How Fire is Described in the Bible
The word fire is used a lot in the bible. There are 506 verses
in the King James Version which have the word “fire”. How would the
majority of Christians associate the word “fire” with the God of the
Bible? Their first thoughts would probably be Hell-fire, the Lake of
Fire, or Sodom and Gomorrah. It may be surprising to many Christians
that the word “fire,” and its attributes of “light” and “heat,”
reveal more of the Creator and His character and goodness than of a
destructive force against His enemies.
Fire does play a very
significant role in the Bible. God Himself is described as a
“consuming fire” :
Heb (KJV) 12:29 For our God is a consuming
Deut 4:24 (KJV) For the LORD thy God is a consuming
Doesn’t it seem rather strange to call the God of
Creation a consuming fire? Rarely, if ever, do we associate fire
with the restoration and salvation process of God. We usually
associate it with destruction. Later in this article we will see how
God’s spiritual fire, since He calls Himself a consuming fire, is a
force for good and an ultimate benefit for humanity. Nothing at all
to do with the false orthodox view of an eternal hell fire or an
ever burning Gehenna fire for the wicked.
It is also
interesting to note that people who are more judgmental, vengeful,
and fundamental are the ones who likely see fire as God’s
punishment. They have a difficult time seeing fire as a positive
symbol of God. For this kind of mindset, fire usually means Hell,
the lake of fire, and everlasting punishment. On the other hand, the
more, merciful, and compassionate one becomes, the more likely they
are to see fire as a symbol of love, correction, and sacredness.
They are “on fire for God” is an expression used in a positive
sense. The judgmental person will usually see fire out in the future
somewhere awaiting those whom it would swallow up in vindictive
judgment, its flames engulfing those whom it will eternally torment
Christians who have come to recognize the
glorious fire of God will see His fire in a totally different light.
Rather than being utterly destroyed by the fire, they are purified,
corrected, cleansed. God’s fire within brings forth a love that
desires to bring healing and restoration to all mankind. The more
spiritually minded, desirous to be changed, and willing to be
conformed to the image of Christ one is, the less fear they have of
fire in the Bible. This group is more likely to use the word “fire”
in a positive sense.
There are two main aspects of fire. One
is the kind of fire we associate with the physical creation, like a
camp fire or the flame of a burning candle. The other is the fire
related to the spirit dimension, like our trial of faith tried by
fire (1 Pet. 1:7), every mans work shall be revealed by fire (1 Cor.
3:13) and you shall heap coals of fire on his head (Rom. 12 :20).
The physical fire is easily understood. The spiritual fire is not
physically tangible and therefore needs to be understood by
Let us look at the physical (literal)
fire first and then look at the spiritual aspect of fire.
Physical (Literal) Fire
Fire has played a very significant
role throughout history. . Because fire is sometimes the author of
apparent calamity, its benefits are often lost sight of. Its main
application is not destruction, but service. What does natural fire
do? In fact, fire destroys nothing. It converts substances,
releasing constituents from existing combinations, but all the basic
elements remain intact, undiminished. Every component in a substance
burned exists still, and is ready to be taken up again in new forms.
But practically no manufacturing or industrialization would be
possible apart from the use of fire to alter and shape materials and
products for our use. The fire having the greatest impact on us is
the sun. Life on earth depends upon the energy given by this huge
ball of fire near the earth, the sun.
Fire produces flame
(light) and heat, two very useful properties in the natural world.
The more we understand the scientific properties of fire, the more
useful fire seems to be to mankind. Science and technological
advances are finding all kinds of uses for the energy waves which
come forth from fire, whether the fire is from the sun, or from the
splitting of an atom, building of lasers and LEDs or other sources.
