Fear that saves

Sign of the times: People are thinking about hell.

I had over five times the number of hits on my blog post about hell in March alone (354) than I did in the two months after I first posted it last October (65). Plus another 48 already in these two and a half days of April. Folks are googling “hell” and some of them end up here.

Pandemics induce fear, and though fear is a very unpleasant emotion, it is also a very useful one. Fear causes us to flee a dangerous situation or to decline engaging in one, i.e. drug use, criminal activity, skydiving. And it gets us to face the reality of our own mortality.

To any and all who find themselves fearing death and what may follow it I say, Good news! You were made not for hell but for heaven, and a way was made to ensure that you get there. Though we all deserve hell because of our willful disobedience, because of his great love for us God took our punishment on himself. He paid our fine…our debt…by becoming one of us in the person of Jesus Christ, so that he could save us.

So we needn’t fear death. That is, as long as we fear something else. As long as we fear someone else.

This salvation from the punishment of hell that Jesus wrought cannot be earned and is available to all. Yet it is not applied indiscriminately to all. There is one prerequisite. We must fear God. But fear of God is quite unlike a fear of hell. The fear that we have of hell or death is merely the emotion of being afraid. Fearing God may entail that emotion but the kind of fear that secures us for heaven is primarily an attitude or position.

I have often heard or read the fear of God likened to reverence for him, in an apparent effort to harmonize his fearsomeness with his approachability. But this view…I fear…is woefully inadequate and misleading. To fear God means primarily, and simply, to submit to his authority…to acknowledge his sovereignty and the right that gives him to do with us as he will. Our attitude and position is one of submission.

This proper fear of God is equivalent to faith and trust in him. We believe God exists and that Jesus is God in the flesh, and we act on this belief by submitting ourselves to his authority. When we make this commitment in humble sincerity, God responds by doing something in us that makes us different than we were before. This transaction is described as: being born again, becoming a new creation, being adopted as God’s child, receiving Jesus and being given God’s spirit, having eternal life, God making his home with us, being raised to new life, and more.

This is what Christians mean when we speak of salvation. It is a transaction wrought by God in response to our submission to him that rescues us from the penalty of hell and secures us for the pleasures of heaven.

Some skeptics cite “natural evil” as evidence against the existence of God. But the response of many to the natural evil that is this current pandemic demonstrates the failure of this objection. If a dearly beloved soul will not seek God but be lost for eternity unless driven to fear by some hardship or evil, then that evil is a tool in God’s hand for eternal and immeasurable good.

The fear of death and hell that leads to humbling fear of God is not a fear we should fear. If that is what you are experiencing right now, don’t waste it. Let God use your fear to draw you to himself in faith and trust. It is then, when you become a child of God in the care of a loving Father, that you will know a life without fear.