WHO ARE THE “FEARFUL” IN REVELATION 21:8?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Revelation 21:7-8 stands near the end of the Bible: “ He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.  But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” As you can see, verse 8 lists numerous familiar transgressions… but what of “the fearful?” How can fear be a sin? What is this “fear” and who are those “fearful?”
Our 1611 translators rendered the Greek word deilos elsewhere two other times as “fearful.” It appears in the well-known account of Jesus calming the storm as He and His disciples are in a little boat on the Sea of Galilee. The disciples are so afraid of dying in a shipwreck that they frantically awake sleeping Jesus. As the omnipotent Creator, He arises and commands the wind and the sea to cease their violence. They do!
Notice Matthew 8:26: “And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.” The parallel verse, Mark 4:40: “And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” People doubt God’s Word here. These are disciples, followers/students, of Christ. Not trusting God’s Word results in timidity, dread, cowardice (lack of courage). No matter the dispensation, God’s people can be cowards. God did not fail them; they failed God. Do you think Jesus would have let the boat suffer so much as a tiny leak… when He Himself was on that boat with them? Oh, certainly not! Yet, the disciples behaved like they were all in jeopardy of losing their lives.
So, is Revelation 21:8 speaking of believers in or followers of Christ being cast into the Lake of Fire? After all, believers can be cowards at times (see the verses above, and consider Christians today who refuse to take a stand for Jesus Christ and His doctrine because they fear negative reactions from others). We have to keep the verse in its context. It is not about us Christians in the Dispensation of Grace; it has nothing to do with believers losing their salvation because they doubted God’s Word.
Re-read Revelation 21:7: “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” Then verse 8 begins, “But the fearful….” There is the prominent issue of “overcoming” in Israel’s last days. Remember, this is the prophetic program, not our mystery program. The first sense of “overcoming” was provided already in the opening chapters of the Revelation. They have to “overcome” the deception of the Antichrist—see God’s message to the seven churches in Revelation 2:7,11,17,26 and Revelation 3:5,12,21. God promises those who overcome, they will inherit all things (Revelation 21:7). They will share in Jesus Christ’s inheritance in the earthly kingdom. God will be their God and they will be His people (see verse 3, if necessary).
In contrast to the believers in verse 7, there are unbelievers and these are those in verse 8. There are eight categories of sinners in verse 8: “But the (1) fearful, and (2) unbelieving, and the (3) abominable, and (4) murderers, and (5) whoremongers, and (6) sorcerers, and (7) idolaters, and all (8) liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
The first group is the “fearful.” This would not be Christians today but rather Jews who refuse to follow Jesus Christ for fear of persecution during the Antichrist’s (future) reign. They were God’s physical people (through Abraham) but they did not want to become His spiritual people (through Christ) because then they would ridiculed by sinful men. They did not want to confess Jesus Christ before men; they denied Him. How they did this was—we are looking back on Daniel’s 70th Week (as John is doing)—they accepted Antichrist and his mark and worshipped his image. Jesus had warned in Matthew chapter 10: “ Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.  But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (This was spoken in view of His Second Coming, which is His return to destroy Antichrist and his followers.)
The “deniers” will not overcome because they will not believe that Jesus is Christ. They will completely reject God’s truth. They will fall for Satan’s lie and believe Antichrist is the true Christ. Facing death, they will choose Antichrist over Jesus Christ. They will rather keep their wealth, friends, and prestige than trust Jesus Christ and make a public profession in rejecting Antichrist. Frankly, they will be cowards.
First John chapter 5, especially verse 5, holds the key to Israel’s overcoming the evil world system present during the end-times: “ Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.  For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.  Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”
By believing that Jesus “is the Christ… the Son of God,” the “overcomers” will not be fooled into thinking that Antichrist is the real Messiah. Their faith is what prevents them from falling for the deception! Those who are “fearful,” however, they are too timid to take a stand. They will cave in to the peer pressure and refuse to have faith in Jesus Christ. They will naturally thus fall for Antichrist.
Revelation 14:9-11 serves as a warning for any person living in the Tribulation period: “ And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,  The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:  And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” This is the cross-reference to Revelation 21:8. It has nothing to do with followers of or believers in Jesus Christ, either today or yet future. It is unbelievers during the end-times.