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Eternal Ecstasy

Quotes from Chapter 8

In the presence of the Lord, everyone trembles.

Then Abram fell facedown and God spoke with him.

Genesis 17:3

When the flame went up from the altar to the sky, the angel of the Lord went up in its flame. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell facedown on the ground.

Judges 13:20

When David looked up and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, with his drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem, David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell facedown.

1 Chronicles 21:16

The appearance of the brilliant light all around was like that of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day. This was the appearance of the likeness of the Lord’s glory. When I saw it, I fell facedown and heard a voice speaking.

Ezekiel 1:28

So he approached where I was standing; when he came near, I was terrified and fell facedown.

Daniel 8:17

Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

Acts 9:4

When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. He laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid. I am the First and the Last, and the Living One.”

Revelation 1:17, 18

It is not just people who tremble.

The mountains quake before him,
and the hills melt;
the earth trembles at his presence—
the world and all who live in it.

Nahum 1:5

He looks at the earth, and it trembles;
he touches the mountains,
and they pour out smoke.

Psalm 104:32

All things will shake and tremble at the second coming of Christ.

His voice shook the earth at that time, but now he has promised, Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.

Hebrews 12:26

What sort of trembling is this that will grip the universe? For the heavens and the earth, it is a trembling of exultation.

Let the whole earth tremble before him.

The world is firmly established;
it cannot be shaken.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice,
and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
Let the sea and all that fills it resound;
let the fields and everything in them exult.
Then the trees of the forest will short for joy before the Lord,
for he is coming to judge the earth.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his faithful love endures forever.

1 Chronicles 16:30–34

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and all that fills it resound.
Let the fields and everything in them celebrate.
Then all the trees of the forest will short for joy
before the Lord, for he is coming—
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness
and the peoples with his faithfulness.

Psalm 96:11–13

For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labour pains until now.

Romans 8:19–22

On that last day, the glory of the Lord will fill the whole earth, and his people will fall down in fearsome wonder, delight, and praise.

At the same appearance of the Lord in glory, the sinful fear of unbelievers will swell into a horrified dread.

The the kings of the earth, the nobles, the generals, the rich, the powerful, and every slave and free person hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of their wrath has come! And who is able to stand?”

Revelation 6:15–17

Where the final appearing of the Lord in glory fills believers with an unprecedented joyful fear of the Redeemer, it fills unbelievers with a new level of dread at their Judge.

Hell Is a World of Fear

Hell—the destiny of all unbelievers—will be a dreadful place. It will be the ultimate sump of all sinful fears, heaving with a shared dread of holiness. Its occupants will hate God and the exposing light of his glory.

You believe that God is one. Good! Even the demons believe—and they shudder.

James 2:19

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Hebrews 10:31

All in hell will have fallen into the hands of the living God, but without ever turning to him.

The sinners in Zion are afraid;
trembling seizes the ungodly:
“Who among us can dwell with a consuming fire?
Who among us can dwell with ever-burning flames?”

Isaiah 33:14

Sin first made the world a place full of fear, and hell is its culmination: a place of unrelieved fears, and of sinful fear come to a head.

Heaven Is a World of Fear

Where hell is the dreadful sewer of all sinful fears, heaven is the paradise of unconfined, maximal, delighted filial fear.

The “holy ones” delight to fear God and delight in him as the loving Redeemer.

Lord, the heavens praise your wonders—
your faithfulness also—
in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies can compare with the Lord?
Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord?
God is greatly feared in the council of the holy ones,
more awe-inspiring than all who surround him.
Lord God of Armies,
who is strong like you, Lord?
Your faithfulness surrounds you.
You rule the raging sea;
when its waves surge, you still them.
You crushed Rahab like one who is slain;
you scattered your enemies with your powerful arm.
The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours.
The world and everything in it—
you founded them.
North and south—you created them.
Tabor and Hermon shout for joy at your name.
You have a mighty arm;
your hand is powerful;
your right hand is lifted high.
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
faithful love and truth go before you.
Happy are the people who know the joyful shout;
Lord, they walk in the light from your face.
They rejoice in your name all day long,
and they are exalted by your righteousness.
For you are their magnificent strength;
by your favour our horn is exalted.
Surely our shield belongs to the Lord,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.

