Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE FEAR OF GOD, THE FEAR OF HELL”

Luke 12.5

 

We live in a strange era, an era in which so many are satisfied with such a sense of comfort and satisfaction, such a feeling of security and hopefulness. Despite what the Bible says about being without Christ, without God, and having no hope, people are amazingly optimistic about life and their future.

Throughout most of human history men have been fearful, and with good cause. Men feared adverse weather in the form of either violent storms that would destroy crops or droughts that would prevent crops, natural catastrophes such as earthquakes and cyclones, the sudden onset of deadly diseases such a cholera and typhoid fever, and the surprise attacks of marauding invaders who would sweep in to rape and pillage, to enslave and to murder.

I suppose the false assurance and foolish confidence that creates a sense of well-being and security in people actually began in the 19th century and culminated in the 20th century. Inoculations, beginning with small pox vaccines and continuing with measles and polio vaccines, make most people feel safe from the old childhood diseases that claimed so many of the young before their lives really started.

Advances in engineering have increased our survivability by enabling us to build dams and levees to protect against most floods, reinforced concrete, and concrete block for our buildings to protect us against most storms and earthquakes, radar and weather forecasting to further protect us from most hurricanes and tornados. It even seems that a study of rats and mice some years ago showed that subjects facing no nutritional deficiencies also showed an increased susceptibility to cancer. Amazingly, the better off the dirty rats are, the more likely they were to develop cancer.

Therefore, while our technology makes for a safer and less fearful life in some respects, the abundance that results from improved technology may also increase our risk factors in other things, such a cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and who knows what else. However, these types of problems sneak up on people so slowly that they rarely engender the kind of fear associated with hiding in the storm cellar during a tornado, or begging God to spare the life of your baby come down with whooping cough.

In many respects, people in advanced countries seem almost immune to fear of any kind, just figuring that no matter how bad things get they will not be all that bad. Being inoculated against fear is understandable in certain respects. How many children have known a friend or sibling to get sick and die? How many teens have known a classmate or cousin to suddenly die?

Of course, such things happen. However, they do not happen with sufficient frequency that most people will think about the likelihood of it happening to them. Therefore, for that reason, or for cultural reasons related the need to appear cocksure and confident to your peers, we have just about reached a level of fearlessness unseen in human history. So rare are those who are set upon by fear of life’s uncertainties that their episodes are sometimes called anxiety attacks. Excuse me, but anxiety attacks at one time in our history, and presently in many parts of the third world, are quite reasonable and normal reactions to real dangers that, while perhaps not being probable, are very possible. They were not called anxiety attacks back then; it was called normal fear.

I remember running to the storm cellar as a little boy as a tornado approached. I remember getting the house ready for an approaching category five hurricane as a grade school kid. I remember my emotions when I was informed as an Air Force Academy cadet that my brother was fighting for his life after a 60 mph head-on collision in a Volkswagen Beetle. Pam and I have experienced some mighty big earthquakes in the early years of our marriage. There are times when you are either fearful, or you are a complete idiot with no human sensibility.

Those things said, why don’t we turn to the spiritual side of our existence? Since there is also a spiritual aspect to human existence, there are also proper fears associated with spiritual concerns, and not just fears connected to concerns about your own or your loved one’s physical well-being. We all know, at least we know in the abstract, that it is a good thing to fear God. Even people who have never feared God, and who dispute among themselves precisely what the fear of God actually is, will usually admit to some benefit from fearing God, even if they have no idea what that benefit may be. Why so? Because it is a truth that is so strongly advanced in the Bible.

For example: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,” Psalm 111.10. Whatever the fear of the LORD is, it is that initial concept grasped by one who is wise. Proverbs 1.7 shows us that the fear of the Lord is also the beginning of knowledge. In other words, you do not know anything of value until you know the fear of God. Moving beyond that, recognize that the fear of God will make a man fear sin. Genesis 39.9 reveals Joseph’s motive for not succumbing to the advances of his master’s wife: “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Fearing God also motivates a man to obey God. Ecclesiastes 12.13: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

So you see, contrary to what many think these days, and dispelling the notion that it is an unhealthy and primitive emotion, if you grant that sinning is a terrible wrong and obeying God is a wonderful right, then the fear of God is very, very good, both hindering the God-fearer from committing sin and prompting the God-fearer to do the will of God.

Let us, therefore, be rid of this notion that fear is always wrong, and that there is nothing healthy or beneficial about properly instructed and correctly directed fear. Irrational fear is a very bad thing, because it enslaves. However, rational, godly, wise, judicious, and informed fear is not a bad thing at all, but a very healthy and beneficial thing.

That established, let me spend some time tonight clearing up some confusion that people sometimes have about fear, particularly the fear of Hell. You have heard of scaring the Hell out of someone. It is a very graphic and picturesque description of thoroughly frightening someone. However, I suspect the phrase had its origins in the very rational and commendable fear of Hell itself.

