Let us look at a few verses in Proverbs before turning to our main text in Ecclesiastes.Proverbs 8; 6-11:
"Listen, for I shall speak noble things, and the opening of my lips will produce right things. My mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All of the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing crooked or perverted in them. They are all straightforward to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge. Take my instruction, not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than jewels, and all desirable things cannot compare with her."
Instruction from God, we are told, is better than silver. Knowledge of Him and of His Word is better than gold, and wisdom is better than jewels.
The world has its aristocracy; they will always look for gold, silver, jewels, annuities, investment portfolios, securities, etc. The world will look to material wealth – its aristocracy must and will have all of these things that will not matter in eternity. God says, however, that only the things that last forever are real riches. Silver, gold and jewels will not get you off the road to hell, nor will they get you into heavenly Jerusalem.
There are two aspects to this: First, we often forget that “the meek shall inherit the earth”. (Math 5:5) There will be a literal millennial reign of Jesus. When that time comes, God's aristocracy will rule and reign with Christ on this planet. Then there is the second aspect, which is eternity.
One way to understand this is as follows: there are certain things in life and in Scripture that teach us now about the Millennium. For example, antediluvian man lived to be hundreds of years old, and that teaches how it will be again in the Millennium. Other experiences such as the love you feel for a beautiful newborn baby, or the thrill of looking on an unblemished landscape where pollution has not disturbed the natural environment – the best things in this life can give us a dim view of what the Millennium will be like; it will be what would have happened on this planet if Adam and Eve had not sinned. In turn, the Millennium will be used by God to teach us what heaven will be like. When Jesus reigns in Jerusalem, He will personally teach us the things of the Father. The meek will inherit the earth: God's aristocracy will take over this planet. The Jehovah's Witnesses completely corrupt this, but it is nonetheless a biblical truth.
Then there is eternity, to which the only treasures we may bring are knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. The world can and does have data; however, there is a big difference between data and knowledge. There are people who have degrees in theology from the finest universities, who know all about the Bible; yet they have no idea what the Bible is about. They have data, but no knowledge. To gain knowledge one needs understanding. One may have data, but to know what the data means requires understanding, and gaining understanding, in turn, requires wisdom. The world has its folly, which it calls wisdom, but it totally lacks true wisdom.
God's aristocracy has something better than gold, silver, and jewels. The world will always measure wealth by the things that perish, while God measures wealth by eternal, imperishable things. However, just as the world measures wealth by material riches, so also do worldly churches. The standard of a worldly church is the same as that used by the world.
As It Applies to the Church
We have an example of this in what Jesus said to the church of Laodicea:
"You say you are rich, that you have need of nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked." -Rev 3:17.
The general superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Australia wrote a book called You Need More Money, in which he claims that the fact that God has blessed his ministry financially proves him to be in good favor and standing with Him, while those who disapprove of his ministry are not blessed with material wealth and are therefore out of God's will. That is a classic example of someone using the world's standard to judge the things and the people of God. Jesus, however, tells the church of Laodicea that they, who think they are rich, are the ones who are truly impoverished. Remember: Laodicea's first problem is that it doesn't know it is Laodicea. Jesus tells them to “buy salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see” (Rev 3:18). Suburban middle-class Protestantism does not know that it's not ready for Jesus to come back. It is the faithful remnant in Laodicea who know and who buy eye salve.
Why do faithful Christians so often struggle more than worldly believers? Why do good Christians so often have more trials than do worldly Christians? Why do good, biblical churches so often struggle more than worldly churches? Because it is those whom He loves that God corrects. The others become, as it were, illegitimate children.
So we see from Scripture that Laodicea measures wealth in the same way the world does; but how does Jesus measure wealth? He tells Laodicea "You have the wealth, but you're impoverished," yet He tells the church in Smyrna this in Rev 2:9: "I know your tribulation and your poverty, but you are rich". The name “Smyrna” is derived from the Greek word for myrrh, which was used to anoint dead bodies for burial in the ancient world. Remember that Jesus was buried with a mixture of aloes and myrrh; myrrh has to do with death. The Magi brought very significant gifts to Jesus: gold because He would be King, frankincense because He would be Priest, but then myrrh because He would die, would be a Sacrifice anointed for burial.
Why do faithful Christians so often struggle more than worldly believers? Why do good Christians so often have more trials than do worldly Christians? Why do good, biblical churches so often struggle more than worldly churches? Because it is those whom He loves that God corrects. The others become, as it were, illegitimate children.
Which are the truly rich churches today? The rich churches are those that do not hope in this world: Christians in persecuted churches belong to the true divine aristocracy. I am not saying you must be persecuted in order to be in the aristocracy, but you must be willing to be persecuted, and if necessary, to give up material, financial position and security for the cause of the Gospel of Christ. God has His aristocracy: those who have wisdom, knowledge and understanding. These are the riches of His nobility. (The Hebrew word for “aristocracy” and “nobility” is the same.)
With this background in view, please turn to Ecclesiastes 9. You may have heard me point out that just as Proverbs is God's psychology book, so Ecclesiastes is God's philosophy text. The Greeks had Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates; the Germans had the 19th-century rationalists like Nietzsche and Hegel; the English had Hobbes and Beetham. In Hebrew Ecclesiastes is called “Kohelet”, the Preacher. God's philosophy is simply this: This world is fallen and it is futile to put trust in it; it is all vanity. If you trust it, you'll be very disappointed. Fear God and keep His commandments, trusting Him for something much better. This place is fallen.
God's philosophy stated in brief actually says, “Make the best of a bad thing”. It tells people to make the most of their youth, to make the most of their marriage, because these things are fleeting; it tells us to fear God and keep His commandments rather than put any trust in the things that are temporal. If trust is placed in this world, it leads to bitter disappointment at the very least. That is God's philosophy.
"For I have taken all this into my heart to explain it, that righteous men and wise men and their deeds are in God's hand. Man does not know whether it will be love or hatred; anything awaits him. It is the same for all: There is one fate for the righteous and one for the wicked, for the good and for the clean, and for the unclean, for the man who offers a sacrifice and for the one who does not offer a sacrifice. As the good man is, so is the sinner. As the swearer is, so is the one who is afraid to swear."
