January 26, 2013

Fire – Don R. Patton

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:19 pm by sranderson0103

“For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29)

We are sometimes afforded great insights into our present culture by considering cultures of the past. History reveals that the subject of origins has always been of great interest. Without the testimony of one who was there, efforts to know about this subject are mostly stumbling in the dark, but the efforts are most interesting.

Hippolytus of Rome (170 – 235) was perhaps the most important theologian in the third-century church in Rome. He tells us about the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who lived in the city of Ephesus at the end of the sixth century BC (Persian period). This great philosopher was known as a priest, “the fire priest,” even though he was a materialist pantheist who believed the “created universe was its own maker and creator.” He claimed this cosmos was not made by gods but “always was and is and ever shall be ever-living fire.” [Hippolytus 9.9]

How did it all start? The atheistic fire priest had the answer. Fire did it…and is still doing it. Doesn’t that sound brilliant? No, but it does sound familiar. Of course we have a much more scientific answer today. “An explosion did it…the Big Bang.” Ah, much better.

Like those viewing the emperor with no clothes, we are expected not to observe the obvious holes in these supposedly profound answers. What started the fire and where did it come from? What did it have to burn and where did that come from? What started the explosion and where did it come from? What was there to blow up and where did that come from? Those who are brave enough to ask such impertinent questions are condescendingly frowned upon and put in their place by belligerent hand waving.

Explosions and fire are truly fascinating phenomena. They seem mystical and magic but let’s face it, they do not have the power to create something out of nothing. In fact, they are inevitably destructive, not creative. As our young folk would say, “Well – duh!” Or, as the apostle Paul put it, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,” (Rom. 1:22)

God reveals that the marvel of fire and the awe of explosions are a part of God’s amazing creation. Both can be beneficial or terrifying, but both inevitably accelerate the downward, deteriorative processes that pervade our universe.

God uses fire and perhaps associated explosions, actually and symbolically, as His means of judgment on sin. The first and last references to fire in the Bible mention both fire and brimstone, used in flaming, explosive judgment on human rebellion against God. First, “…the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven.” (Genesis 19:24) And finally, “the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.” (Revelation 21:8)

Do you think the processes imposed on the recipients of these judgments were imagined to be creative or did they understand them to be destructive?

Our beginning text is a quotation of Moses’ words to the tribes of Israel as they were preparing to enter the promised land after his death. Warning them against corrupting their faith through idolatry, he said: “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” (Deuteronomy 4:24). Its New Testament context is a grave warning against rejecting God’s Word: “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. 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.” Therefore…offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:25-26, 28-29) They were not being warned, “Creation is coming.” Rather, they were warned of the fire of   destruction.

We should remember that destructive fire can be used beneficially, to destroy the dross of sin in our lives. “…in order to refine, purge and make them pure until the end time.” Daniel 11:35. It is better to be refined with the fire of God’s Word than to be consumed by His judgment of fire.

Adapted from an article by Henry Morris


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