Hebrews 9:27 King James Version

27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:


Hebrews 9:27 is used literally to refute the concept of reincarnation and salvation after death. As in https://christianity.stackexchange.com/a/93163/60459 and https://christianity.stackexchange.com/a/17258/60459

Warning: This question is not at all about reincarnation or salvation after death, but rather about how the verse itself is understood.


Given that there are counter examples to the notion that men only die once, in what ways do Christian denominations reconcile the discrepancy between Hebrews 9:27 and its Biblical counter-examples?

The Counter examples:

  • Example 0.A: Enoch

    Enoch never died, so he did not die once.

  • Example 0.B: Elijah

    Elijah never died, so he did not die once.

  • Example 1: Lazarus

    Lazarus clearly died once:

    John 11:14 King James Version

    14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

    Jesus brought him back to life:

    John 11:44 King James Version

    44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

    And clearly Lazarus died a second time eventually.

    Got Question addresses Lazarus ultimate fate:

    The Bible gives us no further information about Lazarus. Any additional details stem from church history and may or may not be accurate. One tradition holds that, after Jesus’ ascension back into heaven, Lazarus and his sisters moved to Cyprus where Lazarus became the bishop of Kition and died of natural causes in AD 63. Another theory claims that Lazarus and his sisters moved to Gaul to preach the gospel, and Lazarus became the bishop of Marseilles, where he was beheaded under the tyranny of Emperor Domitian. Whatever happened to Lazarus is unknown. But we can be certain that his physical body died a second time. And we know that, according to 1 Corinthians 15:51–53 and 1 Thessalonians 4:14–17, Lazarus will be raised again from the dead to join all God’s saints in eternity.

  • Example 2: The saints that rose from the dead

    Matthew 27:52-53 King James Version

    52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

    Clearly these saints died once, were brought back to life and eventually died again

  • Example 3: The young dead man at Nain

    Luke 7:14-15 King James Version

    14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. 15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.

    Clearly the man died once, and then eventually died a second time

  • 1
    Could you please supply documentation to support your statements about the individual deaths (after resurrection). You will need to prove that they were not (like) Enoch 'translated' (or transposed).
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 28, 2022 at 20:36
  • @NigelJ I added a section with Got Question's remarks on the ultimate fate of Lazarus, and I apply the same reasoning to the other cases, the simplest explanation is they died natural deaths. However your question here also allows one to say Enoch and Elijah are counter examples to the verse in question. When I have time I will add them, thanks Commented Oct 28, 2022 at 21:01
  • For Enoch and Elijah - some believe that they are the Two Witnesses spoken of in Revelation 11. This belief appeared early, and is likely in response to the idea that they did not die yet, but that "as it is appointed unto men once to die" they will do so in the future. Commented Oct 28, 2022 at 21:36
  • FWIW, Enoch not dying is also mentioned in 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." (ESV)
    – JiK
    Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 8:35
  • "And as it is appointed unto men once to die" #Notallmen Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 23:47

4 Answers 4


There is no reason to insist that the Hebrews passage be interpreted as a categorial rule which is devoid of exceptions, especially in light of both the writer and the reader knowing of various people who had been raised from the dead.

Furthermore, elsewhere in the New Testament writings (1 Corinthians 15:51-53 and perhaps other places) it is made plain that some of us will not die; those who are still alive at Christ's second coming will transition directly from their living state directly to the resurrected state, without the physical death that most of use will face.

The other possibility is that for men to die once refers to the human race as one unit; once humanity has died out (that is, no longer living as biological entities), there won't be a return to living as such.


Even though it is a common sense understanding that, by and large, people only die one physical death, the main point of the passage in Hebrews 9 is not to delineate how many times a person may die. The main point is that following death there is judgement rather than something else, like a second chance, and Christ came according to that pattern:

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. - Hebrews 9:24-28

As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this judgement: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.

It is not wrong to understand that, generally speaking, everyone dies one physical death each. It is also not wrong to understand that God is able to raise the dead both in a permanent sense in Christ and in a temporary sense for some specific purpose, like testifying to Christ (as in Lazarus leaving the tomb at His call).

It is this general tendency for everyone to die once that the writer of Hebrews uses to point out both the temporary, inadequate nature of the Levitical system (even those priests sin and die) and the eternal and perfect priesthood of Jesus who, without sin, died, not for his own sin but for ours.


Clearly Paul knew that some people do die more than once, having resurrected someone himself:

As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive!”

Paul continued talking to them until dawn, and then he left. Meanwhile, the young man was taken home unhurt, and everyone was greatly relieved.
— Acts 20:9–12 (NLT)

The key to understanding Hebrews 9:27 is in the words translated here as "appointed" and "once".

Strong's Greek Lexicon — G606 says that "apokeimai" means:

  • to be laid away, laid by, reserved
  • reserved for one, awaiting him

The word refers to something in one's future.

Similarly, the meaning of the word translated as "once" doesn't have to be a specific restrictive count. It could mean at least once, or even at some time or inevitably.

For instance, in Hebrews 6:4, "those who were once enlightened" isn't claiming that these people were restricted to exactly one enlightenment in their life.
And more significantly, in Hebrews 12:27, the same Greek word for "once" is translated as "once more", clearly indicating that "once" doesn't necessarily refer to the only instance of something.

Hebrews 9:27 is simply pointing out that death awaits everyone, not explicitly setting a restriction.

  • "Clearly Paul knew" Are you assuming that Paul wrote Hebrews?
    – JiK
    Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 8:31
  • @JK No, he's saying that Paul knew because in Acts 20, Paul held the dead Eutychus and proclaimed him to be alive again (and therefore presumably would die again).
    – LarsH
    Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 10:26
  • @JiK, that assumption is there. But even if it's wrong, whoever did write Hebrews would have been familiar with that story and others like it. Commented Oct 29, 2022 at 13:24

OP: Given that there are counter examples to the notion that men only die once, how do denominations apply a verse at times literally and at times figuratively?

To answer, typically the context will show the intent, like a parable.

The examples the OP provided about Heb 9:27 are literal, but do not prove the point trying to be made. Both deaths occurred prior to Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. So, death, then judgment to come would still be a future event for those in Christ and apart from Christ.

  • 1
    There are more examples of people coming back to life both in the Bible and outside of it after the resurrection though.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Oct 27, 2022 at 21:19
  • Good point. I'll adjust answer.
    – SLM
    Commented Oct 28, 2022 at 15:38

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