Understanding Ezekiel 33
In this episode of Inside The Epicenter, Joel dives deep into Ezekiel chapter 33 and its significance in Bible prophecy.
Joel discusses the role of a watchman, the responsibility of believers to warn others, and the importance of understanding the future as revealed in the Scriptures.
Joel explains the components of being a biblical prophet and highlights the profound truths communicated through Ezekiel. He also touches on the power and purpose of Bible prophecy, addressing why many pastors today are not teaching it and how we can help rediscover its importance.
Prepare for a thought-provoking discussion on the role of prophecy in our lives and our responsibility as believers. So, grab your Bible and join us as we go Inside The Epicenter.
- Hi, this is Joel Rosenberg, chairman and founder of the Joshua Fund. I'm here in Sderot. Sderot is one of the Israeli communities, the city's just on the Gaza border. You can't get closer, really, than this city, and we've been hearing explosions, artillery and mortar rounds all day, fighter jets streaking overhead. Why am I here? We're here today because the Joshua Fund has been supporting ministries like a congregation here in Sderot that has been teaching the word of God, making disciples, caring for people with unconditional love, providing food and other humanitarian relief supplies, and they've been doing it for years. They're preaching the gospel as well, and they are being a light in the tremendous darkness. We are in Israel's darkest hour, and Lynn and I and our team came down to pack big bags of food, not just canned goods and dry goods, but also fresh food, and to bring it to families that still live here. In the midst of all the rocket fire and all the artillery and all the terrorism, people still live in communities like this all along the border, and they're poor, they can't work, they have very little resources, and ministries like the Joshua Fund come alongside to provide extra, to help them through this time. But we don't do it alone. We don't do it alone. We do it through local congregations, local pastors and ministry leaders and their families and their teams. And on this Giving Tuesday, I just wanna encourage you, in the midst of this horrific and ghastly war that's been going on since Hamas invaded and terrorized Israel and slaughtered Israelis on October 7th, the war goes on, and we need your help. And I just wanna thank you all, for those of you who have continued to pray for Israel and to give to the Joshua Fund, thank you. But the needs keep multiplying, and that's why I'm not ashamed to say, listen, if the Lord puts it on your heart, we could use your help. You can go to joshuafund.com, again, joshuafund.com, to find out what we're doing and how your money will be used. But I just wanna encourage you, there is a way to make an actual practical difference in the midst of this very, very dark time, and that's to give to the ministry of the Joshua Fund. I hope you'll do it. God bless you on this Giving Tuesday. Our job is to go warn people of the dangers of not following Christ and the joy, the good news of following Christ. They're gonna die in their iniquity if you don't tell them, and they don't repent if they don't hear it from anybody else.
- [Carl] What does Ezekiel chapter 33 mean? And what does it have to do with Bible prophecy in the future? There's an important place that we need to go. There's a place that a watchman occupies, and we are all watchmen in a New Testament context. These truths are all explained in Ezekiel 33. Hi, and welcome to this episode of Inside the Epicenter with Joel Rosenberg, a podcast of the Joshua Fund, a ministry dedicated to blessing Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. I'm Carl Muller, Executive Director of the Joshua Fund. And today, we wanna present you Ezekiel 33 as Joel talks about prophecy in the New Testament and our responsibilities as modern-day believers to be watchmen and the truth that in Jerusalem and Israel are the epicenters of God's plan and his purposes at the end of time.
- [Joel] Open your Bibles, if you would, to Ezekiel chapter 33. I'm gonna begin reading in the New American Standard version beginning in verse one. Again, Ezekiel chapter 33, verse one. "And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, if I bring a sword upon a land and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming upon the land and he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but he did not take warning. His blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away." Well, he, the person that didn't listen. "Is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from the watchman's hand. Now, as for you, son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for the house of Israel so you will hear a message from my mouth and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, O wicked man, you will surely die and you do not warn the wicked man from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. But if you on your part warn a wicked man and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your life." These are sobering words as we begin, but they're important for lots of reasons. Just briefly, what's happening in this passage, it's really two pieces. First, you have an analogy and then you have an application. The first section is really describing the way national security was done in ancient times. God is saying to the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel, you know how you live in a city that has walls and on those walls, you have a watchman who's watching, obviously in shifts, it's not the same guy every day, he'd fall asleep, but he's looking out and he's watching to see if bandits are coming, if an army is coming, if trouble is coming and his job is to be watchful. That's the way national security was done. These were city states and they were watchmen on the walls. Now, God was saying that just the way your city is kept protected by these men who stand up on the walls and watch, your job, Ezekiel, is to be watching for what's happening. You're supposed to be listening to me and I'm gonna tell you and show you when threats are coming to an individual, to a family, to a nation. And if you hear me and see this threat coming and you understand it and you warn people, you will have done the right thing. If they turn and repent and make sure they're right with God, wonderful. But if they hear your warning and they don't take any action, well, it'll be their fault, but at least you'll have done the right thing, you'll have done your part. God is very clearly warning Ezekiel, if I tell you to say something and to warn a wicked person to turn, to repent from their ways and you don't warn them, that judgment is still coming to them. They will suffer for their own sins, but you will be held accountable because you didn't say anything and you are my person to speak. Now, Ezekiel was a classic prophet and a classic prophet has several key components. And we're gonna talk about those components and throughout the week, we're gonna be looking at various prophecies, including tonight, we'll be specifically looking at some of the most dramatic prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled that Ezekiel spoke of. But let's just take a moment to think about the New Testament context of this. I am not a prophet, I run a nonprofit, okay? So let's just be clear. And it's a little spooky if somebody calls themselves a prophet these days, but we are all in the New Testament context, watchmen on the wall. We all have one specific prophecy that we know for sure is true. I mean, many, but that is, our own salvation is prophecy. You might not think much about prophecy, you might not study prophecy on your own, but you believe in prophecy because you believe that by saying yes to Jesus, repenting of your sins and receiving Jesus as your savior, that you will go to heaven instead of hell, but you haven't gotten to that crossroad yet. That's a prophecy, that's foreknowledge of what's coming before it actually happens. And you believe that if you receive Christ, that you will not go to hell, you will go to heaven, why? Because the word of God tells you. Amen. Now, that means that you are a watchman, you know what's coming in your own life and you know what's coming in everybody's lives. If they don't make a decision to receive Jesus as the only way, as the Messiah, as the atonement for our sins, if they don't make that decision personally, consciously, willfully to repent of their sins and receive Christ as their savior, they will go to hell. And if they do receive Christ, they will go to heaven, not because of what they've done, but because of what God has done for them. And therefore, you know what's coming to your family, to your neighbors, to your friends, to people you don't even know in your town, in your city, in your country and around the world. And that gives us a great responsibility because our job is to go warn people of the dangers of not following Christ and the joy, the good news of following Christ. They're gonna die in their iniquity if you don't tell them and they don't repent, if they don't hear it from anybody else. But we, you and I will be held to account if we don't speak because we know the truth and this is our job. The New Testament corollary to watchman on the wall is ambassador for Christ, being ambassador of reconciliation. The Apostle Paul talks about, we implore you, we beg you to be reconciled to God through his son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, Ezekiel was a classic biblical prophet and so I thought he would be a good one to use as our model this week. And a classic biblical prophet had several components, things we should know about. First, he's a hearer of God's word. God spoke to him and he had to be able to listen. It talks about if I speak to you and you hear me tell you something, speak to that man or that woman and you don't do it, then that's a problem. The prophet of God in the Old Testament context had to hear the word of God. But in addition to hearing it, he couldn't just sit on that. He couldn't just hold onto that. He had to be a communicator of God's word in two ways. Now, we often think of the prophet in one of the two roles and that is being a foreteller. Telling people before things happen, telling people in advance. And a foreteller is someone through whom God communicates the future. And this, of course, is a classic element of being an Old Testament prophet is you are speaking God's truth about the future. And this is one of the great ways that we know the Bible is true because we