Him forever. Much of that undoubtedly will be in the form of worship. I think it also means we will grow in our knowledge of the Lord forever. He is infinite, and no matter how much we come to know Him, there will be just that much more for us to experience. I feel certain that one aspect of this will be the eternal study of His Word. I get excited over all this as I think of singing the Psalms with David and studying the book of Romans with Paul.

As for service, I would imagine, for one thing, our gifts and talents will be magnified and that we will use them to glorify the Lord. Thus, a singer will be able to sing with a perfection and range never before achieved, and a painter will be able to paint with a glory never imagined.

Reigning with the Lord forever implies that we will be reigning over someone. Who that will be, I do not know. Perhaps it will be the mysterious “nations” referred to in Revelation that seem to inhabit the new earth (Revelation 21:24-27 and 22:2).

Our Eternal Home

This brings me to the fourth and final discovery I made when the Holy Spirit led me into an in-depth study of Bible prophecy. I discovered that the Redeemed are not going to live eternally in an ethereal world called Heaven. I learned, instead, that our eternal home is going to be on a new earth. Most Christians are amazed by this truth, which shows how little Bible prophecy is taught in the Church today.

Since the Bible teaches that the current earth is eternal (Psalm 78:69 and Psalm 148:6), I have concluded that the “new earth” will be the current earth renovated by fire. It is true that Peter said that the current earth will be “destroyed” by fire (2 Peter 3:10,12), but in the context, it is clear that he is referring to a radical transformation of the current earth.

Earlier in the same passage, he referred to the original earth as having been “destroyed” by water, speaking of the Noahic flood. The earth of Noah’s day did not cease to exist, but the flood “destroyed” it in the sense that it radically changed the nature of the earth — tilting it on its axis, splitting the continents apart, laying down the fossil record, depositing the marine organisms that would become petroleum deposits, and creating the ocean depths and the mountain heights.

At the end of the Millennium, fire will be used by God to burn away the pollution of Satan’s last revolt (2 Peter 3:12). In the midst of that fiery inferno, God will reshape the earth like a hot ball of wax. He will refresh it and restore it to its original perfection (Acts 3:21). He will then lower the new Jerusalem down to the new earth, with the redeemed inside (Revelation 21:1-2). Then, He Himself will come to earth to live in our presence eternally! “The tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them” (Revelation 21:3).

Heaven is where God resides. When the new earth is supplied, Heaven will descend to earth as God takes up residence on this new earth. So, it is true that the redeemed will live eternally in Heaven, but Heaven will be on earth.

The Redemption of All Creation

God loves His creation, and He intends to redeem it — all of it — and not destroy it with some mystical “big bang.” Jesus died on the Cross not only to redeem Mankind but also to redeem the Creation. That’s the reason the High Priest in Old Testament times sprinkled the blood not only on the mercy seat of the Ark but also on the ground in front of the Ark (Leviticus 16:15).

The blood on the mercy seat of the Ark was a symbolic prophecy pointing to the fact that the blood of the Messiah would cover the law of God (the tablets inside the Ark) with the mercy and grace of God. The blood on the ground was a reminder that the sacrifice of the Messiah would make it possible for the curse to be lifted and for the animal and plant kingdoms to be returned to their original perfection (Isaiah 11:6-9 and Romans 8:18-23).

An Unjustified Fear

Many people are afraid of Bible prophecy. They say it is full of “doom and gloom.” That is true for those who have rejected the Lord. But for those who know Him and love Him, there is only good news.

The Old Testament ends with an example of what I’m talking about. It says, “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze” (Malachi 4:1). That is bad news. But the very next verse contains incredibly good news for believers: “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves released from the stall” (Malachi 4:2).

Bible prophecy is full of glorious promises that are designed to give God’s people a strong sense of hope as they live as strangers and pilgrims in the midst of an increasingly evil, God-rejecting world. When you read these wonderful promises, you can understand why Paul wrote these words in 1 Corinthians 2:9: “No eye has seen, no ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

A God of Hope

As this verse indicates, we cannot even begin to imagine the marvelous blessings God has in store for the redeemed. But the very next verse says that the Holy Spirit has revealed those blessings to us in God’s Word (1 Corinthians 2:10). The sad thing is that most Christians are ignorant of those promises and therefore have no idea what Paul meant when he wrote: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).

In Romans 15:13, Paul wrote: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Our God is a God of Hope who desires to fill us with hope. If you know Jesus as your Savior, you are an heir to some incredible promises, and if you know those promises and believe in them, you can live in this evil world with hope, joy, and great expectations.

