I've had quite a few run-ins with people who claim that they have no fear of God, or hell. My first was probably a pre-teen who told me there was no such thing as hell and that he had no fear of God or going there. He even said he didn't believe Hitler was in hell. This was back when I used to help out teaching the youth Sunday School at the Southern Baptist Church in Henderson, where I first began to enter into ministry. This was my first encounter with such a person, but it would not, by far, be my last. It almost seems as though no one has such a fear anymore. After all, fear in a postmodern context is just the bogeyman employed to get people to do what you want them to do. It's an instrument of legalism and oppression. Of course, there is no doubt that fear causes us to take action in the particular direction that would bring us out of harm's way; but apparently such an emotion, to our generation, is met with suspicion, especially to those who have been thoroughly indoctrinated in the cult of the postmodern atmosphere.
Of course, no one, but the biggest of fools, hesitates to use fear in order to call their children back from the street when an oncoming car is speeding toward them. Imagine the children turning to their parents and saying, "Oh Dad, We're not afraid. Your attempt to scare me is just a way to get me to do what you want me to do." Well, yes, and what the father wants his children to do is to live. What's the better option?
You see, fear does exist to get us to do something we may not consider doing without it, because it is an emotion that exists to SAVE OUR LIVES. It is a good thing. Yes, it can be used badly. What emotion cannot be manipulated for that purpose? What emotion cannot be misused even by us? In fact, in our culture, I would worry more about manipulation via our concept of love, infatuation, desire, etc. rather than the yucky emotion of fear that no one likes in the first place. And, of course, no one would like it. To be afraid is not a pleasant experience, and that is why I think many people seek ways to alleviate their fears that are just plain foolish.
In Romans 3:18, it says of all of mankind that exists without Christ, "there is no fear of God before their eyes." Now, it needs to be understood that the fear of God works in two directions. It is a fear that, if one is seeking God, will acknowledge His authority, be convicted, and run toward Him. It is, therefore, a fear that causes repentance, restoration, and life in the individual who acknowledges the authority of God's warnings toward him or her. However, as any double-edged sword, it is also a fear that drives the individual who does not seek to be restored to the One true God away from Him. This fear is a bad feeling. It leads to despair and depression, but never conviction toward repentance, restoration and life, because it is brought to an individual who loves him or herself and does not want to release him or herself to God.
This is the fear that leads to a sorrow that leads to death. But the individual who is given this fear does not wish to have it. Yet, he cannot do away with it by using it correctly in order to trust in what God has said concerning both warning and restoration, so his default plan is to simply reject the authority of what God has said. Of course, only a complete fool would reject what God has said, if it was a sure thing that God said it, so he approaches the subject by simply denying that God said it in the first place, an echo of the serpent in the garden. He casts doubt on either what is said or its interpretation so that he conveniently comes away with a message that alleviates any fears he might have, regardless of whether he seeks restoration with God by repentance from sin. Abracadabra. Instant alleviation from fear is born, and all of those who preach things that would cause fear are just less illumined than he has been made by the his new found insight that there is really nothing to fear but fear itself.
Imagine having no fear of consequences, no fear of judgment, no fear of accountability. We, of course, live in a world that screams to us the untruth of the idea that there is nothing to fear, and yet, we still love this myth, because it provides comfort to everyone who wants to hang onto the Self.
But even if hell is acknowledged, those who comfort themselves this way have no fear of it, I think, because of one major characteristic of the wayward man: his authority is in his experience. You see, if your authority is your experience then you have to live day to day. You don't live for tomorrow. You live in the moment. You're not experiencing being burned. You're not experiencing death. You're only experiencing whatever you seek in the moment, so the future is not yet a reality to you. Hence, the future is not a reality at all to you.
Do I think that these people will be afraid on judgment day? Of course they will. They're just not afraid now, because for many of them, today is not judgment day (although it could be). I do not fear an execution until the day of execution. I do not fear prison until I'm caught and go to prison. I talk about it in whatever casual manner I wish. I can laugh at those who are afraid and think of them as lesser fools, but in the end, I show myself to be the king of fools who was not wise enough to understand that reality is more than the moments in which I lived my life. Reality is past, present, AND future. Reality is eternity as much as it is the individual temporary moments that make it up. But they do make up that larger eternity. And what I decide to believe and do in those moments speaks to my future encounter with a Holy and Just God who hates evil, and not only promises to condemn it, but has, both by sending those who had no fear of Him during their lives to their fate and pouring out His wrath upon His Son who bore that terrifying punishment for those who would seek Him.
Like a child who has no fear of fire until he is touching it, living in the moment at the cost of eternity causes us to "forget" what lies ahead. It takes our eyes off of the day upon which all of us will give an account and fixes them on the devilish distractions of the moment. And that's why we like it. The moment, because it is not yet the time of judgment, gives us relief from that small voice within that says, It is coming. He is coming.
If we love Him, these are joyous words, because we have been restored to Him and want the day to come when evil is finally put away. But if we have lived in love of ourselves and others above Him, these words are words to deny or ignore, because they create unease and despair.
If all else fails, of course, this person just posits the idea that he or she is good enough to make it to heaven anyway--another myth that comforts the burning itch of conscience as it is pricked by the Spirit of God through His Word. But both of these myths rely upon one another as fail-safes for the individual.
So people don't recognize God's authority in His warnings, and hence the Bible's warnings, of judgment because they don't want to feel afraid. They are those who live for this world, concentrating on it to the exclusion of what is to come, because what is to come, if true, is a reality they wish to blot out of their minds. And such is easy to do so when you're not standing in the fire; but ignoring it is as wise as the child ignoring the semi speeding down the road. He can make all of the best or worst arguments possible, but at the end of the day, if he does not become afraid and act upon his father's authority, his arguments will be his epitaph, his enduring memorial for an age of stupidity that deals with fear, not by acknowledging it and alleviating it by seeking to have the threat removed, but by ignoring that there is even a threat to begin with.
"Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail. "Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal, and walk after other gods that you have not known, then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered!'-- that you may do all these abominations? "Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen [it]," declares the Lord . . . "And now, because you have done all these things," declares the Lord, "and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you but you did not answer, therefore, I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. "And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all of your kin. (Jer 7:8-15)
"These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matt 25:46)
"But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and sexually immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part [will be] in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second casting out." (Rev 21:8)