Fear is usually incompatible with joy, yet in the Bible fear often means a feeling of awe, being astonished at some event. How can you experience this and have joy at the same time? There is a good example in Matthew 28. “Toward the dawn … Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb (of Jesus)” (verse 1).

They (and other woman) got up very early to embalm the body of their Lord (Mark 16:1) their last opportunity to do so before it began to decompose. They probably did not know that Nicodemus had brought “a mixture of myrrh and aloes” (John 19:39) when they put the body into the tomb.

They get to the tomb and to their awe an angel is there and says to them, “Do not be afraid for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead … so they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy” (Matthew 28:5-8). Can we enter into their feelings a little? Jesus met them “and they came up and took hold of his feet and worshipped him” (verse 9). The risen Lord is now their Lord in a greater sense. The women were the first to believe – they had been among the women watching the crucifixion from a distance (27:55,56), and had been the ones willing to get up early and wend their way to the garden in which was his tomb (John 19:41). The dawn was just breaking as they arrived.

Our world is in spiritual darkness, but the dawn must be near. Are we awake and ready for our time “of fear and great joy”? The inexpressible drama of the return of our Lord will confound the minds of everyone! They cannot begin to comprehend the time of trouble about to come. It will be greater than anything ever seen before! At that time God’s angels will gather His elect. (Matthew 24:31). Dare you not believe? What agonies of mind will others experience? Let us read and meditate on God’s word as often as we can “encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).