Easter and Ecclesiastes

The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes tackles the tricky subject of the vanity or meaninglessness (Hebrew: heḇel) of life in our fallen world. In this fallen world there are many disappointments and injustices and so much brutality and pain. So much of life in this fallen world just doesn’t make sense to us. In fact even the ‘progress’ of life can so often feel like a mere chasing after the wind. Unhappiness abounds, even in the lives of who have all the worldly comforts imaginable and have every situational excuse to be happy. Even worse, we know that everyone in this world will die, enter into the ‘darkness,’ and be buried in a grave, an inevitable progression that is starkly contrast to God’s original design for the man and woman he created in His own image. Death is heḇel’s ultimate triumph (Ecc 3:18–21, 11:8, 12:1–8). In the New Testament the Apostle Paul picks up and builds from this heḇel theme when he writes about the “frustration” of the creation in Romans 8:19–24. There we find that this vanity is clearly cosmic in scope, reaching deeper into the soil than tree roots and stretching higher into the sky than mountain peaks. The vanity reaches all points of creation. Here Paul not only deepens our awareness the vanity of the fallen world, more importantly he sets the creation’s frustration within a redemptive framework (Webb, 108). Within this framework we see that in Christ’s death and resurrection the vanity of Ecclesiastes is being undone. In the redemption of our bodies, when our resurrection and the new creation will be fully revealed, the vanity we read about in Ecclesiastes will be completely undone. Easter marks the beginning of the end for heḇel. Meanwhile we live in hope. We have the Holy Spirit to intercede for us and we have God’s promise that although there is much about life that makes no apparent sense, everything in life is now working together for our ultimate good and according to God’s unassailable design for our lives (Rom 8:26–30). For now Christians await the final end of the heḇel by living by faith in God’s revelation: we fear God; we obey his commands; we partner together to build His church [an activity that is never done in vain (1 Cor 15:58)]; and we await our bodily resurrection by enjoying the abundant gifts that God offers us today (Ecc 2:24–25, 5:18–20, 9:7–9, 12:13).

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