In the New Testament, James tells us in his epistle not to boast about tomorrow, but to say “if the Lord wills”. (James 4:13-15) This is particularly or acutely true of salvation – “now is the appointed time, today is the day of salvation”. (2 Cor 6:2) You do not know what is on the agenda; nobody knows but the Lord Himself. Yet we do know that because the world is fallen, something has happened: good people and bad people both die. The rich and the poor go to the same grave. The good people – that is, those who are justified by faith in Christ – will have the hope of the Resurrection.
However, the fact is that the rich man cannot take his wealth with him; it ends with his death. It makes no difference how high and mighty a person is: once he dies, it's all over. Once Princess Diana cashed in her chips, she was in exactly the same situation as the next person who may have been totally unknown in his lifetime here.
Our office in England is near the castle of George Harrison of the Beatles – we tried to witness to him a few times and gave him the book Death of a Guru, but it was difficult to even get him to hear us because he was so steeped in Hinduism. He died chanting Hare Krishna in Los Angeles, the newspapers tell us. Well, his castle is no longer his; he did not take it with him to Nirvana. As far as we can know, he took nothing with him into hell. It is the same for all mankind in the end.
The Contrast of Good and Bad People
Continuing in Ecclesiastes 9:3:
"This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead."
God sees the fact that both good and bad people end up dead as an evil. “The whole world lies in the power of the wicked one”. (1 John 5:19) Expect no enduring justice in this world. God can and will intervene for His purposes on behalf of His people, but don't expect much from this place.
Continuing in verse 4:
"But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion."
The reference for this would be 2 Samuel 9:8. The most miserable, downcast born-again Christian is infinitely better off than the most successful, together unsaved person. The most depressed, basket-case excuse for a Christian is still infinitely better off than an unsaved person who has got it all together, no matter how big their investment portfolio is or how much property they own or how professionally successful they are. A sick dog is always better than a dead lion; unsaved people are dead.
"For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten."
The only reward that an unsaved person will receive is what they can get out of this world, which will be over before they know it.
What does it mean that the dead know nothing? It is amazing to me how many Christians ask me what happens when we die. Studying the subject of death in the Bible is called thanatology, from the Greek word “thanos”. (We're thinking of doing a conference on this subject.) When you die, will you go to be with the Lord, or will you go to sleep? Well, time as we know it exists only relative to us. In eternity, there is “chromos”, from which we get the word “chronology”; it means an order of events outside time. What most of us are inclined to do is to think of eternity as a clock that keeps going forever. We translate the Greek term “kairos” and the Hebrew term “olama olamin” as “forever and ever”, but their meaning is not exactly that, although it does include that. It is not a clock that continues “forever and ever”, but rather the absence of any clock at all.
The Bible talks about the deaths of Christians as sleep for two reasons: First, when you go to sleep, you wake up again. The next thing a person knows after they have fallen asleep is that they are waking up, just as Christians who have died or “fallen asleep” before Christ comes will arise at the Resurrection having been unaware of the time that passed between their earthly death and the Resurrection event. Relative to us, relative to time, those who have died in Christ are asleep and awaiting the Resurrection. They are unconscious of anything that is going on in this world.
The second reason the Bible uses the illustration of sleep is this: a person's consciousness enters a different realm while they sleep. Neurophysiologists tell us that everybody dreams. They derive this information from observing brain wave activity, eyes flickering, etc. In a dream, it is possible to talk to and be with people who are dead as if they are alive again, and it makes sense in the context of the dream. It is possible to see past events happening in the present. It is also possible to dream of future events which have not yet happened. Somehow, the past, present, and future can all be the same in a dream. You have chronos, a chronology of events, but no time.
Think of what happens to John in the book of Revelation: he enters eternity and sees the 24 elders in Revelation 4, who are the 12 patriarchs of Israel and the 12 apostles. He, of course, is one of these apostles and elders, and so sees himself in eternity. Another example from Scripture is the Lamb was slain from before the foundation of the world; outside of time. Scripture tells us that we are already seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph 2:6) – part of our problem is that we do not see ourselves from an eternal perspective, the way Ephesians describes it. We are already the aristocracy. When we die, we enter eternity, which is a different realm. Therefore, relative to the one who dies, he is with the Lord. But relative to this realm, this earth, the next thing that one will be aware of is the Resurrection.
Part of the problem with Calvinism is that they try to apply time to eternity. Because Calvinism is based on humanism, Calvinists try to figure things out intellectually which can only be comprehended intellectually to a certain point. They like to emphasize that we're predestined – well, of course, because relative to eternity every choice has already been made. Do I believe in eternal security? Yes, because we are already seated with Christ in heavenly places; in eternity it's already happening. I believe in eternal security as the Bible teaches it. But once saved always saved? No – relative to us it is a variable. Again, this is a thing we can only understand to a certain point.
In England we call American football “gridiron”; it's not so popular, though some people like it. I, however, prefer a game called rugby. So when I have to speak at a church and there's a rugby match on, I try to get someone to videotape it for me. (I do NOT like it when people tell me the scores, which has happened to me twice.) Then, when I get home, I watch the match. Relative to the players, the match is a done deal; it's over. I, however, can be just as involved in the game after the fact (as long as nobody tells me something they shouldn't) as if I were watching it in real time. Relative to me, the match is still going on and can go either way. Our relationship to time and eternity is something like that; to try explaining it any further is beyond me – that is the most the Bible tells us.
'The dead know nothing'; they are asleep. When people are asleep or comatose, they are unaware of the events around them, but that is not to say that they don't have any consciousness: their consciousness has simply entered a different realm. Those, then, are the two reasons the Bible uses sleep as an illustration of what death is like for believers.
Continued in Ecclesiastes 9 verse 5b:
"For the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore shall they have a share in anything done under the sun."
