God wanted Ezekiel to make it clear to His people that God saw everything. Because God sees all, Ezekiel was to make sure the people understood that God also sees each individual and judges them accordingly. Especially notice the following: “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). When a person chooses to reject God, that soul dies. It is an individual choice each person must make. (“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23.)
Understand this better with the following: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20). Each individual is accountable to God for his or her life – not the life of their father: God has no grandchildren, only children. (“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9.)
“But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.” (Ezekiel 18:21). Remember what is clarified even better in the New Testament for us: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). And also: “9. That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation … 13. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:9-10, 13).
God then made a specific call to His people: “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin” (Ezekiel 18:30). It was up to each individual person to repent and turn from his or her sin (transgressions) and turn to Him – even as it is today. Remember: the people of Israel were evicted from their land because of their sin against God, forsaking Him for idol worship, and refusing to repent. However, the children who came after them would not be held accountable for their parents’ sins. Each one of them had the choice: the choice to repent and turn to God.
God never changes. God wanted to save people in the Old Testament times, New Testament times, and He still wants to save people even today. However, God allows each person to choose – to believe, or not to believe. We should know all have sinned (remember Romans 3:23). But we should recognize how to have life eternal. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Whosoever believes in Jesus can have life! Instead of choosing continual sin, one must choose Jesus by faith: then he or she can have life. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
There is an amazing picture of this in the Old Testament. It is a picture of God seeing an individual and holding him accountable for sin. Almost everyone is familiar with an event that happened in Genesis chapter four. God had accepted Abel’s offering and not Cain’s. “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts …” (Hebrews 11:4). Cain became angry. God gave Cain a warning: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him” (Genesis 4:7). Cain had an opportunity right there to change his heart and to choose right. God warned that if he did not, sin was there waiting. Nevertheless, Cain had the choice to rule over that sin. If you remember, Cain ignored God’s warning and allowed sin to rule in his life. Cain rose up and killed his brother. He went out from the presence of the Lord – never to return.
Have you chosen a life in obedience to Jesus by faith, knowing it is only then you will have eternal life?