Fire is a symbol of purification and transformation
It consumes the dross and tin of self, the wood, hay and stubble of ignorance and folly. "The Fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." Everyone shall be salted with fire, baptized in Fire and in the Holy Spirit. Hence the Spirit came upon the disciples in a fiery form because they needed purification, purging, change and transformation. Those baptized with this baptism will know not only the glory and blessing and power of God, but the subduing, melting, abasing, refining, transforming, elevating effects of the Spirit's Fire.Fire A Sign Of Favorable Response?
Let us note, also, how often "fire" is the sign of a favourable answer from God; when God appears to Moses at the Bush it is in "fire:" God answers Gideon by "fire;" and David by "fire." (1 Chron. 21:26) Again, when He answers Elijah on Carmel, it is by "fire;" and in "fire" Elijah himself ascends to God. So God sends to Elisha, for aid, chariots and horses of "fire." So when the Psalmist calls, God answers by "fire." (Psl. 18:6-
"FIRE G4442(C) Of evils, calamities, trials which purify the faith in hearts of Christians, as fire tries and purifies the precious metals (cf. Mark 9:49; 1 Pet. 1:7; Rev.3:18; Sept.: Is.10:17). In 1 Cor.3:10–15, the works of men are represented as a building of which only the inflammable parts ("gold, silver, precious stones") can withstand fire; the worker (builder) "himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire," means that he will escape from the fire which destroys those of his works which are "wood, hay, [and] stubble." Fire is used in a proverbial expression, "out of the fire," implying "with difficulty," "scarcely" (Jude 1:23)"
Fire in the Old Testament.
a. Fire in Theophany.
In almost all the OT theophanies fire appears as a way of representing the unapproachable sanctity and overpowering glory of Yahweh. Behind all later depictions lies the theophany at Sinai in Ex. 19, where the details suggest a thunder-
In later theophanies a progressive theological separation from the element may be noted. When God appears to Elijah at Horeb it is stated expressly that “the Lord was not in the fire” (1 K. 19:12). God’s being is not made up of the elements; He is Lord and Ruler of the forces of nature, cf. Ps. 104:4. True revelation is by the Word, 1 K. 19:13; cf. Ex. 3:4 ff. and 19:21ff. At the call of Isaiah, where the vision takes cultic forms, fire is used to purge unclean lips for service as God’s messenger, Is. 6:6. The vision of the prophet Ez. in c. 1, which has some features in common with Is. 6, is dominated by a heavenly throne scene with four throne-
b. Fire as a Means of Divine Judgment.
A primary concern in the OT is Yahweh’s judicial intervention in the course of history. As the Sinai revelation influenced theophanies, so the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire and brimstone (Gn. 19:24) exerted a strong influence on subsequent ideas of divine judgment. Similarly the motif of the ten plagues of Egypt, of which the seventh is flaming fire mixed with hail (Ex. 9:24), left a mark which is still to be seen in eschatological depictions, cf. Rev. 8:7. Certain formal expressions are used for Yahweh’s intervention in judgment: “There went out fire from Yahweh” (Lv. 10:2), “there came down fire from heaven” (2 K. 1:10), “the fire of Yahweh burnt among them” (Nu. 11:1). In the prophets fire is one of the most common means of divine judgment. It smites both the vain-
The same is true of the fire of eschatological judgment found from the time of the prophets. Here biblical thinking centres on the coming of Yahweh to judgment, not on the manner of the world’s destruction or the changing of the elements, as, e.g., in the doctrine of the cosmic conflagration in Stoicism. Fire has especially three roles in the eschatological drama. 1. It is a sign of the day of Yahweh, Jl. 2:30. 2. Yahweh will execute the judgment of eschatological destruction with fire on all His enemies, Mal. 3:19; Is. 66:15 f.; Ez. 38:22; 39:6.46 3. The damned fall victim to eternal torment by fire. This idea is found for the first time in the post-
c. Fire as a Sign of Gracious Visitation.
Though much less frequently, fire can also be a sign of divine grace. This use is normally found in relation to the acceptance of sacrifices. By an appearance of fire Yahweh indicates His pleasure in the sacrifice and His saving presence, Gn. 15:17; Lv. 9:23 f.; Ju. 6:21; 1 K. 18:38; 1 Ch. 21:26; 2 Ch. 7:1.47 Fire also plays a role in the taking up of esp. eminent men into heaven (a chariot and horses of fire in the case of Elijah in 2 K. 2:11). Fiery phenomena are often signs of divine guidance (the pillar of cloud and fire in the wilderness, → 936, 4 ff.) and divine protection, 2 K. 6:17. In Zech. 2:9 (LXX) Yahweh is a protective wall of fire without48 and a light within. In the eschatological age of salvation the presence of God is mostly expressed in terms of light, cf. Is. 58:10; 60:1 f., 19 f. Only in Is. 4:5 is the image of fire used to depict the dwelling of the Lord in the perfected city of God.
d. Fire as a Term for God.
When God is called a consuming fire (אֵשׁ אֹכְלָה) in the OT (Dt. 4:24; 9:3; Is. 33:14), He is not understood as a personified element (cf. the Indian fire-
If the cosmologically and philosophically oriented understanding of fire in the surrounding world is predominantly concerned with the element, by contrast fire is viewed theocentrically in the OT as a representation of the mysterious, unapproachable, terrifying and yet gracious glory of Yahweh in revelation, and also as a means and established image of His judicial action.
