When the Bible instructs us to “Fear God,” it means to honor, worship, and reverence him. That’s a holy fear, not a terrifying one. We need to fear God in that way, but we need not cower in fear if we encounter him.
Matthew’s biography of Jesus tells how the Jewish leaders arrest Jesus and pressure the Romans to killing him. The Roman soldiers crucify him. Joseph of Arimathea buries him. The Romans seal his tomb and guard it.
An earthquake shakes the place and an angel shows up to open the crypt. Jesus emerges all dazzling and lightening bright. The soldiers tremble in fear and fall into a dead faint.
The angel tells two women, friends of Jesus, “Do not be afraid.” Then he adds that Jesus is alive; go tell the disciples.
They leave, still afraid but also with joy, holding onto hope that the impossible has happened. As they go they meet Jesus. He too says, “Do not be afraid.”
If you watched a man die and be buried, what would you think if you later saw him alive and he spoke? How would you react if you saw an angel or even God?
I’d be afraid.
And I’m not sure if hearing the words “Do not be afraid” would help me a whole lot. It’s only in the movies that we see dead people walking about. And talking with supernatural beings isn’t something most people ever experience. We would have reason to be afraid.
Some thirty times in the Bible, angels and even God tells people, “Do not be afraid.” This occurs in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, from Genesis to Revelation. The patriarchs, the prophets, the disciples, and others all hear these words.
If we love God, we need not be afraid of him. When we see him, we should stand in awe. That’s the right response. “Do not be afraid.”
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.