Hebrews 9:27 states that "it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." But aren’t there several instances in the Bible where some were resurrected to life and died again? They did not enter into judgment after they died the first time–did they?


Indeed there are numerous examples of resurrections, both in the Old
and the New Testament! For instance, 2 Kings 13:21 relates the record
of a dead person who “revived and stood on his feet,” when the bones of
Elisha touched him. There was no magic associated with Elisha’s bones
but it was a demonstration of God’s power and His approval of
Elisha–showing that he died as a servant of God, even though he died
from a sickness (verse 14). Also, John 11:38-44 records the story of
the resurrection of Lazarus who had been dead for several days. We also
read, in Luke 8:49-56, that Christ brought a dead girl back to life. In
the case of the young girl, we read that Christ commanded the parents
“that she be given something to eat” (verse 55) — proving that this
was a resurrection to physical life, as immortal beings have no need to
eat physical food. And after Jesus had died and was resurrected to
immortality, “the graves were opened and many bodies of the saints who
had fallen asleep were raised” (Matthew 27:52; compare verse 53).
However, all of these were resurrections to temporary physical
lives–not to eternal, immortal life. A Question & Answer about
Matthew 27:52 has previously been covered in Update #152, dated July
16, 2004.

In addition, those who are alive at Christ’s return
will not suffer death in the way that we understand it today, but will
be changed instantly from physical existence to Spirit beings (compare
1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

Why, then, do we read that it is
appointed to all men to die once, and after that the judgment? The
physical resurrections which we have discussed herein were not followed
by judgment; rather, their resurrection to judgment in the resurrection
will still occur.

The King James Commentary has this to say
about Hebrews 9:27: “’As it is appointed unto men once to die.’ The
relation of verse 27 to its context is often dismissed in order to
stress the certainty of man’s future judgment. It is axiomatic that man
dies once. Exceptions do exist (then cited)… But no exceptions
concerning God’s judgment can be cited. There is no reincarnation…
Yet the full significance of verse 27 cannot be seen apart from verse
28. As it is appointed unto men once to die… So Christ was once
offered to bear the sins of many (cf. Isa 53:12). The
author is clearly presenting a comparison. As it is with man, so it was
with Christ. As man can only die once, so the man Christ could only die
once as a sacrifice. His relation to humanity would be marred if he
would have to die more than once. Similarly, a second comparison seems
evident. Beyond death there exists another reality. For man it is the
reality of appearing for judgment; for Christ it is the certainty of
appearing with deliverance from condemnation unto them that look for

Taking into account the above examples of those who were
resurrected back to life, how is Hebrews 9:27 to be rightly understood?
The key words are “but after this the judgment,” showing that judgment
is not something that will be avoided by anyone. Those who were raised
from the dead lived a little longer as physical human beings for
specific purposes such as showing the power of God and the healing
power of the Messiah.

The Broadman Bible Commentary states of Hebrews 9:27:

High Priest, who has entered into the heavenly tabernacle, will come
again for his own. He wants his people to be ready for his coming.
Christ’s people are to live under the awareness that they must one day
give an accounting to God. After death there is the reality of
judgment. For those who are ready, the Judge is also the Saviour. The
early church never forgot that, beyond death, every man has a
rendezvous with God. For the enemies of God, this thought is full of
terror. For the friends of God, it is full of hope for his appearance
will mean salvation.”

We must all die once, or at least, undergo
a change equivalent to death (at Christ’s second coming) and then the
judgment. Those who were raised back to life, albeit temporarily, had
not been (finally) judged when they initially died, and they lived on
for a number of years before dying again. And having died they, like
everyone else, will face the judgment in due course. Notice that
Hebrews 9:27 does not say that man dies once, and that he will then
immediately be judged afterwards. Rather, the Scripture allows for much
time to pass before the judgment. It also allows for a temporary
resurrection back to physical life, which is just–so to speak–a
continuation of their physical life span. But ultimately, they will
die, and then there will be the judgment waiting for them, in due time.
It is also true, of course, that the judgment has already begun today
for the house of God–that is, for converted Christians (1 Peter 4:17).
But even they will still have to appear before the judgment seat of
Christ at the time of their resurrection or change to immortal life to
give account (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). This aspect of
God’s plan is more fully discussed in our free booklet, “The Gospel of
the Kingdom of God.”

After we die, we will be raised back to
life. Those in the first resurrection will be immortal Spirit
beings–they will not have to face the possibility of death, but they
have “passed from death into life” (compare John 5:24). But they still
will appear before the judgment seat of Christ (compare, too, 1 John
4:17). Those in the second resurrection will be physical human
beings–they will be going through a judgment period before they are
ultimately judged worthy to receive eternal life or eternal death
(compare Revelation 20:5-6, 11-12). And those in the third resurrection
will be physical beings who have their judgment of eternal death
pronounced to them at that time–they will be thrown into the lake of
fire to be destroyed and burnt up (Revelation 20:13-15). So we see that
in each case, men will “die once, but after this the judgment,” as
Hebrews 9:27 says.

Lead Writers: Brian Gale and Norbert Link

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