7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, 9 and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Within the Word of G-d, fire has three roles:
The first is to clear the waste of that which is not the work of the Kingdom. The waste itself is part of the harvest, and it is always separated from that which isn’t the Father’s will. Jesus spoke of these fates to end the parable of the wheat and tares:
29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
As people enter the faith and leave it, the harvest will reveal all, but the fire will reveal those of us who’ve remained true to the Lord.
The second is to purify. The Holy Spirit reveals the truth of G-d’s Word to us, convicts us of sin, and leads us to repentance, but also instills within us a desire to share with others the Good News. That which we do unto the Lord, our works, as such, are also tested. Paul tells us this in 1st Corinthians 3:11-15
11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
As Paul speaks of being saved, that brings us to the third role of fire: to punish:
John’s admonition to the crowd, and in particular to the religious leaders, speaks of this:
12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Isaiah prophesies to its existence: (Isaiah 66:23-24)
23 And it shall come to pass
That from one New Moon to another,
And from one Sabbath to another,
All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.
24 “And they shall go forth and look
Upon the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm does not die,
And their fire is not quenched.
They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
Jesus affirms it when He speaks of removing that from our lives which causes us to sin:
43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— 44 [where
‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’
The fire that punishes can’t be put out, and is eternal.
41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:
Let us be ever conscious of the roles of fire in our walk with the Lord, and let us work to eliminate that which is unfruitful, that our works may stand, and that which will make Him tell us to depart from His presence.
Let us, instead, seek to be purified, that we won’t need to dismember ourselves to enter into Life, and to remain under the covering of the covenant of grace, in all that we do.
Therefore I pray:
I thank You for the purification of holy fire, holy truth, and salvation.
I thank you for imparting to me the Holy Spirit, that I might remain reconciled to the Father through You. I ask that You give me discernment to do that which is the Father’s will, in all things. I would like to see my tested works of blessing remain, and not suffer loss (though I know I will).
I would have You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and not be saved with my clothing smoking, or worse yet, to depart.
Help me to know that my willful rebellion is recorded for the Day, and that I will be called to account for my thoughts, and every idle word. Help me to remember that my backsliding means a greater darkness because I claim to be Yours, and that I crucify You again to my shame, which means I abide once again under Your wrath, and not in Your mercy.
You have set me apart, and called me out of the world, and revealed the Father’s will for me through Your teaching, and Your sacrifice.
I would not cheapen that, or take it lightly, nor for granted.
Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for the times that I do all these things, and let the Spirit have its way in me. Help me to attune to the still, small voice that guides me to the Narrow Way, that I might be in Your presence, praising G-d forever more.
I ask it in Your Name, believing I’ve received.
May it be done to me as You have said.