So once you leave this place, it's a done deal. Verse 7:
"Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works."
Jesus said that He had meat to eat which was to do the will of the Father. Ecclesiastes is drawing there on pascal imagery, the fulfillment of which is found in the Lord's Supper, by which we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes. When we take the Lord's Supper, we're remembering what Jesus did for us. It is an appetizer before the Marriage Supper of the Lamb; although the world is perishing, we can eat the bread and drink the cup with gladness, because we know where we came from – the cross and the empty tomb – and we know where we're going – Heaven. Therefore we can eat and drink with a glad heart. The Lord's Supper should really be the centerpiece of our fellowship and worship. Fellowship is important, worship is important, exposition of the Scripture is important – it is all important, but the centerpiece and the highlight should be the breaking of bread. We proclaim His death until He comes; it's where we came from and it's where we're going. It is a memorial, but it is also a prelude to the Marriage Supper.
“For God has already accepted your works”. Look, please, at 2 Timothy 1:9:
"(God) who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,"
Now, you know that in the Bible when it says “Christ Jesus”, with the Messianic title preceding His personal name, it speaks of Him in eternity. When it says “Jesus Christ”, personal name first and Messianic title second, it refers to Him on earth. God has saved us and called us: there is a difference between salvation and calling. What the New Testament really says about election has more to do with our calling than with our salvation. Just as we are already saved from eternity – to us it's a variable, but to eternity it's completed – so our works, the ministry to which God has called us, was also ordained from eternity. Before you were born, before you were born again, before the planet was even created, God ordained what He had for you to do. Now, according to Matthew 25, the magnitude of our eternal reward will depend in large measure upon whether or not we are faithful to God's calling. “God has already approved your works”. why? Because they were ordained from eternity; it has already happened. If you have the gift of evangelism, that was ordained from eternity; if you have the gift of a pastor, that was ordained from eternity. The same goes for music ministry, the gift of helps, the gift of teaching, or God's calling of a person to a third-world country as a missionary. “Eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with gladness” (Ecc. 9:7) – take the Lord's Supper with joy, because what you are doing God has already approved from eternity.
It is God's philosophy that we must see things from the eternal perspective, as Ephesians states. That is one of the barometers of spiritual growth: the older you get in Jesus, the more you should view your life from the perspective of eternity. Unsaved people have nothing to live for but fear of the grave, so they become obsessed with this life and this world. We know that God has already approved our works; so if there's a believer who by the will of the Lord is in prison for his faith, God has already approved that he will be there as a witness to his faith. He can still eat his bread and drink his wine with gladness in spite of his circumstances in this life, for he knows where he is going. We see this in Paul when he was in prison; he knew that he was in the will of God and so rejoiced.
Let's continue in Ecclesiastes 9:8:
"Let your garments always be white, and let your head lack no oil."
The perpetually white garments point to those who wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb. The “garments of salvation”, as Isaiah calls them, or the “wedding garment” in the Gospels – let them be white all the time: live a godly life. “And let anointing be always on your head” - we should always be trying to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. When we come to church it is fairly easy to be spiritual; however, when I'm stuck on the tarmac at O'Hare Airport, about to miss a connection, my blood pressure tends to go through the ceiling! At times like those it is difficult to remember that I am still under the anointing and need to keep my garments white. When you work with an unsaved person, or persons, it is very difficult to keep your garments white and oil on your head at all times. To do this we must keep the eternal perspective.
"Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun."
Marriage was designed to be a blessing. Because of the fall of Man, however, there is a curse on the relationship between men and women that can be partially reversed in Christ. A godly marriage is a blessing. The Bible says to make the most of it. There are reasons to make the most of it: one of these reasons would be that it is one of the things that teach about eternity.
Again, let's go back to the sh’ma: Sh’ma Israel Adonani Eloheynu Adonai echad; "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is Oneness", Jesus said, quoting Moses. (Mark 12:29) The oneness that takes place in marital intimacy is a picture of Christ's intimacy with His bride the Church, and God's intimacy with Israel. The kind of intimacy that takes place in a godly marriage is a small hint of the intimacy that the Church will have in eternity with Christ as a corporate Bride; this is much of what the Song of Solomon is about. But the fact that it says “while your life is fleeting (or vain)”, well; no one stays young and good-looking forever. Romance can become a little difficult in your geriatric years, so make the most of it in your youth! God's philosophy of life is very practical. Christians can become so heavenly-minded that they're no earthly good. The Bible is never like that – rather, it deals with life for what it is. It deals with the realities of living in this world, while also dealing with whate are eternally, showing a balanced relationship between the two.
Making the Most of This Life
"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going."
Again, make the most of this place. You won't be here that long, so get the most eternal value out of it that you can. It's a fallen world, but make the best of your life; don't waste it. Backsliders waste their youth and they waste their lives. In comparison with eternity, what is the 80-90 years you have on this earth? Nothing. Yet in comparison with the 80-90 years you have in this world, one year, five years, ten years – these are long stretches of that time; too much time to waste on straying away from the Lord. Backsliders are the biggest time-wasters there are; everything a backslider does is a sheer waste of time and of life because none of it is of eternal value, and they know better.
Continuing with verse 11:
"I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all."
Some Christians say they don't believe in luck. However, we see here that God does. There is certainly Providence – God can and does intervene on behalf of His people. Yet the fact of the matter is that due to the way of this world, the race is not always to the swift, nor is the victory always to the strong. (Ecc. 9:11)
The only thing a cow can do is chew grass, but boy, can that cow chew it well! You will find people often who are interested in the arts, who may be multilingual, well-educated, well-traveled, and yet they struggle financially because their interests are so diverse; they have no focus. On the other hand, there are people who are not very clever, yet they open something like a gas station, work 16-hour days and save their money, and soon have two of them. How do simple people do this? Look at immigrants who come to America from countries where there is no Judeo-Christian cultural influence and no economic opportunity, only social injustice. For example, take people from India, how they'll come to England or to America and how hard they will work to get their children an education. They very often wind up with money. I stay at a Ramada Inn in the United States at times that is owned by an immigrant from India, while the janitor's great-grandparents were born there. Why is that? Because the race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong; time and chance overtake them all. Now, there are practical principles in the book of Proverbs for success, yet it holds true that time and chance play a significant role in this world.
