Monday: Fear God!

The first angel’s message tells us to “fear God.” What does that mean? See Ps. 34:7–22.

Image © Lars Justinen from

Image © Lars Justinen from

Fear could be understood in two ways. First, there is a fear that shows itself in reverence and respect. This kind is what the first angel wants to bring to our attention. Those who fear God are true believers in Him (Rev. 11:18). To fear God means to honor Him (Rev. 14:7), praise Him (Rev. 19:5), obey Him (Rev. 14:12), and glorify His name (Rev. 15:4). The fear of God in the first angel’s message also acknowledges God as Judge and as Creator, and it calls us to worship Him as such.

Second, there is a fear in the sense of being afraid that sooner or later God will judge this world. To the unfaithful, the message of the judgment is a message of terror. That’s why we often call the three angels’ messages God’s last warning to the world. Inherent in the very notion of a “warning” is something to be feared, and if we read about that which the lost will face, they indeed do have something to fear.

However, as long as mercy is available, God always desires to move the lost to repentance, and the fear of God could be an incentive to start seeking Him (see Rev. 11:13). Though ultimately a saving relationship with God is one based on love, sometimes people need a good dose of fear to open their eyes. And if it takes a warning to get their attention, why not?

We know that “God is love,” and nothing reveals this love more than the Cross. We know, too, that God loves this world, and it must pain Him tremendously to see what sin has done to it. A God of love and justice isn’t going to sit by forever and let evil go unpunished. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31, NKJV). How can we strike the right balance in understanding both God’s love for us and understanding His wrath against the evil that has done us all so much harm?



Monday: Fear God! — 12 Comments

  1. To me this business of fear is a tricky thing. In our efforts to quiet things down we have replaced the word “fear” with “respect” but the two words are quite a bit different. I can respect someone without fearing him.

    There are words in the ancient languages that mean respect but those words are not used in texts such as, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10 NKJV). In texts such as, “Blessed is that man who makes the LORD his trust, And does not respect the proud” (Ps 40:4 NKJV) or “In that day a man will look to his Maker, And his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel” (Isa 17:7 NKJ) different words are used that convey the concept of respect far better.

    The simple fact is that fear is a good thing as long as it doesn’t get out of control. Generally, road signs are not put where they are for decoration but as warnings for everyone, both good and bad, to be cautious about something ahead. As far as I am concerned the person who loses all fear and ignores such things has become insane. For instance, there are a number of dare-devils in the world that do crazy things for money and fame. They have suppressed all fear and because of that usually end up either dead or crippled for life so how can we say that fear is always bad.

    While we may have a respect for road signs we sometimes shrug them off as being less than having an urgent importance especially when we see no danger. However, if we have ignored such signs in the past and as a consequence ran over someone putting them in the hospital and have been given a very stern warning by the judge invariably we will adhere to those signs after that to the point of fear lest we end up incarcerated for most of our life for killing someone because of reckless abandonment.

    What we need to understand is that our world with all the problems of sin that is so immersive is not normal. God didn’t design things to be this way. Sin has changed us and our perception of things so that how God handles things in Heaven is not like He has to handle things down here. As Paul said, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor 13:11 NKJV). A small child usually cannot be reasoned with; he/she only knows yes and no and what pain is. We tell a small child that if they go out into the street they will get a spanking. We don’t go into all the consequences of being run over by a car because they simply can’t understand that. So in a way we put fear into them concerning punishment which stops them from becoming road kill. The same goes for us. That is why God scared the children of Israel half to death at Sinai (Ex 20:18-20) in hopes that it would stop them from committing idolatry. But as we all know even that didn’t work.

    So, there are things said in the Bible that we would be wise in not messing with because God has to deal with a crooked people in a sinful environment and such things as fear was put there for our eternal good until we get to Heaven and live in a different environment where we can understand things far better.

  2. Brother Tyler,
    Almost thou persuadest cogent argument. Much of what you say is solid. However we have to contend with scripture texts such as 1 John 4:18 and Romans 8:15. On one hand we are told to fear and on the other that it is undesirable, if not outright bad. It seems then there might be room for application based on context. Strong's Concordance with Hebrew and Greek lexicon does suggest that the original word (G5399) allows for the application of reverence, respect and obedience.

    Remember too this is training ground for life in Heaven and the New Earth. Character and disposition are being transformed here. While there are imperfect surroundings there is a perfecting work done by the Holy Spirit to erase fear by perfect love. Did Jesus fear, as in afraid of anything? Fear as in terror may be an acceptable starting point, as for a child, but as we grow this should decline and be replaced by fear, as in trust.

    It is amazing though that God loves us so much He would use fear to 'jump-start' our salvation. It is certainly better to have the fire lit at the beginning than at the end. Some may see warning as an insult or something to be avoided, even a curse. God's warning judgments and acts ('shock and awe') are acts of mercy. And when the remnant people follow God's instructions (fear Him) they will share warning messages with those whom they love as an act of mercy. Every true prophet, without fail understood this. The people of prophecy do too.