Psalm 89:5–18

Our Lord and God,
you are worthy to receive
glory and honour and power,
because you have created all things,
and by your will
they exist and were created.

Revelation 4:11

They said with a loud voice,

Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered
to receive power and riches
and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and blessing!

Revelation 5:12

The angels’ fear-filled worship of God is a model in heaven of how God is to be worshiped.

Again, when he brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
And let all God’s angels worship him.

Hebrews 1:6

All the angels stood around the throne, and along with the elders and the four living creatures they fell facedown before the throne and worshiped God.

Revelation 7:11

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphim were standing above him; they each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Armies;
his glory fills the whole earth.

Isaiah 6:1–3

With two wings they cover their faces, presumably to shield them from the overwhelming sight of God’s unveiled glory. The seraphim have no glory to compare with God’s, and they cannot look on him directly. The fact that they covered their feet may be an indication of modesty. Even a perfect, superhuman creature humbles himself before the all-holy God.

With two of their wings they flew. The seraph does the Sovereign’s will; here it is to praise him. This heavenly host delights in the God in whose presence there is fullness of joy, and they delight in his mighty acts.

You reveal the path of life to me;
in your presence is abundant joy;
at your right hand are eternal pleasures.

Psalm 16:11

Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace on earth to people he favours!

Luke 2:13, 14

As the radiant angels now fall on their faces in fearful, ecstatic joy and adoration before God, so one day will all the saints.

Nothing Else to Fear

The fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring forever;
the ordinances of the Lord are reliable
and altogether righteous.

Psalm 19:9

He spoke with a loud voice: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Revelation 14:7

Lord, who will not fear
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All the nations will come
and worship before you
because your righteous acts
have been revealed.

Revelation 15:4

A voice came from the throne, saying,
Praise our God,
all his servants, and the ones who fear him,
both small and great!

Revelation 19:5

In heaven there will no longer be anything of which to be afraid. We will be purified and behold God clearly, and so our fears will be rightly aligned: there will be no fear of punishment, nor any trace of any sinful fear of God left in us. Our clear apprehension of God will then enhance our wondering, trembling adoration.

Sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body… And just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:44, 49

Filled with the Spirit of the fear of the Lord, we will share Christ’s own delight in the fear of the Lord.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
a Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
a Spirit of counsel and strength,
a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
His delight will be in the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:2, 3

Not afraid of anything, the saints will be caught up into God’s own fearful happiness and will be overwhelmed by exultation in the glory of God. Our eternal joy will consist precisely in this fear of God: rejoicing and marvelling so entirely that we burn and tremble and fall on our faces in wonder.

As they increase in the knowledge of God and of the works of God, the more they will see of his excellency; and the more they see of his excellency, the more they will love him; and the more they love God, the more delight and happiness will they have in him.

Jonathan Edwards 1

We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18

Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when he appears, we will be like him because we will see him as he is.

1 John 3:2

Like Flames of Fire

To be in the presence of God will give us not a tepid happiness but a quaking, fearfully overwhelmed, ecstatic pleasure.

In heaven the blessed inhabitants behold the majesty and greatness of God in such a light as fixes their thoughts in glorious wonder and the humbles adoration, and exalts them to the highest pleasure and praise. … When lips are not only directed to speak this sublime language, but the soul, as it were, beholds God in these heights of transcendent majesty, it is overwhelmed with blessed wonder and surprising delight, even when it adores in most profound holiness and self-abasement. This is the emblem of the worship of the heavenly world.

Isaac Watts 2

And, O my thinking powers, are ye not sweetly lost in this holy rapture, and overpowered with divine pleasure, O my soul, in such meditation as this? Art thou not delightfully surprised with the thoughts of such self-sufficiency and such an inconceivable perfection? … I both rejoice and tremble.

