Most in the Church of God are familiar with Ezekiel 3:16-21. I will quote the whole passage later in this post, but notice just this part: "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: 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 man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand" (Ezekiel 3:17-18).
This has been applied to the Church by most, such as myself, who are in favor of preaching the gospel to the world. But some might object and say, "God has not made the Church a watchman."
In this post I want to show, from the Bible, that God has made the Church of God a watchman for Israel, and the Ezekiel warning that the blood of the people will be on our heads applies to us if we do not warn the English speaking nations about the tribulation to come upon them if they do not repent of their sins.
There are two things, in combination, that make us a watchman for modern Israel, those nations such as the United States and Great Britain that will go through the tribulation. Those two things are God's word, the Bible, and circumstances.
God's word teaches certain principles of behavior, a way of life, that requires that we warn people when we see they are in danger and they do not know it. And the circumstances we find ourselves in today require that we give our nations a warning. Those circumstances are simply that we know from Bible prophecy that they are in danger and heading for destruction, but they don't.
What are the scriptures that teach this principle?
First, there is the general principle that we love our neighbor as ourself. "Jesus said to him, ' "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets' " (Matthew 22:37-40). This general principle also includes doing unto others as we would want them to do to us if we were in their circumstances. "Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7:12). Obviously, if you were in danger, but didn't know it, you would want someone to warn you.
This is more than just loving those in the Church of God, but includes loving those in the world, as God set the example. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). This is further illustrated in a parable. "And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, 'Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?' He said to him, 'What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?' So he answered and said, ' "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind," and "your neighbor as yourself." ' And He said to him, 'You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.' But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, 'And who is my neighbor?' Then Jesus answered and said: 'A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.' So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?' And he said, 'He who showed mercy on him.' Then Jesus said to him, 'Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:25-37).
Notice, there is no indication of the nationality of the man who fell among robbers, whether he was an Israelite or a pagan, nor is there any indication of whether he was righteous or wicked, only that he was in trouble and needed help. And remember, Jesus gave this parable to answer the question, "Who is my neighbor?". We, in the Church, might also ask, "Who is my neighbor?", thinking that perhaps our neighbors are only the brethren in the Church, but the teaching of this parable is that our neighbors are those we come into contact with, those we are able to help, regardless of who they are. The command to love our neighbors as ourselves requires us to love the people of the world, those outside the Church of God, as well as the brethren in the Church.
God also gives us a more specific application of this love, that of holding back those headed towards disaster: "Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, 'Surely we did not know this,' does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?" (Proverbs 24:11-12).
Sometimes the only way you can hold someone back from disaster is to warn them, as with our nations. We cannot force the American and British people to stop sinning, but we can warn them about the consequences.
Notice that in verse 12 of the above quote, the obligation to deliver those drawn towards death is tied to the knowledge of the one this passage is addressed to. We cannot make the excuse to God, we didn't warn the people because we didn't know this disaster was coming. If we try that excuse, God will bring the fruits of our decision upon our own heads. "If you say, 'Surely we did not know this,' does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?" (Proverbs 24:12).
We are to live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4). This instruction or command in Proverbs 24:11-12 has authority. We must do it.
So the general principle is, we love our neighbors, even those outside the Church of God, and we express love by warning those who need a warning.
God Himself sets the example. I could fill up a book with all the warnings God gives in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. God warned Adam of the consequences of taking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He didn't just say, don't eat if it. He also said, if you eat of it, you will die (Genesis 2:16-17). Likewise we should tell our nations, if you continue in sin, you will suffer and die in the tribulation. The last words of the Bible in Revelation are a warning against those who add or subtract from the book of this prophecy (Revelation 22:18-19), and that warning tells what those consequences are. It is God's nature to express love by giving warnings, and we should do the same.
I said before, we are made a watchman by a combination of scriptures and circumstances. The scriptures mandate, as an application of God's law requiring us to love our neighbors as ourselves, that we warn those who need a warning. Those scriptures are the ones I have quoted, namely, Matthew 22:37-40, Matthew 7:12, and Proverbs 24:11-12.
What are the circumstances, which combined with God's word and God's law make us the watchman for Israel?
The circumstances are simply that we know the truth and the world doesn't. God has given us, in the Church of God, the knowledge that makes it possible for us to give the warning. No one else has this knowledge. If we don't give the warning, no one else will because no one else knows the truth.
We know that the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and other English speaking nations will go through the tribulation. We know what that tribulation will be like. We know why it will happen, that it will happen as a punishment for sin. And we know what those sins are and what our nations need to repent of. God has given us this precious knowledge, not just to save our own skins, but to give a warning to others who do not have this gift of knowledge. We are given the gift so we can share it.
That is what makes us the watchman for Israel. And the Ezekiel warning therefor applies to us.
The "Ezekiel warning" is really a two-fold warning. As applied to the nations of Israel, it is a warning to repent of sin or face the tribulation. But as applied to the Church, to us personally and collectively, it is a warning to deliver the warning to the nations or God will put the blood of the people on our heads. That is figurative language to tell us, God will hold us guilty if we do not deliver the warning. So the Ezekiel warning is a warning for the nations, but a warning for us too.
Also, notice that this warning, for us who have the knowledge, is in the passage I quoted from Proverbs. Not only does God tell us to hold back those stumbling to the slaughter, but he gives a somewhat veiled warning that there will be consequences for us if we don't: "And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?"
So actually, the warning to us in Ezekiel is just an expansion of what Proverbs 24:11-12 is telling us. Ezekiel 3 spells God's warning out in more detail than Proverbs 24:11-12, but it is saying the same thing.
Here is the whole passage in Ezekiel 3 which I quoted a part of earlier: "Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the Lord came to me, saying, '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: 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 man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 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. 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. 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' " (Ezekiel 3:16-21).
Ezekiel was told to warn the house of Israel, not just the house of Judah. But at the time this was written, the house of Israel had gone into captivity long before Ezekiel received this vision. Thus, it was given to Ezekiel for the purpose of including it in the Bible for our sakes, so we have the message and the warning. In Ezekiel chapter 3, God is speaking directly to the Church of God today.
Therefore, God has made the Church of God the watchman for Israel, to give the warning of the tribulation to come. God has done that by teaching us to warn those who need a warning. And He has done it by giving us the knowledge we need to give that warning. The third chapter of Ezekiel tells us that God will hold us responsible, and guilty, if we do not deliver the warning. And Proverbs 24:11-12 also tells us the same thing, in a more general way.
Some might think the warning has already been completely given by Mr. Armstrong. That is ridiculous. Definitely, Mr. Armstrong did his part and warned millions. But there is still much work to do. The number of people alive today, and the number that will be alive when the tribulation starts, who heard and remember Mr. Armstrong giving that warning, is a very small percentage of all Israel. Most people in our nations have never heard that warning, and it is our job to warn them, now and between now and the time the tribulation begins. Mr. Armstrong got us started with that. He taught us the truth and he set the example. He did what he was able to do in his lifetime. Now it is our responsibility to finish the job.
And the blood of the people will be on our heads if we do not do it.
Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:
CHAPTER 3 - THE EZEKIEL WARNING
Is the Church Commissioned to Preach the Gospel to the World?, Chapter 5
The Church, Chapter 4