In the 12th and last chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon finalises his thesis about the vanity of life. He advises his reader to “remember your Creator in the days of your youth, while the days of misfortune come not, and before the years draw nigh when you say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.'”(Verses 1-2)
Now before we go any further, let me explain something hidden in this text. The word Creator is PLURAL, and some think it is a “pluralis majestatis” (plural of majesty), but on the other hand it could well be a reference to the Trinity, of which there are several allusions in the Old Testament. This being so, it explains the otherwise puzzling statement at the end of the sentence, “I have no pleasure in them.” The word “them” is plural to agree with Creator. The translators would have been more helpful if they had said, “I have no pleasure in Him” or “in the Lord.”
The verses that follow are a remarkably fine depiction of old age and senility, written in figurative language, until we reach the arrival of death itself, spoken in this manner – “Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.” (Verses 7-8)
The spirit returns to God who gave it. The word “return” must be given its full value. If we are to “return” then we have formerly been there. There is no other way of understanding these words.
Where do they go on returning? Verse 5 is more informative – “because man goes to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets.” The word “long” is OLAM in Hebrew, usually translated eternal. Man goes to his eternal home. Once again I have a problem with the translators!
Solomon said that the “spirit” returns to God. It is interesting to observe how this word is used in the following places. Numbers 16:22 “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh . . .” Numbers 27:16 “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh appoint a man over the congregation.” Isaiah 57:16 “I will not contend for ever, neither will I always be angry; for the spirit would fail before me, even the souls whom I have made.” It is clear that the “spirit” is the real person, who leaves the body at death, and returns to the heavenly environment, his “eternal home”. The Lord claims Authorship of every living person, not just their creation. Each person is an individual design from the heavenly workshops. He brings us into the world, and when life is over we return to Him, to give account of our earthly pilgrimage.
Now we can refer to another passage with similar import. Job 1:21 where Job assessed his sudden losses. “Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.” The first part of the sentence is true by observation. No child is born attired in clothing! But Job says that he will return “thither”. How can that be? Like Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night, one might say “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb?” (John 3:4) This is where we need to know that the “mother’s womb” was used in ancient times as a figure of what might now be called “the cosmic mother.” An Apocryphal writer, Sirach, tells us this in Ecclesiasticus 40:1 “Great travail is created for every man, and a heavy yoke is upon the sons of Adam, from the day of their coming forth from their mother’s womb, until the day for their burial in the mother of all things.” In the New Testament, the saints are told that “the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother.”(Galatians 4:26) Paul was probably referring to a passage in 2 Esdras 10:7 “Zion, the mother of us all, is full of sorrow, and much humbled.”
Moses, in Psalm 90:10 speaks about death in this manner, “The years of our life are three score and ten, or if by reason of strength, fourscore; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” Here is an allusion to our “returning to God”. The “spirit” flies away to his “eternal home.” In case there is any misunderstanding, the Hebrew word for “fly away” is used by David in Psalm 55:6 “O that I had wings like a dove! Then I would fly away and be at rest.” People who have experienced a “Near Death Experience” often speak about their rapid initial movement through a long tunnel to a bright region.
Enough has been said to confirm that we began our existence long before birth, and when the appointed time came, we were sent down to walk through the shadow-land of this earth, until at death we fly away again, and return to God who made us, to that land called our eternal home. It is in the purpose of God that every person shall follow this route. Earth is a place where decisions are made. It is part of our schoolroom experience. It is NOT the whole experience, just a part of it.