I am confused about Hebrews 9:27. It seems to contradict Christ’s raising of Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus surely must have died twice.
We must be extremely prudent how we construe Hebrews 9:27: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Think carefully. From your Bible background, several questions should come to your mind. First, did everyone in Bible times die? No. Enoch did not die. Genesis 5:24 reads, “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” Elijah also didn’t die (see 2 Kings 2:1‒11). Yet Hebrews 9:27 seems to indicate that all have to die.
Second, will all people have to die in the future? Again, the answer is no. Believers in Christ who are alive when He catches up the Church (1 Thess. 4:13‒18) will be raptured into the presence of the Lord. Yet Hebrews 9:27 would seem to indicate that all have to die.
We must understand from Hebrews 9:27 that to die physically one time is the norm, the usual experience of human beings. But we also know from comparing Scripture with Scripture that exceptions exist. When we see Hebrews 9:27 in this light, then the fact that someone, such as Lazarus, died twice is not contradictory.
Also, we note that dying once does not preclude dying more than once. If a person dies one time, he fulfills Hebrews 9:27, even if he were to die more than once. Keep in mind that few fit into this category. Besides Lazarus, only a small number were raised from the dead by Jesus.
Another important distinction is found in the second part of Hebrews 9:27: “but after this the judgment.” There is a vast difference between a person’s being raised from the dead and a person’s being resurrected. Lazarus and a few others were raised from the dead, but none of them received glorified bodies. Further, they obviously were not raised to judgment. Everyone, including these we have mentioned, will face future judgment; believers and their performance on earth will be evaluated at the Judgment (Bema) Seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10‒12; 2 Cor. 5:10). Unbelievers will be sentenced to eternal damnation at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11‒15).
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