Edited from a prayer meeting exhortation by bro Linus Chua, on 24 August, 2001

“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 9:27–28)

In our modern and materialistic society, most people give very little thought to death and to life after death. Very few believe that there will be a day of judgment after they die,—a day when they would have to give an account of their lives on this earth. Even Christians, in general, do not think too much about death and judgment until death strikes close by and then we are forced to come to terms with this sad reality.

All of us have a mental knowledge of what the Scriptures teach concerning death and judgment, but many of us do not have a heart-felt knowledge of these truths. Few of us prepare for death. Few of us are like that Old Testament saint, who said, “… all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come” (Job 14:14). That change, which Job spoke about, was none other than death itself. Christians really ought to be actively preparing and patiently waiting for their change to come. The way to prepare ourselves for that great change is not to ignore it or put it to the back of our minds till another time,—as if by doing so, we will postpone our death! Instead, the way to begin preparing for death is to seriously consider and mediate upon what God has to say concerning death, and more specifically, concerning the death of man and the death of Christ. To do this, I will like to draw our attention to a fairly familiar verse in Scriptures, namely Hebrews 9:27, and to the verse that follows it.


In the 9th chapter of Hebrews, the writer shows us how the old and new covenants are related and how the new covenant is far superior to the old in all ways. In the immediate context (vv. 25–26), we find the writer comparing the annual sacrifice of the high priest on the Day of Atonement with the once for all sacrifice of Christ. Then in verses 27–28, he further confirms and strengthens his assertion that Christ’s death was “once for all” by appealing to the universal fact of death in mankind. So while verses 25–26 show the contrast between the Levitical high priest, who entered the holy place each year “with blood of others,” and Christ, who made the unrepeatable offering of His own blood through which He entered into the heavenly sanctuary once for all; verses 27–28 show the similarity between all men, who have been appointed once to die, and Christ, who died but once in order to bear the sins of many.

And as it is appointed unto
men once to die…

Firstly, we observe that God has sovereignly ordained and appointed that all sinful men should die. Death is not the result of chance. Neither is it the result of a natural law that God created in the beginning. No, death is the result of sin. In Genesis 2:17, God told Adam, “… for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” And God was true to His word, for in the day that Adam sinned, his soul died and his body began the process of dying. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death….” Death is the wages of sin. All men have to die because all have sinned. Death is one appointment that everyone, whether willingly or unwillingly, has to keep.

But not only does God ordain that all should die, He also ordains the exact time of death for each and every person. Just as each of us has a birthday, so also, if Christ tarries, each of us will have a death day. The life of every individual is in God’s hands. He appoints the time and the manner in which each of us will be cut off from the land of the living. Death cannot be resisted. The only certainty in life is death. Men may do a multitude of things to prevent or to delay death but all to no avail. Once God sends those icy hands of death to lay hold upon our shoulders, we will not be able to run or hide from it.

Death is a certainty in life, yet many of us live as if we will never die. We go about our daily routine without considering that we are mere mortals destined to die one day. So James warns us not to have a presumptuous confidence of the continuance of our lives when he says, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and this do, or that” (Jas 4:14–15). James speaks of things in a positive manner, “If the Lord will, we shall live…,” while the author of Hebrews speaks in a negative fashion, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die…,” yet they are essentially saying the same thing. God alone is the one who determines how long we live and God determines when we die.

But after this the judgment…

Secondly, we observe that God has appointed that after a person dies, he must face judgment. Judgment takes over from where death leaves a person. For the unbeliever, judgment before the Almighty God will be a most frightening thing. He has no advocate to plead his cause, no mediator to stand betwixt him and the Great Judge and no friend to entreat for him. And he shall hear those awful words, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:41). But for the believer, there will also be a judgment to face,—not a judgment of condemnation but a judgment of works. “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ… then every one of us shall give an account of himself to God” (Rom 14:10, 12). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10). Scriptures plainly show us that we must all prepare to give an account of our lives at the judgment.

And so, let us not lose sight of these two great truths: That we shall surely die someday and that there shall be a judgment after that. Let this thought excite and motivate us to prepare for that day of death and judgment, by living godly in Christ Jesus and seeking His glory in all things. Joseph Alleine, one of my favourite Puritans, would say to his wife as he arose each morning, “Now we have one day more, here is one more for God, now let us live well this day, work hard for our souls, lay up much treasure in heaven this day, for we have but a few to live.”

