Where are the Dead –
According to the Bible?
There is one text which is most often resorted to in proof that the living survive death and return to be with God. It is Ecclesiastes 12:7: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” Most do not note Solomon’s conclusion that follows in the next verse: “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.” Thus, the idea that “the spirit returning to God” is a most blessed event is erroneous; rather, it is a “vanity.” (verse 8)
There are two particular matters we note in verse 7: a) the spirit “returns” which would indicate this “spirit” had been with God previously. This contradicts Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:46: “However, the first is not the spiritual, but the physical, and afterward that which is spiritual.” It would also contradict what Solomon has already written on the subject of the spirit. (Ecclesiastes 3:19-21) The word “spirit” here is a form of RUACH which means “breath.” Thus, the verse could read: “the breath returns to God who gave it.” (Genesis 2:7)
And, b) Solomon calls the “spirit” an “it” as if it were a life force or breath rather than a person whom he might have called “whom” or “him.”
The Book of Job features the idea of breath and spirit often. Job 27:3: “All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit (breath) of God is in my nostrils.” Job 33:4: “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”
Finally, the context of Ecclesiastes 12:7 comes at the end of the Preacher’s discussion of the vanity of old age when “the years draw nigh.” Such “evil days” of advanced age end with “vanity of vanities” – death.
Nazarene Commentary 2000©
Mark Heber Miller
©2000 All Rights Reserved