“John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Luke 3:7)
Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan is the most read book besides the Bible. It was published in 1678 and has never been out of print. It is an allegory about Christian who lives in, and subsequently leaves, the City of Destruction. Christian learns that the city will soon be destroyed and he urges his friends, neighbors, and family to flee the coming wrath. They refuse his warning, seeing no sign of imminent danger, but Christian leaves on his own, although burdened with a load of sin.
This kernel of truth that Bunyan illustrates in his book, followed by many more, is that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. (Prov. 9:10; Ps. 111:10). It was God’s intention to speak directly to His people Israel, but their request was that Moses should be their intermediary. “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.’ Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’ ” (Exodus 20: 18-20). The fear of God was for their good.
In my belief and experience Bunyan is correct, the fear of God, often, if not always, precedes the revelation of Yeshua Messiah. John the Baptist proceeded Yeshua in such a fashion, physically and in reality. Many apologists may be eliminating an initial and truthful message in their anxiousness to reach people with the Good News. Yeshua’s work on our behalf is great news, but not until we have a need that comes from a basic awareness of the wrath of God that is so tentatively restrained from us. Recently, there have been many well-intentioned preachers, attempting in their own methods and understanding to reach “Seekers”. These worldly based marketing attempts failed miserably. It was thought that if enough sweetness was presented, flies would come in abundance, but this strategy belongs to the enemy who is the master of offering sweets to entice and tantalize men.
“I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes. In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin. The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good.” (Ps. 36: 1-3).
Down through history a message of “Hell, Fire and Brimstone”, has been preached. In the first Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards presented an accurate message of the state in which unrepentant sinners currently find themselves. (Rom. 9: 22-29). This brought many to see their need of a savior, repentance and salvation; in that order. A true Holy Spirit gifted evangelist will understand this, but it seems, God sends them to where they are needed, rather than to the church pulpit. Which is a true act of service, to tell a lost person that he is lost and going in the opposite direction, or to tell that same person with the most gentle of words that you know a really nice place to go if he should ever like to go there. The enemy has put it into the worldly thinking mind, that if a person’s pride is somehow offended, they will be unreceptive to the truth of the Bible. However, the message of the cross is offensive, but it is also the only path to light and life, forgiveness and salvation. (1 Cor. 1: 18-30; Gal. 5:11; Mark 6:3).
The enemy is doubling down on his “offended victim” trap in today’s pagan society. Will a true friend let you go around with a huge blotch on your face, or with breath that will peel off paint? No, he will say, “You need to wipe your face” or “You need a mint”, and offer it to you. You will feel humbled, but grateful for a truthful friend who had your best interest at heart, and was willing to serve you at the risk of offending your pride. After all, it is your pride that is leading you to Hell or to give in to temptation or to miss the loving and abundant life to which God is calling you.