Dread the Day

It's coming. Are you safe?

So, I realise I must be in the greatest dread – in fear and trembling – of incurring this sentence on that day when no one can hide himself or sneak away but we shall all, every one of us, have to account even for the smallest sins at the tribunal of the Lord Christ.

  - Patrick, Confession, Irish, 5th century[1]

“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”

  - John 5.28, 29

Should we fear God? Should we look forward to the day of judgment with dread? Should fear of judgment serve to motivate and shape our daily conduct?

Patrick feared God, and he was definitely shaped by not wanting to come under the condemnation of the Lord in the day of judgment. Fearing God, and living with an eye to His judgment, motivated Patrick to seek a life of sacrifice and good works on behalf of others. It led him to forsake home, family, and every security in order to proclaim the Kingdom and call people to the glory of God.

Patrick was not trying to earn his salvation. Salvation, he knew, had come to him by grace. He wasn’t trying to earn salvation by fearing God and judgment in a life of good works; he was trying to prove it, to shake off every last vestige of his old, selfish and sinful life and to take up such works and such a lifestyle as would show the love and truth of Christ to every person he met.

And still, he dreaded the day of judgment.

As Paul says, all the works that we build on the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ will come to fiery judgment on that day (1 Cor. 3.10-15). We don’t know what that purging will be like, exactly; however, it seems likely we will wish not to have to endure it.

Knowing this, we should be eager to minimize the “purging” that must occur in the process of our being transformed into a final state of glory (cf. 2 Pet. 3.10-18).

We are in the midst of great mystery here, and we can’t understand it all. Nevertheless, even Jesus indicates we should be preparing for that day of judgment by eagerly pursuing good works after His own example, and by laying aside anything that holds us back from following Him completely.

And it’s possible you won’t hear this in church any time soon. Dread the day? Fear the purging of your sins? Motivated to good works by the fear of judgment? All very Biblical, and all embraced and employed by the greatest of saints, but way beneath what today’s preachers consider to be appropriate for building the Church.

Which highlights the difference between churches today and the church God grew up under Patrick’s ministry. That church embraced the fear of God and, with an eye toward His coming judgment, swept over all of Europe for four centuries with the glorious, liberating, life-changing news of the Kingdom of God.

Meanwhile, the church we are building sits comfortably on the margins of society. Dread the day, brethren, when this state of ecclesiastical torpor becomes permanent.

And, in the meantime, do whatever you can to seek the righteous, peaceable, joyous Kingdom of God, and build the house of your faith not on wood, hay, and stubble, but on the gold, silver, and precious gems of good works of witness and love (1 Cor. 3.12, 13).

For Reflection
1. How can we both dread the day of judgment and look forward to it with confidence?

2. The fear of God and love of God are two sides of the same coin. Explain.

Psalm 97.4, 5, 9-12 (Darwall: Rejoice, the Lord is King!)
Earth trembles at the sight of Jesus’ holy face;
The mountains melt before His might and praise His grace.
    Beyond, above all gods and nations be exalted, God of love!

All you who love the Lord, despise sin’s wicked ways!
Praise Him Who guides us by His love through all our days.
    Beyond, above all gods and nations be exalted, God of love!

Lord, teach me to fear You as I should, and to seek and serve You out of the deepest love, so that I…

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T. M. Moore

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All Psalms for singing from
The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


[1] Da Paor, p. 97.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore