The Fear of God

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as one dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I am the first and the last and Living one.

— Revelation 1:17-18

When a man’s evil is burned away, that is when the man yields his self and returns to his lord and God; and that is when that which, before, he was aware of only as burning, he will feel as love, comfort, strength—an eternal, ever-growing life in him. If then any child of the Father finds that he is afraid before him, that the thought of God is a discomfort to him, or even a terror, let him make haste—let him not linger to put on any garment, but rush at once in his nakedness, a true child, for shelter from his own evil and God’s terror, into the salvation of the Father’s arms.

When John saw the glory of the Son of Man, he fell at his feet as one dead. Why was he overcome with terror? Why was he, who had borne witness to his resurrection and suffered for his sake, afraid? The glory that he saw, the head and hair pouring from it such a radiance of light that they were white as wool, was but the radiant splendor of the Father, which should have taken from him all fear. “He laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the living one.” Fear cannot stand before strength; the one and only safety in the universe is the perfect nearness of the Living One! Oh, the joy, to be told, by Power itself, that the cure for trembling is the presence of Power. He told his servant Paul that strength is made perfect in weakness; here he instructs his servant John that the thing to be afraid of is weakness, not strength.

Commentary

The Casting Out of Fear...
by Dave Roney

In Galatians 3:24, we read that the Law was our “schoolmaster, tutor, guardian, etc.” to bring us to Christ: In similar manner, I think fear to be a tool used by God to bring us to Jesus and, having brought us thus far, He continues to use fear, as is sometimes necessary, to further bring us into conformity to the image of Christ.  Let us consider it. 

The first evidence of fear is that of the babe, whose mother is lost from his sight for even a moment; for, to the infant, his mother is life itself, and he intuitively knows he cannot live except by her supply of his every need, and that should she leave him he will die; the baby squalls though there be a room full of others present who love him and they, knowingly, assure the baby saying “Fear not, she'll be right back.”  But the babe does not understand the words, and even if he did, nothing could assuage his fear except to see the wonderful face again: to the babe his mother is Strength, which he does not fear; what he fears is weakness, his own, for he knows himself helpless. 

We are born into the world, not with fear but with the potential to fear, which can be triggered by any lack, or perceived need, of the essential; and fear is no sin in and of itself, but is the handmaiden, the constant attendant, of sin.  If sin be a dark shadow cast over the landscape of life, then fear is the shadow of sin's shadow, casting itself over the hearts of men as well as babes; fear indicates a break from the Good, which is Strength.

A man is beset by fear from two sides of his being, from things in the world around him, and from things which haunt his innermost self; the outer-lying sources of fear enter a man through his sense gates, those from within arise out of his heart.  The two sources often combine, as is the case when St. John saw Christ in the heavenlies.  The unveiled brilliance of the Lord entering into him through his eyes caused a terror; his inward poverty of understanding worked in conjunction with the Glory he saw to produce in him a phobic fear which rendered him prostrate, sapped of life, nearly dead; the Greek word describing his condition in this verse is the one from which our word “necrosis” derives; it is, in this case, death-life, a panophobia crowding out all other thoughts, memories, feelings.  The same fear that grips the babe at the absence of mother now gripped the Apostle at the presence of his Lord. 

What is the source of the sainted John's caustic dread?  He is approved of God and highly favored and knows, apparently vaguely, it to be the truth concerning himself; he must now see it and know it clear.  Why, then, does he fear the Living One he adores?  It could be by some unspoken evil dwelling within him; it could be for a lack of faith; it could be for several possible reasons, but I believe it was none of those; his fear arose from his lack of understanding, his ignorance of the depth of his identity with the risen, now ascended, now glorious Lord of lords.  He must in that moment come to know what he is not before he can know what he is, and to know that he must know what his Lord is not so he may begin to learn what He is.  Before the Lord can tell him to “Write therefore the things that you have seen,” the Apostle must truly see the things he is seeing, without illusion or distortion, with a vision elevated far exceeding his mortal and natural fear-tempted self; He must see and sense as does Christ Jesus.  The Lord, not One to be feared, is preparing His man for the task, does so by exposing Himself fully to the eyes of clay, thus exposing the man to himself, says to him in the Voice of thunder “Fear not!” and from that moment and those few words issuing from the Heart which is Love, all vapors of fear are dispelled.  The Apostle's strength is the Lord Who is Strength, and He is making the weakness of the saint into perfect strength.  St. John reaches out and finds his Lord's hand, and is lifted to his feet:

“If then any child of the Father finds that he is afraid before Him, that the thought of God is a discomfort to him, or even a terror, let him make haste—let him not linger to put on any garment, but rush at once in his nakedness, a true child, for the shelter from his own evil and God's terror, into the salvation of the Father's arms.”

This quote has to do with the fear of the believer, “any child of the Father,” which is only one of two ways that God uses fear to conform His creatures to Christ: Just two days ago are the words “Although he loves them utterly, God does not tell them there is nothing in Him to make them afraid. That would be to drive them from Him forever.”  With those of His children who are still outside the camp, He puts in their hearts a dread of Him, specifically that dread which is for consequence of ignoring Him, and by that fear teach them that they must deal with Him; for it is far better a man fear God than dismiss Him.  The one fear is that of the Godly man, a St. John, who though loving the Lord with all his heart yet did not truly know Him as He is; the other case is of the man who does not yet love Him and is still disobedient to Him.  The one fear is to open the eyes, the other to repentance.

The dazzling Christ would always bring upon every observer a form of living death-terror except that the beholder know that God is on His side, is no enemy to him but Friend, is Comfort, is Safety, the far-reaching personification of Divine Love poured out in living flesh, the Lamb Who is our Brother, Sovereign, Savior, the Living One.  “Fear cannot stand before strength; the one and only safety in the universe is the perfect nearness of the Living One.”  Arise from your deathly pose, St. John!  Lift up your eyes!  Stand on your feet and look full into Love's beaming face; it is enough to burn your very eyes from their sockets, yet it is by seeing Him as He is that the scales fall away; His brilliance is the Consuming Fire, it is burning away the drossful scales that the true eyes may see!  He is not the God of the dead but the living; He brings you no harm, is contrariwise the source of Life Abundant for you.  You need fear never, except He should ever withdraw Himself from you, which He cannot and will not do.  The more the clay-bound eyes of sinners or saints see Him, as He truly is, the more terror is produced, yet the more those same eyes see, when a man becomes the true child of his Father, when he truly sees as Christ sees, the more his fears vanish; the Consuming Fire's facet which is fear, which once troubled his soul, then becomes the heart's hearth, the place of comfort, of refuge, of safety.

“Oh! The joy, to be told, by Power itself, that the cure for trembling is the presence of Power.!”  Our weakness is made perfect strength in Him; “...here [our Lord] instructs His servant John that the thing to be afraid of is weakness, not strength;” and with the writer to the Hebrews we say, “Therefore strengthen your limp hands and weak knees.”  When the Daystar rises in your heart, you shall no longer flee in fear; fear shall flee from you even as the darkness takes flight at morning's first beaming...