Q. I’m wondering if you could explain Hebrews 9:27 and how it lines up in light of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 speaking of those in the Church who will be alive at the time of the Rapture will not die at all but be caught up with Him in the air.
A. In effect Hebrews 9:27 says that man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment. This is a general principle that has applied to the overwhelming majority of humanity. But we know it’s not an absolute rule because several people have died more than once.
There are 8 accounts in the Bible of people who were raised from the dead. They are the widow of Zarapeth’s son, raised by Elijah in 1 Kings 17:17-23. Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son in Luke 7:11-17, Jairus’s daughter in Luke 8:53-55, and Lazarus in John 11:43-44. Tabitha was raised by Peter in Acts 9:36-43, and Eutychus by Paul in Acts 20:7-12. In addition, I believe both Jonah (Jonah 2:2,6) and Paul (Acts 14:19-20) were brought back from the dead by God.
Each one was meant as a demonstration of the Lord’s power, and all of them subsequently died again. Who knows how many others have been brought back from the dead during the Church Age? And as you indicated a whole generation of believers will escape death altogether.
The context of that part of Hebrews 9 is not whether all men must die once, but whether the Lord’s one death was sufficient for all men. The writer pointed out that things on earth were copies of things in heaven. The sanctuary on earth was a copy and the animal sacrifices were copies. Therefore everything had to be repeated over and over again .
But Jesus went into the real sanctuary in heaven and was the real sacrifice (Hebr. 9:24), so He only had to die once (Hebr. 9:25-26). The thought behind Hebrews 9:27 is that since men only die once, it’s appropriate that Jesus, being a man, would only die once. And because He was a man His one death could take away every man’s sins (Hebr. 9:28).
Then the writer went on to state one of the most incredible truths in the whole Bible when He said the Lord’s one sacrifice not only took care of our past sins, but our present and future ones as well, because that one sacrifice has made us perfect forever in God’s sight (Hebrews 10:12-14). It’s as if we’ve never sinned at all. Praise the Lord!