    • Hugh, thank you for your thoughtful response. I think of all the things you bring up 1 Jn 4:18 is probably the most damaging to my comment so let’s briefly look at that text.
      There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. (1Jn 4:18 NKJV)
      By itself this text seems to completely contradict my comment but let’s couple it with the verse just before it and see what the two say together:
      Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.
      18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. (1Jn 4:17-18 NKJV)
      Notice the starting phrase “Love has been perfected among us in this” which is a lead in to the subject dealing with having “boldness in the day of judgment”. That idea is also found in Hebrews where it says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace” (Heb 4:16 NKJV). John is talking about the perfection in love with respect to our assurance of salvation. He is not discussing fearing God per se or the respect we should have of Him but rather having a faith that holds God to His promises just as Jacob clung to the angel (Gen 32:26).

      “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’" (Rom 8:15 NKJV). In this verse there seems to be two opposing ideas, “the spirit of bondage” and “the Spirit of adoption.” The main theological discourse which occupies the first half of the letter to the Roman church has to do with salvation by grace rather than salvation by works. It is the same basic theme that exists in Galatians where Paul asks, “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal 3:2 NKJV). A person is in slavish bondage when he/she feels that their works is the thing that determines ones salvation and in so doing becomes fanatical over being good to the point of pure legalism. It becomes a nasty cycle where one tries to be good but fails, becomes guilty, and then tries that much harder and all because fear is in the wrong place. Besides it usually avalanches and gets out of control and becomes obsessive and dangerous. It is that fear of not being good enough that Paul is addressing in Rom 8:15.

      As for the concordance, you use the Greek “phobeo” (strongs 5399) in my BibleWorks the usage is this: “fear 62, be afraid 23, be afraid of 5, reverence 1, misc 2; 93.” What is odd is that the one time out of 93 occurrences where the translators used the word “reverence” it is the verse in Ephesians that says, “Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Eph 5:33 KJV). (The New King James uses the word, “respects” instead of reverence.) One can only wonder why the translators chose to deviate in this instance, maybe it is because our culture is quite a bit different in our view of the relationship between man and woman than it was 2000 years ago in the middle east.

      In the King James Version the Greek “phobeo” (strongs 5399) is never translated into “obedience” or “respect.” Furthermore, those words are the last in the list of definitions just as it is in the Hebrew lexicon concerning the Hebrew “yir'ah” (03374).

      The thesis of my comment was about having a Godly fear that is in control. Such a fear is more than merely having a respect for something; it is about fearing to the point that God becomes far more in our eyes than any human leader who, because of their authority, we normally become rather uneasy around. When confronted by God everyone in the Bible ended up flat on the ground shaking like a leaf. Even though that was their posture before the Great God of the universe it is not the same as the Pagan concept of a fickle, despotic, tyrant who blows up at the slightest provocation where they have an abject terror of their god. It is also more than reverence; it is that of a vassal to his lord; like a conquered nation is to those who conquered them such that when they say jump the vassal asks how high on the way up. This is the concept I have of the word fear as used in the Bible with respect to our relationship to God. He certainly is our friend but far more than that – He is the one who made us, the one who controls whether we live or die, the great sovereign of the entire universe, far above angels who have the same amount of respect for their Lord that we should have.

      • My use of the word “damaging” in the second sentence was an unfortunate choice of words. I have been told that it is a combative word that communicates the wrong sense from what I intended to convey and I have reason to believe that what I was told is correct. The fact is that 1 Jn 4:18 does seem to contradict the position I take which is what I should have said. So I apologize for the error on my part; I really didn’t wish to be antagonistic in any way but rather to communicate what I believe to be true and why I believe what I do.

  3. only if we fear God we shall be able to understand how true and merciful our God is. we are not forced but to someone who understands the love of God as won't hesitate to do our part.

  4. We understand God´s love for us through the cross. The only thing we can do to acknowledge His love, is to surrender ourselves to Him as a Living sucrifice. His wrath against the harm the evil caused is found in Genesis 3:15, this is where the Great Controverse started.

  5. We are told to fear God not man.God is Love and when you come to know Jesus you know Love, and we have nothing to fear.As christan we must never give in to Fear .Even when things happen that we don't understand we know God loves us and we have nothing to fear when our Hope is in Him.

  6. My view is that based off of our relationship with GOD the question gets answered in a way that can not be questioned. I fear GOD. I also have reverence towards GOD. I have come to experience Hebrews chapter 12 first hand. Does that mean that I am without sin? I do not think so, nor was David when he slept with Uriah's wife. We are in a time that the love of GOD which is Jesus Christ Son of David is our only chance. As someone posted mount Sinai and the events that took place there where not enough to stop Israel from faltering. If we are going to sin, and we are now is the time to do it. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of GOD." It is when we are redeemed and restored that sin will not happen. The redemption of the body. That flesh cannot sin. This one does.

  7. God requires us to fear Him. Fear should not be a deterrent to serve God; it should motivate us to be better Christians. Let's be mindful of all the promises God makes to those who FEAR Him.

  8. I understand that to fear God is not be afraid of Him but to reverence Him. Still, I find it interesting that so many people are more afraid of their spouses or employers than they are of God. When Revelation 20 talks about the fearful going into the lake of fire, it is talking about people who disobeyed God instead of man, because they were more fearful of man than they were of God.

    • William, I fully agree with you. I think you are essentially expressing the same idea that Jesus expressed in Matthew 10:28, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (NKJV) where the same Greek word "phobeo" (strongs 5399) is translated "fear" twice in the text.


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