have prophecies and then they come true. Some of them come true in near term from when the prophet spoken, but some of them took hundreds of years later. The messianic prophecies, the coming of Jesus as the Messiah. These prophecies came hundreds of years before they happened and they're the proof that no single person was trying to say, oh, that guy seems like the Messiah. Let's say, where is he born? Oh, he's born in Bethlehem. Let's say that he had to be born in Bethlehem. And then, yeah, he's from the house of David. Let's just say that. No, no, this was hundreds of years before. So that's foretelling. And that's classically the way we think of a prophet and we should. But there are more than that. That's just one component. The other component is being a forth teller. Someone through whom God communicated his eternal truths regardless of whether it was specifically about the future or not. When the Lord wants to communicate just about his character, about his responsibilities for each of us and so forth, this is forth telling, speaking forth the truths of God. Now, again, this concept of a watchman on the wall, this person is responsible for accurately seeing the threats facing the nation of Israel. Now, in this particular case, right, we're specifically talking about Ezekiel, whose calling was specifically to the house of Israel and then the people of God. His job was to accurately hear God's word and accurately see and perceive and understand the threats coming and to communicate the word of God to the people. Both to warn them of coming judgment and to call them to repentance and holiness. And he was told by God, as we discussed, that he would be held to account for his faithfulness or his lack thereof. And I can't think of a passage of scripture that's more clear on the accountability that we face in the Old Testament context than this, that God is saying, you will have blood on your hands if you know what I'm telling you to say. To urge a wicked person to repent or a wicked city and you don't do it. It's through Ezekiel that numerous fascinating and powerful truths are communicated by God. Let me just list some of them that come through in the book of Ezekiel. And if you haven't spent much time in this wonderful book, I would encourage you to do that. Maybe use Ezekiel as your quiet times this week and this month in this new year. God communicated through Ezekiel some amazing truths. The truth that Jerusalem and Israel are the epicenter of God's plan and purpose in the end times. The truth of the rebirth of the state of Israel in the end times. The truth of the return of the Jewish people to the holy land in the end times. The truth of a coming season of prosperity and security for Israel in the end times. The truth as well of an apocalyptic showdown between Israel, Russia, Iran and a group of other nations in the epicenter in the end times. The truth of the cataclysmic judgment of Israel's neighbors, enemies specifically in the end times. The truth of the supernatural rescue of Israel in the end times. The truth of the salvation of the Jewish people in the end times. And the truth that a great temple will be built in the end times far larger than any previous temple from which the Messiah will reign. These were the things that God spoke to Ezekiel of things that would happen in advance. And what's interesting is that many of the things that Ezekiel prophesied, they already have come true. That was the way we knew that someone was a true Old Testament prophet because they couldn't just tell you things that were gonna happen hundreds or thousands of years from now. They had to say things that were happening soon so they could be tested whether they were speaking the truth of God's word or not. And many of the things that Ezekiel spoke about have already come true, but these things either have or will come true. And some of them may be far off, but some of them maybe not so far off.
- [Lynn] Hi, this is Lynn Rosenberg with The Joshua Fund. I'm here in Central Israel working together with several ministries in this amazing tent that has become a logistic center of various ministries working together. In this difficult time, it was so clear that we needed to come together and to serve. We have a small team right now from The Joshua Fund, some volunteers who are packing about 110 individual packages of food. Each package has 17 items that are really needed in a time like this, just the basic food items so you don't have to run out to the grocery store. Why wouldn't you wanna run to the grocery store? Because they're going to people who are in a town called Sderot. Sderot is the largest city on the Gaza border. And Sderot on October 7th was one of those cities that really was infiltrated by many terrorists and a terrible trauma happened there. Most of the city has been evacuated, but over the course of a month, many have needed to go back for work, for family, for pets even. And many never left, ones that had health issues, ones that were afraid to go or wanted to just stay locked in their home. So we're working with a congregation from Sderot who have mostly evacuated, but that congregation and their pastor and his wife have been going back on a daily basis into the city to take care of the people who got left behind, who didn't want to leave or who couldn't leave. And so we're gonna be joining them in a few days with these packages, and we're going to go and sit with these families one by one. We're not going to have them come to a place where they're just gonna gather their things and leave. We're gonna take them to their home in small groups, two by two. We're gonna sit with them because more than this food, which they need, they really need somebody to sit with them. They need to sit with a friendly face that will listen to what they're going through, that will hear their sorrow, their broken hearts. And that's what we're thankful that we can do. And we're gonna tell them we're here because we're followers of Jesus and we love you. And the people from America that love Jesus have sent these gifts to you. So this is our opportunity just to give unconditional love, to sit and to listen, to listen to what's been going on there and to hug them. So we'll really appreciate your prayers. We appreciate your support because without those things, we wouldn't have the strength. It's been a very, very difficult time here. And we feel the prayers of the world, of the believers from around the world who are with us. So thank you so much. Keep praying and keep giving and we'll keep you updated on what's going on here.
