Hebrews 9:27-28 New International Version (NIV)
27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
This is a difficult topic and one that I think is often abused. It has been popular for some to attribute natural disasters or diseases to the judgement of God. I remember a popular figure in Christianity making the outrageous claim that the death and destruction that was caused by Hurricane Katrina was the judgement of God. The problem with this misguided understanding of the judgement of God is that usually it only applies to people who don’t look and think like us. This same popular figure did not make similar claims when the victims hurricane of Sandy looked like him. God shows no partiality and is just in his judgements. So our modern way of looking at his judgement is warped. When we live our lives without a clear understand of what God’s judgement is, then we may not have true Godly fear.
Everyone regardless of what we look like, how we vote, where we live, how much money we make, what denomination we claim, will face judgement. Understanding this simple fact will produce in us the fear of God. The part of this that I have always struggled with is the severity of the punishment that will be endured in hell. In addition to the severity, I also struggle to grasp the idea of an eternal duration. When we consider both of these factors and the fact that the majority of the people we come into contact with will spend an eternity in hell, we should feel a sense of urgency and even terror.
Now when considering the fear of the Lord the first thing that came to mind was 2 Timothy 1:7
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
At first glance this verse may appear to contradict the concept of the fear of God. But if you examine multiple translations of the verse you can get a better idea of its meaning. For example, the NIV uses the word timid instead of fear. And we also have to examine the verses that precede and the ones that follow. These verses lead us to believe that Paul is speaking of us not being given a Spirit of timidness when it comes to serving God and proclaiming the gospel. In verse 8 Paul proclaims he is not ashamed of the Gospel, confirming this very point. The idea that God wants us to be fearless is inaccurate. Fear keeps us from harming ourselves and is a very healthy response to potential danger. However, fear should not keep us from doing the will of the father only from disobeying Him.
When we speak of the fear of the Lord the best example I can give is the fear we have of our parents. If we love our parents, we don’t want to disobey them for two reasons. The first reason is that we love them, there are few feelings worse than breaking the heart of someone you love. When you truly love someone, you don’t want to disappoint them. Loving parents set rules and boundaries for their children. Those rules and boundaries are for the benefit of those children. When we love our parents we trust that the rules that they put in place are in our best interest even when we don’t understand them. We also understand the hurt it causes them when we don’t follow those rules. As children we probably didn’t fully understand why our parents had these rules but as adults we have a greater understanding.
The second reason we don’t want to disobey our parents is that we fear the punishment that they have in store for us. As a child spankings and the loss of privileges would keep me in line. But as I got older spankings were less realistic and taking away privileges didn’t bother me anymore. Fortunately for my mom, at this point I just wanted her to be proud of me. But the fear that was instilled in me made me a better man. Proverbs 1:7 tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.In the family dynamic the fear of our parents is what teaches us to be good citizens. The difference between the loving fear my mom instilled in me and the fear of a harsh boss who hands out harsh punishments for shortcomings at work is that my mom still had an impact on me once the threat of punishment was gone.
I often hear the term tough love thrown around. This is the idea of showing your love for someone by being tough on them. I see this in education quite often. Teachers and coaches brag about how tough they are on their students or athletes and claim it is because they love them. The problem is that all too often their, “toughness” is a by product of their ego and even though they have witnessed no positive results from their harshness they cling to it. Yes, their students fear them but is it a healthy fear? Does it model the fear of the Lord. Don’t get me wrong I believe you can and should be tough as a teacher and a coach but understand if the people you are being tough on fear you but don’t love you, the only thing that benefits from your toughness is your ego.
Instilling godly fear, or mayby a better term would be reverence, would have a dramatic effect on our society. Godly fear continues to obey even once the threat of punishment is gone. This fear keeps us from stumbling and as the scripture states it is the begining of understanding.
Lord, please grant in me a clearer understanding of your just and righteous judgement. Please help me to have a healthy fear that keeps me from falling away from you. Please guide and strengthen me, in your some Jesus Christ name, Amen.
Levels of judgement
Scripture does indicate that there will be some variation in the ammount of torment individuals receive.
And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
I remember as a child, I had greater accountability from my mother than my younger brother. Not because of favoritism but because I was older and should have known better. This family dynamic is a direct reflection of how God
Luke 12:47-48 NKJV
Godly fear/Parental fear