So Christ was once offered to
bear the sins of many…

Thankfully, the author of Hebrews does not stop at verse 27. If all that may be said concerning life and death were in verse 27, then we would surely be driven to despair and hopelessness. What is the use of contemplating death and preparing for it if there was no hope, no comfort, no assurance of everlasting life after this life?

I mentioned earlier that verse 27 is a familiar verse to many us. It has often been quoted by preachers during gospel sermons. That’s good because this is an important verse, which ought to be repeated over and over again. But sadly though, the very next verse is often neglected and omitted. Yet these two verses are really a pair. They go together. In fact, if you think about it, you will realise that the main focus and thrust of the author’s argument is actually found in verse 28, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many….”

Just as man is appointed once to die, so Christ was appointed once to die to bear the sins of many. Peter tells us that Christ, the Lamb of God, was foreordained before the foundation of the world to shed His precious blood and to bear the iniquities of us all (1 Pet 1:19–20). Christ is described, in Revelation 13, as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (v. 8). The death of Christ was no mistake. It was no accident either. It was foreordained even before Adam fell into sin. And just as God sovereignly appointed all men to die, so also He sovereignly appointed Christ, the second person of the Godhead, to die for His people.

In Genesis 22, we read of the trial of Abraham’s faith in the offering up of Isaac his only son. God told Abraham, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest… and offer him there for a burnt offering” (v. 2) Abraham obeyed and took his son to mount Moriah. But while journeying to the mount, Isaac said, “My father,… behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” And God did indeed provide a sacrifice for Abraham that day and Abraham named that place Jehovah Jireh,—the Lord will see to it, the Lord will provide a lamb for an offering. And so when we read in Hebrews 9:28, we remember how Christ is God’s sovereignly appointed Lamb, who was once offered to bear our sins.

Christ was only offered up once, and yet His one death is able to save many. The death of Christ is of infinite value and worth. No sin is too great that He cannot bear, no sinner too vile that He cannot save. Just as we saw the certainty of death in verse 27, so we see the certainty of salvation in this verse for all for whom He offered Himself up. As an aside, I find it difficult to understand how some of our brethren can say that Christ died merely to make salvation possible to all men; that His death does not actually secure the salvation of anyone, and that Christ was offered up universally for all men without exception. Oh no! Christ died to save His people. His name is Jesus because He saves 
His people from their sins (Mt 1:21)! There is a certainty about the salvation of God’s people just as there is a certainty about death and judgment for all men. Christ did not die a general death for all men. He died specifically for His own to purchase and secure their salvation.

You remember how at the end of that eventful Passover week when the Lord Jesus was finishing His earthly ministry, the Romans had prepared three crosses for three criminals. Two of the crosses were for men guilty of theft, but the third cross, the centre cross was reserved for an insurrectionist and murderer named Barrabas. Barrabas was guilty of treason against Rome and was to die for his dreadful crime. But Barrabas never made it to the cross. He was guilty and condemned but was not executed. Someone took his place. There on that centre cross hung no violent or rebellious man like Barrabas, but the sinless Son of God. Jesus took his place. And Jesus took the place of each of us who belong to Him.

And unto them that look for Him…

I began by suggesting that the way to start preparing for death is to consider and meditate upon the death of mankind in general and especially upon the certainty of our own death and the judgment that follows. This fact ought to be seriously considered by us each day. But we must not just look at ourselves and upon the fact that we will someday die. We must look out of ourselves to Christ and His death upon the cross, in our behalf. We must fix our eyes upon the One who was once offered upon God’s altar to bear our sins and iniquities. And that is what the writer of Hebrews tells us to do too. Verse 28b, “and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”

In the ancient times, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would, as it were, disappear within the veil into the Holy of Holies. The people would wait with great expectation, looking for their high priest to emerge from the Holiest Place to bless them once again. They knew that if their high priest had done something wrong or if he had failed to follow God’s precise instructions, then he would be struck dead by the Most Holy God, in whose presence he served. And so there was always a sigh of relief, for their own sakes as well as for his, when he reappeared. Now if the people of old were so eager to see their high priest, who was but a type of Christ, reappear from the earthly Holy of Holies, how much more should we today look eagerly for our Great High Priest to reappear from the Heavenly Holy of Holies?