One of the most brilliant founding fathers of the United States was William Morris of Pennsylvania. He foresaw how the state and the city of Philadelphia would develop, and got into land speculation. Every single thing he predicted would happen, did happen. Yet his timing on his investments was wrong, and he went bankrupt. He was a great visionary, and possibly America's first urbanologist. He saw the way things were going to develop, but his timing was all wrong. Sometimes people who are not too clever wind up with money while people who are very clever wind up broke – “time and chance overtake them all.” That is all the more reason not to trust in this world. If you are wealthy, maintain the attitude that you are merely God's steward and that all your wealth is truly His to do with as He sees fit. God's philosophy is that if you are rich in material things, count yourself broke, for it belongs to Jesus rather than to you. But if you are poor, without material wealth, count yourself rich because you are a co-heir with Christ. Do not trust this world; there is no justice and no guarantee of anything, although that is not to say that God cannot and will not intervene on behalf of His people.
Continuing with Ecclesiastes 9:12:
"For man also does not know his time: like fish taken in a cruel net, like birds caught in a snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly upon them."
The most successful businessperson in a city, who has worked hard and accumulated much wealth, is suddenly diagnosed with a pre-terminal disease. This sort of thing happens every day – people get caught in a snare. Unsaved people live it up, carry on as they please, but then die suddenly, and that is it for them.
Who Will Escape?
Now we begin to get into the aristocracy: Verses 13-18:
"This wisdom I have also seen under the sun, and it seemed great to me: There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it and besieged it, and built great snares around it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man. Then I said: 'Wisdom is better than strength. Nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shouting of a ruler among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroys much good."
Let us understand this imagery of a city: We see the same imagery of a surrounded city in the fall of Samaria, in the fall of Jerusalem in 585 B.C., and again in the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Jerusalem, of course, is a picture of Heaven in the book of Revelation. In both Hebrews and Revelation we see that earthly Jerusalem is a shadow of the heavenly Jerusalem; in fact, the writer of Hebrews calls it a copy. (Heb 12:22) The city is under siege: those who knew the way out of the siege, like Elisha during the famine and siege of his time, or Jeremiah in his time, were despised. In 70 A.D. it was the same after the martyrdom of James for the leader or senior pastor of the church in Jerusalem, a cousin of Jesus named Simeon. He was there when the Roman siege of Jerusalem that had been prophesied by Daniel and again by Jesus began. We can read about this in Eusebius and Josephus. God's people escaped from Jerusalem, both in Jeremiah's day and in 70 A.D. because they had wisdom. However, those who had wisdom were not the ones held in high esteem. Jeremiah and Simeon were looked down upon. The ones who knew how to escape were despised. In the Last Days it is the same. Remember the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 – the events of 70 A.D. prefigure the Rapture of the church. The way the believers came out of Jerusalem and were rescued is a type of the Rapture happening before the tribulation really gets bad.
Gold, silver, and jewels will not help you escape; only wisdom, knowledge and understanding will. Jesus said, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded. . .”(Luke 21:20) and those with wisdom knew how to interpret the signs. Eschatologically, all of this comes into play: the people who understand that wisdom is better than what the world calls strength are despised, and their wisdom is not heeded, just as the people didn't listen to Jeremiah or to the believers in 70 A.D.
Verse 17 again:
"The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools."
You are better off in a home Bible study with six people where Jesus is lifted up and Scripture is truly expounded than in a huge, massive church where people are rolling on the floor in hysterics, shouting, and going ape over the latest nonsense or hype. There is no wisdom in it. “The words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools”. The word “fools” here is not “raca”, not a belittlement of a person's natural lack of intelligence or a mockery of someone's congenital birth defect; rather, it speaks of people who are willfully fools, who pervert their logic. Jesus told us that if we call someone a fool due to a natural lack of intelligence we are in danger of hellfire – we are never to berate people because they are not intelligent naturally. However, when those who do know better behave foolishly, the Scripture berates them in places such as Jeremiah and Ecclesiastes.
When you see churches today taking part in the errors of hyper-Pentecostalism, with the shouting and hysteria and general foolishness that goes on, that is what Scripture calls “the shouting of a ruler among fools”. You are far better off in a tiny church where there is wisdom and where the Word of God is accurately taught and explained, where someone will tell you how to escape this besieged city before it is too late.
Don't Take the Bad with the Good
Verse 18 tells us that “wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroys much good”. I have seen this many, many times: it happens when a new church is founded, because every new work will be tested. Every time a new church is planted a lot of zeal, enthusiasm and prayer goes into it; the Lord moves and does things. But then one person comes in with his or her own agenda. That person can sink the whole ship. Sometimes it only needs one person to sow seeds of discord in a congregation and ruin it. One of the things I have learned is what the Maccabees learned: many will join us in hypocrisy in the Last Days. The fact that someone is against what you are against does not at all guarantee that they arefor what you are for.
Most of the people who will read Dave Hunt's books or listen to my tapes or read Bill Randles' books or things like this are sincere Christians. Many have been burned by crazy churches or exploited financially or something similar to that, yet they themselves are sincere, genuine Christians. However, there is a small percentage that will simply use good teachers or good churches as sounding boards for their own agendas. Give them enough time and they will fall out with you. These are not people who have righteous indignation and are standing against heresy or immorality; these are people who could not fit into any church. These are people with a rebellious spirit, who cannot accept any leadership or any commitment except on their own terms. Very small numbers of them can destroy a whole church. In a church of 200 people, 5 can cause a split. "One sinner destroys much good."
Let's continue with Ecclesiastes 10:1:
"Dead flies make the perfumer's oil stink; so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor."
