The absurdist Albert Camus once wrote, "Death is philosophy's only problem." For Camus death is the ultimate problem because if every human story ends in death, it renders the rest of our lives meaningless. The wise man Solomon expressed a similar concern over death in Ecclesiastes 2:12-17 when he pondered the sobering fact that the wise man and the fool both come to the same end: If "the wise dies just like the fool," what good is wisdom? In chapter 3, Solomon extends this line of reasoning when he notes that what happens to beasts also happens to men -- "as one dies, so dies the other....They have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts."
But whereas for Camus, death really is the end and thus remains an unsolved and unsolvable problem that renders all of life meaningless, Solomon points the way to a final resolution in which the problem of death is finally overcome. Solomon speaks of a final judgment beyond death in which God rewards his faithful servants. Solomon promises that God will make everything beautiful in its time (3:17; 12:14). The implication must be (paraphrasing the poem that opens chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes) that just as there is a time to die, there is a time to rise from the dead. The message of Ecclesiastes is not, "Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." The message is, "Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we rise -- and the fleeting joy God grants us in this life under the sun is a mere foretaste and foreshadowing of the greater and eternal joy to come."
Of course, in the New Testament we find how God has ultimately overcome death. Solomon was right to say that the wise man and the fool end up in the graveyard side by side. But Paul tells us of a Wisdom that outwits death -- the wisdom of Christ's cross (1 Cor. 1:18-25). Through the wisdom of the cross, God has outsmarted death and secured resurrection life for us all. The foolishness of the cross reveals God's wise plan of salvation for all who believe. This is the blessed hope of the Christian, a hope we celebrate especially during this Easter season: resurrection life comes through the death of Jesus. Woody Allen once described the key to telling a good story this way: “The trick is to start at the ending when you write a play. Get a good strong ending and then write backwards.” In a sense this is what the gospel does for us: Because we now know the ending (resurrection glory), we can work backwards to the meaning and purpose of life in the present. The resurrection at the end makes everything in the beginning and middle of the story make sense. The happy ending justifies the rest of the story, as we see all our present trials and sufferings flow into that final glory. We now see that just as our present sufferings are really a way of fellowshipping in the sufferings of Christ, so our future destiny is to share in the resurrection glory of Christ. The gospel is the guarantee of a happy ending to every one of our stories, and to the story of of the world as a whole. The gospel means God has solved the problem of death. Yes, Christians still die, and we might even end up buried right next to unbelievers in the graveyard. But the end is not the end, and at the last day, death will give us up, we will rise from our graves, and we will enter into resurrection glory in God's promised new creation.