6

I'm slightly confused on the first mention of fire in the new testament, by Matthew. That is, when John mentioned, "he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." Matt 3:11

Chiefly, I'm not sure what baptism by fire mean. I've read that some scholars suggested that it was a common figure of speech, a hendiadys, that was used in the time.

Others suggested that it was a sign of judgement, but I can't quite mend the theme of baptism and judgement.

And also, this elicits another question, which I do apologize for bring up (but it seems to have a lot of overlapping themes). That is, why is God's presence associated with fire? Fire evokes my association with hell, especially the phrase "lake of fire", scattered throughout the Book of Revelation.

Also, some other Christian authors mentioned that "fire" is symbolic of cleansing, that is the Holy Spirit cleanses you of sins. This interpretation leads me the farthest, where I can sort of draw a bridge between an infinitude of sins and an infinitude of cleansing in hell (or something along that line).

2
  • Both Old and New Testament state that : 'Our God - consuming fire'. In neither the Hebrew nor the Greek is there any verb in the way : it is stated as an equivalence.
    – Nigel J
    Dec 21, 2021 at 21:44
  • “Fire” in Acts 2:3 could mean bright shiny lights. Heb 1:7 calls the angels: “flames of fire”. Shiny bright orbs of light has been seen over corn fields where crop circles appear. There are YouTube films about this. Dec 23, 2021 at 5:16

4 Answers 4

1

In both cases "fire" features as a metaphor.

a) In the case of God, fire is a metaphor of His activity, and with reference to us, He is "consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29), which must mean that He through His activity in us consumes sinful inclinations and sinful passions in us, transforming them to inclinations and passions towards divine, eternal realities.

b) In the case of hell this "fire" means a fire of shame and of torment of one's conscience for having done unrepentedly evil things, and its analogue - "sleepless worm" (Mark 9:44) - denotes the same.

However, one can hazard an interpretation that those two fires are in fact one and the same fire of divine activity and love. For this is the uncreated fire of divine grace which working in us, makes us, saltless minerals, salty ("for everyone is made salty by fire" /Mark 9:49/), that is to say, fills our nature with grace and gives us second birth in Spirit. Yet, does it happen automatically or by our free acceptance and co-action? Of course by our acceptance and free co-action. Now, when we do not accept this fire and the second birth, which is what God's love wants for us, then we are irritated and tormented by the same love, the same fire of grace, not accepted by us, just like a lazy and plagiarizing student is tormented by a diligent and honest student, without the latter desiring to torment him.

And even more dangerous thing: it is possible that we accept the transfiguring grace of God in us and it is burning like a joy-creating fire in us, but if we become sluggish, plunder our attention, get entangled with earthly interests, the same fire, the same talent and grace, the presence of which was joy-creating, now becomes painful and cause of suffering.

Just imagine, Beethoven, after having discovered a talent of composer in himself, say, out of love of money does not write a real piece, but a cheap crap pleasing a lowly-tasted audience, and he gets accustomed to such a treason; will not the talent so misused by him torment him? Of course. That is how the same divine joy-creating fire can become a torment-creating hell fire for a sluggish and irresponsible person plundering his talent.

2
  • This was the explanation I was looking for. Thank you. Dec 26, 2021 at 20:19
  • 1
    @Kenneth Dang Thanks for reading my post and giving it such a positive estimation! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Dec 27, 2021 at 8:33
2

Both Old and New Testament state that : 'Our God - consuming fire'.

Deuteronomy 4:24 and Hebrews 12:29.

In neither the Hebrew nor the Greek is there any verb in the way : it is stated as an equivalence.

He is so, by his existence.

And if he is thus, that is what he will always be.

That which does not conform to his purging (by baptism and by the Holy Spirit) will be utterly consumed in eternal judgment.

1

First, the gift and reception of the Holy Spirit is also symbolized by fire. Matt 3:11, Luke 3:16, Acts 2:3, 4, 7:30, Rom 12:11, 1 Thess 5:19, Rev 4:5, 7, 8:5, 14:10, 18, 15:2, 19:20, 20:9, 10, etc.

