A myriad of men are born; they labor and sweat and struggle;…they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them’ infirmities follow…those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. It (the release) comes at last – the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them—and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence,… a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever.
These sobering and dark words from an otherwise lighthearted and often humorous author reflect a very sad man. A man whose only pleasures in life stemmed from physical life itself, and when that physical vigor had left his body, death was the only event to look forward to, knowing that death will be the end of his pain, but also thinking death will be his end. No longer will he live on, whether in the hearts of men, or in spirit as a being. Death, it appears to this man, was the ultimate end.
Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 gives us a similarly sobering statement,
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.
After death man has no more portion of the things done on this earth. No more will the dead receive the rewards of the living. No more will they know or feel the emotions of man. Ecclesiastes 5:15 (also see Job 1:21) tells us, “As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.” Man came with nothing. Man shall leave with nothing this world provides him.
Death is a sobering subject. It is one event uniting all men. All will die. Psalms 89:47-48 “47Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? 48What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?” tell us no man shall deliver his soul from the grave. It is appointed for a man once to die (Hebrews 9:27). James 4:14 goes further by telling us, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” Our life is just a little time. Even if one lives to 100, he has only observed five percent of the time since Christ came to earth. Truly our life is short. We are not given great amounts of time to enjoy what Mark Twain calls, “the joys of life.” So Paul tells us in I Corinthians 15:32, if death is the end, and there is nothing left, we should all, “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”
God be thanked, this is not the end. Hebrews 9:27 states, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” For the dead will rise again, and all men will be judged accorded to their deeds, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Those faithful servants found waiting on their master, ready for his appearing will be received by Him (Matthew 24:45-47) as blessed servants of their master. Those unready for His coming will find their servant coming when they do not expect, and He will “appoint him his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24:48-51).
It is certain that we will not remain on this earth forever. Whether by death, or by the Lord’s return, we will leave this earth (I Thessalonians 4:15-17). What we do not know is when. Christ told us in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” We do not know when the Lord will return, nor do we know when we will die.
Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.