As the world we have built on the dollar collapses around us, let us keep an eternal perspective with our hope fixed firmly on the soon return of Jesus. Maranatha!


1) Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (New York, NY: Washington Square Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, 1963, revised and updated edition in 1998).

2) Ibid., page 115.


Ecclesiastes: The Bible’s Strangest Book :: By Dennis Pollock & David R. Reagan

Why is Ecclesiastes so negative?

In my opinion, Ecclesiastes has to be the strangest book in the Bible. It begins with an evaluation of life with which no Christian today would ever agree: that life is vain and purposeless. Solomon begins his strange thesis about life on earth with the words: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” In using the word vanity, Solomon is not talking about ego. He is declaring that life is vain — all life, all our lives, all our activities, and all that happens “under the sun” (one of his favorite expressions) is in vain and without any real purpose.

This is hardly a Christian worldview. We who are in Christ see life as incredibly significant and purposeful. We must wonder, “How is it that Solomon could be so gloomy?” The general tenor of the book of Ecclesiastes seems more philosophical than theological, and it is a pretty gloomy philosophy at that.

We must understand that during the days of the Old Testament, there was no widespread revelation of eternal life. In fact, the Old Testament says very, very little about the afterlife — so little that there was a major theological group existing in Jesus’ day who firmly insisted that there was no afterlife. Once you died, that was it, so if God was pleased with you, you could be sure you would be blessed in this life — since there were no blessings and indeed no life at all after death. This group was known as the Sadducees. Their main argument for believing as they did was by reason of omission — you just couldn’t find plain, clear references to Heaven or any life after death in the writings of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy).

Early Sadducee

Solomon seemed to be of this persuasion long before the Sadducees appeared on the scene. He had a great life for the present. He was the king of Israel and the wealthiest and wisest man on earth. He had all his heart could want in possessions, wives, concubines, entertainers, gold, silver, and just about anything and everything a man of his times could ever desire. He was a royal, and he lived royally.

But as Solomon aged, something began to bother him. The reality of his own eventual death became more and more depressing to him. Sure, he had it all for now. And he would probably enjoy these blessings for a while. But sooner or later, he would do as all the rest of the world did. He would age, he would weaken, and he would finally die and leave everything. Every bit of his gold and silver, all his wives, all his servants, all his fancy robes and crowns, everything he possessed, all he had accomplished, and all which gave him such pride and satisfaction would remain, but he would be gone.

Throughout the twelve chapters of the little book of Ecclesiastes, the gloomy king complains again and again about this inevitable and irresistible conclusion to human life. Let’s consider a few of his ramblings on this subject. In chapter one, we read (Ecclesiastes 1:3-4, NKJV):

“What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun. One generation passes away, and another generation comes.”

Solomon was a hard worker. Throughout his life, he was constantly building, creating, and improving Jerusalem. He took much pride in his accomplishments, but it just didn’t sit well with him that one day he would die, and all his labor, all his efforts, and all his accomplishments would fall into the hands of others. He uses a phrase here that we will see repeated throughout the book. That phrase is: “What profit…?” He might have said, “What good does it do?” Regardless of how skilled we are and how hard we work, and all that we manage to accumulate, it will all at some point be unceremoniously ripped from our cold, dead hands. So what is the point?

No Remembrance

Later in the first chapter, Solomon laments the fact that the day will probably come when he will be entirely forgotten and receive no credit by future generations for all he has done. He states: “There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come by those who will come after” (Ecclesiastes 1:11). Not only will he die and have to leave everything behind, but in future generations, everything he has done, all his labors and triumphs and sorrows and memories will be forgotten. What’s the use?

In the second chapter, Solomon carries this theme further still. He writes (Ecclesiastes 2:14-16):

“The wise man’s eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. Yet I myself perceived that the same event happens to them all. So I said in my heart, ‘As it happens to the fool, It also happens to me, and why was I then more wise?’ Then I said in my heart, ‘This also is vanity.’ For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever, since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come. And how does a wise man die? As the fool!”

Solomon feels it would be acceptable if only fools and wicked people died while the wise and righteous people live on. But to his consternation, it doesn’t happen this way. Wise men die as well as fools; godly people die right along with the wicked. And to make matters worse, wise men are forgotten just about as quickly as the fools! No matter how much you accomplish, no matter how many people you help, no matter how high you may rise in this life, you will die right alongside the village idiot, and both of you will eventually be forgotten. It just isn’t fair!

What Solomon was saying and seeing was not something particularly novel or brilliant. Everybody knew that death was both real and inevitable, from the peasant farmer to the highly educated scholar. But Solomon felt it far more keenly than most. Perhaps this was partly because he had so much to lose.

