What is terror? What places terror in the hearts of men when they are threatened with man-made laws? What causes their minds to be without peace when they are locked in the powerful grasp of the jaws of lawful justice? Have they ever seen this law in the flesh to fear it so much — handled it with their own hands? What objective measure can the judge give to show that his judgment shall terrify the offender — and in this manner prevent offenses from being further committed on account of such edict as might be given by him? A man, naturally considered, cannot fear that which cannot harm him — he cannot fear his child’s love for him, he cannot fear prosperous progress, he cannot fear fame and proclaim, he cannot fear knowledge and intelligence, he cannot fear pleasure and bliss. Fear is a direct result of terror. Thus, logically speaking, because men are unpredictable and have a knack for doing the wrong things; an affinity to being overly mischievous (it excites them), and can unexpectedly snap under intense pressure and commit injurous and heinous deeds to others or to themselves, it is thought that laws are necessary to keep these things in check; really, to keep the men themselves under a watchful eye for the benefit of all. This is the worldly understanding of the need for laws in the land. However, the truth is that even human laws are God ordained — no just law has ever merely originated from man as its primary source. The making of man-made laws only goes further to affirm the doctrine of Imago Dei, which is a Scriptural teaching that observes how that man is made in the image and likeness of the Lord God. Man, however, can only display an outward observance of any righteousness; a form of godliness only — often, even with extreme measures being applied, mankind finds a way to corrupt true observance; a heart-following devotion to laws, even those made by and for himself. Man cannot inflict pain upon himself and is not frightened of what he can twist to his own liking and selfish benefit. Sequentially, it would then be in order to say that terror itself comes from no other quarter than from the Divine Executor of eternal torment! Do you tremble at laws enacted against murdering your enemy, or those that are enforced against armed robbery (otherwise banks would be robbed every so often)? Does a certain sense of guilt and condemnation overshadow a child who has done that which they recognize to be wrong? I submit to you that there is an even greater dread from which such fear as yours should be utterly ashamed — God Himself. The Lord God is a terror to sin and those who dwell in it! Fear God — He deserves it and, furthermore, demands it from you, O mere mortal man!
Were you to be in a scenario where you are lost in a savannah plain and then to see a mature dark-maned lion and know that it had spotted you; if that lion were to start approaching you and start running in your direction, it would be very foolish indeed to run in its direction hoping for a loving embrace from it — rather, at that very moment you would certainly know, even more than you know anything else, that the lion is coming for your throat with its bone-crushing jaws and vicious claws. This beast can only cause even the bravest of men to flee in the opposite direction — for sacred life’s sake. You can look at the approaching lion and know experientially, with all certainty in the world, what terror is without conducting any experiment — yet you want me to prove to you, by your own finite standard, that God’s wrath, the God Who you deny exists (because your carnal sight does not behold His form), is terrifying beyond measure? Why does terror create the same effect in a child as in a growing man — that of fear — yet the cause of the terror is foreign, even in the case of hosted cancer, to the person being terrified? Is it not that the foreign object of terror itself commands such an effect regardless of any inherent factors within the object being terrified? And how would you prevent a foolish child, for instance, from tempting the occurence of such an event — is it not by appealing to their inherent fear through rightly relating the true and horrifying nature of the foreign object if they were to be found in such a circumstance as to encounter it? Is it not by highlighting the intensity of the terror and its destructive nature to such a one? In the same manner, I can only logically prove my terror of God to you, not by something in me only, that is my fear of Him, but also by His own sure word to fulfill such terror upon the rebellious and the disobedient; the children of wrath. My Gospel, if it is to be true, must include the terror of God and His holy wrath against the sinner, if I am to keep Him from viewing God as anything other than the terrifying enemy He is to sin. That God saves is a calming truth of the Gospel, but the symmetrical equivalence applies to His wrath against the unbeliever — it should cause the sinner to despair of all hope in himself or anything else, other than the unmerited mercy of God Himself. The Gospel must come after the law has been unleashed in its full gear of condemnation and death toward the law-breaker. If the sinner cannot see himself hanging by a slippery thread over the very flames of eternal hell, left in his deplorable state by God, then he cannot grasp at how blessed and deep the Salvation of God has gone; how wide the chasm is between him in his state of sin and the Salvation that is only found in faith in Christ Jesus — a plunge deeper than the very depths of hell of which each human being is justly deserving. The terror of God is not thus an impediment to the Gospel, but it’s very foundation, alongside the pure and gracious love of God.
In this day and age when God is presented as an inexperienced and weak-willed ever-smiling parent who spoils his children with all manner of goodies and has given them freedom to do whatever they themselves deem right and progressive (which is no freedom at all, but only hopeless bondage in sin); in these times when God is said to be all-love and all-inclusive and all-accepting and no terror and no judgment and no wrath whatsoever, we must be at the forefront declaring the whole counsel of the triune God, Jehovah! The thrice-holy God has declared by His own word, recorded in holy writ, that He is an ever consuming fire; a dread to all who do not know Him in righteousness and truth. He calls the elect to eternal salvation by both His fearful terror and His comforting love — to cause them to run from sin and to have them desperately and joyfully run into His shelter of mercy. Like the apostle Paul, we should also not be ashamed of this double-edged Gospel which not only saves the elect but condemns all ungodliness and unrighteousness. Happiness shall dwell with those children of God who obey His Gospel — there shall be no terror forever, for it is taken away from them by that precious blood shed by Christ Jesus on the cross at Calvary. Since, for the elect, salvation ultimately means no pain and no sorrow and no crying and no death, we can confidently assert and preach that the terror of God is what brings wailing and gnashing of teeth; that brings eternal torment; that brings intolerable sorrow and pain that shall never end; that brings the second death upon the unrighteous sinner. The terror of God is fully demonstrated in hell upon all who do not repent and believe the Lord Jesus Christ through the glorious Gospel He brought from above by His own appearing and which He preached in word and deed, dying that we might be saved from God’s terrible wrath. Praise God for Christ Jesus, Who has delivered the Christian from this terror — there is now no condemnation for us! Praise the triune Jehovah! Amen.