A Study on Ezekiel 18:24


Ezekiel 18:24 But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.




As God in His Word instructs us, we rightly divide His Word by comparing “spiritual things with spiritual things” ( 1 Corinthians 2:13) using, “not the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but what the Holy Spirit teaches” …and of course the words the Holy Spirit teaches us are the words of the Holy Bible. I believe God’s Word will explain this passage for us.  I’ll try to stay out of the way of the Word and just compare scripture with scripture to come to understanding.  Please take your time reading this study, making sure to look up all the scripture references so that you can be fully blessed by God’s Word and understand the Biblical view I will try to share with you . Looking at this passage more closely has been a great blessing to me.

First of all, I don’t believe that Ezekiel 18 is specifically referring to eternal salvation.   There are many, I am sure, who isolate this passage from the rest of God’s Word and say that this passage shows a person can lose their salvation. John 10:26-30 and Romans 8:33-39 are two examples of how the Bible teaches that once a person is saved, they cannot lose their salvation. One reason I don’t think Ezekiel 18 is referring to eternal salvation is because in Ezekiel 18:22 it says, “…in his righteousness that he has done he shall live.” The Bible is clear, that in so far as salvation is concerned, salvation is in no way merited or received through the means of our righteousness. Titus 3:5 is a good example of this, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” Eternal salvation is a free gift, given to us through God’s grace (undeserving favor), not our works.  (See also Ephesians 2:8,9 and 2 Corinthians 9:15).

In Ezekiel 18:24 it refers to the righteous turning from his righteousness and dieing.  Usually, when the Bible refers to “the righteous”, it is talking about those who have become saved, because apart from Christ, “there is none righteous, no, not one” ( Romans 3:10). Those who are united with Christ and become saved are imputed or credited with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ ( Romans 4:5-8).  I believe that when it says “the righteous” here in Ezekiel 18:24, it also is referring to “the saved”. I say this because the Bible speaks about death in more than one way.  We know that once a person is saved, that they have passed from death unto life ( John 5:24) and shall not come into condemnation. However, the Bible says other things that force us to conclude that when it talks about  “condemnation” and  “death” here in John 5:24, it is speaking about eternal damnation only.   There is another judgment, and another death that the Bible speaks about that does apply to the believer. Let’s take a look at it...

In 1 Corinthians 11:32 it says to believers, “ But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” This verse clearly mentions the Lord’s action of chastising the believers and uses the term “judged” when referring to it.  We know that once a person is saved they are no longer subject to eternal judgment or eternal damnation, but here we have another judgment mentioned that does apply to the believer. Hebrews 12 describes the Lord’s action in chastising those He loves. In Romans 8:1 it clearly says “ There is therefore now no condemnation (judgment) to them which are in Christ Jesus” but notice in the rest of the verse that this statement is conditional when it says, “ …who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” In other words, there is no judgment for those in Christ Jesus as long as they are walking in the Spirit.   If they, in their folly, neglect their relationship with the Lord and walk in the ways of their carnal mind, the Lord will deal with them -- we will look at this more in a moment, but notice here in Romans 8:6, it says, “ For to be carnally minded is death”. The Lord is describing the condition of walking according to the carnal mind as “death”. Now we know that before we are saved we are spiritually dead enslaved to our carnal mind, just as Ephesians 2:1- 3 says, but when we become saved, we experience a spiritual birth and begin to posses the “ mind of Christ” ( John 3:3-8; 1 Corinthians 2:16) and long for the ways of God.   However, it is still possible, even after being saved, to find ourselves walking after our carnal mind. This is why in Romans 8:13 it describes the need we have as saved people to “mortify (put to death) the deeds of the body, that you may live. ”We have many promises from the Lord about being able to reign over sin once we become saved such as in Romans 6:14 and 2 Peter 1:3 but it is important to realize that although we have been completely changed in our inner man, our physical man (our flesh) is still inclined to sin. The apostle Paul, in Romans 7 beautifully describes the condition we, as saved people, are in, now that we posses two natures.  Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says “ For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing ( verse 18) and in verse 25 …so then with the mind I myself serve (am a slave to) the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.   Wonderfully, God promises us a day when we will be redeemed and changed not only in spirit, but in body too ­ see Ephesians 1:14; Philippians 3:21 and 1 Corinthians 15:50- 53.  But until that day, we need to give good heed to God’s Word of instruction and warning, “that we may live” because “ if you live after the flesh, you shall die” ( Romans 8:13). God’s gift of salvation provides us with an eternal inheritance of paradise in which we will forever live in the presence of the Lord, where there is fullness of joy continually ( Psalm 16:11); we will also be perfectly righteous, no longer inclined to sin; but now presently, this is not the case.   We wrestle with sin now, and have only been given “access” to grace, which will enable us to keep sin under control (see Romans 5 verses 2 and 17).  The Lord’s promises are sure in this matter though, “ This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” ( Galatians 5:16).  The Lord promises us an abundance of grace when we are in continual fellowship with His Spirit, just as that Romans 8:13 passage said,  For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.” (see also Romans 5:17)

