In the classroom, the warning generally is given with the words, “Pay attention!” It serves as a subtle indicator that information is being disseminated that might need to be given back on an exam at a later time. Ignore the warning and you are in danger of failing a test or a course.
In the New Testament, the warnings are given in various words, but the message is the same: “Repent, or you will face the consequences of your disobedience.” Ignore the warning, and you reap an eternity under the unrelenting wrath of God.
In Matthew 28, Jesus commissioned the disciples to make disciples by “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt 28:20 NASB), and in Acts 3 we find Peter doing just that:
“Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you.’ And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:22–23 NAS95)
In these verses is both a command and a warning. The command is to “heed” Jesus Christ. The word “heed” is derived from a word that is often translated “hear” or “listen.” It means to listen in a way that demonstrates you are really listening — you listen and obey so that your life is changed. So Peter is telling His Jewish audience that they must obey Jesus as the promised Messiah.
Peter also gives a reason to listen to Christ — because He is the prophet who was promised by Moses. There had been many other prophets in Israel, men who under the inspiration of God had spoken and written with God-given authority. These men needed to be heeded. But the prophet, Christ, stands above all the other prophets. He is to be heeded because He has an inherent authority. He is the Christ (Messiah, vv. 18, 20), Lord (v. 19), the Holy and Righteous One (v. 14), and the Prince of life (v. 15). So again, these Jews were to accept Christ as the Messiah they had rejected (vv. 17ff).
And the one who follows Christ obeys Him completely and not selectively: “TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you” (v. 22). He has authority over all aspects of one’s life; and all that He commands us is what is best for His people.
There is also a warning to go with the command. One does not have to obey. There is a moral responsibility and ought-ness to obey, but one can disobey. But he is a fool if he disobeys, because every soul — every individual — who does not pay attention to the words and commands of Christ will be “destroyed from among the people” (v. 23).
The warning is specific to the nation of Israel — anyone who rejects Christ will not receive the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant. He will be removed from the people of God. But even more, he will experience the judgment and wrath of God for his sin of rejecting God. This is no temporal consequence like a bat in the face or an “F” on an exam. It is to eternally suffer under the unrelenting, infinite wrath of God (e.g., Mt. 8:12; 13:42).
The warnings to the Israelites are warnings to all people as well, for just as the chosen people of God will not escape wrath for not heeding God, so also everyone who fails to heed God will experience the wrath of God.
Heads up. Listen up. Pay attention. Heed the Lord.