Forgiveness was never the issue. The Torah was given so forgiven people would know how to live, in order to be blessed. Your forgiveness was unconditional, but your blessing was conditional. You could live your whole life forgiven, saved to the bone, born again, child of God, I'll see you in heaven one day - but yet miss the whole blessing; that you live in darkness, disrepair, death. May you never say again: it's because my father ate sour grapes that I'm like this. No, when someone eats sour grapes, they are the ones whose teeth get set on edge.
Ezekiel 18, but before we get there, we have to understand some terminology. Any time that you're looking at any piece of literature, any piece of literature, you want to ask yourself a couple of questions: 1) Who wrote it? 2) who was it written to? 3) how would they have taken it? Are there euphemisms, idioms, figures of speech in the text, that mean something different to them, than it would to us? To put 21st Century English definitions over the top of ancient Hebraic terms, and then say we're right and everybody else is wrong, is ridiculous.
So there's terminology in every piece of literature. We just happen to be studying the Bible today. Now before we get into Ezekiel 18, we have to understand a couple of pieces of terminology. The first piece of terminology is: Light, Life and Increase. In general, in the Hebrew scriptures, these are euphemisms about a realm of life that leads you to wholeness, abundance, completion, shalom, peace - wholeness without one broken piece. This is described with terms like light, life and increase.
In general, it has nothing to do with heaven; like heaven someday, someday we'll get to go somewhere else, and then we'll experience the life of God. No, no, no. The writers of the Bible are always bringing us back to this light, life and increase is available to us here, now, today. In general it's a realm of life described by a decision to live within God's ways - that if you live within God's ways, it brings light, life and increase to you. As a matter of fact, the centre root of the word Torah is the word Ora, which is light. It's: thy word is truth, thy word is light. Light, life, increase.
Deuteronomy 28: I set before you today blessings and curses, life and death. Choose life that you might live. It's not a literal thing, because people who break the Torah, they don't die; and then if they choose not to, they don't come back. It's a euphemism for a realm of life, where life is working for me, and not against me. The universe is pointed in my direction in a favourable way. That's light, life and increase.
The second group of terms that we have to understand, to understand this passage, is: death, darkness and decrease. So life, light and increase is a realm of life that leads to favour, abundance, wholeness without one missing piece - shalom. Death, darkness and decrease is the opposite of that. It has nothing to do with hell. When Ezekiel is writing this passage of scripture, the idea of an eternal hell did not even exist yet. That did not come around until later okay, now don't panic. I'm not taking hell from you okay, I believe in hell alright? It's fair enough. I'd hate to take hell away from a group of people going to heaven, that would be horrible - so just everybody relax right.
But death, darkness and decrease has nothing to do with hell. It has to do with a realm of life that leads you to a pattern of disrepair, in other words: things are unravelling. Things are coming apart. Death, darkness, decrease; they're used interchangeably, so if you see: choose to be in the light, as He is in the light; choose life over death, choose light after darkness. It's not: choose heaven over hell; it's: choose the easier life.
A lot of times we get confused between forgiveness and blessing, and so we think that in the Old Testament they were forgiven by keeping the Torah. They were not ever, ever, ever, ever, ever. If you take the whole Torah, it didn't matter. Paul said it this way: Can any person be justified by keeping the law? Absolutely not. He wasn't coming up with something new - he was affirming orthodoxy. The mosaic covenant was never intended to provide forgiveness of sins. They were forgiven, in the Old Testament, through faith in God's faithfulness in a lamb. You are forgiven now, through faith in God's faithfulness in a lamb. It is the same exact thing.