Note the comments from HELPS Word-studies at https://biblehub.com/greek/4442.htm

God's Spirit, like a holy fire, enlightens and purifies so that believers can share more and more in His likeness. Indeed the fire of God brings the uninterrupted privilege of being transformed which happens by experiencing faith from Him. Our lives can become true offerings to Him as we obey this imparted faith from God by His power.

[This is illustrated by God's fire burning continuously at the entrance of the Tabernacle where the priests made sweet-savor offerings. Compare Lev 6:12,13 with 1 Pet 2:5,9.]

Now note the text of Matt 3:

10 The axe lies ready at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 I baptize you with water for repentance, but after me will come One more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

12 His winnowing fork is in His hand to clear His threshing floor and to gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Note the construction of this: Judgement by fire - Holy Spirit symbolized by fire - Judgement by Fire

That is, the word fire is being used in two senses - as a symbol of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life and as a symbol of Judgement.

Ellicott offers these comments about V11:

He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.—As heard and understood at the time, the baptism with the Holy Ghost would imply that the souls thus baptised would be plunged, as it were, in that creative and informing Spirit which was the source of life and holiness and wisdom. The baptism “with fire” would convey, in its turn, the thought of a power at once destroying evil and purifying good; not, in any case, without the suffering that attends the contact of the sinner’s soul with the “consuming fire” of the holiness of God, yet for those who had received the earlier baptism, and what it was meant to convey, consuming only what was evil, and leaving that which was precious brighter than before. The appearance of the “tongues like as of fire” that accompanied the gift of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was an outward visible sign, an extension of the symbolism, rather than the actual fulfilment of the promise.

Thus, V10-12 appears to be saying something like this -"You have a choice - either the fire of the Holy Spirit in the life now, or, the fire of judgement - make your choice well!"

1

The אֵ֣שׁ אֹֽכְלָ֔ה Consuming-Fire (Jealousy of YHVH) from [Deuteronomy 9:3, 4:24] weakens opposing hearts through destruction, unlike the לַבַּת־אֵ֖שׁ Enchanted-Fire (Messenger of YHVH) from [Exodus 3:2] which inspires devoted hearts without destruction.

The אֵ֣שׁ אֹֽכְלָ֔ה Esh-Oklah (Consuming-Fire) of YHVH is the earthly force used to humiliate anyone that rejects Him , as in Deuteronomy 9:3 which states יְהֹוָ֨ה אֱלֹהֶ֜יךָ הוּא־הָֽעֹבֵ֤ר לְפָנֶ֨יךָ֙ אֵ֣שׁ אֹֽכְלָ֔ה “YHVH your-God [He moves] before-your-face [as a] Consuming-Fire”, ה֧וּא יַשְׁמִידֵ֛ם וְה֥וּא יַכְנִיעֵ֖ם לְפָנֶ֑יךָ “He will weaken them, and He will subdue them before you” to weaken wickedness or opposition to Himself. — The Jealous or [Zealous] attribute of Elohim’s Entity is later defined in Deuteronomy 4:24 as an אֵ֥שׁ אֹֽכְלָ֖ה Esh-Oklah (Consuming-Fire) stating : כִּ֚י "For" - יְהֹוָ֣ה "YHVH" - אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ "your-God" [is a] ** אֵ֥שׁ אֹֽכְלָ֖ה "Consuming Fire"** , ** ה֑וּא "He" [is a] אֵל קַנָּֽא "Zealous Force”**. | Consuming Fire weakens someone's heart. With destruction, the Esh-Oklah of YHVH removes wickedness from humanity.

The לַבַּת־אֵ֖שׁ Libavta-Esh (Enchanted Fire) of YHVH captures someone’s heart by revealing His beautiful intentions delivered to humans by a Messenger. In Exodus 3:2 we are told: וַיֵּרָ֠א מַלְאַ֨ךְ יְהֹוָ֥ה אֵלָ֛יו בְּלַבַּת־אֵ֖שׁ מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַסְּנֶ֑ה “Messenger of YHVH appeared to-him in [enchanted-fire] from within the thorn bush” — וְהַסְּנֶ֖ה אֵינֶ֥נּוּ אֻכָּֽל “but the thorn bush was NOT being consumed”. | Enchanted Fire inspires someone's heart. Without destruction, The Libavta-Esh of YHVH reveals His intentions for humanity.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.