When the high priest walked out of the sanctuary, the people knew that his sacrifice on their behalf had been accepted. So also Christ’s reappearing will be the final confirmation that He did everything right and that God has accepted His sacrifice and is well pleased with Him. And God accepts us too because we are His blood-bought people.

When Christ appears the second time, He would bestow upon His people eternal salvation. He will appear without sin, that is, apart from or without reference to sin. The first time He came, He came as the sin bearer of His people and all our iniquities were laid upon Him. But when He comes again, He will appear as the Lord of lords and King of kings, Conqueror of sin and Satan, Saviour of His people. At His return, the efficacy of His once for all offering will be clearly and openly manifested.

On our part, we must wait for Him, “though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Hab 2:3). We must have an ardent longing for His return. We must cry daily, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” That’s the surest way to prepare for death and for eternity—living in constant and earnest expectation for His return.


I will end with Apostle Paul’s encouragement and instruction in Philippians 3:20–21,—“For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.” Amen.

[Ed. Note: Bro Linus has expressed a desire to serve the Lord in the Gospel ministry in the near future. Let us pray with him that the Lord may prepare him and that he may have many opportunities to stir up what gifts that he has received from the Lord for the advancement of the Kingdom of Grace.
—J.J. Lim]

—17 March 2002

We Should Not Fear Death, But Lift Up Our Heads
Excerpt from John Calvin, Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, (Baker Book, 1992 [1952]), 77–80

1. It is terrible that many who boast themselves to be Christians, instead of longing for death, are so filled with fear of it that they tremble whenever the word is mentioned, as if it were the greatest calamity that could befall them.

It should not surprise us, indeed, if our natural feeling should be alarmed at hearing of our separation from this life.

But it is intolerable that there should not be sufficient light and devotion in a Christian’s breast to suppress all that fear with an overwhelming consolation.

For, if we consider that this unstable, depraved, perishable, frail, withering, and corrupt tabernacle of our body is dissolved, in order that it may hereafter be restored to a durable, perfect, incorruptible, and heavenly glory,—will not our faith then induce us to wish ardently for what nature dreads?

If we remember that by death we are called back from exile to home, to our heavenly fatherland, shall we then not be filled with comfort?

2. But it will be said, there is nothing in this world that does not want to be permanent.

It must be admitted, but for that very reason we should look forward to a future immortality, where we may obtain such a realm of stability as is not found on this earth.

For Paul clearly teaches believers to go with anxious longing toward death, not to be stripped of our body, but to be clothed with a new garment.

Shall brute animals, and even lifeless creatures, down to blocks and stones, aware of their present vanity, be looking forward to the resurrection at the last day, that they may be delivered from vanity, together with the children of God; and shall we, gifted with the light of natural reason, and with the far superior enlightenment of the Spirit of God; shall we, when we consider our future existence, not lift our minds above the corruption of this world?

3. But, it is not necessary or suitable for my present purpose to argue against such utter perverseness as fear of death.…

I would persuade such timid hearts to read Cyprian’s treatise on Mortality, unless they should deserve to be referred to philosophers, that they may blush when they discover how even pagans despise death.

But this we may positively state that nobody has made any progress in the school of Christ, unless he cheerfully looks forward towards the day of his death, and towards the day of the final resurrection.

4. For Paul stamps this mark on all believers, and Scripture often calls our attention to it, when it wants to provide us with a motive for true joy.

“Look up,” says the Lord, “and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws nigh.”

Is it reasonable to expect that the things which He planned to arouse us to ecstasy and wide-awakeness should cause us nothing but sorrow and consternation?

If this is the case, why do we still glory in Him as our Master?

Let us, therefore, return to a sounder judgment, and notwithstanding the opposition of the blind and stupid desires of our flesh, let us not hesitate to long passionately for the coming of our Lord, as the most stirring of all events.

And let us not only long for it, but even groan and sigh for the day of judgment.

For He shall come to us as a Saviour, to deliver us from this bottomless maelstrom of all evils and miseries, and He shall guide us into the blessed inheritance of His life and glory. 2 Corinthians 5:4; Titus 2:12; Luke 21:28.