Ezekiel’s commission is an utterly terrifying task. His job is to tell the wicked that they are going to die. And if Ezekiel fails to warn them, they will die in their sins, but their blood will be required at the hand of Ezekiel (3:18). However, if he does warn them and they die in their sins, Ezekiel will have delivered his own soul (3:19).
The reverse is also true: If a righteous man turns away from righteousness and pursues iniquity, and God lays a stumbling block before the man, Ezekiel is responsible for warning the man. If Ezekiel does not warn the man and the man dies in his sin, God will require the man’s blood at the hand of Ezekiel (3:20). But if Ezekiel does warn the man and delivers him from his sin then Ezekiel has delivered his own soul (3:21).
There are several terrifying things in this job description. First, the obvious fact that Ezekiel’s soul is on the line. His own future has everything to do with his faithfulness in warning both the wicked and the righteous. Failing to warn them of what is coming results in their blood being required of Ezekiel. Faithfulness in this task results in Ezekiel delivering his own soul. The payoff for a job well done is that Ezekiel gets to stay alive; failure results in blood guilt being required of Ezekiel, the son of Adam.
Second, notice who the other actor in the story is. God puts himself squarely in the middle of the narrative. It is God who is speaking and he says, “When I say to the wicked, thou shalt surely die…” (3:18) and “When a righteous man turns from his righteousness… and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die…” (3:20). Ezekiel’s job is to warn both wicked and righteous alike of what God is up to with them. In both cases God is threatening death. God delivers the sentence against the wicked; God sets a stumbling block before the righteous erring. And it is Ezekiel’s mission to warn both alike.
Third, it would seem that the difference between wicked and righteous has everything to do with the ability to heed the warning. The wicked will die, warning or no warning, but God requires them to have a fair chance at repentance. The righteous however could go either way. Without a warning they will die and no one will remember their righteousness (3:20). The implication seems to be that they will be remembered as wicked since no one will remember the righteous deeds they had done. But if the righteous man is warned about the stumbling block, he will surely live because he is warned.
Notice that the difference between the wicked and the righteous is not whether or not they do wicked things or fall into sin. The difference is whether they will heed warnings and repent or not. The wicked willfully turn their headphones up louder and close their eyes to all warning signs. The righteous man hears the warning and changes course. This would of course include repentance and restitution for the acts which got him off course to begin with.
Lastly, while this mission seems to be unique to Ezekiel in some regard, there is something reminiscent of this in Hebrews 13 where the writer exhorts Christians to obey and submit to those who rule over them since “they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief…” Christian leaders have a responsibility to watch over the souls of their flock since they will give an account for their dealings. A Christian leader who fails to warn a member who is playing with moral nukes in his basement will have blood on his hands.
But more generally, all Christians are required to love their neighbors, and this means warning the wicked and the righteous. Whether they listen to you or not, whether they die in their sins or not, the weight of Scripture is that neighbors have some level of responsibility for one another. If you see your enemy’s car in the ditch, you may not close your eyes or look the other way. Neither may you smile serenely while he casually drives his soul off a cliff. If you’d tell your neighbor when his house was on fire and encourage him to get out, it’s no less kind to suggest similar things regarding his soul.