Everybody dies this death, including believers. At first, a person may think this says that Satan has supreme rule—because he has the power of death (Hebrews 2:15)—and every human loses. However, we cannot forget Christ's death on the cross. His death wiped out the curse of death hanging over us due to our sins, and He remains our faithful High Priest. Thus, more remains to be understood about this verse.
How does this verse affect us? Paul writes in Colossians 2:11-14:
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
The apostle explains that a Christian is free from the bondage of death because Christ's death has removed the charges of sin against us. Jesus, in Revelation 1:18, adds another factor in our favor: “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.”
Christ, because He paid the penalty for our sins and simultaneously defeated Satan, now holds the power of life and death for the converted. At this point, matters become clear. For Hebrews 9:27 to be true, Christ's blood does not cover the first death, which everybody faces, but it indeed covers the second death, eternal death of the Lake of Fire. Revelation 20:14 confirms a second death: “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8 adds detail: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
Paul offers us assurance in Romans 8:37-39:
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
At this time, the unconverted face both the first and second deaths. They are still held eternally in Satan's slavery unless converted between now and the igniting of the Lake of Fire.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Eight): Death
A primary factor in Jesus' death is that it was substitutionary. For each sin we commit, we earn the death penalty. This penalty cannot be paid by dying a natural death of old age, by accident, or by disease, for this is the way everyone dies as a matter of course. Verse 27 says, "It is appointed for men to die once." If "merely" dying any old way were the payment for sin, idolaters, murderers, rapists, thieves, liars, adulterers, and other sinners would be completely absolved of their sins upon their deaths. Cleared of all guilt by death, they would legally qualify for entrance into God's Kingdom.
However, we must remember the rest of verse 27: ". . . but after this the judgment." Thus, even after a person's physical death, he is brought under judgment. This means the penalty for sin is something more than "just" death. Verse 22 helps to clarify this: "Without shedding of blood there is no remission." Sin cannot be forgiven until someone pours out his blood to cover the transgression. The penalty for sin is therefore death by execution.
So, as a substitutionary sacrifice, Jesus had to die the way we would have, by execution. He could not have paid the penalty for our sins by dying any way other than by execution. He could not have died by suicide or even "euthanasia," as these forms of death would have been sin, disqualifying Him as Savior. He would then have had to die for His own sin.
Remember also that Jesus' death resulted from a pronouncement of Pilate, when he handed Jesus over "to be crucified" (John 19:13-16; Matthew 27:26). Though Pilate literally washed his hands of the whole affair by saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it" (Matthew 27:24), he made the judgment and sentenced Him to death.
Of course, Jesus was not guilty of any crime or sin. Our sins brought on us the death penalty. In taking the penalty on Himself, Jesus had to die by execution, and crucifixion was Rome's preferred means.
Why Did Jesus Have to Die by Crucifixion?
After the purification of the sanctuary, the very next theme is that Christ put away sin. His sacrifice alone is sufficient for this; Satan has nothing to add to Christ's work of salvation! We denigrate His name by suggesting that His work is somehow insufficient and that a “counterpart” is needed to fulfill half the sin offering.
The Greek word translated “put away,” athetesis, means “to cancel,” and it can also be translated as “disannul.” The root of this word, atheteo, means “to neutralize,” and can be translated as “cast off,” “despise,” and “bring to nothing.” Thus, in addition to cleansing the sanctuary, Christ's sacrifice put away sin—it cancelled the sin, bringing it to nothing, for those who repent and come under His blood.
Verse 28 says that Christ's sacrifice was for the sake of bearing the sins of many, precisely what the azazel did in type. In addition, He will appear a second time, apart from sin. An ancient Israelite would be horrified to see the young goat wander back into the camp because it would signify that all his sins had come back into view. Spiritual Israelites, however, have confidence that their sins have been completely removed. So, when our Savior appears again, it is not to bring those sins back into view, but to bring salvation.
David C. Grabbe
Who Fulfills the Azazel Goat— Satan or Christ? (Part Three)
Hebrews 9:27 says that all men are appointed to die once. Considering this, some have asked: How can one die a second death? How many times can one die?
First, baptism is symbolic of death (Romans 6:2-11) and so is "dying daily," as Paul describes the sacrifices of the Christian life (I Corinthians 15:31). Paul mentions this latter death in the context of the resurrection chapter to emphasize our need to crucify the old self daily and renew or resurrect the inner man as symbols of actual death and resurrection (see II Corinthians 4:16-17). In this sense, we die every day of our lives.
When speaking of great embarrassments, many have used the phrase, "I died a thousand deaths." That is just what God expects of us if we are to reach maturity of thought and conduct! Each of these deaths is just as difficult and excruciating as the one before, and thus Paul describes them as crucifixions (Galatians 5:24). These play a major role in overcoming, and it is never easy.
Apart from symbolism, the general rule is that we each die physically at least once and then await the resurrection to eternal life. But some few humans have already died twice! Lazarus, Dorcas, Eutychus, those who came out of their graves when Christ died and others were physically resurrected and physically died again.
It is conceivable that some few might even die three times! If those who were resurrected physically were converted and accepted for the Kingdom, they will be resurrected when Christ returns - changed "in the twinkling of an eye" into immortal spirit beings (I Corinthians 15:52). If they were not called and converted - not yet having had an opportunity for salvation - they will come up in the second resurrection to be alive a third time. At the end of that life they will then be either changed to spirit or die in the Lake of Fire, a third death.
Why, then, does Revelation 20:14 call the Lake of Fire "the second death"? The emphasis is on the fact that it is a permanent death. Once a person experiences the second death, no hope remains for another resurrection. However, for a few it could represent a third physical death.
The point is that all of us are appointed to die at least once! Even those "blessed and holy" individuals who are alive and changed at Christ's return will go through a kind of death. As Paul writes, "For this corruptible [body] must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (I Corinthians 15:53).
The Third Resurrection: What Is Its Value?
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Hebrews 9:27: