In the book of Revelation John describes his intense and completely overwhelming vision of the risen Jesus:
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”
This is impressive, isn’t it?
Jesus calls Himself “the first and the last.” He declares, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”
When John sees this, he “fell at his feet as though dead” (v 17); a natural response to seeing Jesus in all of his glory.
These are mind-boggling descriptions and they remind us of a reality that we need to embrace fully:
We need to develop a healthy fear of God.
I wonder if we don’t spend so much time trying to make Jesus palatable in North America that we forget this reality sometimes? If we focus on Jesus being our example, our Rabbi, our teacher and less on His being our Prophet, our Lord and King… He doesn’t seem like someone we would ever have a reason to fear, does He?
I really appreciated the way Adrian Warnock addressed this issue in Raised with Christ where he writes,
We must never become casual in our relationship with Jesus. He wants us to know him and to love him and at the same time to have a fear of him. What is this fear of God? It is the respect that comes from knowing and understanding that we are men and he is God. We are the created ones, and he is the Creator. . . .
We have nothing to give him. We are helpless before him and need his help even to stand. Some foolish people get angry with God and say, “When I get to heaven I will have a few questions for him to answer!” If Jesus were to walk into your room today, you would not be able to remain in your seat. When we see him we too will fall on our faces before Jesus to worship him. . . .We are right to fear him. When the Bible tells us to fear him, it simply means that—fear him. sometimes people say they are afraid of God. We might need to tell some of them that they are not frightened enough. (pp. 156-157)
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” says Proverbs 1:7. And these are wise words, to be sure.
Fortunately we don’t see only a need to be frightened of God in Revelation (and indeed throughout Scripture), because one of the greatest words in all of Scripture appears back in 1:17:
“But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not…'” John writes.
Turning back to Warnock for a moment, he writes,
The reason for this is that God wants us to fear him, but not be terrified of him. Jesus tells John he has no need to fear. Why? Because of what Jesus has done just for him—he has reached out and touched him. Why? Because he is the one who died for John. He is the one who was raised for John. . . . This is the Jesus we come to today—the living one, the fearsome one, and yet the loving one who delights in reaching his hand out and touching you. . . . This Jesus is the triumphant one, and nothing can stop him from acting on your behalf. (pp. 157-158)
We are to fear Him, but not be afraid of Him. A mentor of mine often reminds me that we in a sense obey what we fear, which is in part why we see fear and wisdom connected so often in Scripture. We fear Him and obey Him, but we should not feel terror at the thought of Him, if we are His people. He has redeemed us. He has triumphed over sin & death. He has given us freedom.
Easter is coming.
This is who we are celebrating.
This is the God to whom John cried out, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20)
The Jesus who is called “Faithful and True.” (Rev. 19:11)
His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his 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. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
The God who is truly worthy of our fear, yet tells us that we need not be afraid. Who is coming to pass judgement on His enemies, but bring mercy to His people.
Isn’t it amazing?