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Gerhard Friedrich et al., electronic ed., 6:935-
Fire in the New Testament.
1. Literal Use.
Mk. 9:485 (καὶ τὸ πῦρ οὐ σβέννυται) quotes Is. 66:24, the central Jewish passage depicting the torments of hell under the twofold image of the worm and the fire. The quotation deviates from the LXX, which in accordance with the Hebrew reads καὶ τὸ πῦρ αὐτῶν οὐ σβεσθήσεται. The context in Mk. makes it clear that the reference is to the unquenchable fire of bell, cf. v. 43 → I, 658, 8 ff.; VI, 945, 33 ff. In Mt. 25:8 the foolish virgins, awaking out of sleep, suddenly find that they are short of oil (cf. v. 3) and their lamps are going out (αἱ λαμπάδες ἡμῶν σβέννυνται). An allegorical interpretation of this is not intended in the original parable. Hb. 11:34 (ἔσβεσαν δύναμιν πυρός) alludes to the three friends of Daniel who by God’s help were not harmed at all by the fire in Nebuchadnezzar’s burning fiery furnace, Da. 3:23–25; cf. 1 Macc. 2:59; 1 Cl., 45,
2. Figurative Use.
In Mt. 12:18–21 the saying about the Servant of the Lord in Is. 42:1–4, which is also taken Messianically in the Targum, is referred to Jesus. The quotation follows exactly neither the LXX (λίνον καπνιζόμενον οὐ σβέσει, Is. 42:3) nor the Hebrew. In v. 20 Jesus is depicted as the Helper of the down-
3. Transferred Use.
In 1 Th. 5:19 Paul admonishes the community: τὸ πνεῦμα μὴ σβέννυτε. πνεῦμα. (→ VI, 332, 12 ff.) is here a master concept which embraces several special forms, e.g., prophecy (v. 20) and tongues, and which has reference to extraordinary manifestations of the Spirit, → VI, 422, 26 ff. In a transferred sense (→ 166, 21 ff.) σβεννύναι means “to suppress,” “to restrain”7 (opp. ἀναζωπυρεῖν in 2 Tm. 1:6). This does not take place through an impure walk (Chrysostom) or through sloth (Calvin).8 Paul is rather warning against a deliberate suppression of the extraordinary operations of the Spirit in the congregation, cf. also 1 C. 14:28 ff. There does not have to be any particular cause for this warning in Thessalonica, since the whole section is a short church order.
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Gerhard Friedrich et al., electronic ed., 7:167-
1. pur (πυ̂ρ, 4442), (akin to which are No. 2, pura, and puretos, “a fever,” Eng., “fire,” etc.) is used (besides its ordinary natural significance):
(a) of the holiness of God, which consumes all that is inconsistent therewith, Heb. 10:27; 12:29; cf. Rev. 1:14; 2:18; 10:1; 15:2; 19:12; similarly of the holy angels as His ministers Heb. 1:7 in Rev. 3:18 it is symbolic of that which tries the faith of saints, producing what will glorify the Lord:
(b) of the divine judgment, testing the deeds of believers, at the judgment seat of Christ 1 Cor. 3:13 and 15:
(c) of the fire of divine judgment upon the rejectors of Christ, Matt. 3:11 (where a distinction is to be made between the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the “fire” of divine retribution; Acts 2:3 could not refer to baptism): Luke 3:16: (d) of the judgments of God at the close of the present age previous to the establishment of the kingdom of Christ in the world, 2 Thess. 1:8; Rev. 18:8:
(e) of the “fire” of Hell, to be endured by the ungodly hereafter, Matt. 5:22; 13:42, 50; 18:8, 9; 25:41; Mark 9:43, 48; Luke 3:17:
(f) of human hostility both to the Jews and to Christ’s followers, Luke 12:49:
(g) as illustrative of retributive judgment upon the luxurious and tyrannical rich, Jas. 5:3:
(h) of the future overthrow of the Babylonish religious system at the hands of the Beast and the nations under him, Rev. 17:16:
(i) of turning the heart of an enemy to repentance by repaying his unkindness by kindness, Rom. 12:20:
(j) of the tongue, as governed by a “fiery” disposition and as exercising a destructive influence over others, Jas. 3:6:
(k) as symbolic of the danger of destruction, Jude 23.
2. pura (πυρά, 4443), from No. 1, denotes “a heap of fuel” collected to be set on fire (hence Eng., “pyre”), Acts 28:2, 3.¶
Note: In Mark 14:54, the italicized phrase “of the fire” is added in the Eng. versions to indicate the light as coming from the “fire.”
purinos (πύρινος, 4447), “fiery” (akin to A, No. 1), is translated “of fire” in Rev. 9:17.¶ In the Sept., Ezek. 28:14, 16.¶
1. puroo (πυρόω, 4448) is translated “being on fire” (middle voice) in 2 Pet. 3:12. See fiery.
2. phlogizo (φλογίζω, 5394), “to set on fire, burn up,” is used figuratively, in both active and passive voices, in Jas. 3:6, of the tongue, firstly of its disastrous effects upon the whole round of the circumstances of life; secondly, of satanic agency in using the tongue for this purpose.
W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 2:240 (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1996).