There is a foolish argument which says that because a thing is not all bad it must be good. We address this in The Sons of Zadok, explaining the Greek word “parasaxousin”, meaning to put truth next to error, and looking at the word “acatharsis”, meaning a mixture of truth and error, and their uses in Scripture concerning a mixture of good and bad doctrine. When you hear someone saying, "We have to eat the meat and spit out the bones," you are hearing man's flawed wisdom. The Hebrews were forbidden to make a garment out of flax mixed with wool; God did not allow it.(Deut 22:11) A little leaven leavens the entire lump of dough. (1 Cor 5:6)This does not give us the right to find fault over every little doctrine, but it does require us to take a stand over the things that are fundamental.
Here in Ecclesiastes 10:1, however, this principle is described in a specific manner: “dead flies make the perfumer's oil stink”. Fragrances in the Bible are types of worship. Remember that Scripture calls the prayers of the saints incense, (Rev 8:4) and that when God was angry with Israel and they offered Him burnt offerings, His response was to say “I will not smell your fragrances”. (Lev 26:31) So let's say I come home from Hong Kong with a bottle of duty-free perfume as a gift for my wife, only there's a fly carcass floating in it. What would have been a nice gift is ruined by one small thing. (Interestingly, the Latin philo-genetic name for a fly is “musica domestica”, or “house music”, because of the buzzing it makes.) When the carcass of a fly begins to decompose in a bottle of perfume, its enzymes interact chemically with the perfume, and this causes it to give forth a very foul odor rather than a sweet fragrance.
Again, fragrances Scripturally refer to worship. I've been to church services where they are singing good choruses and good hymns and the Holy Spirit is moving, but then they suddenly begin to go into something unbiblical – usually something pneumo-centric, directed toward the Holy Spirit, which is unbiblical since the Holy Spirit is never prayed to in the Bible. He is only prayed to or worshiped within the context of the Trinity – He Himself always points to Jesus. Our faith is Christo-centric, not pneumo-centric. In any case, back to this church service: Ten choruses or hymns are all good, and one is wrong. But it only takes one fly to spoil the ointment. The Father wants to be worshiped in Spirit and in Truth. This idea that we have to take the good with the bad is man's flawed wisdom, not God's perfect wisdom. For saying this, I am often called “critical”. Somehow, being Biblical has now become being critical. Nonetheless, this is a scriptural truth: it doesn't take more than one fly to ruin the perfume. Something that was sweet-smelling thus becomes revolting, because death is in it.
The Chronic Sinner
Continuing with Eccelsiastes 10:2:
"A wise man's heart directs him towards the right, but the foolish man's heart directs him towards the left."
This reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 25 concerning the separation of sheep and goats, sheep on His right hand and goats on His left. There are some believers who are always going towards the left; always going the wrong way. I can't explain why, but it is always the same people who follow one silly trend after another piece of nonsense and get into trouble. In England, who is taking the Alpha courses? The same people who are involved in Toronto. Who is into Pensacola? The same people who are into Promise Keepers. It's always the same people getting into weird stuff; they do it chronically.
Now, a young believer can come to Christ with a lot of baggage and get themselves into a lot of trouble. However, when you see people who chronically get into spiritual and doctrinal trouble, it's a serious thing. “A wise man's heart directs him towards the right, but a foolish man's heart directs him towards the left”.
For example: I knew a girl in England who was a lawyer. When she was in university, she would come with friends who were in the Christian fellowship on campus to some of my Bible studies in the North of England. She graduated and eventually her friends came to one of my meetings and told me they were very concerned about her because she'd gotten involved with some group that seemed on the surface to be born-again, but were actually more like a cult. This group had persuaded her to go to Chicago with them, and her friends asked me to see what was happening to her.
Several weeks later I had to be in Chicago – my wife was with me – and I found a way to contact this young woman. I had to make a deal to meet her in front of a department store because our meeting had to be surreptitious due to the extreme heavy shepherding and control this group exerted. I met her, talked with her, and took her to talk to my wife. I couldn't believe what she told me. This is an educated woman, yet this group she was in was telling people who were clean and healthy to marry people who were HIV-positive and trust the Lord to preserve their lives and health. Some of them were dying of AIDS as a result of obeying this. I took her to a mission, showed them my minister's card (this is the only reason I am ordained: so I can have a minister's license which gets me into hospitals and jails and, in my case, sometimes out of one), and got them to keep her there. I told them not to let anyone talk to her, and promised I would return the next day. Next, I called her parents (who were not saved) and told them what she was involved with. The next day, I took her to O'Hare Airport personally and put her on the plane with a stern warning that if I ever saw her there again I would do something unpleasant with my size 12-½ extra-wide boot. In any case, this girl went back to England. A while later she came to the Moriel church we planted in the South of England and told me she was in another crazy church. I saw her again several weeks ago, and she told me she'd been married to someone from that crazy church, but was now out of the church as well as separated from her husband.
There are just some Christians who are always like that, with one thing after another. Now, a young believer can come to Christ with a lot of baggage and get themselves into a lot of trouble – I understand that. I was saved out of the hippie movement, so I know what that's like. However, when you see people who chronically get into spiritual and doctrinal trouble, it's a serious thing. “A wise man's heart directs him towards the right, but a foolish man's heart directs him towards the left.”
Let's continue in Ecclesiastes 10 with verses 3-5:
"Even when a fool walks along the road his sense is lacking, and he demonstrates to everyone that he is a fool. If the ruler's temper rises against you, do not abandon your position, because composure allays great offenses. There is an evil I have seen under the sun, like an error which goes forth from the ruler:"
This is a ruler from whom we should not back down; an error goes forth from him. Therefore we know that this ruler is not God or of God – no error goes forth from God, and from Him we had all better back down. This, on the contrary, is a ruler we must stand up to, from whom error comes. Obviously this is the ruler of this world, the devil; however, it is also those who operate in his character. We must link this to what was in the previous chapter (remember, there are no chapter divisions in the original text), where we are told that “the words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools”. Ungodly leaders of the church operate in the character of Satan. Why did Jesus call the Pharisees a generation of serpents? (Math 23:33) Because Satan was also a serpent and a beguiler.