- [Joel] One of the things that's interesting to me is that 27% of the Bible is prophecy. Roughly 28.5% of the Old Testament are verses of Bible prophecy. And about 21.5% of New Testament verses are prophecies about the future. All told, it averages at 27%. That means one out of four verses are about the future. Now, half of those have already come true. Half of the Bible verses about the future have already come true. And again, these are some of the most amazing apologetic resources that we have because there is no other book. There's no other religious book in the world that has that many things that are very specific about what will happen in the future that have happened already. And this is what gives us the confidence that the rest of the things that the Bible says will happen in the future will in fact happen. Prophecy is central to the scriptures. Yet, if one in four verses, 27% of the Bible is prophecy, why is it that so many pastors, priests, and ministry leaders today are not teaching Bible prophecy? How will we hear from Jesus's lips, well done, my good and faithful servant, if we ignore, skip, dismiss, or outright deny more than a quarter of the Holy Scriptures? Therefore, I want to address two topics starting this morning as we work our way thematically through the week. First of all, why aren't pastors teaching Bible prophecy today? Why aren't they? And secondly, how can we help pastors and lay people rediscover the purpose and the power of Bible prophecy? It must be important. If God put it in there, it's important. It's important to Him. Why isn't it important to us? And if it isn't important to us, how do we rediscover the power and the purpose of Bible prophecy? All right, so let's start with why aren't many pastors teaching Bible prophecy today? I would point to four specific reasons. First, many pastors don't teach prophecy because they have a lack of belief in the power of God's Word. They're not teaching it because they don't really believe that God's Word is all powerful and that you should teach it from beginning to end. And sadly, many pastors today simply don't believe that the Bible is inspired, infallible, and the authoritative Word of God. Jesus once rebuked the Pharisees for this very problem because they were misinterpreting Scripture. He said, you are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures or the power of God, Matthew 22, verse 29. And that captures it. Unfortunately, too many people who've been entrusted with the responsibility of knowing the Word of God and teaching it, communicating it clearly, are mistaken because they do not understand these Scriptures or the power of God. And too many pastors and priests today are the same way. They're not carefully studying and teaching the whole Bible. They're not trying to understand and explain the whole counsel of God. This is what the Apostle Paul spoke of in Acts 20 when he said, nobody can blame me. I'm free of the guilt of not teaching you the whole counsel of God. I've taught you everything that God wants you to know. And this is important. From Genesis to Revelation, there's nothing in there that we're not supposed to understand and embrace. Second, many pastors don't teach prophecy because they lack the knowledge of or sound teaching in Bible prophecy. There are many, of course, who do believe that the Bible is inspired and infallible and the authoritative Word of God, but for a variety of reasons, they're not teaching the 27%. They're not taking time to study it on their own. They weren't taught in any depth or detail how to study it for themselves and how to teach it when they were in Bible college or seminary, or they didn't go to Bible college or seminary, and they haven't studied it on their own. So they feel unprepared. They feel inadequate to unpack these truths. Look, understandably, some of these prophecies are very complicated and confusing. They are challenging to unpack and to handle carefully. And I guess somebody who hasn't thought about it, spent time on it, or been prepared, they should be cautious not to just go teach stuff and have no understanding of what they're really saying. But, you know, 27%, think of it this way. If you, let's say you have a daughter, are you a good parent or a bad parent if you don't teach her 27% of what she needs to know to drive safely. Are you helping her? What about the people on the road around her. Same thing with your son. And, or what if your son or daughter just decides to grow up and be a doctor and they go to medical school and the doctors at the medical school decide to teach them 27% less of what they need to know to save lives, have they helped that student? And what about the people who have to get operated on by these people who know 27% less? This is not good. This is not good. And so just because you don't know something, if you're in charge of feeding the flock, if you're in charge of teaching and being a watchman, you gotta go study this stuff on your own and get the training you need. The Apostle John writes at the beginning of the Revelation, the last book of the Bible, you know, chock full of prophecy, he specifically writes and the Holy Spirit tells him to write, blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy and heed the things which are written in it for the time is near. We're supposed to hear and we're supposed to heed. And obviously we're supposed to communicate to others as ambassadors of reconciliation and watchmen on the wall. So just because you don't have training in it and haven't thought about