16 Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: 18 When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked manshall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.
20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.”
I have pondered the gravity of this passage for several years, particularly the ominous conclusion of verse 18, “...his blood I will require at your hand.” I don't know what that entails, but it sounds in no way good. The conclusion of verse19 is framed in more positive terms, but equal in gravity, “...you (the messenger) have delivered your soul.” The same severe phrase is echoed at the end of verse 20 and rescue offered again in verse 21.
Given that the prophet had been sent to warn “the House of Israel”, is the first dire clause perhaps a reference to the several transgressions of the Law which required stoning of an unrepentant sinner? If that is so, then how did a warning message which produced repentance also “deliver the soul” of the messenger?
My ultimate concern is this; Did this admonition to warn sinners apply only to the recipients of Ezekiels preaching, or does it have application to modern Christians as well? So many things from the Old Testament are foreshadowings of later and even more substantial realities (i.e. the sacrifice of a lamb, entering into the Promised Land, Jonah “in the belly of the fish”, etc). Might it be that, should I remain silent in the face of sin now, there could come a future time when something severe would be required of me towards those whom I should have warned, but didn't? Does a Christian have a responsibility toward sinners that must be fulfilled, if not presently by warning them, then at the Judgement? I have some thoughts on the matter, but would like to hear from those who might bring other Scripture and/or insight to bear on this passage.