The Terror Of The Lord

James Boyd

“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men...”(Second Corinthians 5:11).

Some years ago I read of a tragic train wreck. The cause of the accident was that somebody had given incomplete instructions. The result was many lives lost and much property damage. This is serious in earthly matters, but how much more in spiritual matters. Is it not obvious that many have an incorrect and incomplete conception of the solemn and sacred things? People who are intelligent in many other matters are so ill informed and indifferent toward Christianity. So many are not sufficiently impressed with the seriousness of passing into the presence and judgment of the Lord. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”(Hebrews 10:31). Even many who are religious misunderstand the nature of God and consider only one side of His character to the neglect of the other. In our age people emphasize the love, mercy, grace, kindness and goodness of God to the neglect of other characteristics.

We have no desire to limit the love and mercy of God toward mankind. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3: 16). “God is love.” (First John 4:8). While there is a difference between love and acceptance, we recognize and appreciate the fact that God loves everybody, even though He does not approve of everybody. But are we to think that because God loves us He will simply overlook our indifference toward Him? Can we disrespect His will and be disobedient thereto and still stand in His favor? Are we to think that regardless of our unconcern for truth and right that God is so magnanimous that He will extend His spiritual blessings to us anyway? It does seem that many people must believe that He will. They act so unconcerned about doing the will of the Lord. "But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep his covenant and to those that remember his commandments to do them.”(Psalm 103: 17,18). Mercy is extended to all, but not all will profit from it because they will not obey the conditions God has given for receiving His mercy. Does this include you, dear reader?

God Loves And Hates

That quality of God that enables Him to love also enables Him to hate. Whoever is capable of mercy is also capable of vengeance, wrath, and anger. There are those things that God hates (Proverbs 6:16-19). God's wrath has been and can be provoked to hot anger (Judges 2: 14). Vengeance belongs to God (Romans 12:19). Paul says, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord...” Yes, we want to know His love, but we also need to be aware of His terror. We want His mercy, but are not blinded to His wrath. We bask in His goodness, but we are not immune from His anger. In the Bible, even in nature that God created, we see demonstrated before us these qualities of God.

Consider Nature

God created the natural world. Where is the man that cannot see evidence of the goodness of God in the natural world? Consider the provisions for man from the good earth. Look at the beauties and grandeur of the heavens. Listen to the songs of the birds. Smell the fragrance of the flowers. Gaze upon the carpets of the green grass and warm in the rays of the benevolent sun. All this exists by the creation of God. It brightens and cheers humanity in his sojourn through life. The minerals beneath the earth's surface, the trees on the surface, the animal kingdom, all given for man's use and over which God has given man dominion bespeak of the goodness of God. These things provoke us to think of the softer, gentler, more compassionate side of God.

But the same God created the same nature that has another side. Why the storm cellars? They give protection and refuge from the ravages of cyclones, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. Have we not read of entire cities buried beneath volcanic ash? Are not earthquakes constantly shaking mankind? Floods baptize entire provinces sweeping everything in their paths to destruction. The lightning splinters the giants of the forest. All of these actions of nature provoke within us this other side of God we usually prefer to pretend does not really exist. These things show a sterner and harder side to God.

Consider The Word

No honest man can read the Scriptures without being impressed with God's goodness that leads man to repentance. He is the source of comfort. His is a message of victory for those that come to Him. His Son is the spring of hope. His Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our pathway. That which Christ has done is the manifestation of that immeasurable goodness of God. Christ's resurrection is the assurance of life eternal for the righteous with God. Of all men that would never minimize the goodness of God would be the Apostle Paul for he recognized that he had been a recipient of that goodness. “Howbeit for this cause obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to everlasting life.” (First Timothy 1: 16). Yet, Paul is the same man that reminds us of the terror of the Lord.

We see that terror demonstrated in the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. We see it in the cleansing of the world in the flood in Noah's time. It is unmistakable in the way Joshua was commanded to deal with Achan after Jericho. What of Uzzah who touched the Ark of the Covenant in violation of God's laws concerning it? Are we not impressed with what happened to Sodom and Gomarrah because of their vile and wicked ways? All of this stands as testimony that transgression will receive its recompense. "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation...” (Hebrews 2: 1-3). How shall we escape? The plain and unvarnished truth is that we shall not escape.

Why Warn Of The Terror Of The Lord?

The reason behind the warning is in verse ten of Second Corinthians, chapter five. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”

Daniel Webster once said, “The most serious proposition that ever challenged my attention is the thought that I must appear before the God of my being and give an account for the deeds that I do while in the body, whether they be good or bad.”

By writing these words about the terror of the Lord, Paul was revealing a portion of God's message to man. Paul had taken glad tidings of salvation wherever he went. At great personal sacrifice he had traveled to preach the gospel. He had withstood trials, suffered physical distress and persecution all for the same cause of saving souls from the wages of sin. He sought to tell his fellowman of the salvation that God extends through His Son, Jesus Christ. He wanted them to know how much they needed that salvation. For the same reasons he wanted them to know of the terror of the Lord. "Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men, for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God...Therefore watch, and remember that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:26,27,31). Paul knew that God would recompense. "So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure, which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God,for which ye also suffer: seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you, and you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power.” (Second Thessalonians 1:4-9).

With such warnings Paul persuaded men, and to what end? It was that they may be saved. "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved.” (Romans 10: 1). Agrippa once said to Paul, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” Paul answered, "I would to God, that not only thou, but all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am except these bonds.” (Acts 20:26,27,31).

Judgment is rushing toward us all as an unstoppable flood. We must concern ourselves when the judgment winds blow and beat upon our house whether it shall stand. Not every house will stand. Only those who have heard, believed, and obeyed the commands of the Lord and served him faithfully have the assurance that all will be well with their souls in the judgment before God. Knowing therefore of the testimony in God's book of His wrath, we persuade men to come to Christ by obeying the gospel in faith, repentance, confessions, and baptism into Christ that is to be followed by a life of faithfulness.