Throughout the Bible, fire is used as a symbol to portray God. As I was writing this, I asked myself, “Why is fire used to represent God?” After thinking about the question, I realized that God reveals Himself in the physical world as a fire, because the hot, intense, burning of a fire expresses, in a poor way, God’s true awesomeness. Just as a flickering fire mesmerizes the imagination, God staggers the thought processes of mankind.
There are two different ways the fire of God is used in the Bible. First, God’s fire can symbolize the power, the presence, and the anointing of God. Second, fire can also represent God’s judgment on those who are wicked. We will be exploring the judgmental aspects of fire in a later chapter. Here we will examine some of the places in the Bible where God revealed His presence as a fire. Each occurrence of the fire highlighted in this chapter has a lesson for those hungry for the fire of God, so pay close attention as you read.
Adam and Eve saw the fire of God in the form of a flaming sword which flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. This flaming sword was defending the garden because of the sin of Adam and Eve. God’s fire protected the first man and woman from eating from the tree of life, which would have caused them to live forever in the midst of their sin. God’s fire will protect a Christian from sin.
Abraham saw God as a smoking firepot and a blazing torch. The Lord desired to make a covenant with his servant. He instructed Abraham to prepare a sacrifice of a heifer, a goat, a ram, a dove, and a young pigeon. These animals were to be a symbol of an eternal covenant between man and God. In the ancient Middle East, when two men made covenants, they would sacrifice these animals and then they would walk between the pieces to symbolize their covenant relationship. Abraham obeyed God by cutting the animals in half, and God appeared to Abraham. “When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram…” (Genesis 15:17-18). God’s fire sealed the covenant between Abraham and God. Today God still makes covenants with mankind through Jesus Christ; these covenants are sealed when the fire of the Holy Spirit comes to burn in our lives.
Moses saw the fire of God within a burning bush. Moses was out in the middle of a desert, watching his father-in-law’s sheep, when suddenly he saw a fire. “There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight — why the bush does not burn up.’” When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’…” (Exodus 3:2-4). Moses found his destiny when he discovered God’s fire. You will find your destiny when you discover God’s fire.
The children of Israel saw the Almighty as a pillar of fire which led them by night (Exodus 13:21). This pillar was like a huge nightlight. God’s fire led the children of Israel for forty years in the desert. The same fire that led the Israelites will lead us today.
The children of Israel also saw God come down on Mount Sinai as a fire. After a three day period of consecration “…Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently” (Exodus 19:17-18). When the people saw God’s fire, they trembled in fear. There was thunder, lightning, and a loud trumpet blast which frightened them. They stayed as far away as possible and they told Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die” (Exodus 20:19).
The people did not want to hear the voice of God. Even though they were interested in what God was saying to Moses, they did not want to hear God themselves. Later, Moses chided them when he said, “The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain…” (Deuteronomy 5:4‑5).
The people were content to stay in the valley. They did not want to ascend to the top of the mountain of Sinai. “To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain….” (Exodus 24:17-18). The Israelites saw the glory of the Lord, but only Moses experienced the glory of the Lord. Some people are content to sit in the valley and hear stories about what God is doing, instead of climbing to the mountaintop to visit with God themselves. It is possible to see God’s fire and to hear reports about it without actually experiencing the fire.
After the Israelites heard the voice of God, while the mountain was still ablaze with fire, they came to Moses and wailed, “The LORD our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him. But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer. For what mortal man has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then tell us whatever the LORD our God tells you. We will listen and obey” (Deuteronomy 5:24‑27). The Israelites were scared they would die if they listened to the voice of God, and in a sense this is true. Today if we want to experience the fire of God, we must die to self, so Christ may live within us.
Here are some more encounters Moses had with the fire in his lifetime:
* Being in the presence of God’s fire left Moses with a radiant countenance (Exodus 34:29).
* Moses discovered God is a consuming fire (Deut. 4:24).
* God spoke to Moses from the midst of fire (Deut. 4:36; 5:24).
* God commanded Moses to destroy idols with fire (Deut. 7:25; 9:21).
* God promised Moses that His fire would go ahead of the Israelites to destroy their enemies (Deut. 9:3).
* God proclaimed the ten commandments to Moses out of the fire on the mountain top (Deut. 9:10).
The psalmist, while proclaiming the glories of the Lord exclaimed, “Fire goes before him…”(Psalm 97:3). The Almighty is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Fire still precedes the arrival of God.
Elijah the prophet saw the fire of God fall from heaven (1 Kings 18). He had challenged the prophets of Baal to produce fire by building an altar and calling upon their false god to send fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice. For several hours these false prophets danced, cut themselves, and prayed for fire to fall, but Baal did not answer. Elijah taunted them by asking if their god was asleep or on vacation. After they grew tired, Elijah set up an altar to the Lord and placed a sacrifice on it, and then he had people drench the altar with twelve huge jars full of water. When Elijah prayed, God answered with a bolt of fire. God’s fire consumed the sacrifice and the altar, and it left a huge hole in the ground. False gods can not bring fire down from heaven. Only God Almighty can answer His people with fire. God’s fire is what sets the true God apart from fake gods. Others may claim to have fire, but they are only putting on a show by dancing around their altar. In contrast, our God is real. We worship the God who answers with fire!
Elijah was also taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:8-11). This came at the completion of Elijah’s ministry. The fire accompanied Elijah during his promotion to glory. God’s fire will take you up to a new level.
Isaiah prophesies Jesus (the Light of Israel) will become a fire which will burn away all thorns and briers. “The Light of Israel will become a fire, their Holy One a flame; in a single day it will burn and consume his thorns and his briers” (Isaiah 10:17). In a single day, Christ can burn away years of filthiness, contamination, and pollution in someone’s life. His fire is the solution to pollution.
Isaiah the prophet, in a moment of trouble, called for God to come down like fire. “As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you!” (Isaiah 64:2). When one is in trouble, it is time to call for the fire of God to fall like never before.
John the Baptist baptized with water but he promised that someone was coming who would baptize with fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11). Jesus was the fulfilment of this promise. When we invite him into our lives, he will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
Jesus proclaimed, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49). Jesus brought the fire of God down to earth in a tangible form. Through Jesus everyone can experience the fire of God.
On the Day of Pentecost, the fire Jesus longed for was ignited by the Holy Spirit in the upper room in the lives of one hundred and twenty disciples. Tongues of fire came to rest upon their heads. That same day, almost three thousand people were saved. Signs of the Holy Spirit’s arrival are fire and changed lives.
Saul, the persecutor of Christians, was on the road to Damascus when suddenly he saw a bright light from heaven. The light was so bright, it blinded him. Was this light a tiny glimpse of God’s fire? Whatever it was, it changed Saul’s life forever. Saul became the man we know as Paul, who wrote the majority of the New Testament. In the same way, God’s fire will change our lives.
The servants of God are like a fire. “He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire” (Hebrews 1:7). The servants of God literally become infused with the fire of God and they shine bright like the sun. Those who serve God become flames of fire.
John the Apostle saw a vision of the risen Christ (Revelation 1:12-16). In the vision, the eyes of Christ were like a blazing fire and his face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. It is this same Christ who will return in the clouds, coming like a wildfire, sweeping the earth clean.
As you can see, God has repeatedly revealed Himself to mankind as a fire. This earthly metaphor illustrates how intense and powerful He really is! When God reveals Himself as a fire, lives are changed. Get ready for the fire of God.