But another reason was simply the very nature of the man. Solomon was by temperament a philosopher. He didn’t just observe life; he thought about it, analyzed it, pondered its meaning, and desperately tried to make sense of it all. But he could never get around the immoveable, impenetrable, distasteful reality of death — particularly the thought of his own death.

Dead Like a Dog

As the gloomy king observed life and death, he came to a miserable conclusion: the deaths of men and women aren’t all that different from the deaths of animals, which made him wonder if we are all that superior to the beasts. He wrote (Ecclesiastes 3:18-20):

“I said in my heart, ‘Concerning the condition of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.’ For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity. All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.'”

Who is wiser: a dead man or a dead dog? Who is happier: a dead lady or a dead mouse? As Solomon pondered these questions — questions which few men and women ever paused to consider — he came to some unhappy conclusions. Although men and women may be smarter and cleverer and accomplish far more than the animals, we all die the same way. We all appear to go into a state of eternal unconsciousness where we see nothing, do nothing, say nothing, enjoy nothing, and are, in effect, non-existent.

It was not a pleasant thought, especially for the philosophically-minded king who had so much to lose at life’s end and had so much time to think about it while he still lived. And as he wrote this little book we call Ecclesiastes, these kinds of melancholy thoughts and meditations were freely distributed throughout his essay.

A Severe Evil

As we move through the book, we find more of the same. (Ecclesiastes 5:15-16):

“As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return…. And he shall take nothing from his labor…. And this also is a severe evil — Just exactly as he came, so shall he go.”

This idea of dying and being unable to take even the smallest possession or accomplishment with you seems to Solomon a great tragedy. He does not call it evil; he declares it is a “severe evil.” It is strange that what billions of men and women have accepted without much thought (the idea of our eventual death) throughout earth’s history is, to Solomon, a huge problem. This is not some small thing; this is a big, big deal!

And of course, he is right if you subtract God and Christ, and the promise of eternal life through Christ, from life’s equation. Without the hope Jesus gives, life becomes a cruel joke, a terrible Shakespearian tragedy foisted upon billions of people who live out their lives, and work and sweat, and attempt great things, as though life has some purpose, which in fact it surely does not — if there is nothing beyond the grave.

If the soil and the worms and a permanent state of extinction and non-existence are the destiny awaiting every one of us, what does it matter whether we live nobly or poorly, whether we achieve much good or no good at all, whether we try with all our might to “make our lives count” or live selfishly and foolishly all our days? Eventually, even our earth itself will cease to be, and all the struggles and accomplishments and the collective memories of billions of people and families and nations will be erased with a permanent, cosmic deletion. No one will be left to know or care or remember anything any one of us ever did or said or wrote or achieved.

Solomon concluded that in light of all of this, the only thing we can do is to try to enjoy our vain lives while we still live: “So I commended enjoyment, because a man has nothing better under the sun than to eat, drink, and be merry….” (Ecclesiastes 8:15).

Paul recalled this statement as he wrote in his epistle to the Corinthians about the resurrection from the dead. He made the point that apart from a hope of eternal life through Jesus Christ, “If the dead do not rise, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!'” (1 Corinthians 15:32).

Vivid Contrast

We may be tempted to wonder why God would include this pessimistic, melancholy little book in the Holy Scriptures, particularly since its tone entirely contradicts the writings of the Apostles and the teachings of our Lord Jesus. Does God really want His children going around spouting, “It’s all vanity. Life has no purpose. We might as well eat and drink it up, for we’ll all soon be dead!”

I am convinced that God wanted to give us a vivid picture of what life would be like apart from the hope that springs through the Cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Solomon had no such hope. In his mind, the grave was a place of total cessation: all joy and work and consciousness end when we take our last breath. Solomon wrote: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

This is the polar opposite of the theology espoused by the Apostle Paul, who wrote: “But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:22, 23).

What a contrast! Solomon sees death as the ultimate enemy; Paul sees it as a doorway to a greater life with His Savior, Jesus Christ. Solomon sees it as loss; Paul sees it as gain. This sure and joyous expectation of a life after this life in the presence of Jesus is known biblically as our “Blessed Hope” (Titus 2:13).

But this idea of hope is more than wishful thinking. It is a glorious looking forward to a wonderful future that Jesus has promised us. And with this hope, we can endure all things, counting them, as Paul did, a “light affliction, which works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

Afterthoughts by Dr. Reagan

I’m sure many of you must be thinking at this point, “How could one of the wisest men who ever lived end up with such a pessimistic, unbiblical view of life?”

