Whether you are soon to graduate, get married, have your first child, experience a child beginning school, watch a child leave the nest, are facing the forcible dissolution of your marriage, or have lost your spouse – the unknown is in front of you. The fear of looking forward into a future, where the outcomes are not in focus, is at best unsettling. In many cases, couples, parents, and children live in extreme fear of the future because they lack faith in that future’s potential. These are not unnatural reactions to expected change. In fact, fear is a natural aspect of the post-fall human flesh.
1 John 4:18 informs us that in order to experience the elimination of fear, we must receive the Lord. It is only through the Lord’s grace that punishment is not in our future. Consider that there are two aspects of our eternity; that which we will experience immediately as humans (the here and now), and that which we will experience when we transition from our human condition to our eternal condition.
As humans, we are subjected to the doings of our flesh and the influences of the flesh of others. Keep in mind that our flesh is of the world and the world is, according to 2 Corinthians 4:4, the domain of the enemy. Not because he has equal or more power than the LORD, but because man’s flesh desires his ways over the Lord’s ways. There is punishment and failure in living your life in the world. Look again at 1 John 4:18 which explains that a person not perfected in Love (God), is a person not protected from the torment of the flesh. As such, there is fear in ones vision of their human future, since the protection of the Lord who casts out fear is not received.
Consider that any person, who does not know of the existence of God, refuses to believe that God exists, or believes in some other false god, has a reason to be afraid. If the place they are in today has in it things to be feared, the future must also have such things. Since they have no concept of a loving God who wishes to protect them, they have every reason to be fearful when imagining their future. The world they live in is a punishing environment, so even if they do not understand that they are in a state of punishment, they surely have no reason to believe they will not eventually fall into such a condition. Most people do not acknowledge that they are in such a state of future-fear, but you can identify most of them by the things in which they put their faith.
We see them putting their faith in things like life insurance, the stock market, will & testament provisions, bank accounts, tax shelters, and other methods of ensuring lifelong wealth. Many put much effort into trying not to move past youth through drugs, fashion, surgery, and relationship modifications. According to the American Federation of Certified Psychics and Mediums Inc., 39 percent of men and 69 percent of women have consulted with a psychic. All of these measures are intended to control or get a glimpse into an unknown future. A future that if not controlled, is likely to bring with it some worldly punishments.
The future as humans know it, involves what we might refer to as the here and now, as well as some form of eternity. The here and now is a reference to that time which is relative to our human existence, those things that we are already experiencing, and those that are anticipated within the context of our humanity. For example, couples who have young children are currently experiencing human parenthood. As parents, they expect to experience their children begin to walk, talk, go to school, drive, graduate, leave home, get married, start a family, and eventually experience all of these same things for themselves – and then pass on to the next existence (life or death). Another perspective might be that of a young adult who expects to complete an education, fall in love, marry, have children, experience grandchildren, grow old with their spouse, experience the death of their parents, suffer through various health issues, possibly experience their spouse passing – and then pass on to their next existence.
Eternity is therefore understood to be everything that comes after the here and now – the next existence. Humans have many perspectives on the next existence or on what to expect from eternity. Some believe they will simply not exist throughout eternity, while others believe in some sort of afterlife, and still others understand that this life will simply continue, with them existing eternally in a different form. With that said, (for the purpose of this study) let us just agree that the term future refers to both the here and now and eternity – unless otherwise stipulated.
The fear of future punishment transcends the here and now for most humans. We do not need to be immediately facing our eternity to fear it. Let us take a moment to bridge this idea of the punishment of the flesh with eternal punishment. 2 Corinthians 4:4 explains that the enemy blocks the mind of every human who lives separate from the love spoken of in 1 John 4:18, from seeing the Light of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the ones living without the perfection provided by Love, there is the doom of eternal punishment. Therefore, there is no faith that they will overcome their post-fall future. In fact, they have no reason to expect any recovery from their fallen condition. Looking back at the previous verse; 2 Corinthians 4:3 identifies that those who are blinded are ones who are lost. The Greek word used to represent this condition of lostness is: apollumi – which translated means, to destroy fully. There is not much hope to be found in an eternal condition of doom brought on by such a blinding from the gospel of Jesus Christ.
