The Bible very frequently mentions fire. Fire is a symbol of divine activity. For example, in the Old Testament:
- ‘…the Lord, whose fire is in Zion, and whose furnace is in Jerusalem.’ 1
- God appeared to Moses in flames of fire from within a bush. 2
- God appeared at Mount Sinai, ‘Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire.’ 3
- The sacrifices were burned up, ‘It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.’ 4
# New Testament ‘fire’ examples
- John the Baptist said, ‘I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor, gathering His wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’ 5
- On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came down as tongues of fire. 6
- One can liken the work of the Holy Spirit to a fire which clears the dross out of a metal. He weeds out the sinful tendencies in God’s children, ‘through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by His blood.’ 7
- So the elect are ‘cleansed’ by the Holy Spirit fire and devoted to the Lord.
# Who are excluded from God’s fire?
All people will experience God’s fire. It is either the baptism of the Holy Spirit by fire (dedication to the Lord), or the unquenchable eternal fire (for destruction). In the case of followers of Jesus, the Holy Spirit ‘burns’ away sin. For the unrepentant, the eternal fire burns as a reminder of what they missed when they rejected God – eternal peace and happiness.
# God’s final fire
Just like God dedicates the followers of Jesus to Himself by the cleansing fire of the Holy Spirit, He will use fire to dedicate the whole world to Himself. It will burn away all the influences and effects of the devil, ‘But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.’ 8 God will ‘cleanse’ the earth to prepare for the wonderful new one.
Just as God will use fire to prepare for the new heavens and earth, He uses baptism by the Holy Spirit and fire to prepare us for the new life both here and in eternity.
- Isaiah 31:9b
- Exodus 3:2
- Exodus 19:28
- Leviticus 1:9b
- Matthew 3:11-12
- Acts 2:1-4
- 1 Peter 1:2
- 2 Peter 3:10