Revelation 21:8 says this:

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. (Revelation 21:8, KJV)

δειλοῖς δὲ καὶ ἀπίστοις καὶ ἐβδελυγμένοις καὶ φονεῦσιν καὶ πόρνοις καὶ φαρμακεῦσιν καὶ εἰδωλολάτραις καὶ πᾶσιν τοῖς ψευδέσιν τὸ μέρος αὐτῶν ἐν τῇ λίμνῃ τῇ καιομένῃ πυρὶ καὶ θείῳ ὅ ἐστιν δεύτερος θάνατος (Revelation 21:8, TR)

The very first word in this list of categories of sinners is "the fearful." What does this really mean? What does the Greek text imply here--that being afraid of anything at all is a sin? or is there a specific kind of fear this may address which would keep someone from going to Heaven?

NOTE: A similar, but different, question is HERE.

4 Answers 4


The fearful and sorcerers come in the same list. Sorcery is not a Christian activity, so to that extent the list includes non-Christians.

In Mark 4:40 and Matthew 8:26 fear/deilos is compared to faith:

"He said to them, 'Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith'" Mark 8:26 ESV

"And he said to them, 'Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?' Matthew 8:26

In Matthew 8:25 the disciples have enough faith to say to Jesus "Save us , Lord". But not enough faith not to have fears in the first place.

"For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin". Romans 14:23

In 1 John 4:18 fear/phobos [very similar] is seen in relation to love:

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love."1 John 4:18 [perfect-teteleiotai]

Sin is punished on "the day of judgement" 1 John 4:17. Something to be feared.

Perfect love. Love reaches a teleological end in this world when it drives out fear. It does so by replacing it with:

"the love that God has for us".1 John 4:16

When fear is not overcome by faith in God, heaven is not attained.


Is it a sin to be afraid?

Revelation 21:8 NET

8 But as for the cowards, unbelievers, detestable persons, murderers, the sexually immoral, and those who practice magic spells,[a] idol worshipers,[b] and all those who lie, their place[c] will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur.[d] That[e] is the second death.”

Most modern translations use the word "cowards" for "δειλοῖς". It takes true courage to be a true Christian in the face of violent opposition, difficulties, and even death. Jesus said:" If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours." [John 15:20 ESV]

The disciples of Christ are required to do what he did, to help others and preach the Good news.

Matthew 28:19-20 NASB

19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In doing so they come into opposition from those that prefer their depraved ways, and want such teachings to be stopped.Faced with such violent opposition "COWARDS" would stop, whereas true Christians would not.


Thayer's Greek Lexicon says:

δειλός, -ή, -όν, (δείδω to fear), timid, fearful: Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:40;
in Revelation 21:8 of Christians who through cowardice give way under persecutions and apostatize. (From Homer down.)

This scripture doesn't mean fear in general. It refers to Christians that are afraid of standing up for, and holding onto, their beliefs.

A large part of Paul's epistles deal directly with this subject.

Colossians in particular talks about how Christian practices are judged by relatives, friends, and neighbours. Despite being a minority and despite creating hard feelings, Christians should celebrate the way God wants them to, and should enjoy life the way God wants them to.

Christians should have the strength of their convictions, and not give in to vegetarians that criticise them for eating meat or to ascetics that criticise them for enjoying physical pleasure.


The operative word here is δειλός (deilos), an adjective meaning "cowardly, timid" (BDAG). It occurs only three times in the NY as follows:

  • Matt 8:26 - “You of little faith,” Jesus replied, “why are you so afraid?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it was perfectly calm.
  • Mark 4:40 - “Why are you so afraid?” He asked. “Do you still have no faith?”
  • Rev 21:8 - But to the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and sexually immoral and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. This is the second death.”

Note the consistent pattern in all of these verses - δειλός (deilos) is invariably associated with a lack of faith. That is, the lack of faith creates the fear. Put another way, the lack of faith/belief in God is the real problem here, not the fear in itself.

APPENDIX - Heb 12:28

The text of Heb 12:28 is dispute with some versions having:

  • μετὰ εὐλαβείας καὶ δέους = with Godly fear and awe (NA28/UBS5)
  • μετὰ αἰδοῦς καὶ εὐλαβείας = with reverence and Godly fear (Byzantine text, TR, etc)

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