A Question I Was Asked:



Could You Explain Ecclesiastes 12:7?






The Question:

Some who have temporarily 'died' upon the operating table, and were later resucitated, can vividly recall rapid journeys toward heaven, then the feeling of disappointment when being 'sent back.' This 'journey' is undoubtedly a reference to the soul/spirit essence beginning a journey back to God...

Could you clarify Ecclesiastes 12:7 for me?

Ecclesiastes 12:7 NLT:

"For then the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it."

My questions:
1. What is the dust?
2. What is the spirit?
3. What did God give us?


UK Apologetics Reply:

This is obviously talking about death. Okay, let us look at this Scripture:

And the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7, NIV throughout).

Now let us attempt to answer these questions:

1. What is the dust?

Let us consult Genesis 2:

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7).

The Lord God made us from dust and to dust we all return at death:

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. (Genesis 3:19).

So returning to dust is the decomposition which occurs, following death.


2. What is the spirit?

As we just saw, "The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7). So the Creator of all the heavens and the earth did two things in creating man. First, He formed him from the very dust of the ground and secondly, He did something to distinguish man from His other creatures - He breathed His own breath into the nostrils of Adam. This is very important to note as we are going to see.

So Man is more than dust or physical substance. Man also has a spirit component raising us above the level of the animal kingdom. So God has connected Himself to mankind in the most intimate way possible. Man is related to God and has the same breath as God, the breath of life. This enables us to see that the teaching of macro-evolution (humans developing from apes, from a beginning in some primeval slime, according to random and mindless forces) is a most hideous blasphemy!

Genesis 2:7 tells us that man became a living soul. Whether we say, 'living being,' 'soul,' or 'living soul' (according to the translation), the Hebrew word used is nephesh. This word refers to an animated, breathing, conscious, living and existing creature.
¬ĚThe same word is also used of animals in Genesis, but animals did not have the very breath of God breathed into them. Animals have being at a lower, more fleshly level; they are indeed real living creatures but the very breath of God was never breathed into them. So, in this physical sense, we are related to God - it should be no surprise, therefore, that we human creatures can write great treatises, great books, we can design great cathedrals - then build them, we can compose great symphonies - then can have them performed by musicians of incredible skill, we can write expositions of every book of the Bible, write incredibly moving poetry, produce athletes of high skills and much else. Whether one wants to call it 'soul' or something else, we do have this spirit essence within us. This spirit essence also causes us to seek deeper spiritual meanings behind our lives; As C.S. Lewis once put it, 'God is the fuel which we were intended to run on - put something else in the tank and you will have endless problems!' So the divine 'breath' was breathed into the very first man and is now passed on, generation by generation.

So upon our physical death, our physical parts return to dust, but our spirit (given by God as a sacred gift), returns to Him for His safe-keeping. Sound surprising? No, it's very real! Some who have temporarily 'died' upon the operating table, and were later resucitated, can vividly recall rapid journeys toward heaven, then the feeling of disappointment when being 'sent back.' This 'journey' is undoubtedly a reference to the soul/spirit essence beginning a journey back to God: "the spirit returns to God who gave it." But does this suggest that all such people are saved? Not necessarily, don't forget: judgment comes a little later.


3. So what did God give us?

He gave us this 'spirit essence,' or 'soul,' which is in each and every human being. God originally 'breathed it in' to the very first human couple, it is then passed on generation by generation. Without this spirit essence we would be as dumb animals. Do dumb animals ever ponder on the eternal? Do you think that your dog - lovable as he may be - spends time pondering on the prospect of an afterlife? I love cats, but I doubt that any cat ever contemplated writing some poetry! Modern science continues to foolishly claim that we are not above the animals, simply that our brains are larger (although it is now known that some creatures have larger brains than us). In this they are willingly ignorant of a truth which is available to them.

Most importantly of all, we humans have the possibility of coming into the knowledge of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, the path which may lead to salvation. Of course, we cannot come into such knowledge by scientific means, the Holy Spirit needs to open that door to us according to divine Election.

Robin A. Brace. July 31st, 2012.

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