If we burn a stick of wood, and carefully preserve the smoke and
the ashes, we shall find that they weigh a little more than the wood
weighed–just as much more as the oxygen weighed that combined with
the flame in the process of combustion. The resulting particles are
all changed but preserved. Science tells us that the ultimate
particles of which all substances are composed are like subatomic
bricks; they never lose form or identity, but, let loose from any
combination by fire, or otherwise, they are ready to be again taken
up in other forms. Destruction is a mere process in the cycle of
As long as mankind uses fire as instruments of
destruction and cruelty, mankind will continue to have a fear of
fire. The atomic and hydrogen bombs are certainly terrible
instruments of war which strike fear in the heart of everyone. Our
ability to control our environment is not perfect. Fire accidents
often produce horrible disasters. This also instils fear of fire.
For more information on the characteristics of fire see Wikipedia :
While God’s response by
fire was usually a positive act, there were times when His
manifestation in fire, or the use of fire, was used as a correction
or destruction of evil. We find that God uses physical fire to deal
with evil cities, nations or systems. Here are a few examples in the
Bible of God’s dealing with evil cities, nations or systems with
Jer. 21.10-12, we read of Babylon’s burning Jerusalem with fire, a
national judgment fulfilled in 586 B.C.:
21:10 (KJV) For I have set my face against this city for evil, and
not for good, saith the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the
king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.
There are many references in the major and minor prophets concerning
God’s judgement by fire. Here are but a few:
For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and buildeth temples; and Judah
hath multiplied fenced cities: but I will send a fire upon his
cities, and it shall devour the palaces thereof.
(KJV) But I will send a fire upon Moab, and it shall devour the
palaces of Kerioth: and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting,
and with the sound of the trumpet:
Amos_2:5 (KJV) But I will
send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the palaces of
Because of the wickedness done in Sodom and
Gomorrah God brought total ruin to those two cities by fire.
19:24 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah
brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;
We turn now
to the subject of the spiritual fire of God.
(Symbolic) Fire of God
God is a consuming fire as we read
earlier (Heb 12:29). His primary attribute is love (1 John 4:8, 1
John 4:16) . Everything He does is in love and for the ultimate
benefit of humanity.
There are some perplexing scriptures in
the New testament that need to be examined. We need to ask what do
these mean? What is fire referring too? There are a few scriptures
that can be an enigma for some. For example:
Why did John the
Baptist say he baptized with water for repentance but says when
Jesus comes He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire
Why did Jesus say He came to set fire on the
earth (Luke 12:49)?
Why did Paul say that our works would be
revealed by fire and will try (test) those works (1 Cor. 3:13)?
Why did Peter say that our faith will be tried (tested) with
fire (1 Pet. 1:7)?
God has shown Himself to be not only a God
of love, but also of fire, a CONSUMING FIRE in the Scriptures. It is
amazing how often God speaks of fire in bringing judgement on
humanity. Judgement by God is good, it is righteous judgement.
Scripture tells us that all is of God.
2 Cor 5:18 (KJV) And all
things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus
Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
And just as real literal fire is used to refine and purify gold and
precious metals, so God’s spiritual fire refines and purifies us
from our sinful and carnal nature. And likewise, as real literal
fire is used to burn up wood and stubble, so God’s all consuming
spiritual fire will consume and burn up all the impurities in our
life. All have sinned. Sin in our lives must be put to death by
1 Cor 3:11 (KJV) For other foundation can no man
lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Cor 3:12 (KJV)
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious
stones, wood, hay, stubble;
1 Cor 3:13 (KJV) Every man’s work
shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it
shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work
of what sort it is.
