There are other seeming inconsistencies we can never reconcile, but God has reconciled them in His mind. The Trinity / God is One, and the Doctrine of Election / Man’s responsibility for Sin are two that God has settled in His mind in his category. God’s word is perfect and a Bible believing person will always trust it to be true. He will allow his mind to be malleable while studying and praying over any questions he or she may have, and then allow the Spirit to take the lead in answering. God has promised good gifts (Matthew 7:11), and asking the Spirit to help you understand God’s word better is something He delights in doing. (John 1:9, Ephesians 1:18).
Hebrews 9:27 says, And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
I did some research because I always wondered about that verse. We cannot take it literally, since there have been exceptions to it already. So what can it mean? Allow me to share with you some thoughts. This essay is not just about the Hebrews verse, but as a template of showing you how to think about the Bible, if I may be so bold.
This verse about dying once is a perplexing verse. Why? We know that Enoch never has died.
Hebrews 11:5- By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.
We know that Elijah has never died-
2 Kings 2:11. And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.
We know that millions of people who are raptured alive will never die-
1 Thessalonians 4:17 says “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”
Alternately, we know that many have died twice. There are people in the bible who have died and have been resurrected. (And who never wrote a book about their trip to heaven, by the way). There is nothing that indicates the group of individuals who were given life a second time did not also fall into death a second time. The scriptures don’t say they were translated. The scriptures don’t say they didn’t die a second time.
Between the Hebrews verse and the plain examples from scripture of people who never died and people who have died twice, it seems that there is a contradiction. Yet that’s impossible since there can be no contradictions in the bible! So the verse can’t be an absolute.
If the Hebrews verse is NOT an absolute, it must be a general rule with obvious exceptions. The exceptions exist and are obvious.
The Berean Call magazine explains this:
Hebrews 9:27 says, "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." "Men" is generic, speaking of all mankind. That the Lord, of His own will and sovereign choice, has, on occasion, brought back to life individuals (temporarily) does not affect this general ruling. Both Elijah and Elisha raised individuals from the dead by the power of God. Jesus raised a number of people from the dead. Again, these exceptions did not change the ruling under which humanity lives (and dies), as Hebrews 9:27 summarizes.
The fact that the Lord Jesus walked on water (Mt 14:26) or that Elisha made the head of an axe float (2 Ki 6:6) did not overturn the law of gravity. In short, we need to discern the plain meaning of the Scriptures.
In a John MacArthur Q&A he addressed this very question. I like how he re-stated it at the beginning, "The question he's asking is how can it be that the Hebrews 9:27 passage is all inclusive"
QUESTION: Okay, my name is Todd Draa and, let's see, in the Bible when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, I've been reading about that and then Hebrews 9:27, I saw that it said, "And inasmuch as it is appointed men to die once and after this comes judgment," how could we explain that because Lazarus was dead but then had been raised from the dead, so that would mean he would have to die a second time?
JOHN: Yes, good question, Todd. The question he's asking is how can it be that the Hebrews 9:27 passage is all inclusive, "It is appointed unto men once to die," if Lazarus in fact died twice? I'll ask you a question, Todd. What about Enoch? He didn't die at all. So you've got at least one person who never died at all, and you've got Lazarus who died twice and you have not only Lazarus but a lot of other folks who died twice. In fact, anyone who was ever raised from the dead died twice. When Jesus died on the cross, it says the graves were opened and all kinds of Old Testament saints came back to life, so they had to die twice.
Then you have the people that Jesus raised, the son of...the daughter of Jairus and the son of the widow of Nain, you have the ones who were raised by Elijah the prophet from the dead. All of those people died twice. Then you have to answer the question of what about the Rapture, a whole population of Christians aren't even going to die once. They're going to be raptured to heaven.
So what we assume then from all of that biblical data is that the statement of Hebrews 9:27 is a general statement to which there are by God's design certain exceptions. And we need not fear that. It's still true that it is appointed unto men once to die. That is the norm...men die. It is extremely unusual when they don't die. And we can count on death. In fact, in history you can count the history that didn't die by just counting Enoch and maybe Elijah was translated in a whirlwind, but there are less than a handful...out of the millions and millions that have died. And of those who have died twice, that's also a very small group of people who were raised from the dead. And yet in the future there will be a whole group of Christians who will miss death because of the Rapture. We'd like to be in that group, wouldn't we? But we just know that the principle of Hebrews 9 is still true that men die and they die once and then they face God's judgment. So we take it as a general principle in that regard. Good question.
At least now you have my thinking on how I interpret the Hebrews verse and how, when we are presented with a seeming inconsistency we can rely on the Spirit and the Bible for an explanation, commentaries for supplement, and each other as iron to sharpen our interpretive skills. Above all, the Bible is true in its whole and entirety. If we don’t understand something or if we differ in interpretation, the issue is with us, not the Lord!