2 Corinthians 11:13:
"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers disguising themselves as apostles of Christ."
They try to look like the genuine article.
"And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light; therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their deeds."
Wicked leaders who come to deceive operate in the character of Satan, as Jesus describes in Matthew 23, serpents and deceivers - -or as Paul states, liars trying to look like angels of light. Do not back down from such rulers any more than you would back down from Satan himself.
Notice how these rulers operate: we are told in Ecclesiastes10:4 not to abandon our position if his temper rises. These men hate to be challenged because they cannot respond biblically. If you are being attacked for upholding God's Word there is a holy anger that may come on you like it did on Moses when he found the people worshiping the golden calf, but you will always be able to respond biblically. These wicked leaders cannot respond biblically, so instead they say things like "You have a rebellious spirit", "Don't you trust us?", or "You're divisive". The divisive man, according to /romans 16:17, is the one who departs from biblical truth. They get angry when you confront them, but do not back down from them.
People ask me everywhere what they should do about the state of their church or the attitude of their pastor. However, they are asking the wrong person. I am not the Holy Spirit, nor is any man, however godly; we must all ask Jesus what we should do in our particular situations. If you find yourself in a bad church, you either stay in and fight or stand up and leave. If God tells you to stay in and fight, that is what you must do; if He tells you to leave, then that is what you must do. If you stay and fight, however, expect to be thrown out. But whatever you do, do not stay in and pretend everything is all right. Don't back down from these guys who rant and rave or have people behaving like fools. "The shouting of a ruler among fools" – don't back down from people like that; they operate in the devil's character. False prophets are exposed and proven by their false prophecies.
Who Are the Truly Rich?
Continuing with Ecclesiastes 10:5:
"There is an evil I have seen under the sun, like an error which goes forth from the ruler: Folly is set in many exalted places, while rich men sit in humble places."
Who are the rich here? Those with knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. Who are the poor? Those who lack the same. Laodicea says "Blessed be the Lord, I have become rich and have need of nothing", not knowing that they are truly impoverished. Smyrna cries, "We're being persecuted!" They had nothing, but Jesus told them they were rich. Again, the meek shall inherit the earth.
Think of the Gospel in the same way you think of the novel by Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper. That book was a docu-fiction based on King Edward VI of England, son of Henry VIII. In it, Edward who was heir to the kingdom found a look-alike who by some genetic accident was the spitting image of him: a peasant boy from the streets of London. He persuaded this peasant boy to switch places with him, so the peasant began living like the prince while the prince began living like the peasant.
This teaches us a couple of things: First about Jesus – the theological term is “kenosis”, meaning that although He was God, Jesus came in human form, in the form of a servant. Jesus never once used His divine power while He lived here on earth, though He could have. He only did what He saw His Father doing. (John 5L19) Satan tried to tempt Him to use His divine power, but He refused. Jesus only did what the Father did through Him by the Holy Spirit. He came in the form of a servant, identifying with us in order to save us.
Second, this novel teaches us about the present condition of the Western church: In The Prince and the Pauper, the prince finds himself out on the street. And although he is the genuine aristocrat, the real heir and noble, his power does him no good. The pauper begins to take the game seriously: he pretends he is really the heir to be king, and in an attempt to keep himself in that position he begins doubling the guard and other similar things.
Ultimately it is straightened out, but while the pauper was playing prince, he displayed his ignorance of affairs of state. He was not groomed for a position of authority and had no understanding. For example, he did not know what the royal seal was and was using it as a nutcracker. He did not know what he was doing and that is exactly what we have today in the church: we have peasants in pulpits. They don't know what they are doing, though they are in the position of authority and most often are trying their best to safeguard their position. In fact, they will go so far as to prevent those who should have the position from getting it: all they are really about is self-preservation. Those who know what to do with power and resources, the true nobility, are in humble places. "I have seen an evil under the sun" – God calls this evil and folly: "Folly is set in exalted places while rich men sit in humble places." (Ecc. 10:6) The pastor who preaches the truth has a small church while the peasant who is churning out an endless diet of hype from his pulpit has a huge church. This is not right; God calls it evil.
Once I was watching the news in Japan right after North Korea had fired a missile over Japan and the Americans were scrambling to stop the North Koreans. Korea was a country that could not feed its people, yet found the resources to build missiles. Countries like India and Pakistan have behaved in much the same way – they cannot feed their populations, yet they attempt to acquire weapons of mass destruction while developed countries are attempting to shut them down.
To return to this news report in Japan, however, it stated that in Korea the government was distributing what it called “New Food” to the people. This “New Food” resembled green fettuccini, but was only 30% wheat; the other 70% of its makeup was leaves. The manufacturers put it through a chemical process in order to make it resemble pasta, but it actually had no nutritional value whatsoever. The cellulose content of this “New Food” was extremely high, and the digestive enzyme for the metabolism of cellulose is synthesized in the appendix. The human appendix, however, is too small to enable us to digest cellulose, though animals such as rabbits are able to because of their relatively large appendixes. The result was that the people who ate the “New Food” became bloated: it gave them the sensation of fullness, of having eaten food, yet they were in reality dying of malnutrition. This is a precise parallel to what is served in many churches today: “New Food”. What the people are fed has no nutritional value, yet because it creates a false sensation of fullness they don't know they're starving to death. All the false prophecy, verses taken out of their proper context, hype artistry, pop-psychology and God knows what else is “New Food”.
Peasants, you see, can only give out peasant food. "Folly is set in exalted places, while rich men sit in humble places." The people who have true wisdom and understanding tend to be found in the smaller churches, although there are exceptions.
There Is No Wisdom
Continuing in verse 7 of Ecclesiastes 10:
"I have seen slaves riding on horses,"
The word “slaves” here in Hebrew is “avedim”, the same word used for the Hebrews in Egypt. Slaves are figures of unsaved people; their lives are spent making bricks for Pharaoh. The New Testament tells us that a man is enslaved by that which overcomes him. Unsaved people are enslaved to their sin, but we who know the Lord and follow Him have been set free and delivered from Egypt.
