My blog has moved!

You will be automatically redirected to the new address. If that does not occur, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Acts 2:1-4

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Yesterday we observed Pentecost—the end of the Easter season on the Christian calendar and in ancient times, the day when the promised Holy Spirit was first received by Jesus’ followers.

But before Pentecost was a Christian holy day, it was a Jewish holy day, commemorating the giving by God of the Ten Commandments and the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses.  See my Wednesday POST for more on the history of Pentecost.


God frequently appeared as fire in scripture.

Genesis 15:17: God’s covenant with Abraham
Exodus 3:2: God’s appearance to Moses in the burning bush
Exodus and Numbers: leading the Israelites through the desert as a pillar of fire
Exodus and Deuteronomy: God’s appearance on Mt. Sinai

God is elsewhere linked to fire, such as His destruction of the bull during Elijah’s challenge to the Baal prophets (1 Kings 18:22-39) and references to refining silver in fire (Isaiah 13:9).

In fact, Deuteronomy 4:24 tells us that the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

So if God appears as fire and uses fire for His purposes why do we think of fire as something which represents evil?


Perhaps we fear fire because of the image of Hell. We envision Hell as an eternal fire filled with—hellfire, not surprisingly—and brimstone. We have this image partly because of the Book of Revelation, where the Apostle John shared his vision with us.

But we forget that everything in the universe is God-created, including Hell. God created Hell as a place to set aside evil in the end times. And just as God chose to appear as fire, He can use fire for His holy purpose. To purify. In the end times, God will purify the universe by sending evil to Hell where it will be consumed by His own power.


At both events commemorating Pentecost—the giving of the Ten Commandments and the giving of the Holy Spirit—God made His appearance as fire. Both events are celebrated as “Pentecost.”

At the giving of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:18: Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire.

At the giving of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:3: They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

This last fire/Holy Spirit combo was prophesied by John the Baptist in Luke 3:15-16:

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them saying, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

John, referring to Jesus, said that only Jesus had the power to baptize people into the presence of God, to be convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit and to be then purified by the fire of God’s righteousness.

Seen from the view of scripture, purification is a righteous process; a godly, just and loving occurrence. As it relates to John the Baptist’s prophecy of baptism by the Holy Spirit and fire, we look again at Acts. 

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

John’s prophecy was fulfilled on Pentecost. Those early Christians not only were baptized with the Holy Spirit, but tongues of fire from God came to rest on each of them, baptizing them also in holy fire.


I love this image of the Christians sitting in the house, a sound like a mighty wind filling their ears when all at once a tongue of fire settled over each of their heads.

Folks back then didn’t have electricity. They could have no “light bulb over their heads” moment like our modern cartoons show.

But I like to think of this as one of those ancient “a-ha light bulb moments” where, instead of a modern light bulb, they had what the ancient people used to light their homes—a flame.

To me, this was the early Christian’s light bulb moment. When they received the Holy Spirit they realized, “Oh, NOW I get it!”

Do we get it?

If we have received Christ into our hearts, we too have received the Holy Spirit. But do we get it? Do we understand the power of God within us? Are we open to His leading? Attuned to His presence?

Are we set on fire by God in us?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for your presence, whether by fire or the Holy Spirit. Jesus, thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to us. Please help us, Spirit, attune our lives to you. Purify us and use us for your good purpose. Amen.

WHAT ABOUT YOU? Do you have a favorite passage of scripture in which God uses fire for His purpose?


Linda Yezak said...

What an excellent article! I'd be willing to bet you study your Bible with the "Precept" approach. The entire Bible is connected. What is said in the Old Testament has a counterpart in the New, whether a fulfillment, an explanation, or whatever. Finding the connections, seeing the complete picture, is one of the most rewarding aspects of Bible study.

"It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter." (Ps 25:2)

From Carol's Quill said...

@Linda - thanks; yes, I love Precepts. Actually the free bible study here on my blog is the inductive method, which Precepts is based on. What I love is how it shows that scripture supports scripture and never contradicts itself.

Cecilia Marie Pulliam said...

Excellent imagery. Fire is a scary prospect, especially after personal tragedy regarding house fires, but you are right. In the context of the Bible it does mean purification and the holiness of God, as well as damnation in the unquenchable fires of hell. One of my favorite scriptures is from Daniel 3 ( forget the verse): God walked with the three young men IN THE FIRE. He is with us through every test, trial and tribulation. All we need is faith.

From Carol's Quill said...

@ Cecelia - ah, yes, good Daniel reference. I read somewhere that God is characterized or uses fire nearly 100 times in scripture.