it, that's not an excuse. It's understandable, but it's only a beginning point to learn. Now, third, many pastors don't teach prophecy because they have a fear of being lumped in with the prophecy nuts and those who peddle sensationalism. And look, let's be honest, there are many false teachers and there are many who are prophecy lunatics. You know, you've been to their websites probably, you know, it's all, you know, black and red and there's fire, images of fire on there and everything is in capital letters. Every sentence of what they teach is in capital letters with 92 exclamation points at the end. And you're like, hey, hey, dude, like have some decaf. It's all gonna be okay. Just breathe, breathe, it's all good. You know, but they're like, woo, you know, and look, who wants to be connected with these people? Not me. Now maybe you think I remember these people, but you came, here you are. Look, we have a whole library I've collected and people have given me books on false prophecy over the years. Well, it's currently in storage in Virginia, not in Israel, but we actually, they're in large boxes and they're all marked false prophecy. I don't want people to, you know, I don't wanna get raptured and have people go into my library and go, well, this seems to be what he was reading. "The 88 Reasons Why Jesus is Coming in 1988." That sold millions, millions. And then of course Jesus didn't come. So he's like, oh, well, he wrote the 89 reasons why Jesus is actually coming in '89. And of course it didn't happen, but I have both of those books and in my collection and many others. But look, just because there are lunatics who are false teaching, it doesn't mean we avoid the topic. There are people who are teaching falsely about the gospel. We don't go, well, I'm not teaching people about how to come to Jesus because there's lunatics out there. No, we of course, we press and we say, because there's lunatics, because there's false teachers falsely telling people how to get saved. That's why we have to preach the gospel with clarity and conviction and truth. We should never back away from 27% of the scripture because there's lunatics. That itself strikes me as lunacy. The apostle Paul told Timothy, preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine. Second Timothy chapter four. He's saying, teach the word, teach it in season out, teach it with great care, do your job because people won't be teaching this and won't be listening to it. He doesn't say the back way. Well, when people stop listening, when people don't care, then stop teaching. No, that's not how it's done because we will be held to accountable for knowing truth and sitting on it, not teaching it, we will be held to account. Fourth, many pastors simply don't teach prophecy because they lack an understanding of the times in which we live and the increasingly close return of Christ. And they're not captured by the excitement that Jesus is coming back. Sadly, many sincere pastors who in other ways are good and wonderful shepherds, they're simply asleep to the times in which we live. They're not gripped by the remarkable moment of history that we're in and the urgent need to prepare for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ for his church. And like the Pharisees of old, Jesus is saying to them, why do you not analyze this present time? More than ever, we need pastors and teachers and lay people who understand the times in light of Bible prophecy. See, if you're not studying prophecy and you're not preparing yourself and watching for the signs of the return of Christ and you're thinking that's ridiculous, I don't wanna be lumped with the lunatics, you're not absorbing the facts that Jesus tells us, commands us to be ready, to be prepared, to live soberly and with anticipation because he's coming back. We need to be like the sons of Issachar who in 1 Chronicles chapter 12 were told these were men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do. We need pastors and lay people who understand the times and know what Israel should do and know what the church should do living in light of the return of Christ. Even if that's hundreds of years away, we need to live with a sense of imminency that he could come back for us at any moment and even if we're not in history's last days, we're in our own last days. We don't know if we're gonna make it through today or the week. I don't wanna be a downer, I hope you make it through the week. I was chatting with some of you, I know some of you believe in the rapture but you're hoping maybe not this week. Lord, let me just get through the cruise, I paid for it, I've never been to New England or Canada, I wanna see the leaves, I want you to come but maybe on Saturday or Sunday, I'm just saying.
- [Carl] Wow, thank you for listening to this episode as we explored why pastors are not teaching Bible prophecy today and to help pastors and lay people rediscover the purpose and power of Bible prophecy. If you found this podcast really valuable, please get in touch with us. Let us know who you are. Do you want to talk about something else on this show? Do you have a question you want Joel to answer? Go to joshuafund.com and click on contact us. Your feedback is incredibly valuable for us as we develop this podcast. And as always, you can check out our show notes for anything you heard on the podcast that you'd like more information on. For Joel Rosenberg and the Joshua Fund Ministry team, I'm Carl Muller. Thanks for listening to this episode of Inside the Epicenter with Joel Rosenberg.