Does Ezekiel 18:20-22 suggest God honors a works salvation? In other words, does Ezekiel suggest that a man or woman can be sufficiently good and obedient to the Law to be saved from death in Hell?
20 The person who sins will die. A son will not suffer the punishment for the father’s guilt, nor will a father suffer the punishment for the son’s guilt; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.
21 “But if the wicked person turns from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall certainly live; he shall not die. 22 All his offenses which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. Ezekiel 18:20-22 (NASB)
Do not be deceived into thinking that Ezekiel 18:20-22 suggests a man can inherit eternal life by good works or obedience. Even on our best day, our works done in the flesh is likened to a filthy menstrual cloth in the nose of God (Isaiah 64:6).
For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our wrongdoings, like the wind, take us away.” Isaiah 64:6 (NASB)
First of all, note the “all” in v.21 of Ezekiel 18; herein lies a major problem; that is, the Law requires perfection in order for righteousness (a right standing) with God to be attained through it (James 2:10; Galatians 3:10; Deuteronomy 27:26) and mankind is sinful by nature (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 53:6-8) and we’ve all violated God’s Law; therefore, the Law only defines sin and condemns all of human kind void atonement (Romans 3:20); therefore, one’s attempt at obedience to a Law can never provide eternal life (Romans 8:3-4).
What about Ezekiel and good works?
Ezekiel was under Law and man’s good works done in “faith” out of regard for God and His dominion upon the Earth…that “faith” could provide a right standing with God (Hebrews 11) but this is NOT a “works salvation” as it was not the works that garnered God’s favor but the faith that preceded the works done for God that mitigated God’s wrath. It was not the blood sacrifices that saved, it was the faith of the one offering the sacrifices believing that God is true that mitigated God’s wrath (Hebrews 10-11).
Concerning sin and atonement?
Interesting, even “faith” in the Old Testament was NOT sufficient to forgive sin because without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin (Genesis 3:21; Leviticus 17:11); And we know that the blood of animals could never provide atonement for sin (Hebrews 10). So then, those who died in the Old Testament having placed their faith in God could NOT enter the Kingdom of God because nothing impure is permitted to enter there (Revelation 21:27); King David understood this conundrum when he made the following statement…
“For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.” Psalm 16:10 (NASB)
David understood that he would NOT enter the Kingdom of God upon death of his body in Time because the Holy One, Yeshua, had not yet manifest and made atonement for sin; so then, every Old Testament saint that died in faith was relegated, detained, in Sheol (Abraham’s Bosom or Paradise) awaiting Messiah’s atonement (Luke 16). When Yeshua cried out “It is finished” (John 19:28-30), Yeshua announced the end of the Law’s curse upon mankind (Galatians 3:10) and the dawning of a New Covenant established in His blood, Yeshua’s sinless blood, that the Father accepts as the ONLY atonement for the sins of the whole world (Matthew 26:28; 1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:21). That atonement is only accessed by the one who “believes” that Jesus is Lord who died to pay their sin-debt (Romans 10:9-10).
Death of the body in the New Covenant,
Those who die in the New Covenant having believed in Jesus-Yeshua as their Lord, these redeemed are now ushered directly into the presence of God awaiting the coming resurrection of the justified (2 Corinthians 5:8). No longer do the saints of God await atonement in Sheol (Hades-Paradise) but atonement for sin has manifest through Jesus’ selfless love at Golgotha and Heaven’s Gates are open to the one who “believes” in Jesus as Lord (John 3:16).
It is faith in Jesus that results in our adjudication before the Father declaring us “NOT GUILTY.” No one is saved by their works, the Law, their obedience to a Law…it is ONLY by faith in Jesus as Lord that the Keys to the Kingdom are granted (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:16-18, Romans 10:9-10).