TODAY’S READING: 2 KINGS 1-3
A failure to repent will cause you to perish.
At the end of 1 Kings, we read that Ahaziah went in all the ways of his father Ahab. 1 Kings 22:53 says, “He served Baal and worshiped him.”
So, when he was sick, Ahaziah inquired of Baal-zebub, god of Ekron, whether or not he would recover. In 1 Kings 2:3, Elijah was told to ask Ahaziah, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?” Even though Ahaziah had served and worshiped Baal, his sickness was an opportunity to repent and turn to the Lord.
But, Ahaziah would not take that opportunity. Verse 4 says, “Now thus says the Lord, You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.” By serving and worshiping Baal, Ahaziah committed spiritual adultery with the god of Ekron, having gone up to a bed. Because Ahaziah would not come down, would not repent, he would die.
This brings to mind Jesus’ words in Luke 13:3, which he repeats in verse 5, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will likewise perish.”
What is the connection between Ahaziah and Jesus’ statement in Luke 13:3, 5?
And, what does it mean to perish?
AHAZIAH – THE LATTICE AND THE PILLARS
The name Ahaziah means Yahweh has grasped or upheld of the Lord. This is quite ironic since the first account of Ahaziah says he “fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay sick.” (2 Kings 1:2)
I believe the key word to connect this account to Jesus’ statement is lattice. The Hebrew word for lattice is sebakah. It is used just 16 times in the Old Testament. Every single time but one this word is used in reference to the latticework that was around the capital on top of the two pillars of bronze in the temple that Solomon built.
Therefore, Ahaziah’s falling through the lattice to sickness is connected to these two towers in the temple. These two pillars were made of bronze and 18 cubits tall.
JESUS – A TOWER AND 18 PEOPLE
In Luke 13, Jesus is told about some Galileans who suffered at the hand of Pilate when he mixed their blood with the blood of their sacrifices. In verse 2, Jesus said, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this way?”
Jesus asked the question precisely because the sin of these Galileans wasn’t any worse than any other Galilean. But, Jesus still said, “Unless you repent, you will also likewise perish.” They wouldn’t perish because they didn’t repent.
Then, Jesus makes a curious statement in verses 4 and 5, “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” So, Jesus mention a tower, or a pillar, and the number 18, seemingly out of nowhere.
Why 18 people?
The first mention of eighteen is in Judges 3:14, which says, “And the people of ISrael served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.”
The next mention of eighteen is in Judges 10:8, which says, “For eighteen years they [the Philistines and the Ammonites] oppressed all the people of Israel.”
2 Chronicles 36:9 says, “Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”
All of these uses of 18 refer to oppression. Even the pillars in the temple that were 18 cubits were made of bronze, symbolizing the judgment or oppression of Satan.
So, Luke 13 uses the number 18 three separate times. The first is in reference to the people killed by the tower of Siloam.
The second is in Luke 13:11, which says, “And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not full straighten herself.” In other words, she was oppressed.
In the third use, Jesus references this woman, saying, “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” So, Jesus links the number 18 with the oppression of Satan that he comes to loose us from.
In each of the three events in Luke 13 – the blood of the Galileans mingled with the blood of their sacrifices, the tower of Siloam falling on people, the woman who had a disabling spirit – the oppression that people were under was down to them, not because their sins were worse than any other.
Yet, Jesus says, “Unless you repent, you will likewise perish.”
Because whenever we suffer under oppression of any form, we need to turn the Lord and not something else. And, odds are, if we do not turn to the Lord, we will turn to something else and perish.
This is exactly what Elijah was told to ask Ahaziah – is it because God is not in Israel that you inquire of Baal-zebub?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO PERISH?
For most of us, our minds have been conditioned to read the word persih and think of death, complete destruction, eternal punishment in hell. But, I don’t think that is what Jesus means.
Because in the very same chapter of Luke, Jesus uses the same Greek word for perish in regard to himself. In Luke 13:33, Jesus said, “Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” Jesus clearly isn’t using this word in the sense of complete or eternal destruction. He is certainly using in it in terms of oppression and likely using it in terms of his own death.
But, three times in the gospel of John Jesus uses this word perish in connection with eternal life. Jesus uses this word in contrast to eternal life. And, eternal life is used to speak of the quality of God’s life that we can have now when we believe in Jesus. Therefore, to perish is to not have God’s life now in this life.
In John 3:16, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
In John 6:27, Jesus said, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”
In John 10:28, Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
But, even if some should perish, Jesus has been “appointed heir of all things” by God (Hebrews 1:2). In order for Jesus to inherit all things, and let’s remember he made all things, the whole universe, then nothing can be eternally, fully, completely destroyed. But, all things will be purified.
Therefore, 2 Peter 3:9-10 says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that done on it will be exposed.” Peter goes on to say that “the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn.”
This burning of the heavens and the earth is the full and final purification of them. So, “according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
So, Jesus says if we do not repent then we will perish. As we suffer under oppression, we need to repent so we can experience eternal life right now. If we do not repent, then we will suffer God’s purifying and cleansing fire, which, even though it reconciles us to God, sounds very painful.