Isaac Watts 3

If we can learn anything of the state of heaven from the Scripture, the love and joy that the saints have there, is exceeding great and vigorous; impressing the heart with the strongest and most lively sensation, of inexpressible sweetness, mightily moving, animating, and engaging them, making them like to a flame of fire.

Jonathan Edwards 4

And Father! when to us in heaven
Thou shalt Thy Face unveil,
Then more than ever will our souls
Before Thy goodness quail.
Our blessedness will be to bear
The sight of Thee so near,
And thus eternal love will be
But the ecstasy of fear.

F.W. Faber 5

We get an appetizer of this heavenly and perfected filial fear in this life when we sing heartily in worship together.

Clap your hands, all you peoples;
shout to God with a jubilant cry.
For the Lord, the Most High, is awe-inspiring,
a great King over the whole earth.

Psalm 47:1, 2

We catch its scent when the gospel, the Scriptures, or even some beauty in creation makes us well up or drop to our knees in sweet adoration.

Even now the Spirit is enlivening believers. From the moment of regeneration, when he breathes new life into a soul, the Spirit’s work is to move us from spiritual lethargy to vivaciousness, where we share Christ’s own vitality and delight in the fear of his Father. That work is precisely all about growth in the fear of the Lord. To fear the Lord is to be more alive; it is for our love, joy, wonder, and worship of God to be more acute and affecting. For when we rejoice in God so intensely that we quake and tremble, then we are being most heavenly.

The Expulsive Power of a Filial Fear

We cannot simply will ourselves to love God more; the love of sin can be expelled only by the love of God. The filial fear of God is the soul of godliness and the essence of the new life implanted by the Spirit. It is the ultimate affection and the very aroma of heaven. It is the affection that expels our sinful fears and our anxieties. It is the affection that expels spiritual lethargy. To grow in this sweet and quaking wonder at God is to taste heaven now.

  1. Jonathan Edwards, The “Miscellanies,” Entry Nos. a–z, aa–zz, 1–500, ed. Thomas A. Schafer, vol. 13 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994), 275–76.
  2. Isaac Watts, The World to Come (London: W. Baynes, 1817), 271–72.
  3. Watts, The World to Come, 278–80.
  4. Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, ed. John E. Smith, vol. 2 of The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1959), 114.
  5. F.W. Faber, “The Fear of God,” in Faber’s Hymns (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., 1894), 101.


  1. How does everyone react in the presence of the Lord?
  2. What sort of trembling is this that will grip the universe at the second coming of Christ for the heavens and the earth?
  3. What will be the response of believers at Christ’s second coming?
  4. What will be the response of unbelievers at Christ’s second coming?
  5. What is the destiny of all unbelievers?
  6. How does the author define heaven on page 158?
  7. We do we have a model of how we are to worship God?
  8. What is the significance in Isaiah 6:2 that the seraphim covered their face and feet with four of their six wings?
  9. What is the purpose of the two wings that the seraphim did not use to cover their face and feet?
  10. What do the angels do now that all the saints will do one day?
  11. How is this truth an encouragement for you?
  12. Why will there not be anything to be afraid of in heaven?
  13. What is the connection between 1 Corinthians 15:44, 49 and Isaiah 11:2, 3 and what do we learn here?
  14. What will our eternal joy consist in?
  15. When do we get an appetizer of this heavenly and perfected filial fear?
  16. Who effects this work in us making us love God more and therefore grow in the fear of the Lord?
  17. How is this chapter an encouragement to you?
  18. What do the words the fear of the Lord mean? Write down your answer.
  19. Now take the piece of paper with the definition you wrote before starting this study. How has your understanding of the fear of the Lord changed? What does this practically mean for you?

This article is adapted from: Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund and Gentle and Lowly Study Guide by Robert Zink, The Reformation Study Bible, and ESV Study Bible.


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