The book of Ecclesiastes is a particular and focused argument. The teacher was rich in good will, desiring his audience to enjoy life to the full. How can one have such an experience? The teacher proposed that, in light of the cursed situation of life “under the sun,” only by fearing God could one find satisfaction in human existence. “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth” (Eccl 12:1), he said. In Ecclesiastes 12, the teacher concluded his lesson by providing both emotional and logical appeals to his proposition. In light of the sadness of failing health that will come upon everyone (Eccl 12:1-8)—and that in the end “everything is futility” (Eccl 12:8)—the teacher exhorted his audience to fear God and keep His commands. “For God will bring every act to judgment,” he said, “including every hidden thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl 12:13-14).
As the storyline of Scripture develops, it becomes clear that final judgement rests upon the merits of Jesus Christ. The teacher’s framework of the relationship between eternal judgement and present lifestyle are cast in reference to Jesus. The Gospel of John and the Epistle of 1 John note:
(1) Jesus has a dual nature of deity and humanity. John began his Gospel by describing Jesus’ divine nature and role in creation (John 1:1-4). And, in time, the Word took up flesh, John said, and dwelt among humanity to reveal God’s glory on earth (John 1:14-18). Jesus’ messages and miracles in the Gospel of John demonstrated His deity. He had come from God and was returning to God. After Jesus’ resurrection, He told Mary that He was ascending to His Father (John 20:17). John said that anyone who denied that Jesus is the Messiah is a liar (1 John 2:22) affected by the spirit of the antichrist (1 John 4:2-3).
(2) As the God-man, Jesus bore the sin of humanity. When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to him, he proclaimed, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In 1 John 2:1, John wrote, “My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ the righteous One. He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.” Jesus’ propitiatory sacrifice demonstrated God’s love (1 John 4:10).
(3) God has given all judgement to the Son and confirms the Son’s judgement. As the God-man who died to atone for the sins of humanity, Jesus is able to judge humankind in perfect righteousness. Jesus said that He did nothing on His own but acted only in full accord with the Father, with the result that the Father could entrust all judgement to the Son (John 5:22, 27-30). Jesus’ judicial activity differed from the Jewish leadership that condemned Him because they operated by human standards whereas His verdicts revealed God (John 8:16, 25-26). When the Pharisees condemned Jesus for His Sabbath-day healing the man born blind, Jesus retorted, “I came into this world for judgment, in order that those who do not see will see and those who do see will become blind” (John 9:39). After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, a voice from heaven confirmed that God was glorified in Jesus, and Jesus followed up by saying, “Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31). Jesus said that He did not come to condemn the world in judgement but to save the world (John 12:47). Jesus’ verbal testimony in the Gospel of John would condemn all who do not believe in Him (John 12:48-50).
(4) Those confident of forgiveness in Jesus must love God and God’s people. In Ecclesiastes, the teacher urged his audience to live now in such a way that they would not be condemned at the judgement. Jesus and John note the connection between eternal judgement and present lifestyle, but reverse the motivational force. In the Gospel of John and 1 John, one’s lifestyle reflects assurance in their relationship with God, confidence of what will take place at the final judgement. John introduced Jesus as the light of humanity shining in the darkness (John 1:4-5) and employed the light/darkness antithesis as a metaphor for behavior. Unsure of Jesus’ nature, Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, while it was dark (John 3:2). In John 9 when Jesus’ disciples asked Him if the blind man’s condition was the result of personal sin or that of the blind man’s parents, Jesus replied that it was so that He could demonstrate God’s works. Jesus said, “We must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:4-5). John noted that when Judas betrayed Jesus, it was night (John 13:30). John wrote that since God is light (1 John 1:5), those who walk in the light have fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7). Those proclaiming that they are in the light but go on hating their brothers are in darkness (1 John 2:9-10).