“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:17).
Friday was the last night of a week-long time of corporate prayer and fasting. We’d had a sweet, sweet time in the presence of the Lord the prior four nights, and as we began worshiping, the cry of my spirit was “If we can’t be with you right now in Heaven, God, then You must bring Heaven here to earth right now.”
The Lord honored that prayer, but not in the way I expected. Suddenly, I became aware of the manifest Presence of God in the room where we were praying. But it was His holiness that overwhelmed me. As I went down on my face on the floor, I was overcome with dread. So aware was I of the uncleanness of my own sinful nature in His glorious presence, that I wanted to bury myself under the floor. Peter’s hoarse cry to Jesus in Luke 5:8 flashed in my mind, “Get away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
The fear of the Lord that engulfed me as His presence came upon me was like nothing I can describe, nor any other kind of terror I’ve experienced. I’ve ministered in places that were hangouts for the devil; this kind of fear was completely different. For the first time, I understood why on the Day of the Lord, men will call to rocks and mountains, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb!” (Revelation 6:16). I could feel the blood draining from my face, and the heavy thud of my own heartbeat.
“The Spirit of the fear of the Lord”
Only the night before I’d been in the same place with the same group of people, and the Holy Spirit had filled the room like a sweet, tangible perfume. The dread that was over me now left me reeling, shaken. Two hours later, I still was unsettled. As I drove home, foremost on my mind was that I, along with every other believer, must someday face the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10, 1 Cor. 3:9-13, 2 Cor. 5:10).
Isaiah 11 contains a Messianic prophecy about Jesus, saying “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord” (v. 2 – NIV).
As I’ve pondered this encounter, I’ve thought about how the last night of a week-long period of prayer and fasting centered around revival, the Lord would have me experience Him in this way. On one of the previous nights, I had gone to prayer and asked Him for a specific word about how to pray for America. I’ve been wrestling with this for months – even years – wondering if I should pray for persecution instead of favor in the culture because it will purify and purge the church, leaving a strong, glorious remnant. That night, God gave me a mighty word that strengthened and encouraged me. And now on the heels of all that joy, this dreadful encounter.
With the prominence of teaching grace and forgiveness in the church in our current culture, we hear precious little about the fear of the Lord. In the 1800’s, there was much more emphasis on the deadliness of sin and the reality of eternal damnation. We who have been in the church most of our lives seldom think perhaps about what Jesus saved us from. How utterly inadequate we are for our own salvation, how foolish we are if we suppose that anything we’ve done can make us or keep us in right standing with God.
“Jesus isn’t ‘the buddy’ that we’ve made Him out to be, and He’s not playing some kind of game,” was my one pastors word when I testified of this encounter later in our prayer circle. His response posed this question: “Did you ever ask God for a picture of what your life would look like had you never met Him?”
Acts 19 records that in Ephesus, after the seven sons of Sceva take a beating from a demoniac and are stripped naked for attempting deliverance ministry without a commitment to Christ, “a solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored” (v. 7 – NLT). This righteous fear is what I am praying into as I trust the hand of Jehovah to move on behalf of my prayers for this nation. That the church would have a fear of the Lord upon it that would put an end to its idolatry and duplicity. That my city – and others across this nation – would have a solemn fear come upon it like the one in Ephesus as the reality of eternity is laid out before people’s eyes, with no other distractions to pull away their gaze. That in fact, the Day of the Lord would come into people’s hearts – right now – before it comes in actuality, and before it is too late.