". . . and princes walking like slaves on the ground."
Today we see people who are enslaved to their passions and desires, riding in limousines, driving BMW's, and generally living the high life while the real aristocracy tries to get by with Fords. The aristocrat lives like a peasant, the peasant lives like a noble, and God says that this is an evil under the sun.
"He who digs a pit may fall into it, and a serpent may bite him who breaks through a wall. He who quarries stones may be hurt by them, and he who splits logs may be endangered by them. If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success."
In 1 Peter 2:5 we see that the house we build is the church and we are the living stones of the Temple. We explain in our Typology of the Temple teaching how this works: we are the stones of the Temple; its components are figures of different Christians.
When you chopped logs in the ancient world you used an axe; but if the blade was dull, it took more energy and force to chop the logs – it would not cut smoothly or easily and you would also have projectiles flying in your face as it splintered. Remember the Old Testament story of how the axe-head floated: he had the axe handle, but because it had no blade, or in other words because there was no wisdom, it was ineffective and even unusable.
Notice how many churches today go from one program to the next, trying to build something. Yet what is built is shabby: the stones are not evenly cut, and nothing fits together properly. You are better off in a church of 100 people that is solid and well-built than in one of these huge things that fall to bits at a breath of wind. For example, what happened to the church in Pensacola, Florida that was headquarters of the famous so-called revival? It split. What's left of Toronto, where a similar false revival was held? Practically nothing. The one in England was Sunderland; it is now a small group meeting in a hotel. They crumble, because the stones were never fitted together. There was much energy, exertion and hype put into these movements, but they came to nothing. Why? Because the head of the axe is dull – there is no wisdom.
Where's the Discernment?
Continuing in verse 11:
"If the serpent bites before being charmed, there is no profit for the charmer."
Remember, the serpent beguiled the woman; Satan is a deceiver. I have a photo of myself in India attempting to charm a serpent. I played the flute, opening with a rendition of Blue Suede Shoes. The snake seemed to take exception to this and became cantankerous, so I switched to Amazing Grace in order to calm it down. A serpent can kill you; spiritual seduction is deadly. Where is discernment? If you don't know how to charm the serpent, it will bite you. In America, they really only have one very dangerous rattlesnake in the Southwest and then they have a cottonmouth. These are tame garden snakes in comparison with some I have seen in Australia and Africa or in Israel. America really doesn't have bad snakes.
These churches with an emphasis on experientialism talk very much about the gifts of the Spirit; so where is their gift of discernment? Why are they unable to charm the serpent? They are fooling around with a powerful enemy which has the potential to kill with its bite; snakes are known to burrow into houses, into the walls unnoticed. Spiritual seduction operates in the same manner. "If the serpent bites before being charmed, there is no profit for the charmer." It's too late to charm a snake after it has done the damage it is capable of; the flock must be protected ahead of time.
"Words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, while the lips of a fool consume him. The beginning of his talking is folly, and the end of it is wicked madness."
Compare this with what we read in chapter 9:3:
"The hearts of the sons of men are filled with evil and insanity."
The end of his speech is “wicked madness”; more than simply madness, it is wicked madness. For a good example of this, watch our video of Rodney Howard-Browne and Kenneth Copeland. When Mr. Howard-Browne begins talking, his words are foolishness; he talks nonsense. Yet the end of it is exactly what the Scripture describes: wicked madness. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control, not the wicked madness that these people were led into by those men. It was actually demonic. You have to be out of your mind to do the things these people will do. The only unsaved people I have ever seen who will participate in the kinds of things so-called Christian people were doing in Pensacola, Toronto, and the imitators of such places, were Hindus practicing Kundalini yoga –“Kundalini” meaning “serpent spirit” - and headhunters in Indonesia. In England we have many believers from India, former Hindus and Sikhs who came to Jesus. When we showed the videos of Toronto and Pensacola behavior to the Indian pastors who'd come out of Hinduism they immediately identified it as Kundalini yoga, a practice they had been delivered out of by Jesus. “Wicked madness”. When they speak, it begins foolishly, with no doctrine given or exposition of God's Word; it inevitably ends in wicked madness.
Verse 14 of chapter 10:
"Yet the fool multiplies words. No man knows what will happen; who can tell what will come after him? The toil of a fool so wearies him that he does not even know how to go to the city!"
Do we realize what this means? What is the city? Jerusalem, or Heaven, drawing from Revelation 21. These people reach the point where they don't even know how to be saved. Jack Deere of the Vineyard movement could not explain the Gospel. In England, a poll was performed of 200 people who had taken Alpha courses; of these 200, four could explain the Gospel in New Testament terms – justification by faith, salvation by grace, etc. - 4 out of 200 knew what the Gospel was. They don't even know the way to the city. Today'sCharismatic movement is composed largely of people who were never even saved, particularly since Wimber taught his “cheap grace” doctrine, because the Gospel is not even explained to people any more. They don't know the way to the city, and this is very frightening.
"Woe to you, O land, whose king is a lad and whose princes feast in the morning. But blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time, for strength and not for drunkenness."
We are now talking about the aristocracy, the nobility. “Blessed are you, O land, whose king is of nobility” – what is nobility? Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. But cursed is the land whose prince is a youth, “whose king is a lad and whose princes feast in the morning”. To realize what this means we must keep in mind Paul's warning not to appoint a new convert as a leader in the church. Whenever I hear of someone who has been saved for one or two years and is already attending or thinking of attending seminary, my first question is, “What for?” Those who profit from theological seminary training are those who have already been operating in ministry and know their gifts. A scholarly education in academic theology is an asset to someone who already has that ministry and that gift, but it will not impart that ministry or that gift to one who has not been given it by God.
