Reading Ezekiel 18, I think God missed the point.
As presented in the chapter, the complaint of the Babylonian captives was that they were suffering unjustly for the sins of their forefathers. God’s replied that He did not punish children for the sins of their parents, nor parents for the sins of their children.
You shouldn’t miss this very important point: guilt for sin cannot be inherited. Every person stands guilty for his own sin. No sin is inherited. It means, of course, that humans are not born with the inherited sin of anyone. Each child begins life new and sinless.
Hopoefully, you get that point, but before we get off track into the doctrines of Calvinism, let’s get back to Ezekiel.
But it is precisely at this point that God doesn’t seem to understand the complaint. If every person bears only his own guilt, why were the captives being punished by the captivity?
And that leads me to the difference between guilt and consequence. The consequences of sin are far reaching. Guilt is not. If my parents were lousy at parenting, I will have suffered for their ineptness, but that doesn’t mean I am guilty of poor parenting. It certainly can mean that I might be – if I follow their example. But I do not bear their guilt, only the consequence of their behavior. The captives were not guilty of their parents’ sins. But they did suffer the consequences. That’s just how life works.
On the other hand, I don’t really think God missed the point at all and that may be precisely what the Lord means in this chapter. The guilty suffer for their own sins. The captives were suffering. It wasn’t for the sins of others. It was for their own sins. They just refused to recognize it.