By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. (Genesis 3:19, NIV)

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. (Hebrews 9:27, NIV)

From these verses, we can deduce that "All must die once (or at least once) and return to dust".

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, NIV)

These verses are very important basis for Christian eschatology belief called Rapture. As per these verses, on the the day of Rapture, first, the dead who belonged to Christ will be resurrected and they will be transformed, second, those who are alive and believe in Christ will be caught up, who may or may not be transformed.

What I cannot understand is that if all are destined to die, then it is a contradiction that believers will be caught up alive, without ever facing death. Though Enoch and Elijah were taken alive, some believe that they are the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11, who will be killed by the Beast, thus still fulfilling the words of God that all must die.

Is there any possibility (apart from the scripture about Rapture), that some people will never face death?

Does God's word "Dust to dust" leave any exception?

How do theologians explain this contradiction?

  • 1
    This appears to be about your own personal interpretation of one specific verse, embedded in a passage about something else entirely. Oct 21 '13 at 15:22
  • @DJClayworth I don't know what you mean. Am I wrong to say that we will be caught up alive without facing death? Am I also wrong to say that all must die?
    – Mawia
    Oct 21 '13 at 15:24
  • You are assuming that the verse in Hebrews is a 100% inflexible statement which can have no possible exceptions, rather than a general statement used in an analogy about something else. Oct 21 '13 at 15:27
  • 1
    @DJClayworth Then you have a good starting point to answer this question.
    – Mawia
    Oct 21 '13 at 15:34
  • 1
    As an analogy, we can say that man can't fly. This is universally true. However, an exception can be made by using an airplane. In the same way, we are all destined to die, but Christ's power of resurrecting us provides an exception to the rule. Remember that Christ has overcome death, and we will share in that victory.
    – Steve
    Oct 22 '13 at 5:02

The following statement is directed specifically to Adam as only Adam technically came from dust! We of course as the offspring of Adam are affected relationally. However, this statement would not be substantial enough to impose death or the "returning to dust" upon every member of humanity.

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. (Genesis 3:19, NIV)

Paul uses the word koimaō (Strongs G2837) in both of the following verses. Notice that the word is translated as “dead” in 7:39 and could not be appropriately translated as sleep. Conversely 15:51 could easily have used the word died in place of sleep.

1 Corinthians 7:39 The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, G2837 she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.

1 Corinthians 15:51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, G2837 but we shall all be changed,

Hebrews 9 is not about how many times a man dies, but about the one time sacrifice of Christ. “Appointed once to die” is in accordance that Christ does not have to continue to be crucified for our sins in the way the Temple sacrifices had to continue to die. Essentially it is saying that it is natural for a man to die once.

Hebrews 9:24-28 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

In Hebrews 9:27 the Greek word "hapax" is translated as "once", it could just as well be translated as "conclude", certainly not a strong enough statement to make a claim of contradiction. It is also generally accepted form scripture that Elijah (Kings II Chapter 2, Verse 11) and Enoch (Genesis 5:22-24) did not die. Therefore, While it is generally true that each man dies once, it does not mean that all men must die once. Therefor, these verses are not in conflict with "Rapture" theology.

  • Just what I was going to write. :-) Oct 21 '13 at 19:13
  • 1
    One word,One Spirit!
    – Rick
    Oct 21 '13 at 19:19
  • Is there any exception, such as, "some people will never die"?
    – Mawia
    Oct 21 '13 at 19:43
  • Do you mean "Is there a place in the Bible where it is explicitly stated that there might be people who don't die?" Oct 21 '13 at 19:51
  • John 21:22 doesn't make a lot of sense if it is utterly impossible for a person to have more or less than one death. Oct 21 '13 at 20:01

In addition to Rick's great answer, I would like to add that there are many exceptions to the rule of "dying once".

People who never died: Enoch and Elijah.

People who died more than once: Lazarus, an unnamed man and Eutychus, amongst many others.

  • Enoch and Elijah might die in the future as the two witnesses(Rev 11). Hence, all might surely die except those believers to be caught up to Heaven?
    – Mawia
    Oct 21 '13 at 19:28
  • 1
    @Mawia: they might, but the unnamed witnesses of Revelation might also be two other people. Your argument relies on getting both those exactly right, but it is based on speculation. Oct 21 '13 at 19:55
  • Please see my edit. My main question was not about how many times people should die.
    – Mawia
    Oct 21 '13 at 20:04
  • 1
    @Mawia: sorry, I really don't understand your edit. What does "Is there any possibility apart from the scripture about Rapture that some people will never face death?" mean? Oct 21 '13 at 20:08

The Bible is very Specific in that there are two deaths, and you seem to be confusing the two.

The 1st death as I refer to it is physical death or in your question where the body turns to dust.

Any Christian who has not physically died at second coming of Christ will meet him in the air.

The operative word here is Christian, in becoming a Christian we are in effect dying to the things of this world and committing our basal beings to be crucified with Christ on the cross. And even though we do not immediately turn to Dust we have moved from death into eternal life.

  1. John_17:3 KJV And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

  2. Joh_10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

That is the beginning of the millennial reign of Christ on the Earth, and all the Saints will rule with him.

This will take place while Satan and his Angels are locked in the bottomless pit.

Then there is the second death, which is eternal separation from God.

  1. Rev_2:11 KJV He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

  2. Rev_20:6 KJV Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

  3. Rev_20:14 KJV And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

  4. Rev_21:8 KJV But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. However this isn't really a death as we know it, since Death and Hell have both been thrown into the lake of fire before unbelievers from all ages are thrown in.

At any rate we need not worry as Christians about our physical bodies since Heaven and Earth as we know them will have passed away and there will be a new Heaven and Earth.

If I may be so bold as to suggest that we are far better off worrying about being in right standing with God than ever worrying about material things. After all ' All the gold in California' won't even buy you a meal in Heaven.


Enoch and Elijah are both dead. Neither are in heaven right now and neither are thousands of years old. This is what the Word says

No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man, which is in heaven" (John 3:13).

Here are Jesus' own words that no man, except Himself, had ascended into heaven!

"all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years" Gen 5:23 If he was still living, he would be way older than 365 years old. That is why Moses said that God took Enoch. God removed —translated— him so that he was not found. God took Enoch and buried him, just like he did Moses. God translated Moses and he was not found either. Since Enoch has not obtained eternal life yet (Heb 11:39) he is DEAD

As for Elijah, He didn't ascend up into Heaven where God is, Jesus clearly states that, and he sure can't just stay in the air for thousands of years. 4 full years after Elijah was taken up in a whirl wind, Elijah wrote a letter to Judah's king Jehoram II Chronicles 21:12-15 Elijah was alive 4 years after the whirlwind, he later died as all mortals do.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.