Fear of the Judgment
by Emily Wickham
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Felix and his Jewish wife, Drusilla, listened as Paul shared about godly living and the judgment to come. While it’s noteworthy that God provided this opportunity for Paul to share the gospel with a Roman governor, Felix’s response also deserves attention. Acts 24:25 reveals his fear, reading, “Felix became frightened and said, ‘Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you.'”
How did Felix reach this point? Benson Commentary states that Felix and Drusilla lived in adultery, for she had left her first husband, Azizus, king of Emessa, in order to marry Felix. Despite the fact Drusilla was a Jewess who knew more about the one true God than the average Gentile, her life reflected devotion to self. Felix also served himself, remembered as one who “practised all cruelty and lust in his government” (Benson Commentary).
Scripture paints a picture of Felix’s character in explaining his hopes that Paul would give him money: “therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him” (Acts 24:26). Their repeated discussions were motivated by evil intention on Felix’s part—a selfish desire for money. Even so, the Apostle Paul faithfully shared truth about Christ time and again, which Felix could have received for himself at any point.
Sadly, Felix never responded to the gospel in faith. He listened to truth for two years without receiving Christ as his personal Savior. And the fear he initially felt upon considering the judgment to come never resulted in a right relationship with God.
God Can Use Fear for Good
Speaking of fear, isn’t it interesting the role it can play in someone’s conversion? I can testify to this reality because in my own experience, God used fear to draw me to Christ. I realized at the age of ten that if I didn’t receive Jesus as my Savior, I was destined for an eternity in Hell. This truth deeply frightened me. So in childlike faith, I knelt by my bed and asked the Lord Jesus Christ to be my Savior. Ever since that moment, God has been growing me spiritually—sanctifying me by the truth of His Word (see John 17:17).
Fear of the judgment to come can produce good results. God can use it to open our hearts to believe in the Lord Jesus, the Savior of the world. He is the only One who can clothe us in His righteousness, enabling us to avoid the eternal consequences of our sin. We can’t stand on our own because “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (Isaiah 64:6). But in Christ, we are “a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Responses to Fear
Another response to fear, however, mimics Felix’s reaction. When he pondered the coming judgment for his sinful choices, Felix allowed fear to silence truth. He pushed truth away, sending Paul away until he could “find time” (Acts 24:25). Perhaps Felix intended to consider truth again, but Scripture never indicates that he ever placed his faith in Christ. Instead it appears his heart became hardened over his two years of hearing truth but not responding in faith.
Friend, we live in a world filled with people who hear the truth of Christ but refuse to receive Him as their Savior. In fact, countless individuals lack a proper fear of God, meaning they don’t respect or reverence God. Instead, they relish sin and reject the only One who died for our sins: the Lord Jesus Christ.
How does fear motivate you and me? It should direct us toward Christ because judgment is coming, and Christ alone is God’s provision to keep us safe. Otherwise, Hebrews 10:31 tells us, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Let’s Deal with Our Fear
It’s easy to peer into Felix’s life and see the error in his thinking and ways. But let’s go further, using his example to teach us more about responding to fear. Instead of pushing fear away, let’s address it. Let’s consider why we feel fear and place it under the Lord’s light. When we allow Him to reveal truth, we’ll understand “there is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).
Those who belong to Christ by virtue of faith in Him have no need to fear the judgment to come. But everyone who rejects the Lord Jesus Christ holds every reason to fear. Which one are you?
In Christ’s Love,
Read more posts about fear:
- Romans 8:1-27: Fear of Death and Judgment by David Balzer
- Fear of Man Vs. Fear of God by Emily Wickham
Open your Bible and ask God to speak to you through today’s reading, Acts 24:24-27. Then answer the following questions in your favorite journal:
- What does faith in Christ mean to you, and who will you share this most important truth with?
- What are you avoiding out of fear until you “find time” to deal with it (verse 25)? How will you allow the light of Christ to guide you in this area today?
- How did money affect Felix’s motives? How does money affect your choices?
- What benefit did Paul receive from Felix’s repeated invitations to share about faith in Christ, and how will this make a difference in your life?
- Why doesn’t the Christian need to be afraid of the judgment to come?
Bible verses about the judgment to come:
- “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).
- “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).
- “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).