In the previous blog we saw that the nature of fire is the Law and the purpose of this fire is to discipline and correct us, refining us until we are righteous and holy – as God is. To clarify, we are actually imputed holiness and righteousness through faith in Christ and His righteousness, but while this is a legal standing before God we are still sinners and we are still imperfect. In a word the old man, our rebellious nature is still alive and well. The baptism of the Spirit and fire that follows our justification by faith is what begins to make us actually righteous by killing the flesh; this process is called sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 5:26; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2; 1). What we own by faith, we then begin to possess by experience (Hebrews 11:1).
There is much more that must be examined concerning salvation and other related issues in order to fully understand the process by which God will save all men, but that must wait until the next series. For now, we must focus on the Lake of Fire and other judgments that take place in the after life.
Fire as a Future Judgment
Since the picture of fire throughout Scripture is almost universally God’s emblem for a purifying judgment, it becomes clear that the judgment of fire in the next life is also a purifying fire. This explains the curious passage in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 that says,
“…every man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
Have you ever stopped and considered this statement? Those whose works were un-Christ-like in this life will watch everything they lived for get burned away…and yet they themselves will still be saved! And their salvation will be wrought “through fire!” This fire is very clearly and obviously referring to the Lake of Fire in the next life, where all men will be sanctified. You will be amazed at how clear Scripture is on this point…and even more amazed that we have been blind to it for so many years!
2 Peter 3:9-13 is also unusual, notice all the similarities,
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance (ahem… 😉 ). But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved…regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.”
Notice all the themes we find here: 1 – God’s will for all men to be saved; 2 – God’s patience by which that will be accomplished; 3 – the destruction of the heavens, the earth and its works through fire; 4 – new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells! Its very similar to the previous passage we looked at where a man’s works will be burned up yet he will be saved through that very fire.
It is the fire by which the old heavens and the old earth are changed into new heavens and a new earth. Thus as Scripture says elsewhere,
“the heavens will perish…and be changed!” (Hebrews 1:10-12)
The world will be burned with intense heat and fire b/c fire is the appointed means of delivering this present nature from its fallen state. It is the fire that changes us.
Nature (which is a witness of God’s various truths – Romans 1:20) confirms this, for fire transforms whatever it touches into a higher form (from solid to vapor, the first state being material and of the earth, the latter state being immaterial [in a sense] and of the heavens [atmosphere]).
And so bringing it all back to the Lake of Fire – notice the same connection of themes as seen above,
“This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away…” (Revelation 20:14-21:1)
The new heaven and new earth are seen immediately following the Lake of Fire! For it is in the fire that the first heaven and earth “pass away.” And in the passing of the Old the New emerges,
“And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’ This expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:26-29)
Notice the context with which Scripture declares God to be a consuming fire!?! It is in the removing of the old, fallen creation that the unshakable kingdom of heaven emerges – the new heaven and the new earth! This is the purpose of God’s consuming fire – to transform the old and fallen into the new and holy.
It ought to begin to be clear to us that the overarching context of “fire” in Scripture is that it is a refining and purifying agent – making all things new. Consuming what is not of God, until all that remains is the character and image of Christ. And there is not one soul who will skip this process for, “All men must be salted with fire!” (Mark 9:49) All will undergo that “baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16)
As I pointed out in the last blog the Lake of Fire is the same imagery as the baptism of fire. They both involve water and fire. Those who don’t receive the baptism of the Spirit and fire in this life will endure it in the next life. Even followers of God must go through the fire in the next life if they refuse that fire in this present life. For Jesus declared of His servants that if they know His will and do not obey Him then they will receive their portion with the unbelievers (lake of fire) and be beaten with many stripes which He then describes as a fire! (Luke 12:46-49)
The Baptism of the Spirit is also described as a fire because it is how God conforms us to His Law. Did you ever notice that in one of the descriptions of the New Covenant God declares,
“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (Ezekiel 36:26,27)
Statutes and ordinances are both synonymous with His Law and it is by His Spirit within us that we become obedient to His righteous standard – a.k.a the Law. Therefore God declares concerning the New Covenant that,
“I will put My Laws upon your heart and write them upon your mind.” (Hebrews 10:16; Jeremiah 31:33)
Be assured that this process is painful, as our old man comes under the judgment of the Law and our New Man grows and matures into a fulfillment of that Law. That is why fire is the main picture of the Law – it hurts but transforms. Therefore when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost we see that tongues of fire appeared over each person! (Acts 2:1-4) That was when the Holy Spirit came to dwell within man and begin the process of writing His Laws upon our hearts and minds.
Fire also appeared at the original Pentecost that Israel observed when they came out of Egypt.
“Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace,” (Exodus 19:18)
Sounds a little bit like the description of the Lake of Fire doesn’t it? And guess what happened when God came down as fire? The 10 commandments were given! (Exodus 20:1-17) It was the beginning of the revelation of His Law! And how did the people react? After hearing the first 10 commandments,
“they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.’”
They were afraid to hear His Law b/c the Law puts our old man to death and they didn’t want their flesh put to death. That is why it is a fire and that is why the Lake of Fire is also called “the Second Death.” The Law kills our flesh in order to conform us to God’s holy character. That is why the Spirit is constantly at war with the flesh (Galatians 5:17).
And, as if there wasn’t enough in Scripture confirming all this, that section of Hebrews that I referenced earlier (about the destruction of the old creation and God being a consuming fire) actually begins by saying,
“For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire…” (Hebrews 12:18)
The author of Hebrews then goes on to describe the events of that original Pentecost where the Law was given (compare Hebrews 12:18-21 with Exodus 19:10-21).
I believe that the force of Scripture on this issue is clear. God’s Law is a fire, and it puts our flesh (old man, sin nature) to death, but in that death we are made righteous and holy, for that is the process by which the New Man matures. And all this is done by His Spirit dwelling within us.
At this point some of you might be thinking, “that may be so, but if people being cast into the Lake of Fire don’t believe in Christ, then they don’t have a New Man and therefore they would just be extinguished…” This objection is the reason why some believe in Annihilation vs. Endless Torment. But those who believe such only see half of the picture; the problem is solved with a simple reference to Isaiah 45:23, Romans 14:11 and Philippians 2:10,11 which states,
“that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
It is at the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation that everybody will bow their knee and confess Jesus Christ is Lord. And then they are cast into the Lake of Fire. But at this point they are saved and beginning their baptism of the Spirit and Fire (their sanctification process). For Scripture declares that,
“If you confess Jesus Christ is Lord…you will be saved!” (Romans 10:9)
“no one can confess ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit!” (1 Corinthians 12:3)
Thus they are saved before being cast into their baptism of fire, and through it they will be made righteous, even as He is righteous.
Praise God! The Gospel truly is Good News of Great Joy, which will be for ALL People! (Luke 2:10)
God’s Law is a fire, and it is administered by His Spirit. And this law condemns our old man and puts him to death, but in his death the New Man is renewed and grows up into the fullness of the image of the One who created Him! (Colossians 3:10)
In the next blog we will take a look at what Scripture has to declare concerning Death. This will help us understand what the “2nd Death” is, which will further confirm what we have noticed concerning the Lake of Fire (which is the 2nd Death).