Let's try to bring some clarity to abuses of Ecclesiastes 9! I know that St. Paul's statement that "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" seems like it's against Scripture, to some people. But when it comes to Ecclesiastes, it's kind of hard to find absolute truth in a book that was written by a man that was backslidden from God. Many things in the Bible can be truly stated, that that's what someone said, without necessarily being a statement of truth. Examples would include the serpent's comment to Eve in the Garden, or all of the things that Job's friends said in the book of Job for which God rebuked them severely for and nearly killed them over. Then there's the example of what Ananias and Sapphira said to Peter. Another example is the monologue of Goliath that David quickly corrected him on when he showed everyone how to get a head in life.
I'm tempted to do a thorough commentary on Ecclesiastes 9 because it is a very very abused chapter in some Christian Universalist and other circles. The chapter is simply saying that Houdini's not escaping the grave by himself, and that plans made in the grave by the dead remain as though dead because they have ZERO input into this life. The one exception that I would give to Solomon's rule here, as one greater than Solomon in Christ, is that you can leave writings and various other forms of impact for future generations. But from the grave, aside from Christ raising you from the dead either Personally or via a member of His Body, apart from that you're not going to have anything to offer this life of knowledge, insight, etc.
I would also take this chapter of Ecclesiastes to be saying that were such a person to arise from the grave the people who hadn't died yet would find all that they'd say to be gibberish and there would be reason to question the accuracy of anything that a formerly dead person were trying to convey in their native language because experiences gained in another world aren't necessarily translatable into coherent, intelligible words and thoughts for this world because of the lack of a frame of reference, and the lack of the human brain's ability to translate what they've seen or heard. I believe that this is the passage that Jesus based his comment for his rich man and Lazarus parable that the rich man's brothers wouldn't be persuaded though one were to rise from the dead.
The knowledge you gain in another world stays there while the knowledge you gain while here stays here when you leave with the exception of highlights that are in your spirit. That's all that that chapter is saying. It's not the only thing that the chapter is saying, but that's what the passage is saying that many Christian Universalists take to mean an obliteration of consciousness upon death when too many other passages minimally make such an interpretation as problematic when you try to make that into a universal rule. Andrew Jukes has a wonderful series of comments at the back of his book "The Restitution of all things" where he completely obliterates Annihilationalist theology. If you re-examine his comments carefully with the proverbial fine-toothed comb, he's likewise annihilated this doctrine of obliteration of consciousness at the time of death.
This chapter of Ecclesiastes, properly understood, would refute the near death experience and anything intelligible about out of body experiences, but it wouldn't follow that you've disproven consciousness after death with it.
Some would say that I was denying the Scripture that says that Jesus Christ alone has immortality. No, Jesus Christ alone is physically not killable because death no longer has dominion over him. Anything approximating immortality of the soul isn't a contradiction to immortality of the flesh. That's horrible confusion to hold to that idea. Having a consciousness that escapes the death of the body doesn't automatically imply that it's within the category of immortal, or that it's in the category of the immortality that Jesus Christ possesses. Again, there's a difference between the life of the spirit, the soul, and of the body. People can be vegetables in the hospital and yet be fully conscious. So that proves that just about obliterating their bodies doesn't rub out their consciousness. In many cases those people prove to have been much more conscious because their spirit and soul weren't animating their bodies and could only pay attention to every sound, every variation of light and sometimes [on rare occasions] every variation of temperature.
How does death have a sting that's only taken away by the resurrection in 1Corinthians 15 if death is the turning off of the consciousness of the individual? Some people die in their sleep either from illness or from foul play. Are we to assume that if they were poisoned that death had no sting for them though they never felt pain and simply "slipped away?" That's not what the Scriptures teach. They assert that though the sting of death is sin and that the power of sin is the law, yet that the Scripture about death losing it's sting is only fulfilled in our resurrection. Yet, when you've been washed in the Blood of Christ upon your reconciliation to God by faith in Christ according to 2Corinthians 5, you're the righteousness of God in Christ according to 2Corinthians 5:21 and Romans 5 that says that through the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness you're to reign and overcome in life through Jesus Christ. Sin for a Blood washed Christian is a non-issue. Yet, death has a sting that's removed only in the resurrection. Impossible upon the plan of annihilation of consciousness.
I'm not as big on the "know nothing" passage in Ecclesiastes as some Christian Universalists are because that was in the context of Solomon having sought the dead for instruction 'cause he admits that he dabbled with everything under the sun and he definitely had plenty of pagan wives and concubines to have indoctrinated him into the occult. And the dead were as useless to him for counsel as tea leaves at the bottom of a cup, palm reading, or throwing salt over his shoulder. The context of Ecclesiastes isn't the preacher sharing his God-given wisdom, but him sharing about everything he'd gotten into and the futility he'd found in anything outside of the commandments and promises of God.
Ecclesiastes is "wisdom under the sun" and though a true reflection of the mind of Solomon at the time, just like Job's friends in the book of Job, on some points it should be taken with a grain of salt. In the case of Job's friends they're severely rebuked by God for not having spoken correctly concerning Him as Job had. There's a difference between statements of truth in the Bible and things that are truly stated, that that's what somebody said. Case in point: "Ye shall not surely die. God knows that in the day ye eat thereof your eyes shall be open and you shall be as God, knowing the difference between good and evil." Guess what! Truly stated, but not a statement of truth, meaning that the serpent did say it, but he lied. Adam and Eve died that day, although it took a millennium for their bodies to rot.
And I'm aware of the doctrinal play on words that some build off of "dying thou shalt die" which more closely approximates the Hebrew text on God's warning to Adam in the Garden. To me, that just means that they "died daily" as the curse worked it's way further into their lives and the atmosphere around them became more corrupt, and their souls cried out for the spiritual knowledge that they once had access to, and they were stuck with finding limited sufficiency in one another because they couldn't find AS MUCH satisfaction from the Presence of God.
I'm not big on proving anything by the cliche of the rich man and Lazarus, but it's not the only passage that indicates conscious existence after death. 1Peter 3:17-20 and 1Peter 4:6, the dead in the book of Revelation that have washed their robes in the Blood of the Lamb that were evidently conscious when John and the Angel were talking about them, in Revelation 7, a few things in St. Paul about being absent from the body and present with the Lord, people having rest from their works because their works follow them in Isaiah and Revelation, etc. I've never had rest from my works when I was totally blacked out which is the closest approximation that I can come to in this life of the annihilation of consciousness taught be A.E. Knoch, L. Ray Smith, Martin Zender, and others.
My rest from my works is when I'm wide awake with a glass of ice tea or a hot chocolate and in a recliner able to appreciate some fruitful works that I've done. Plus, what do you do with the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11 if the dead know absolutely nothing and they're all croaked deader than a smashed roach? I could annihilate that doctrine, Scripturally, if I were inclined, but I genuinely don't care to argue a point that could get me into one of those where some people have made up their minds so much that they wouldn't recognize an honest refutation if they heard/saw one.
Ecclesiastes 9 is saying that their bodies know nothing, because the bodies were animated by their spirits. Read James' epistle sometime: "As the body without the spirit is dead," so faith without works is dead. That's all that the Bible's ever said from cover to cover that death was, with the few exceptions like in Ephesians and elsewhere that can be taken as a spiritual death: when you were dead in your trespasses, He raised you up to sit together by grace through faith, etc.
Death is separation of the person from God or the separation of spirit and soul from the body, but it's never oblivion of consciousness. This comes from the error that the soul is solely the combination of the human spirit with the blood of the human being. Then why is the Word of God the only thing that can divide between spirit and soul? Seems like three or four 357 caliber gun blasts to the head would do the same thing! In Priscilla's day, when she wrote the book of Hebrews while she was pastoring the Church at Philippi, there were plenty of Roman soldiers and thugs with swords and knives that could do as effective of a job, even if it would have been more messy.
I believe the Scriptures that Jesus preached to the dead after His death and that neither He nor the dead that He preached to were completely annihilated in consciousness. My question has been whether there's still been a "Hell" since Jesus emptied it.
One thing that I want to clarify is that I don't believe and repent if I'm leading anybody to think that I believe that the book of Ecclesiastes is therefore rubbish based on anything that I've said. I'll fight absolutely anyone tooth and nail over the integrity of every verse in that Bible even if I can't adequately answer to their satisfaction the meaning of each passage. Because of the way that Ecclesiastes ends, I personally believe that the whole book is Solomon working through his own repentance and return to God with weeping as he's writing it, perhaps with glasses of wine being poured for him as he's writing or collecting and editing his diary entries into this composition's present form.
He was seeing more and more of the desperation of his own soul's condition [having tried literally everything and perhaps some things he wouldn't mention for fear of being stoned or vilified by posterity] and he was remembering the justice, purity, and what he knew, remembered, and had experienced of the Love of God as he was writing it or putting the finishing touches on it in it's present form. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for doctrine, but not all Scripture at face value is doctrine. You've got to dig, or as the tired old joke says you'll flip to one page of the Bible and see that Judas hung himself and close the Bible and open it again with closed eyes and put your finger on the passage that'll say to go thou and do likewise!