Now we need to ask a few questions: ‘What is the character of this death that believers can experience?’ and ‘What is the character of the life that is mentioned here?’ Obviously this passage is speaking to believers who are physically alive, and who have been given eternal life, so what does it mean when it says,  “you shall live”. We have already established from the scriptures that eternal life is a free gift given to us not on the basis of our work. So if this is not speaking of the life to come, then it must be speaking of a quality of life that is for the here and now ­ a life the believer has access to. Let’s see what the Bible says…

In John 1:4, it says, “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.The life was the light of men? What is the “light of men”? Matthew 5:16 explains, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” So here we see that the “light” is “good works”. The “life” then is characterized by “good works” since this is the “light of men”. And this life is in Jesus. It’s important to realize that any good work done by us is really the product of Jesus working in us.  Just as Philippians 1:11 says, “ Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” See also Galatians 5:22- 24.

Here is another verse to consider on this subject: 2 Corinthians 13:4 For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He lives by the power of God.   For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live by the power of God toward you. “ The “you” in this verse are the Corinthian people Paul was preaching to.  The last statement in this verse seems to relate to Isaiah 58:6-10... (especially vs10) -- in that God promises the blessings of true life to those who draw out the soul to others.  Our life (here presently) is experienced as we experience the power of God toward others.  As we labor with God (actually His grace working in us) to reach others with the light of the knowledge of the glory of God (that they might be saved) we live.  Apart from this purpose and work in Christ that God has called us to, we are not living.

So to be living for the true believer, is to be effectively used by God. God uses our words, but most importantly our actions to witness to others, just as Matthew 5:16 said (see also 1 Peter 2:15 and 1 Peter 3:1).

