Man's Fate is Same the Animals
Ecclesiastes' message is quite at odds with what Christians think is taught in the Bible. Its uplifting message is that God wants man to eat, drink, and be merry while he lives, for man, whether righteous or not, shares the same fate as the animals: No further reward at death. In other words, whatever reward one is to receive, one will get it while one is alive, for there is none after death. Forget about living forever in infinite bliss in a heavenly kingdom of a god, because one of the allegedly God-inspired authors of the Bible teaches us that nothing awaits us after death. Or, maybe not all of the words in the Bible are true, not all inspired by God, if God exists?
"So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God's hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits him. All share a common destiny--the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not. As it is with the good man, so with the sinner; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them. This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all.
"For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. .. (Ecclesiastes 9:1-11NIV)
Apologists often note that the Ecclesiastes verses were written from the perspective of a man who lacked confidence in an afterlife and were menat to be understood in that manner, but that can't be right. Accoding to the writer of 2 Timothy, all of the words in Scripture came straight from God. According to that author, Scripture does not contain misguided opinions of ordinary men, as you seem to believe. He believes the words in Scripture were breathed by God into the ears of his writers, and are useful for teaching God's Word:
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16)
If the apologists are right about the Ecclesiastes verses being just the misguided opinion of one man, then the writer of 2 Timothy is wrong, and the Bible is in error. On the other hand, if they're wrong about the verses, and they really are God-breathed and useful for teaching, then God in these verses is teaching us that there is no afterlife, which contradicts other parts of the Bible which teaches that there is an afterlife.
Either way, there is an error or contradiction--one more among thousands.
God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt.
How could it be possible for God to have given to Solomon wisdom and understanding that was immeasurable, but yet Solomon was unable to understand that there was an “afterlife,” if one existed, if this god existed, if you can believe the Bible? How could a god-given, immeasurably great intellect such as Solomon’s not be able to comprehend that there was an afterlife, if such existed?
Thus, either the Ecclesiastes author was wrong about Solomon rejecting the notion of “afterlife,” or else the 1 Kings author was wrong about God giving Solomon measureless wisdom and understanding. Either way, the Bible is in error, and if the Bible is in error here, then it could be in error anywhere, and perhaps the story of creation, the flood, and even the resurrection may be wrong.
Apologists sometimes claim that the Solomon who wrote Ecclesiastes had lost the wisdom and understanding God has given him:
Here is the argument, and the rebuttal:
"As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord ; he did not follow the Lord completely, as David his father had done." (1 Kings 11:4-6)
The apologist concludes from this that Solomon...lost some of the wisdom he once possessed. However, the apologists are taking as evidence that Solomon lost his wisdom the fact that his heart turned away from the Lord to Ashtoreth and Molech, but we’re not talking about Solomon’s judgment after he lost his wisdom and understanding and turned to false gods. We are talking about the Solomon of an earlier time, a time when he wrote Ecclesiastes, a time when he still had sufficient wisdom and understanding to follow the “true” God, Yahweh.
If the apologists want to claim that the Solomon who wrote Ecclesiastes, and who apparently didn’t accept the notion of an afterlife, had already lost his God-given wisdom and understanding, and was the Solomon who had turned toward Ashtoreth and Molech, they will have to explain why there is not a single reference to any god besides the god of Genesis creation, “elohiym,” anywhere in Ecclesiastes. There are forty references to “elohiym,” and not one to false gods.
The absence in Ecclesiastes of any hint that Solomon had turned toward Ashtoreth and Molech, and the repeated reference to only the “true” god of creation, elohiym, tells us that Solomon had not yet lost the near infinite-wisdom and understanding God had given him (if you can believe 1 Kings 4:29-30).
Thus, the Solomon in Ecclesiastes is the infinitely wise and understanding Solomon who apparently rejects the afterlife. We must conclude that either that the author of 1 Kings was wrong about God giving Solomon so much understanding, or else the Ecclesiastes author was misguided, or else Solomon was right about there being no afterlife. No matter how you look at it, the Bible is in error, and if the Bible can be in error in this instance, it might be wrong in its account of the creation, and the flood, and even wrong about the resurrection.
According to the apologist, when Solomon was writing Ecclesiastes he had turned to false gods and away from the notion of an afterlife. Prior to that time, according to the apologist, he had God-given, near-infinite wisdom and understanding, a wisdom an understanding greater than all of the wisdom in Egypt. This is an enormous amount of wisdom, so Solomon must have had sufficient understanding of God’s message to know that there was an afterlife, if you can believe the Bible.
When one abandons the idea of an afterlife and accepts the teaching that there is no afterlife, that this is a hugely important change in ones’ life. Thus, if it’s true--as the apologist claims--that Solomon had made this immensely important, life-changing decision to abandon the notion of an afterlife, why did he not acknowledge the gods--Ashtoreth and Molech--who, according to the apologist, caused him to experience this epiphany--or, should I say, theophany?
Why did he say not a wordin all of his writings about the gods who led him away from the concept of the afterlife, if that’s what had happened, and why did he only refer (forty times) to the god--the god of Genesis creation--who had allegedly given him near-infinite wisdom and understanding and whose message was one of salvation and the afterlife?
Doesn’t it make sense that a man would acknowledge somewhere in his writings at least once the gods who led him to abandon the afterlife? This change in attitude is of towering importance, isn’t it? Thus, it is inconceivable that Solomon would not mention it, if it had in fact occurred.