Now, God does not count youth biologically; rather, He counts youth spiritually. You may have someone who grew up in a believing family, who perhaps became saved at the age of 6 or so, and by the time he's 25 that man is no longer a youth. He may be spiritually and emotionally quite capable of coming into leadership. On the other hand, you may have someone who is 60 years old and newly saved who in God's sight is a youth. The Scripture therefore is not speaking of biological youth, but of spiritual youth. "Woe to you whose king is a lad". When you see young believers put into positions of leadership, look out, because you will certainly have a problem. Paul says they will be swollen with conceit.
And yet, “blessed are you, O land, whose king is of the nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time, for strength and not drunkenness.” This refers exactly to Matthew 24, the Olivet Discourse. Let's look at that, beginning in verse 45:
"'Who, then, is the faithful and sensible servant whom his master put in charge of his household, to give them the proper food at the proper time. Blessed is that slave, whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions'"…
(This alludes to the Millennium.)
…"'but if that evil servant says in his heart, "My master is not coming", and shall begin to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards,'"
Beating the fellow slaves is Nicolaitanism, or heavy shepherding as seen in Ezekiel 44. Jesus hated this. Heavy shepherding is done by control freaks and of course goes hand-in-hand with financial exploitation and many other evils. But let us look at what happens: as we saw in Ecclesiastes, when the king and the princes are of the nobility they eat for strength and not for drunkenness. Being “drunk in the Spirit” is a very popular thing with those who are into the Toronto and Pensacola types of movements. If we look at Joel chapter 1, we read “awake, ye drunkards”; three times in Peter's first epistle, he says “be sober in spirit”, not drunk. (1 Peter 1:13, 4:7, 5:8) In this light, we may understand better how demonic the doctrines and practices of Rodney Howard-Browne, Kenneth Copeland, and the others like them truly are. Drunkenness is one of the specific seductions of the Last Days.
They are peasant rulers; God's rulers are of the nobility. These peasant rulers may have all the gold, silver and jewels now, but that will certainly be corrected in the Millennium, and they will never possess the real treasures of wisdom, knowledge and understanding. They will never know how to get people out of the city when it is under siege, or charm the serpent before it bites. They are peasants, and how can a peasant know how to run an economy?
In England and in the USA there are lotteries. A study was done and published in a serious newspaper which showed that most of the people who gamble are working-class, or blue-collar people, who are usually less educated. There is nothing wrong with being blue-collar or less educated, but it is a fact that most of the people who gamble are. When these people won the lottery, most of them were broke within ten years. They were swimming in money, but lacked the education to manage and invest it properly. Giving a peasant money is wrong and unwise; first they should be taught to manage it.
Continuing in Ecclesiastes 10:18:
"Because of laziness the building decays, and through idleness of hands the house leaks."
Remember that Laodicea is lukewarm; it is lax and lazy, so it eventually caves in.
"Men prepare a meal for enjoyment, and wine makes life merry; but money is an answer to everything."
Practically, money does solve problems; however, the wrong people usually seem to have it. We must remember verse 7, “peasants ride on horses while princes walk like slaves”; God has provided all of the money and resource that the Body of Christ needs for God's work, but it has been misallocated. The peasants have pilfered the treasury. One of the reasons we have TBN, Hinn and Copeland is that it is Satan's way of taking the money that should be going into missions and evangelism and squandering it on nonsense.
"Furthermore, in your bedchamber do not curse the king"
-- remember, we are all kings, with Christ as the King of kings –
"and in your sleeping-room do not curse a rich man, for a bird of the heavens will carry the sound and a winged creature will make the matter known."
Ultimately this points to God, of course, and yes, we must be careful what we think or say about God. However, this also means that when peasants say things about you, you will know about it. They are just peasants: people who do not have wisdom, understanding, or knowledge of God's Word. They are not the nobility. Again, as Jesus said to the Laodicean church: “You say you are rich and have need of nothing, not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.” Yet the church of Smyrna, persecuted and materially poor, Jesus called rich; they were the nobility. Gold, silver and jewels will not get you out of the besieged city, nor will they get you into the eternal city. The church of today, Laodicea, does not know the way to that heavenly city.
We Will See Who Is Rich and Who Is Poor
God calls it an evil that princes walk while slaves ride in BMWs. Wisdom is better than material wealth; and “the words of the wise heard in quietness are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.” You are always better off in a small church that teaches the truth than in a large one that feeds on hype. The serpent will bite these peasant rulers; their structure will spiritually cave in. Yet God has a nobility: He does not call His people to be peasants; He has an aristocracy. As in the story of The Prince and the Pauper, we may not be in practical possession of the treasures yet, but they belong ultimately to the faithful: the meek shall inherit the earth. The way it is now is an evil; but it is an evil that will be corrected by God.
Those who are in control for now are peasants, without wisdom, understanding, or knowledge; but God does have a nobility. Sometimes for now the princes walk instead of ride; sometimes the nobility is in the small church rather than the big one. You are more likely to find the rich man sitting in a humble place, while the peasant sits in the exalted place. You are more likely to find the rich man walking while the peasant rides in a limo; but the noble is still a noble and the peasant is still a peasant. The peasant knows he is a peasant, though he may successfully delude himself with his false riches for a time. A peasant can be nothing other than a peasant, and a noble can be nothing other than a noble. When the city is under siege, then we will discover who is rich and who is poor. When persecution and opposition come, the nobility and peasantry are revealed for whom they really are. When the serpent bites, it is clear who's who.
“Woe to you, O land, whose king is a lad and whose princes feast in the morning; but blessed are you, O land, whose king is of the nobility and whose princes eat at the appropriate time, for strength and not for drunkenness.”
The Lord does not call you to be a peasant. Our Ruler is a noble King and He has given you blue blood. He has called you to be in His aristocracy. He wants you to claim your treasure. It is waiting for you – you are entitled to it because He has bequeathed it. He has told us what to do: go after the wealth – don't be a peasant. Gain control of the wealth that is yours, and let the peasants have what perishes. To you the Lord would say, “Take My instruction, and not silver. Take knowledge of Me and of My Word rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than jewels, and all desirable things cannot compare with her.”
You are of the nobility. You are of the aristocracy, though it may not be evident yet. The time is coming, however, when all will see who is rich and who is poor.