Directions: Can the Dead Be Converted?
Q: Hebrews 9:27 says, "Man is destined to die once and after that to face the judgment." Does Scripture say why God ends choice for/against Jesus as Savior at physical death? If God were to extend the opportunity for even 30 seconds after physical death, what a difference that might make!
A: When the writer of Hebrews speaks of dying "once," he uses a word that means not once merely as distinct from two or more times, but "once and for all." The adverb (hapax in Greek) points to the decisiveness of the event it qualifies; by happening once, the event changes things permanently so that the possibility of it happening again is removed. That is what the word means when it is applied in verses 26 and 28 to Jesus' atoning sacrifice of himself on the cross, and in verse 27 it means the same when applied to the event of our own heartstop and brainstop and the separating of the self from the corpse.
The unrepeatable reality of physical death leads directly to reaping what we sowed in this world. So Jesus taught in his tale of the callous rich man and Lazarus the beggar (Luke 16:19-31), and when he spoke of dying in one's sins as something supremely dreadful (John 8:21-23). So Paul taught when he affirmed that, on judgment day, all received a destiny corresponding to their works; that is, to the decisive direction of their lives (Rom. 2:5-16; Gal. 6:7-8; 2 Cor. 5:10). The New Testament is solid in viewing death and judgment this way.
Modern theologians are not all solid here. Some of them expect that some who did not embrace Christ in this life may yet do so savingly in the life to come. Some who expect this are evangelicals who think that the God of grace owes everyone a clear presentation of the gospel in terms they understand. Others ...