Seeing Christ in the Old Testament is like looking at a stereogram. When you stare at the picture just the right way, the 3D image pops up. You realize that 3D image was there all along. It was put there on purpose. It is the true subject of the picture. Likewise, Christ is the true subject of the Old Testament, including the book of Ecclesiastes.
So how does Ecclesiastes reveal Christ? We don’t find the name of Jesus in Ecclesiastes. However, we will see that Ecclesiastes reveals Christ by exposing needs that only Christ can fulfill and anticipating Christ’s perfect fulfillment of those needs.
We see this need-anticipation-fulfillment pattern in three central themes in Ecclesiastes: Life under the sun (“vanity of vanities”), humans, and God.
1. Life under the sun: “Vanity of vanities”
- Need. We need assurance that this world is being ordered toward a satisfying fulfillment, instead of spiraling toward futility (2:15; 4:13-16; 9:13-16; 4:1-3; 3:16).
- Anticipation. Ecclesiastes anticipates the fulfillment of this need by affirming that one day God will make everything right (as the sovereign, omniscient Judge) and beautiful (3:11; 12:14; 9:1; 11:9; 3:15).
- Fulfillment. Christ’s resurrection from the dead provides the assurance that this world is being ordered toward a satisfying fulfillment, instead of spiraling toward futility (Acts 17:30-31; Romans 8:18-25; 1 Corinthians 15:20).
2. Humans: Fallen, finite, and frustrated
- Need. We need freedom from sin, death, and misery. We have a longing to live forever (3:11; 7:20).
- Anticipation. The command to fear God and keep his commandments implies that, at least for someone, overcoming the effects of the fall—sin and death—is both possible and necessary (12:14).
- Fulfillment. Christ entered into our miserable condition (Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:17; Hebrews 4:15), by becoming a human (Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4). Yet, unlike any other human before him, he fulfilled the “whole duty of man”: living sinlessly, fearing God perfectly, and keeping his commandments constantly (Matthew 5:17; John 8:29; Philippians 2:5-8). Also unlike any other human before him, his sinless life was validated by his resurrection from the dead (Acts 2:24; Romans 1:4).
3. God: Sovereign and Inscrutable Judge
- Need. We need someone who will reveal God’s saving ways to us and bring final judgment to the injustices of life.
- Anticipation. Ecclesiastes anticipates the time when God will reveal himself as Judge and Savior (12:14).
- Fulfillment. Christ reveals God as both the Judge and Savior.
- Christ is the perfect revelation of God, showing us that God is both righteous and merciful (Hebrews 1:1-3; John 1:18, 14).
- God condemned our sin in the death of Christ (Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:25), showing himself to be the righteous Judge.
- Christ did die for our sins, showing himself to be the perfect Savior (1 Peter 3:18).