1 Cor 3:14 (KJV) If any man’s work abide
which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
1 Cor 3:15 (KJV) If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer
loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
verses reveal an amazing truth. As trash is burned and precious
metals are purified by the use of literal and physical fire, so God
burns our spiritual trash (wood, hay and stubble) and purifies those
qualities of character worth saving (gold, silver, precious stones)
by His symbolic and spiritual fire. A mans carnal works shall be
burned. Those works will be gone, burned away. But the man made
righteous by God will be saved. Physical fire is inanimate and
uncaring. God’s spiritual fire is caring and loving.
becomes clear that God’s spiritual fire is not just for unbelievers
but also for believers in Christ. Many assume that God judges
unbelievers with fire, but not believers? Scripture tells us
1 Pet 4:12 (KJV) Beloved, think it not strange
concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some
strange thing happened unto you:
1 Pet_1:7 (KJV) That the
trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that
perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise
and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
is saying that going through fiery trails is norm and not the
exception. They are not pleasant at all, but are a part of Christian
growth. Even our faith, on occasion, will be tested by fire. The New
Testament is filled with the fiery trials of God’s people.
Unless God through the chastising power of His spirit, is burning
out the various sinful works of the flesh (Gal 5: 19-21) , we will
not be born as Sons of God in His Kingdom at the first
And why did Christ say He came to send fire on
Luke 12:49 (KJV) I am come to send fire on the
earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?
spiritual purging and purifying fire of Christ was kindled when He
began His ministry, gave the Sermon on the Mount, and called His
disciples. The article on Gehenna gives more detail on this fire
that has been kindled. And it has been with us ever since. It is
with us today in every life that Jesus is working with.
the Baptist said this to the multitudes who came to hear him preach:
Mat_3:11 (KJV) I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance:
but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not
worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and fire:
John said that Jesus would baptize people with the Holy Spirit
and with fire. It may seem that it is good to be baptized with the
Holy Spirit but bad to be baptized by fire. But both baptisms are
good. What Jesus does is always for a good purpose. Being baptized
(immersed) in fire (Greek – pur) is as important and beneficial as
being baptized with God’s Holy Spirit.
From these and many
other scripture it becomes clear that God chastens us with His fire
to build Holy righteous character, it can be a painful and not a
pleasant experience but for our good and ultimate salvation.
Heb 12:11 (KJV) Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be
joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the
peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised
There are many other New Testament scriptures that
mention God’s spiritual fire. It is Jesus Christ who administers the
spiritual fire of correctness. God the Father committed all
judgement to Christ. It is needful to remember that the spiritual
fire is God’s act of love and not of hate. It is for our benefit.
Mark_9:49 (KJV) For every one shall be salted with fire, and
every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.
person shall be salted with fire by God for salvation. We are to
present our bodies a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1). We are to be the
salt of the earth and do good works for the glory of God. Being
salted by fire by God is part of the salvation process. Everyone,
yes every single person, will be salted by fire. Every scripture is
inspired by God and no scriptures contradict other scriptures.
Yes there seem to be scriptures in our commonly used English
bibles that infer that fire can be a horrible thing that God uses to
endlessly torment evil people. That is not true.
something up. What does God’s fire burn? We know all have sinned.
Sin needs to be overcome through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Sin
needs to be purged (burned) from our lives.
mentioned is not literal and has nothing to do with an ever burning
commonly thought to
refer to eternal
There are other places where we find mention of
God’s consuming spiritual fire. Below are the phrases that mention
this fire. Some have been mentioned already and others will be
discussed in another article. Misunderstood phrases such as:
furnace of fire (Mat 13:42, 50)
unquenchable fire (Mark
Lake of fire (Rev. 20:14)
worm dieth not
everlasting fire (Mat. 25:41)
and gnashing of teeth (Mat. 13:50)
and loving God and Father does not eternally torture
humanity in fire, but rather saves humanity by fire. And so we are
assured that EVERYONE will be “revealed,” “tried,” “salted,” and
“baptized” “in fire.” And these fiery trials as Peter calls them go
on for a lifetime. If it were real, physical fire, all believers’
lives would be short indeed. God is Spirit, and God is a consuming
fire. It is one attribute of God’s Spirit that is likened to fire. The spiritual
teaching in this symbol is to recognize what real fire accomplishes
and to then use that as an analogy as to what God does to us (or
more properly for us).
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