When we speak of fearing Hell, of course we are referring to the fear that is associated with going to Hell, the fear that is associated with the torments of Hell, the fear that is associated with the punishment of Hell. We are reminded of the rich man who cried, “I am tormented in this flame,” Luke 16.24. Who in his right mind would want to endure such punishment as we imagine awaits those who will go to Hell? Therefore, though it is generally recognized as being reasonable to fear going to Hell when one is not a Christian, there are those who think it unreasonable and unprofitable for a Christian to fear Hell, as though there are those who fear Hell but do not fear God, and then there are those who fear God and therefore should not fear Hell.

I dispute that notion. I dispute the idea that there is a contradiction between fearing God and fearing Hell, at the same time. I dispute the notion that those who have confidence that they are heaven-bound are the same ones who should never fear Hell. I am convinced the Bible teaches that the spiritual man, the godly woman, will both fear God and fear Hell at the same time.

Open your mind to four considerations with respect to a professing Christian fearing Hell:

 

First, FEAR HELL AS THE PUNISHMENT YOU RIGHTLY DESERVE

 

Is it possible to be a real Christian who does not admit to deserving the punishment of Hell? The godliest Christians ever seen would be the very first to admit and acknowledge their sinfulness. First John 1.8 is where John, the beloved, wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Turn to First Corinthians 11.32, and pay careful attention with me to the words the Apostle Paul uses that apply to himself as well as to his readers: “But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” Paul numbered himself among those Christians who are judged by the Lord and chastened by Him, as well. However, judgment and chastening are God’s responses to a Christian’s sins, are they not? Of course, they are. Therefore, you see, there is no such thing as a genuinely born again Christian who is not only sinful by nature, but also sinful by practice. As sinners, we are just as deserving the punishment of Hell as anyone else, since the Bible declares that “the wages of sin is death,” Romans 6.23.

The point that must be made here is that though every Christian deserves Hell, there is something that stands between every Christian and what he actually deserves, the blood of Jesus Christ. First John 1.7 reads, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” The result of that is, Hebrews 8.12: “Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Which causes us to rejoice, because “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8.1.

Thinking about what we deserve causes us to shudder when we think on what we deserve, but for God’s mercy.

 

Next, FEAR HELL AS THE PREVENTION OF SPIRITUAL SLOTH

 

Turn to Matthew chapter 25, where we will read the parable of the ten virgins:

 

1      Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.

2      And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

3      They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:

4      But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

5      While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

6      And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

7      Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.

8      And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.

9      But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

10     And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.

11     Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.

12     But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

13     Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

 

You can tell what the purpose for the parable was from the last verse, to watch because you know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of Man cometh. In other words, Wake Up! No one thinks he needs to stay alert, but many who are not alert are simply unprepared, therefore, a healthy fear of Hell will keep a Christian alert to the possibility that you might not be so thoroughly prepared for heaven as you think you are. People are capable of astonishing degrees of self-deception, especially when it comes to giving themselves an unrealistic pass on eternal life.

 

Third, FEAR HELL AS THE PROVOCATION TO AVOID GOING THERE

 

Despite the fact that so many people feel so very secure in their profession of faith in Christ, certain people are in danger of Hell no matter how confident they feel. Who are they? How can those in danger be identified? Rather easily, most of the time:

First, those in danger of Hell are those whose heaven is in this life. Have you ever considered how much Hell on earth is created by those who have tried to create heaven on earth, instead of waiting upon the Lord to take them there who have trusted Christ? Read up on the Utopians sometime, to see how they ignored man’s sinful nature and weirdly tried to create a haven to be their heaven here on earth. As well, consider the communists and the national socialist’s (the German Nazi Party) efforts to make a heaven on earth. Millions died in their faulty effort to achieve their respective versions of heaven on earth. As well, consider the Jihadists of Islam. Their efforts are certainly to bring paradise to earth, and they do not care who they kill (even their own children) to accomplish their goal. These are not the only examples of those who would have their heaven in this life. All kinds of people, be they party animals, be they get rich quick types who dream of retiring by the time they are thirty years old, be they surfer dudes who spend their lives in pursuit of the perfect wave, and what ever else you can imagine along that line. That man or woman who labors to create his or her heaven here on earth has no hope of heaven in the next life, and they give their absence of hope for heaven away by laboring to make their heaven here on earth. Therefore, you see, they are easier to spot than you might have imagined.

Next, those in danger of Hell are those who live in adultery. I know a pastor in the state of Georgia who admitted to me that he trusted Christ when he was 16 years of age, and joined the Navy out of high school at 17 years of age, at which time he began a six-year streak of drunkenness and debauchery with prostitutes every weekend, until his discharge from the Navy. He then said he got right with God, started going to church, and is now a pastor. He insists that six years of continual fornication with prostitutes does not evidence that he is not a Christian. I know another pastor who told me that during his entire enlistment in the Army he cheated on his wife every weekend, and got drunk every weekend. He, too, insists that he was simply a backsliding Christian the whole time. Excuse me, but has no one ever read First Corinthians 6.9-11?

 

9      Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

10     Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

11     And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

 

Then there is Ephesians 5.5: “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” Guys who cannot keep their trousers up and girls who cannot keep their skirts down do not seem to understand that there is a penalty for sins such as these. The penalty is Hell.

Third, those in danger of Hell are they whose example causes others to sin. A bad example, like the plague, is catching. Why so? Behavior is much more likely to be caught than taught, with people unconsciously modeling the behavior of others, especially those they look up to and admire. Why do you think the rich man in Hell the Savior referred to in Luke chapter 16 was so concerned to plead with father Abraham to send someone to preach to his still living family members, verse 27? He was not so concerned about them. It is just that, once he reached Hell, he realized that if they followed his example and also ended up in Hell his own torments would be increased for the bad example he set for them to follow. This is why Paul wrote First Corinthians 15.33: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” He knew that people tend to adjust their conduct to match that of their companions. What I am telling you is that the companion who sets a bad example rather than a good one is himself going to Hell.

Fourth, those who are in danger of Hell are they who hold contempt for God’s Word. Can a sinner be saved while he is grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit of God? I do not think so. That being the case, what do you think the Holy Spirit’s response is to someone who criticizes and ridicules, and otherwise disrespects the Bible, which the Holy Spirit wrote? Being mindful what Psalm 138.2 shows us, “Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name,” and James 1.18 reveals, “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth,” those who hold contempt for God’s Word will not follow the directions of God’s Word to be reconciled to God. Therefore, someone who has a low view of scripture, who does not honor God’s Word, who fails to esteem and to read the Bible, is a candidate for Hell, rather than a candidate for heaven.

Fifth, they are in danger of Hell who finally falls away. Remember the parable of the sower who went forth to sow, and seed landed on four kinds of soil? There is one kind of soil that pictures the person who initially seems to be saved, but whose life demonstrates by his falling away over time that he was never truly born again. Matthew 13.5-6: “Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.” This is what the Lord Jesus Christ was referring to when He said, “He that endureth to the end shall be saved,” Matthew 10.22. Therefore, a better understanding of the doctrine is reflected by those who refer to it as the perseverance of the saints than those who designate it once saved always saved. “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.” When Solomon wrote those words, in Ecclesiastes 7.8, he knew that your finish is the most important part of your endeavor. Those long time Christians who do not finish as Christians, living as Christians and serving God as Christians, were never Christians at all. Not really. If, in the end, you finally fall away, you were never bound for heaven, but were always bound for Hell. Therefore, if you are slowing down and getting lax in your Christian life, fear Hell. Rouse yourself from lethargy and spur yourself onward to finish well.

 

Finally, FEAR HELL AS A HEALTHY SPIRITUAL BALANCE TO REJOICING

 

In Colossians 1.13, the Apostle Paul informs his readers that God has “delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” Thus, believers in Jesus Christ occupy a spiritual realm that puts us in tension with the physical realm we find ourselves in.

Further evidence of this unnatural situation is found in Ephesians 2.4-6, where Paul once again points out to his readers that “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,” has “raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Thus, while we seem to have our physical and conscious presence here on earth, we are in some mysterious way joined together with Christ Jesus in a spiritual union in heaven.

Perhaps it is this both-and kind of tension in the Christian’s life that gives rise to the importance of a healthy spiritual balance between fear on one hand and joy on the other hand. Let me show you some scriptural examples of what I mean:

Turn with me to Psalm 2.11: “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” Do you see that? Fear and rejoicing at the same time. You can fear Hell as a Christian, so long as your fear of Hell is mixed with rejoicing.

Now, turn to Matthew 28.8: “And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.” This was the reaction of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary as they left the empty tomb.

Ever stand on a high place and look down, thrilled that you are safely where you are, yet also somewhat fearful as you think what might be were you not safe and protected? There is a correlation between the way a man standing on a high rock outcropping looks down on the crashing waves below and a man who stands on the Rock of his salvation and glimpses Hell below.

 

Is it wrong to fear Hell? Not at all. It is a healthy thing to fear Hell. It can be a most spiritual thing to fear Hell, especially when it is a fear that is mingled with joy of the Holy Ghost. I would be more concerned about those who never think of Hell, those who never contemplate going there (even in the abstract), for those whose grip on their thoughts is so strong as to prevent any thoughts of Hell may very well be those most likely to go to Hell when they die.

I have an assignment for you. It is an easy assignment, that everyone who is a Christian will have no trouble carrying out. It may be somewhat more difficult if you are not saved, but I promise that it will be good for you. Of course, there will be those who steadfastly refuse to consider my request, because thoughts of Hell terrify them. I want you to discuss Hell with someone, someone you know. I want you to discuss what you imagine Hell would be like for someone who is in Hell. Discuss the five senses and Hell, the perceptions of the soul, the torment of it all.

You might resist doing so because of fear, but I think you can see the spiritual benefit to everyone whose fear of Hell is well considered and informed, and who puts his fear of Hell into words. A healthy and properly informed fear of Hell will serve you well with respect to properly and spiritually fearing God.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org