Now let’s look at the character of this “death" a believer is subject to. We have already seen a few verses in Romans 8 that use the language of death to describe when a believer is not walking in the Spirit.  Now let’s look at some more verses, but before we do, I promised to talk more about how the Lord deals with a believer who is neglecting his relationship with the Lord and grieving the Spirit.   Remember how the Lord used the term “judgment” when talking about His work of chastising us. Here is another use of the term in 1 Peter 1:17- 19 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:Here again we see the Lord talking about judging the believer.   We know these verses are directed only to believers, because only they “call on the Father” and only they are “redeemed”.   Here we see that God is saying He will most certainly deal with us if we resort back to “our former conduct” because He has already invested too much into our salvation (the precious blood of His Son) to allow us to fall away.  Look at Psalm 94:12-15 Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law; That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked. For the LORD will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance. But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it.Now let’s look at some more…Psalm 39:11 When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Selah. Notice here in this Psalm how that the speaker describes the way the Lord was dealing with him.  He says, “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because you did it.”( verse 9). Now compare these verses with Psalm 90:11- 17 which says, “O satisfy us early with Your mercy…make us glad according to the days wherein you have afflicted us…And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it. ”God’s judgment or chastisement of a believer is evident when He removes from them the power to be an effective witness, which is described in these verses by the removing of His beauty and not establishing the work of our hands.   Here is another passage… Psalm 88.  Read this Psalm entirely.  Notice this is a saved man speaking, which is evident by verse 1 O Lord God of my salvation…”The man describes how the Lord has been dealing with him in chastising him.  Notice in this Psalm all the language that relates to death.   Notice also verse 4, he says, “ I am counted with them that go down to the pit: …”He is “counted” or “numbered” with the spiritually dead or unsaved. Just as he says he is “Free among the dead, like the slain…” He is a believer without a witness. He looks just like the rest of the world.   Notice his cry in verse 11 as he pleads for God’s mercy, “Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or thy faithfulness in destruction?” He is speaking about his condition of being in a grave, that is, dead, without a witness and asks the Lord “how will Your lovingkindness and faithfulness be known if I remain in this condition?”. In Psalm 30 we have an example of the Lord answering such a plea (notice verses 2 and 3). As the Psalmist reflects back on how the Lord was dealing with him, he mentions how he cried unto the Lord with these words, “What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit?   Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? ” ( verse 9)  …much the same language of Psalm 88.  Notice here in Psalm 30:12 the Lord gives the reason for dealing with the man in this way. It says, so that he would not be “silent” -- that is, that he would be an effective witness.

Often, the Lord’s chastisement may come upon us because we are not seeking to be a witness, as we should. Psalm 82 is a good example of this.   Here the Lord uses the term “gods” to refer to His saved people ( verse 6). Notice verse 1 

God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods.” This first verse sets the theme for this psalm. Verse 6 and 7 further mention the judgment: “I have said, You are gods; and all of you are the children of the Most High.   But you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes (of this world). In this psalm God is saying the judgment comes upon His people for failing to fulfill verses 3 and 4 which say,  Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked. ”All this language is synonymous with drawing out our soul to the lost and seeking to communicate to them the truths of salvation. It is through this action that the “poor” becomes rich, the “afflicted and needy” are comforted and healed and are delivered out of the hands of the wicked (Satan). Verse 5 continues, “They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.” The unsaved will not become saved on their own, without our witness. A similar warning as in Psalm 82 is found in James 2:12,13 there we read, “ So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

As believers, Jesus has fully delivered us from the letter of the law that brings eternal damnation by suffering that punishment for us (Colossians 2:14). But now we are still under the law of Spirit ( Romans 8:2). And according to that law, as James 2:12,13 said, we will be judged or chastised if we fail to show mercy and seek to be God’s instrument in the saving of others.


Here is another passage that relates: Hebrews 10:28- 31 He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.


The Lord does not automatically chastise us for every sin we commit after becoming saved -- Psalm 19:12,13 explains this. It is “presumptuous sin” that usually gets us into trouble.


Here is a wonderful passage on this subject: Job 33:27 He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light. Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, To bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living.

In conclusion, as we have seen, there is no fear of eternal damnation for the true believer ­ his salvation is secure in Jesus Christ.   But there is a judgment for God’s people. It takes place here and now as we come under the chastisement of our Heavenly Father. It is very real, and very painful. The Lord in His lovingkindness does not render to us what our iniquities deserve though, but corrects us in measure ( Psalm 103:10,13 ; Jeremiah 30:11). He deals with us in this way as individuals and as a people. But let me leave you with a promise. In 1 John 5:16 we read, “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. ”Because this is referring to “a brother” we know that it is speaking of a saved individual. When it talks about a “sin unto death” here, I believe it is referring to a sin, such as murder which may require the death penalty or suicide, which would not apply because the life in view is for this world. The promise here is, if we see a brother caught up in a particular sin that is causing him to be shackled to his carnal mind and ineffective as a witness, because the Lord is dealing with him, we can simply “ask” and the Lord, through our prayers, will restore him to the ways of life.

It is my hope that you will be blessed as you meditate on these Biblical principles.

Love and grace to you from our Lord.

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