> Reading Assignment: Isaiah 10, 11, & 12
There is a divine congruence in the faith models of those abiding in Love, as it relates to the expectations of their human (here and now) and eternal futures. Simply stated, one accompanies the other. To illustrate this congruence we can now reflect on our reading assignment. First we will look at both our human and eternal futures with the Lord and then look at them combined using Judea as our example.
The Here and Now – Isaiah 10
Remember from your reading that chapter 10 provides an account of the attacks by the Assyrians on Judea. The people of Judea were afraid of this impending battle, to the point that many were beginning to flee from its various cities. However, the Assyrians, who began their march under God’s command, made a mistake; they became arrogant and began operating outside of God’s will. The Assyrians began their mission as an instrument (rod of correction) of God, but soon turned their own attentions only to their increase, and forgot about God.
In the meantime, the prophet reminded Judea that the Lord is their deliverer. That if they return to Him, the Lord will destroy His rod-of-correction, so it will never again be used against them – His anointed. Through this prophecy, the future of Judea was brought into focus. Those who were in their own hearts high-and-mighty were cut down, the Assyrians were utterly destroyed, and those of Judea who believed and renewed their faith, lived on. As such, God’s people could anchor their faith on the prophesy of Isaiah 10:24, that they need not fear the rod of correction, but can live their life without the fear of oppression. Clearly, the Lord has shown the faithful of Judea what to expect from the future.
Eternal Future – Isaiah 11
Chapter 11 extends the story of the Lord’s protection from punishment from the human life, on into the eternal life. With the Assyrians out of the picture, and Judea cut down like a forest of mere stumps, God would begin to sprout the branch that will produce a new and final rod. From Jesse (father of King David) a rod will be brought unto the world that is very different from the one used to remind Judea of God’s majesty.
This rod would possess the very spirit of God the Father, which is one of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and for the rod, the fear of God. The Rod that will not judge according to stature and cunning words, but with righteousness will evaluate everyone the same. He will judge the wicked and assumes the authority to punish them with just a word. Unlike the previous rod of correction, the Assyrians, this rod, who is Jesus Christ, judges the lost with righteousness and absolute justice. He will bring peace to the nations and will clear the way for His lost people to reach Him.
Combined Future – Isaiah 12
Chapter 12 begins with the acknowledgement of a sinner with whom the God’s anger was focused. The word anger is translated from the Greek word ‘ânaph (aw-naf’), and is used here to identify that the Lord looked on the sinner with a displeasure that caused Him to be enraged to the degree that wrath was His desire. However, according to Isaiah 12:1, God’s anger will pass and He will become a comforter. Taking this verse as a whole, we can see that God does hate the sin to point of wrath and does indeed react in admonishment of our sin, but something causes Him to turn away from His wrath and begin to love on us.
Remember back to chapter 10, at that time when God was using the Assyrians as his rod-of-correction. Looking at this account in a general sense: God intended to spread His wrath over all of Judea, but He was merciful and did not use the Assyrians to utterly destroy it. Instead, since it had to be satisfied, He poured his wrath out on the Assyrians. Because of a decision to abide by God’s law, the Jews were not completely destroyed. However, they were, by the time the whole event was over, well aware that they had angered God. Also, remember that the prophet tells in Isaiah 10:20-21 that by returning to God, He would give up on His quest to see them utterly destroyed, and would change them in such a way that they would have no choice but to lean only on God. God told them not to fear the Assyrians and to expect that He would turn His wrath away from Judea and on to the Assyrians. A small number of the house of Jacob would choose to return to, and rely on, God. By witnessing the righteousness of God through the judgement of Assyria, and by experiencing His loving correction, the remnant of the house of Jacob would once again know hope.
