Ecclesiastes is one of the favorite books of the Bible for skeptics, scoffers, atheists, and certain cultists. Certain passages in this book seem to deny that there is life after death. Atheists love to contend that the book of Ecclesiastes seems to confirm that view, and that is why they frequently quote from it. Hedonists love this book too, because it seemingly endorses a rather epicurean lifestyle. Those who pursue pleasure as the chief aim of life love the book because throughout it we are frequently exhorted to an "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we must die" philosophy. Then there are passages in this book that are the favorite texts of those who declare that even if we survive beyond this life, we enter a period of quietness, a time when we have no knowledge or desires.
But all of these groups fail to note what we must observe right from the beginning: this book is an examination of secular wisdom and knowledge. The book clearly states at the outset that it is limiting itself to that which is apparent to the natural mind. One of the key phrases of the book is the continual repetition of the words "under the sun." "What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:3)? That is the limitation put upon this book.
Ecclesiastes is the findings of what humans are able to discern "under the sun," by which the writer means the visible world. The book does not take into consideration revelation that comes from beyond human powers of observation and reason. It is an inspired, accurate book. It guarantees that what it reports is what people actually believe. But it is an examination of those beliefs. The book is not merely a collection of ancient philosophy, for what it talks about is very much up-to-date and extremely relevant. Here is what you will hear propounded in the popular media, political speeches, and in the radical or conservative movements of our day. Here is what you will hear in the halls of academia or on the streets of any city. In this book the philosophies by which people attempt to live life are brought into consideration and examined. That is why Ecclesiastes is so practical and up-to-date.