I) [Luke 13:1-5]:

(v. 1) "Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.

(v. 2) Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?

(v. 3) I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

(v. 4) Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?

(v. 5) I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."

[Zane C. Hodges, "Unless You Repent You Will Perish:
Repentance in Luke 13:1-5"]:

"Biblical repentance [meaning a change to godly behavior] is not a condition for a person’s eternal salvation. Instead it addresses the need that sinners have (whether saved or unsaved) to repair their relationship to God in order to prevent, or to terminate, His temporal judgment [not eternal condemnation] on their sins.

The prodigal son, for example, found himself in dire straits in the far country (Luke 15:14-16), and his miserable condition prompted his repentance which led to his reunion with his father (15:17-21). He is a classic example of a Christian backslider who responds to the discipline of God in his life and returns to fellowship with his heavenly Father.

But the call to repentance can also be addressed to an unsaved audience who is either experiencing, or about to experience, the temporal judgment of God upon their sins. Perhaps the classic biblical example of this is the case of Nineveh, recorded in the Book of Jonah. So far as the statements of that book are concerned, the issue was God’s temporal judgment: "‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown’" (Jonah 3:4). 1

Nineveh’s repentance was impressive, to say the least, and involved everyone in the city as commanded by "the king and his nobles" (3:7ff). There is not a word in the Book of Jonah about the eternal salvation of the Ninevites,2 still less is there any suggestion that God’s favor to them on this occasion was based on His free grace. On the contrary, the Book of Jonah declares unmistakably: "Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it" (3:10, italics added)....

Editor’s note: Some might wonder about this statement since we read in Jonah 3:5 that "the people of Nineveh believed God…" Yet that has nothing to do with their eternal salvation. They believed God when He said through Jonah that judgment was coming in 40 days ("Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"—Jonah 3:4)....

In Luke 13:1-5. On the occasion described there, the Lord Jesus is informed (though of course He already knew) about "the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices" (13:1). The Roman governor had evidently executed certain persons from Galilee, quite possibly in the Temple itself where they had come to offer sacrifices to God. A ruthless act of this kind is completely consistent with the known character of this infamous Roman official.

Our Lord’s response to this is striking. So far from expressing outrage at the governor’s action, He takes it for granted that the disaster had occurred as a result of the sinfulness of those who had been killed. His words are a transparent appeal to all those listening to him to turn from their sins to God, for He says, "‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish’" (13:2-3, italics added).

This statement by our Lord is immediately followed by another statement, which also refers to a temporal calamity. Jesus says, "‘Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt at Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish’" (13:4-5, italics added). Here too there is an evident appeal to turn from sin to God in order to avoid His temporal judgment.

We say that this is evident, but the point is sometimes overlooked. The word "perish," used in vv 3 and 5, has sometimes suggested to readers a reference to eternal judgment (as, e.g., in John 3:16). But the Greek word employed here (apollumi) could mean simply "to die" in normal Greek usage and was in fact freely used in the language in that sense. The context of our Lord’s statements here shows plainly that this is how He was using it on this occasion. The Galileans and the men on whom the tower of Siloam had fallen had all [physically] died [prematurely! They did not live out their appointed years]. Unless the audience repented, they too faced the prospect of [early] physical death. Moreover, the cases cited suggest a calamitous death.

There is no reason to doubt that the Lord is referring here to the impending tragedy for the nation which came to pass in the Jewish war with Rome in the years AD 66-70. Pilate’s brutality to the Galileans was but a faint foretaste of the thousands upon thousands of deaths that this war would bring. Josephus, the 1st century Jewish historian, places the number who died at 1,100,000, primarily Jews (The Jewish War, VI. 420-21). The collapse of the tower of Siloam was likewise a mere shadow of the destruction that awaited the city of Jerusalem in that war. Our Lord and Savior stands here as a prophet greater than Jonah who foretells the divine wrath which must fall unless Israel repents! His words are focused on temporal judgment!...

...repentance itself was related to the need of the nation to avoid the calamities of AD 66-70 toward which its sinfulness was driving it."