Isaiah 10:24-25 tells of God’s direction to receive admonishment from Him as an opportunity to understand that he is unhappy with our sin, but that the method He uses to redirect us will not be used to destroy us. That when it comes right down to it; believers are, in this life, protected from destruction by the tools the Lord uses to remind us of His authority. Understanding that the definition of punishment is complete and utter destruction, those who believe can confidently pursue the future without the fear of punishment. As such, the future is not so glum, because in this life, God will not utterly destroy Christians because of our sin.
However, what about the eternity part of our future – after the here and now? Clearly, God has shown a personal need to spread wrath over the sins of man. The Jews were saved because God had a place to direct his wrath. Something, or someone, must absorb the energy that is created by the anger God has for man having turned away from Him. Where is the rod of correction that God will destroy rather than cut us down for our sin?
We see an acknowledgement of the necessary rod also in Isaiah 12:1. “You will say in that day” is an acknowledgement of what is spoken of in Isaiah 11:10, which refers to that time when the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ will come to be. It refers to the fulfillment of Isaiah 11:1-3, which announces that Jesus Christ, Who will come from Jesse, will become united in Trinity, will draw God’s wrath away from man, and He Himself will be the judgement rod. He will judge the world righteously and justly, and will be a comfort to all who follow Him. As mentioned, God would need a rod to destroy, so He might not look at us and need to destroy us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us of how Jesus was made to be sin. No, Jesus was not made to be a sinner, He was made to be sin. It was as though Jesus was transformed into the likeness of sin itself and gave up His very righteousness, so God could utterly destroy Him as sin.
As we started this lesson, we acknowledged that it is the process of living a life in the flesh that brings about a fear of future punishment. Everyone knows that the world in the here and now is a punishing environment and that there is also a chance of punishment in the eternal future. As mentioned, those who have no faith in Jesus Christ are doomed to experience the punishing environment of the world. If you have not gotten to the point that you simply trust in the Lord, as the worshipper of Isaiah 12 does, you are running the risk of slipping into fear. Isaiah 12:1 & 2 finds the worshipper accepting the Lord as one might see a father. One who was angry enough to admonish, loving enough to forgive, strong enough to guide, wise enough to trust, and inspiring enough to fulfill us in every way, with joy and a purpose of life.
Surrender as the worshipper does, to the fact that the Lord gives the water of salvation in such a way that we can draw on it at any time. Isaiah 12:3 informs us that the water of salvation spoken of by Jesus in John 4:14 is drawn with joy. It is an exciting event when we draw near to the Lord, and from His wells of salvation. When we receive water from His wells, it is eternal life that we gain. By drinking of it, we never need to fear the punishment of our flesh or the wrath of which our sin makes us deserving. If we are truly living in the spirit, the world cannot take us down. Even when we do make a mistake, the Lord will remind us where we are supposed to be, and even though the admonishment we receive will likely not be pleasant, we have no reason to run from Him. If we can simply listen to Him and adjust as He directs, He will immediately provide comfort.
Just as the worshipper sings the song of praise to the Lord and sings it loudly so the whole world hears it, so too can we. Those who have intentionally gone to the well, have nothing to fear in the here and now or in eternity. You can know that the Lord and all of the fruits of the spirit given through faith in Jesus Christ (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22)) are available to you, no matter your place in time. Live in the spirit and fear not for the future. It will be as full of Joy as was that moment when you first drank at the well. Be at peace, move forward with the confidence that the Lord is your guide and there is nothing too big for Him.
Proverbs 3 offers a strong representation of the concept of allowing the Lord to guide your every effort. Particularly, take heed of Proverbs 3:3-6. Memorize it so it might always remind you that you need not fear the future, but can enjoy being in the favor of our Lord. That success in understanding God’s ways will set you on a path to Him, where mercy is experienced, and punishment is never a factor. Go into your future with all of the confidence that the Lord will not forsake you, which means that utter destruction will never happen to those who follow Him. The world cannot destroy what is the possession of the Lord, so go boldly onward with confidence and faith in a future designed to glorify Him.
Now go tell everyone you know how to not fear the future.