Scripture Entry – Hebrews 9:27 and a Christ-Centered Context

I have come to appreciate context.  This is especially true when it comes to Hebrews 9:27.  It reads, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment . . .”

If this were the only bit of Scripture that what could ever lay their hands upon, I submit it would be a terrifying bit, albeit sufficient to turn one Godward.  The question may first be asked, “Whom has appointed such a set of dramatic events?”  It is not man, for he is the one with appointment drawing nigh.  He has neither set the appointment himself, nor can he suspend or change it.  Inevitably, he is but a man.  Inevitably, man will die.  

And why die?  It cannot be imagined that a man would die as the consequence of goodness.  Death is almost universally viewed as being bad.  For some, the word death brings much pain, others hopelessness, and still others anger, bitterness, and for most everyone else sighing, crying, a sense of helplessness, and wonder.  We execute people because they are bad people.  We murder because we hate.  Death is generally thought of with negative connotations, a thing to be avoided at all costs, and yet an event that is absolutely certain to come to pass.  The Bible teaches us that death is the wages of sin (Romans 6:23).  This text teaches us that death brings us to a seat of judgment.  The question may be asked, “Who is the judge, and how will he judge me?”

The judge is not man either.  Therefore, the judgment will not be by the standards of men.  The judgments of men would be good news to most, if only for the reason that they are partial, unjust, and subject to judgment themselves.  Men like to hide amongst other men as guilty as they.  It is probable, indeed, the Bible teaches us that it is the same One who appoints that also judges, and that the individual is subject to Him.  So all men are on a crash course.  God has appointed a day when the wages of each man’s sin will result in death – this has been the pattern since Adam, but God be praised it is not perpetual.  God has also appointed a day when the one who has died because of sin will be judged on account of it.  This is horrible news; the worst kind of news.  God, perfect in holiness and in justice, has appointed a day for the judgment of every man, and no man knows the minute or the hour of these events, and nothing can prevent them from coming – but God knows them, has ordained them, and will bring it to pass.  He will judge the earth with perfect righteousness.

As I mentioned, context is important.  Let’s set it in context then: “Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.  But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And just as it has been appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:24-28).

Perhaps, now one can sigh with delight and assurance; perhaps, some may not.  But there is an infinite reality that surrounds this appointment of death and judgment for every man, and it is Christ the Mediator, Christ the Sin-Bearer, Christ the Savior.  

I said that the decree of death was not perpetual; indeed, Christ is the reason that death’s reign shall end; and what of sin?  Christ is the reason that sin is defeated and shall be put away, having lost its sway.  Jesus has done for us that which we could not do for ourselves.  Jesus has entered into the presence of God because He was sinless.  Jesus is perpetually in the sight, in the community of the Godhead as the ascended, anointed, Savior King, and God-man, and He, as such, appears before the Father as perfect humanity on behalf of all of who have believed in Him for salvation.  Jesus Christ has “put away sin”; how?  “By the sacrifice of himself.”  The sin which will bring about our death, the sin which stood to condemn us to hell, the sin which still jabs at us, which still abides in the hearts of many unbelieving, many who even now stand condemned before God, Jesus Christ has “put away by the sacrifice of himself.”  The sinless Savior died in the place of sinners in order to put away the sinner’s sin in the sinlessness of Himself.  He bore the penalty for sin on the cross.  He absorbed and suffered through the wrath and hell of God whose infinite weight should have rightly fallen on us, on me.  Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, sin could not hold Him, death was thus defeated, and our Lord was justified by God; and so sin and death are dealt with and so too may our day of appointment be dealt with already through repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ.  Having appeared once to deal with sin, Jesus will appear a second time to save his church – a body of believers characterized as those “who are eagerly waiting for him.”  What a difference the context makes!

Now the appointment of every man to death is an act of mercy on God’s part.  He subjected us to it in hope of redemption from sin in Christ Jesus.  Such redemption results in a testimony like that of the apostle Paul when in Philippians 1:21 he writes, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Oh, blessed Jesus, that death should be deemed a gain!  Moreover, because of Christ’s redemptive work, we shall only die once, whilst there remains another state of perpetual dying without annihilation.  The saved man shall die but once and then glory.  The rebellious man shall die one, and then again forever in the tortures of hell.  Oh, but Christ has come to deal with sin so that the sinner should not face the final dealing at the judgment, for just as God has commended Christ to judge (John 5:22), so if anyone is in Christ, Christ shall rule in his favor.  Sin has been dealt with; it has already been judged in Christ, and thus it need not be judged again in the believer – indeed, in Christ there is no sin to judge (let us be warned, however, against antinomianism – using grace as a license to sin – this man surely knows not salvation).  

Jesus Christ is the main character here; His work the great news.  Yes, we shall die; yes, judgment shall come and these at the hands and knowledge of the omnipotent God.  The question is, shall you die only once?  Shall you be judged in Christ or apart from Christ?  The answer of the writer of Hebrews is that Jesus Christ lives and intercedes on our behalf to save us.  How glorious is this Jesus!  How wonderful His salvation!  Though we die, yet we shall live – in Christ!  Though we approach judgment, we come near in the full assurance of the spotless sacrifice, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Let us rejoice in His salvation; let us move to persuade men who even now sit squarely under the omnipotent gavel, pleading with them to turn and be saved before it falls forever.

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