Isaiah 2:19 “And people shall enter the caves of the rocks And the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the Lord, And from the splendor of His majesty, when He rises to terrify the earth.”
We often hear the fear of God taught as “reverential awe,” and for Christians I think I understand why. The redeemed no longer fear judgement because we abide in God and His perfect love has cast out all fear of punishment (1John 4:16-18). But the same cannot be said of all those who are without Christ, for all who have not called on His name have the wrath of God abiding on them (John 3:36). To tell an unbeliever that the definition of fearing God is to stand in awe is a weakened and partial truth.
Romans 11:22 says that we are to note both the “kindness and the severity of God.” In our culture most people have heard something about the love and kindness of God, but having not heard about His wrath they use His kindness as an excuse to continue in sin, most believing they will still enter heaven by some other way. They are terribly wrong and lean on a misconstrued presumption.
Romans 2:4-5 “Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”
God’s kindness and patience were never intended to be used to pander to people’s flesh, but rather to urge them that in light of His kindness they must cease from sinning and repent, otherwise they are storing up wrath for themselves, which they will face one horrible day.
There are scriptures in the Word of God that literally make me nauseous. The prophets who spoke such decrees of judgements can be found saying things like: “My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent, for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war (Jeremiah 4:19).” Indeed, hear Jeremiah say “My heart is sick within me (Jeremiah 8:18).”
There is a day of judgement coming upon the earth, and it is a day in which men will not merely stand in awe, but rather “all the tribes of the earth will mourn (Matthew 24:30)” and people will cry out to mountains “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand (Revelation 6:16-17)?”
Yes, God is a God to be feared. Jesus warned us that rather than fearing man, we should “fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.”
Do you know what I think Jesus meant when He warned people to fear God? I think He meant that we should fear God. Not simply “be amazed” or “stand in awe,” but rather “fear this awesome, powerful, sin hating, justice-dealing God, who has the power to take life and to destroy it in Hell.”
I know, we cower at those words. My heart also, skips a beat. This is not a popular subject. Is there any worse label you could receive in our culture today than that of a “Hellfire Preacher.”
We think we have come so far in our tolerant, refined, and safe Christianity today. But when I read the bible I just have to wonder… have we moved forward? Or do our soft, flesh-pandering messages all too often harden already hard hearts, while sinners presume upon the kindness and patience of God, which they are all to certain they deserve? I’m afraid, they will be pandered into Hell, and from there all opportunity will be ceased.
The future for those without Christ is terrifying. It should not only evoke awe, it should evoke terror. Hebrews 10:27 says there is “…only a fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” Indeed, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God… for our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 10:31, 12:29).”
What will it look like to face God if you are full of pride and unrepentant in your sins? What will you do when you see Him filled with fury, and the vengeance He must deal is headed for you?
God’s word contains seldom quoted, vivid and graphic imagery of God when He comes to deal justly with sinful man. What do I do with His word? Does it strike you that these are real warnings for a real event? The day is coming, the wrath of God is coming, and the recipients have not been warned.
Listen to this description of God’s punishment towards people.
Isaiah 25:10-11 “Moab will be trampled down in his place, as straw is trodden down in the water of a manure pile. And he will spread out his hands in the middle of it as a swimmer spreads his hands out to swim, but the Lord will lay low his pride together with the trickery of his hands.”
This is the picture: God is trampling down people as if they are straw being crushed underfoot in a puddle of manure. They spread their hands out as if to swim and rise up from the muck to get a breath, but God continues to press them down. Their pride is utterly crushed; their self righteousness and supposed good deeds crumble to shambles. Utterly ashamed, they perish like a branch tossed in the furnace (John 15:6).
Or read these verses back to back. They speak for themselves. What more can I say?
Isaiah 63:1-3 “Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? ‘I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the people no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel.”
Revelation 19:15 “From His (Jesus’) mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.”
In Hosea 13:2 God gives this insight into the heart of the men He is going to deal with. “It is said of them, ‘Those who offer human sacrifice kiss calves.”
Do you get this? They are sacrificing their own children to the fiery mouth of Baal, and treasuring their golden idol in the next second.
God says “So I am to them like a lion; like a leopard I will lurk beside the way. I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will tear open their breast, and there I will devour them like a lion, as a wild beast would rip them open (Hosea 13:7-8).”
You say, “But God would never deal with us this way!” Haven’t we sacrificed our children on the altar of women’s rights? Have we not killed them and treasured freedom, sex, and prosperity, just like it was a golden calf?
You say, “But Jesus never spoke so severely.”
Do you remember His response to the presumptuous man who tried to enter the kingdom without the righteousness of Christ?
Matthew 22:13 “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
What did Jesus say will happen to the man who lives like his Master is never coming back? The Master will “cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 24:51).”
Shouldn’t we cover our mouths? Shouldn’t we weep? Shouldn’t we, even as Christians, be terrified? Not for ourselves, but for those who will soon wither before our God, who is a consuming fire?
Oh Lord, what is our response to you? Do we shrink back from speaking the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27)? Are we anything like Paul who said “for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears,” even though the Holy Spirit testified to him that in every city he awaited imprisonment and affliction (Acts 20:23)?
Do we look like Jesus who came into this world to “seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10)?” Are we willing to warn them about the wrath of God, even if it means rejection or persecution?
Contrary to popular opinion, warning people about the wrath and coming judgement of God is the loving thing to do. Have you ever thought about these words from the song “Amazing Grace”? “’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved.” God’s grace inclines the sinner’s heart to fear Him; then through the blood of Christ and in perfect love, that same grace relieves the sinner’s fear of punishment. If sinners do not fear God’s wrath, they have no reason to flee for safety to the cross.
So finally, what do we do with these truths about the terror of God?
If you are without Christ, you must repent of all sin, and put your trust in Jesus Christ who was put to grief as an offering for your sin (Isaiah 53:10). “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6).” For further reading I would recommend to you “Why Should I Repent of My Sins?” http://cometochrist.ca/why-should-i-repent-of-my-sin/
For you who know God, what must you do? You must consider the eternal implications for all those who reject the gospel. 1John 3:17 asks “if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him (1John 3:17)?” Even more, if we have heavenly knowledge and the declaration of eternal life, and we see a person without Christ and close our heart against him, how does God’s love abide in us? This should really convict us, and compel us to preach the gospel. And the gospel begins with preaching sin, righteousness, and judgement to come. Dear friends, we cannot be lazy, we cannot be ashamed, and we cannot be seeker sensitive. We need to go, we need to warn, and by God’s glorious grace I pray we will see sinners fear, and by God’s grace, we will see their fears relieved.
For further reading please see “The Love and Anger of God” series at http://cometochrist.ca/category/love-and-anger-of-god-series/