Ezekiel 33:11

I have this Question.

How would you explain Ezekiel 33:11:

“As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turneth from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel.”

This Scripture passage, if it is to yield to us its right meaning, must he explained in the context. Regard must be had to the verse immediately preceding: “Therefore, O son of man, speak unto the house of Israel; Thus ye speak saying, if our transgressions and our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?”

What the Jews who thus spake meant is clear. It is this: We have transgressed against the Lord. In His eyes we are guilty. But it would be useless for us to repent and turn to Him for pardon and grace. For He wants us in hell. Hence, let us eat, drink, and be merry. For tomorrow we die.

Now this is a terrible way of reasoning about the good God. What it would mean were it true is that God has pleasure in the torment of the wicked as such—mark you, as such—and that from sheer love of cruelty, just to see the wicked suffer, He cast them into hell even though during their life-time they were truly penitent and contrite.

So to reason about God is blasphemy. It is to change His glory into the image made like unto a devil-god.

True, God did not in His eternal and sovereign good-pleasure choose in Christ all men unto life everlasting. Some He appointed unto eternal damnation to punish them as fallen and hardened — fallen according to His sovereign decree and hardened by His sovereign working — with eternal damnation on account of their impenitence and rebellion.

But this does not mean that He has pleasure in the death of the wicked as such, nor that He delights in their evil doing. On the contrary, His purpose in reprobating some was to reveal His utter abhorrence of sin that He might be feared and praised as God holy and righteous. Being the kind of God He is, He delights in well-doing, Accordingly, it pleases Him when the wicked turn from their evil way and live. And He also commands every one of them without exception to repent and believe in Him thru Christ and be saved. He moreover seriously promises eternal life and rest to as many as come to Him and believe in Him. And in His just judgment and holy wrath He punishes the impenitent and rebellious with everlasting desolation. This is the truth contained in Ezek. 33:11. What we deal with here in this Scripture is God’s moral will also called the will of God’s command and His revealed will. And, of course, only the elect do repent. And their resolution to repent as well as their repentance as such has God’s counsel as it sovereign cause and the grace of God as its only fountain.

Now God being the kind of God that He is— a God not having pleasure in the death of the wicked as such, but a God who delighteth in well-doing and who therefore is pleased when wicked men turn from their sins and live and who accordingly receives all such men in Christ and speaks in their hearts His peace, why should the house of Israel, why should the wicked die, when they turn from their evil way? Coming to God as penitent sinners, they will not die but live. In fact, they already live, have life in themselves, believing as they do in Christ. Let the house of Israel turn therefore. For why should they die? asks the prophet in the name of God, meaning that if they continue in their rebellion and perish in their sins, they certainly cannot blame God. On the contrary the fault will be all theirs. For He hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked as such, but that the wicked turneth from his way and live, He being holy God.

Once more, it is with God’s command with which we deal in this Scripture and with the God who delighteth in well-doing. This is God’s moral will. But the Scriptures also teach the will of God’s sovereign counsel. According to His moral will, God commanded Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go. But according to His counsel He sovereignly hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that the king disobeyed. Indeed, the Scriptures teach both these wills. And therefore God’s believing people hold to both and they also have need of both as believers.

And now let us listen to the rest of the Lord’s reply to the complaint of the Jews (Ezek. 33:10) with which we are here occupied: “Therefore thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, the righteousness of the righteous (not, of course, the truly righteous, but the apparent righteous, thus, the hypocrite who openly apostatizes) shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth.

“When I say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust in his own righteousness and commit iniquity, all his righteousness shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he committeth he shall die for it.

“Again when I say unto the wicked, thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right;

“If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that which he hath robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity, he shall surely live, he shall not die.”

The point to this reasoning of the Lord is clear. It is this: The wicked that (truly repent of their sins shall live. They are saved. The (apparently) righteous that apostatize (openly) and return to their vomit to serve the lusts of the flesh shall surely die in their iniquity. The Lord then does not, as those complaining Jews contended, cast a truly penitent sinner into perdition. And so the Lord continues and concludes: “Yet the children of thy people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal. “When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.

But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.

“Yet ye say, the way of the Lord is not equal. O ye house of Israel, I will judge you, every one after his ways.” —Ezek. 33:12-19.