“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. -Mark 9:43-49 ESV
“…he has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain. Therefore, receiving a Kingdom that can’t be shaken, let us have grace, through which we serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” -Hebrews 12:26-29
A while back, a friend of mine said something that struck me as profoundly true: the “fire” spoken of many times in the New Testament is nothing other than the presence and being of God. Let’s always remember, an essential part of who God is and what He does is “consuming fire.“ In the end, the fire of God’s presence “shakes,” consumes and permanently ends all that is based on the fearful mind of man apart from the spirit, including all inward and outward selfishness, oppression, wickedness, falsehood, and perversion. These are the “wood, hay and stubble” that Paul said are destined to burn up in fire.1 It can be no other way. Wicked men won’t “burn forever” any more than wicked systems or institutions will. Our God is not a torturing fire, He is a CONSUMING fire. What can remain after undergoing such intense Fire? Well, think about this: the only thing that no fire can consume is a fire like itself.
Jesus famously prayed that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven,2 and I think we can agree on two things: 1) This prayer is inevitably going to be fulfilled, and 2). This reality has not fully manifested yet, in time and space. If it WILL be fullfilled, then all that remains to be seen is when and through whom. When will the members of Christ’s body lay down the illusion of OUR valuable independent lives to receive and live by the Life of the Spirit? Or, will the vast majority of us continue to fearfully oppose and resist the Spirit of the very God we claim to worship, while covering our hearts in the armor of fear, ignorance and pride? Paul said the manifestation of God’s reign on earth is characterized by “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”3 These qualities are only found when and where men follow Christ, loving one-another as themselves, where leaders are servants, the last are first, and meekness is recognized as strength. The Kingdom is not merely “moral.” It is LOVING – a far costlier way.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Romans 11:33-36. In the ESV translation it says this:
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”
All things are from God, through God, and to God. Isn’t that amazing? This is a solid hope: both the source and destination of the universe is God, who is love, light, spirit and consuming fire. The fire must first consume, but love DOES win. I refer to this as a “solid hope,” because in spite of whatever chaos and pain and lack of clarity we may find ourselves surrounded by, it remains true. This solid hope is like a beacon in darkness, a northern star to navigate by. It’s a truth to receive, build upon, and act in accordance with. What it is NOT is an excuse to continue following the “flesh” down a path of selfishness and fear (even if masked by religion). If we use divine truth as an excuse for the flesh, we are doubly guilty and awaiting God’s consuming fire to burn us and all we’ve built. Even worse, living such a way contradicts and dishonors the Father.
At the top, I quoted Jesus’ words in Mark 9:49, where he said we will ALL be salted with fire. In context, Jesus was talking about hell and is clearly saying that ALL will undergo the fire of hell itself. That alone should make us take another look at what we have thought “hell” is. Everyone, at least at first, has desires, ambitions, motivations, fears, enjoyments, and whatever else, which have been kept away from God, knowing that if they are exposed, they will be consumed. Well, I have news for us all: they will be exposed and consumed anyway! If we willingly bring them to the light to be exposed and to the fire to be consumed and refined, we will become children of light and have less to hinder our progress along path of righteousness, and we will not have to be burned by force later. This is largely what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 11:31, when he wrote: “But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.”
I am speaking to myself as much as to anyone – keeping in mind the inevitability of Fire, let’s allow it to burn away our chaff and wickedness now. Again, this isn’t about “sin,” but more about selfishness, fear, and ignorance. Let’s let go of these and surrender to humility and love, following Paul’s counsel in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: “…do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Finally, think about this: not one single thing we can see with our physical eyes is eternal. Nothing. This simply means we should treat the physical world as transient and, in a sense, illusory, valuing and devoting ourselves much more fully to things which we can only see with the eyes of our hearts, things of the Spirit realm which won’t end, such as love, peace, joy, compassion, healing, kindness, faithfulness, self-denial, gentleness, righteousness, patience, faithfulness, truth, etc. This is how Jesus lived, and all who will follow him as a Son of God will devote themselves to these things as well.
Thank you for reading.
- 1 Corinthians 3:11-15
- Matthew 6:10
- Romans 14:17