God’s Fire by Peter Hiett

God’s Fire

I suspect that “The Fire” (including: the lake of fire, the pillar of fire, the fire on Sodom, the burning bush, the fire in the temple, the fire that ignites Gehenna, the fire in Daniel’s fiery furnace, and the fire of Pentecost) is Eternal and in some way divinity Himself. By Eternal I mean beyond temporality and without End, because It/He is the End. In Old Testament theophanies, God often appears as fire. “God IS a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24).

In Scripture fire seems to belong to God in a special way. In Numbers 3 the sons of Aaron offer “unauthorized fire” before the Lord and suffer punishment. In Rev. 13, the false prophet must be “allowed” to bring fire down from heaven. God “answers by fire” (1 Kings 18:24). Fire comes from heaven to consume the sacrifices. In 2 Chronicles 7 fire comes down and consumes the sacrifices in the temple and fills the temple with glory. The fire was to be kept burning in the temple at all times. The sinners in Zion wonder, “Who can dwell with the consuming fire?” (Isaiah 33:14).

Yet in Acts 2, the fire descends and fills the new temple—the Church—and instead of “consuming” the sacrifices in pain, the fire fills the living sacrifices with joy—in fact the very Spirit of God. God is a consuming fire. His Word is “like fire” (Jeremiah 23:29). The Angel of Yahweh, Son of Man appears as fire. Yet Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are not burned by this fire as are the Babylonians. The whole earth will be consumed with God’s fire (Zephaniah 3:8). Yet one day the Lord himself will be a wall of fire around Jerusalem 3 and “the glory” in her midst (Zechariah 2:5).

Glory is closely associated with fire. In biblical times, light was also closely associated with fire. God is light and “a fire.” Jesus came to baptize with fire. He transfigures into one who looks like he’s on fire. In the Revelation his eyes are like a “flame of fire.” In Luke 12 Jesus states that he came to cast fire on the earth and that he wished it were already kindled. In Acts 2 the fire falls and is experienced ecstatically. Paul tells us that in being kind we heap “burning coals” on the heads of our enemies, as if Love is Fire (Song of Solomon 8:6). He also speaks of persons being saved, “as through fire.” Peter teaches that our faith is refined like gold as through fire. In Mark 9:49, Jesus states that we will all be salted with fire.

It seems that the same fire can consume some, purify others, and even fill some with ecstatic joy. In Matthew 25 Jesus speaks of “eternal fire” and “eternal punishment” that is analogous to “eternal life.” The life is God’s and the fire is God’s. I think these five statements are true: God is Light. God is Holy. God is Fire. God is Love. God is one. I don’t think God changes. However, our experience of him does. I don’t think He’s 25% light, 25% holy, 25% fire and 25% steadfast love. I don’t think He’s “merciful to a point” and then is no longer “steadfast love.” He is 100% Light, 100% Holy, 100% Fire, and 100% Steadfast Love, Mercy, Grace, …Hesed.

Jesus himself is our Judgment. In the Revelation the Lake of Fire is often referred to as the Lake of Fire and Brimstone. In the Old Testament “brimstone” falls from the heavens and the breath of Yahweh is like brimstone (Isaiah 30:33). In the Revelation the Greek word for “brimstone” is “theion.” I am NO language scholar but it is my understanding that “theion” can also be translated as “divine being” (Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains). Perhaps this lake is the “Lake of Fire and Divinity” or “Lake of Fire that is Divinity” (if the “kai” is epexegetical), or “Lake of Fire that burns with Divinity” (Rev. 19:20). Some would certainly disagree, but whatever the case, it seems that “theion” is closely tied to “Theos.”

Of course the fire is eternal if the fire is in some sense divinity. The fire has no end because it is the End. Torment for darkness is to be exposed to the Light. Torment for lies is to be exposed to Truth. Torment for death is to be exposed to Life. Torment for any impurity is to be exposed to the Consuming Fire. Because the agent of torment is eternal, it does not mean the experience of torment is unending. Sodom and Gomorrah underwent “the punishment of Eternal Fire” (Jude 7). This does not mean that Sodom and Gomorrah continually and without end experience the torment of Eternal Fire.

Peter Hiett

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