Not only was Solomon gifted with great wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-14 and 4:29), he was also a man who believed in God and who greatly honored his Creator when he dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem. On that occasion, he offered a sacrifice to the Lord of 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep (1 Kings 8:63). He also led the priests and the people in a magnificent prayer that began with these words: “O LORD, the God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing lovingkindness to Your servants.…”

Solomon is also the one who wrote the following words, recorded in Psalm 72:18-19, NASB:

“Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, Who alone works wonders. And blessed be His glorious name forever; and may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen.”

Why the Depression?

So, why all his despair in the book of Ecclesiastes? Well, as Dennis Pollock so well points out in his article, Solomon did not have a clear conviction of life after death. And so, as he approached death, he began to wallow in self-pity over the seeming meaninglessness of life. He was wrestling with the idea that “we are here today and gone tomorrow,” soon to be forgotten like a dead dog.

But there is more to it than that. Despite his wisdom and his spirituality, there came a point in Solomon’s life when he got his eyes off God and strayed significantly from the center of God’s will for his life. There were problems from the beginning. He was hardly coronated as king when he decided to engage in a political marriage with one of the daughters of the Egyptian Pharaoh (1 Kings 3:1). This act constituted a severe violation of God’s command against marriages with non-Hebrew women (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). He also burned incense on high places that were dedicated to false gods (1 Kings 3:3).

The Descent into Apostasy

The turning point in Solomon’s life occurred in the year that he received 666 talents of gold (1 Kings 10:14). From that point on, almost to the end of his life, he was obsessed with money, horses and women (1 Kings 11:1-8 and 2 Chronicles 1:14-15).

In the process, he became deeply involved in idolatry, paying tribute to Ashtoreth (the goddess of the Sidonians), Milcom (the god of the Ammonites), Chemosh (the god of Moab) and Molech (the god of Ammon). As the Scriptures put it, “his heart turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel” (1 Kings 11:9).

Looking back at this turning point in Solomon’s life, is it any wonder that the number, 666, came to symbolize apostasy? Undoubtedly, it is the reason the number is used in Revelation 13:16-17 to signify the coded name of the Antichrist.

I believe Solomon wrote the book of Ecclesiastes while he was caught up in his spiritual apostasy, and it is, therefore, an expression of the emptiness of a life being lived in rebellion against God.

The Revival

But the good news is that Solomon must have repented before his death and was reconciled in his relationship with God. This is reflected in the final chapter of Ecclesiastes, which begins with his admonition to young people: “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no delight in them'” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). It’s pretty obvious that he is speaking of his own experience.

Further, in verse 5, he refers to the dead going to their “eternal home.” He declares that the body will return to dust, but “the spirit will return to God who gave it” (verse 7). He even refers to judgment after death (verse 14), and judgment by God certainly gives meaning to how we live here and now.

This last chapter of Ecclesiastes clearly indicates that Solomon got his eyes back on God, either by special revelation about the reality of life after death, or else through the Holy Spirit directing him to relevant passages in the portions of God’s Word that existed at that time.

Resurrection Scriptures

One of those passages is contained in what scholars consider to be the oldest book of the Bible — the book of Job. In Job 19:25-27, the author affirms that a day will come when he will be resurrected and stand before his Redeemer here on earth.

Resurrection to eternal life for believers can also be found in the writing of Solomon’s father, David. In Psalm 16:10, David says he is confident that his soul will not be abandoned in Sheol (the holding place of the spirits of the dead). And in the next psalm, David declares that he will one day “behold the Lord’s face” when he awakens from the dead (Psalm 17:15).

In Psalm 133:3, David speaks of “life forever.” And in his most famous psalm, David proclaims that believers “will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6).

The sons of Korah, a priestly choral group from the time of David, affirmed the resurrection of the soul in Psalm 49:15, where they wrote: “God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for He will receive me.” The prophet Asaph, also a contemporary of David, wrote in Psalm 73:24 that a day will come when believers will be “received to glory.”

In the Hebrew Scriptures, there are many other references to resurrection and eternal life for believers, but the ones cited above should have been available to King Solomon.


As he read these passages from his father and his contemporaries, King Solomon must have begun to understand that life really does have meaning, and so does the way we live it. This resulted in his ending his maudlin book in chapter 12 with these glorious words of triumph:

“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (verses 13-14).

His declaration that all of us will face judgment before God for the way we live gives meaning to life. So, as Solomon faced death, he must have ceased his repetitious muttering of “vanity, vanity, vanity!” Instead, his heart must have been filled with rejoicing that he would see his God.