Christ’s gospel is a narrow gate, not open to broad interpretations (Matthew 7:15; Galatians 1:11-12).
Certainly, the apostolic mandate and example is to staunchly contend for the faith, as it is formed and given to us by God.
In that vein, let us examine these verses:
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.
Here we see the near relation of 2 events–for judgment is as certain to follow death–as Christ’s 2nd coming is to follow His 1st appearance.
Moreover, if we apprehend the truth of the first [death and judgment], we are certain to apprehend the truth of the 2nd [whether we return with Christ or are caught up to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 19:11-14)].
Hebrews 9:27 does not speak of chronological time, but of spiritual seasons and changes in how God deals with man.
For example, the Lord first comes in mercy, ministering reconciliation; however, He returns in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God (2 Thessalonians 1:8).
Therefore, “appointed once to die, but after this the judgment” indicates that while we are alive, Christ ministers reconciliation, but after our death, He ministers judgment: tribulation and anguish upon every soul that doeth evil, and glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh good–for we are judged according to our works, the things we do in this world (Romans 2:9-10; Revelation 20:12-13).
The entire Bible is filled with passages that testify to a present salvation [that we are saved in this world], as evidenced by a transformed life.
Here is one such example:
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Notice, we are commanded to repent, for everything must bear its fruit in its season:
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
–Luke 13:5-9 [Jesus]
There are a multitude of scriptures that teach us we must bear fruits worthy of repentance [in this life] in order to be saved, but not one example of the converse in scripture [that men may be saved after they die].
Is not that compelling?
Moreover, scripture deals with this error directly:
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him,They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
Our condition in this world establishes our condition in the next–for what the scriptures plainly declare is enough to persuade the soul that will not die.
The real issue in question for those who do not believe Hebrews 9:27 is the sufficiency of Christ’s gospel to reveal and save in this world–and every stable saint agrees that we must receive the earnest of our redemption in this world–or we will not be redeemed in the next.
In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
We cannot tolerate error where the gospel is concerned: for by this means, men enter and are shut out of the kingdom of God.
Moreover, we cannot claim to follow Christ while rejecting any portion(s) of His gospel–for He is our Gospel–and He Himself warned us of the danger of a little leaven (Matthew 16:6; 1 Corinthians 5:6).
Therefore, we are to guard ourselves and our assemblies from the pervasive influence of false doctrine: for error breeds error, even as the word of God is given to us line upon line and precept upon precept (Isaiah 28:13).
Ultimately, man must choose between the riches of God’s word and the riches of self-knowledge (Matthew 6:24).
Are we loving people when we entertain false doctrines and refuse to rebuke a corrupted gospel message, as if these are little things?
Jude writes (1:22-23): “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.”
The wisest man [other than Jesus] in the history of the world once wrote: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful,” (Proverbs 27:6).
A gospel in which Hebrews 9:27 does not apply is another gospel inspired by another spirit, a betrayal of Christ, and a subtle deception that leads to death:
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
–2 Corinthians 11:2-4
Notice all of the following:
A chaste bride is known by her chaste beliefs.
Christ is simply revealed and openly known by the work of the Holy Spirit.
We are not to submit to, entertain, or support one who teaches a false gospel.
Consider, if men can be saved after they die, where is the compulsion to preach and warn, and why are these warnings given?
Is God a man that He should be mocked?
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.
–2 Corinthians 5:10-11
There is an urgency to the gospel call. Moreover, the whole counsel of God testifies that there is an acceptable time of salvation and a coming end to the season of grace:
For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
–2 Corinthians 6:2 (Psalm 69:13; Isaiah 69:8)
Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts.
And this urgency exists because, upon our death, our fate is sealed:
And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done. Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book. And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God. And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
This passage clearly highlights a number of truths:
The word of God is wholly sufficient to convict and convert: “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple,” (Psalm 19:7).
The word of God lead us to the true Jesus.
The Lord warns us that the season of grace is drawing to a close [“the time is at hand”].
Man’s fate is sealed upon Christ’s return: there is no 2nd chance to repent after His return, even as there is no 2nd chance to repent after death.
The gospel call is urgent and pressing, as the danger of death and hell is so near: “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh,” (Matthew 24:44).
He will judge us according to our works, those things we do in this world. Faith without works is dead, and those who love God continue in His word, maintaining good works (James 2:20; Titus 3:8).
While all these truths are plainly declared, they can only be received by faith, following the example of our fathers in the faith:
By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.
It is concerning when believers cannot faithfully affirm the most foundational aspects of the faith. However, it is especially concerning when believers cannot affirm portions of the gospel:
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permit.
Notice the context of the above verse and what directly follows:
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
When someone cannot affirm any portion(s) of the gospel, they are either a false convert or moving toward an apostate condition and warnings are in order–for there is a faithful expectation of continued growth and understanding in the Christian walk–as God is our Teacher (John 14:26).
Certainly, the drawing work and continuous ministry of the Holy Spirit is wholly sufficient to communicate gospel truths (John 6:44).
Of course, this is not to suggest that there are not some spiritual matters more difficult to apprehend, but rather that, at all times, we apprehend spiritual truths by faith:
As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
–2 Peter 3:16
If a believer can understand hard things over time, it seems clear that the basic tenets of the gospel message can be received–that they must be received–and that any time they cannot be affirmed, there is cause for alarm.
Of course, we expect there to be a difference between what the mature believer in Christ struggles to understand and the newborn babe in Christ may question:
For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
These points remain:
All false gospels send men to hell: that is their purpose.
Believing that God gives men a 2nd chance to repent after death is a rejection of the scriptures’ plain teaching and the sure witness of the Holy Spirit: moreover, it is a sign of unbelief.
As we are saved by the gospel, our faith must continue in the gospel: or we will place our faith in something else other than the security of God’s word; and this is extremely dangerous (Matthew 6:24).
Christ, as the Author of our salvation, has authority to define it: and there are consequences for rejecting His words [Psalm 95], even as we are judged according to them: “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day,” (John 12:48). [Also see Luke 9:26 and John 15:7.]