Hebrews 12:29 – For our God is a consuming fire.
Hello readers, thanks for reading, and I hope this blog is a blessing to you. Today we are talking about “our God is a consuming fire”. What does that mean? What does the fire of God mean? Why did God often appear in fire? How is that relevant to us, what does that mean to me when I’m reading my Bible?
The Bible has a lot to say about fire, and how God is a consuming fire. Deuteronomy 4:24 – “For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” What God’s word is teaching us in the picture of fire is that God is holy. Maybe your eyes glaze over when you hear that, but God is wanting to teach us about his most important attribute in fire, which is holiness. Holiness is what marks his character, and holiness is also what should mark those who are saved. Holiness means perfect purity and integrity of moral character. God is above all else, holy. He always does good, he is always right, he is perfect in everything he says and does.
We read in Exodus 3:2 – “And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.” This is when God appeared and spoke to Moses, and he appeared to him in a flame of fire. When God appeared in the Old Testament, he often would appear in fire. We are going to talk a bit about Elijah later, but God showed up with fire then too which consumed the sacrifice Elijah had prepared and offered. The power of God, the true God is still found in the acceptable sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the gospel, and obedience to his word.
With fire comes the idea of purifying, purification and purity. Just look at a fire one day, it burns something to nothing. It’s clean and cleansing. Fire is the effect of combustion. Webster’s 1828 says “The combustible body ignited or heated to redness we call fire; and when ascending in a stream or body, we call it flame.” You burn stuff to get rid of stuff. In Australia we often get very bad bushfires. Just about half the country has been on fire at many times throughout history. That fire goes through and burns up everything. In winter where I live, we have a fire to keep us warm. We also do burn offs to get rid of wood that we’ve cut down or need to rid of. Recently we did a burn off and what was a huge stack of sticks, branches and logs was ash by the end of it.
In Exodus 13:21, the Bible says God went before the children of Israel in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When God appeared to the people at Mount Sinai the Bible says in Exodus 19:18 that “the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.” It was pretty scary stuff, and that’s why they retreated and asked Moses to make him stop, and why the Bible says so much about the fear of the Lord. Even Moses feared and quaked before the terrible sight. The fire isn’t something we want to touch too much. We want the love, but don’t talk about the fire. In fact most modern churches are like Aaron’s sons who offered strange fire. They prefer a different kind of fire. They don’t like the characteristic of God that is likened unto fire. His holiness, light, purity, truth, wrath, judgment… oh don’t go there.
The Bible says in Exodus 24:17 – “And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.” You’ve never seen the glory of God until you’ve seen the devouring fire. But God’s holiness and glory being likened by fire is not good news to us in an unsaved, unbelieving and rebellious state. He’s holy and good and right and clean… and we aren’t. That’s why we don’t want to get to close. We’re liable to get burnt up. When they saw the fire, and they heard the word of God out that fire, they were trembling, they pleaded with Moses to make it stop, the Bible says they could not endure that which was commanded.
See, before the holiness of God, all our self righteousness, everything we have and are just burns up before it. None of us are good enough. We are all dead wood, dead branches, dead sticks… we are all sinners, we all sin, we are all corrupt… and when people want to dispose of stuff, like contaminated equipment or bodies like in the plague, they gather them together and burn them. Just read Leviticus 13, the law of the leper, and God said “thou shalt burn that wherein the plague is with fire”. They’d burn people doing certain sins under the law, they’d burn the cities they conquered, they’d burn it to cleanse it out. Yes it was harsh and fearful, but it was for their good. Get that sin out, get the leaven and corruption out. Cleanse it out.
When I was thinking about God is a consuming fire, I began to think about hell, I began to think about judgment. Isaiah 33:14 – “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” What happens when I am exposed to the fire. What happens when my faith is put through a fiery trial. What happens when my works and life are put through the fire of God’s holy judgment? What on earth could be left. What could remain before the utter holiness, perfection and light of God? If all my life is corruption, darkness, and I am a worm… how can anything remain in that day?
God’s fire is going to try all of us. It tries us here, and when we stand before him, it sure will try us then. We have such a wrong idea of who God is in all our abominable idolatries as Peter says. Read this… Zechariah 14:12 – “And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.” What a plague. The idea of being consumed in God’s righteous judgment, before the light and glory and perfection of God is fearful. We have to have more than religion. We have to have more than the rotten rags of self righteousness and life of pride, lust and sin. How can you be living the life you are, with the heart you have, with the works you’ve done, and hope to abide the presence of the Lord God?
The Bible says that the fire of God broke out upon the people in the Old Testament. You may think God being holy is not relevant to you. But it is. It’s going to break out on you. The only thing keeping it back isn’t because he’s not any less fire… but because that fire is being held back by grace, mercy and longsuffering. God gave those nations in Canaan a long time, but then look in Deuteronomy 9:3 – “Understand therefore this day, that the LORD thy God is he which goeth over before thee; as a consuming fire he shall destroy them, and he shall bring them down before thy face: so shalt thou drive them out, and destroy them quickly, as the LORD hath said unto thee.” Understand? That’s pretty clear isn’t it?
We are all going to be tried by fire. Christians works are going to be tried by fire (1 Corinthians 3). For some Christians there will be nothing left but their life. Their entire life’s deeds and works are going to burn up. Nothing to show for your life spent here. That time you were given, that youth, that ability to serve God… and it all spent on yourself. The Bible says “the day shall declare it”, our entire life and being is going to be open and naked before God, revealed by fire. When you see the fire burning, nothing escapes it’s burning and it’s heat. We won’t get even the smallest, tiniest most insignificant imperfection of motive, will, attitude or thought past God. And if that’s towards Christians… what of unbelievers? The people who have not repented of their sin, they are going to dwell in the eternal fire. That’s what hell and the lake of fire is. Burning and burning and never quenched. Imagine that. It’s horrifying but true. A flame that cannot be put out on your sinful life. That’s why you should get saved today, get right with God today, while there is hope, while there is time.
They offered their sacrifices with fire in the Old Testament. And what God would teach them and us was that fire would consume a sacrifice that they offered for their trespasses and sins, and in so doing their sin would be atoned for. God’s fire will never go out. God’s fire has never stopped being God’s fire. You know, a fire still burns the same as it has always done. Fires lit thousands of years ago burn the same way today. God is unchanging. His standard for righteousness and holiness and perfection has not changed a bit. He is still just as holy, pure, and perfect as he has always been. He’s just as powerful and full of light and glory as he’s always been. The fire would burn up those sacrifices, a picture of God’s judgment and justice being meted out on the animal in place of the offerer. I’m sure when you brought you perfect little lamb in and it’s throat was cut and it’s burning on the altar, you sober up just a tad. You look internally just a bit. Don’t you think? And we are meant to do that with Christ.
In 1 Kings 18, the fire of God fell on Elijah’s sacrifice. What was God showing this unbelieving people? A nation that deserved the wrath of God for all their rebellion would be turned by seeing the fire fall on a sacrifice, a fire that sent the rain. But that fire of God burning up the sacrifice showed that in order to have mercy and forgiveness and be made right with God, justice must be served. This is vital. God doesn’t pervert justice. If you are a sinner, and we all are, your sins must be paid for, atoned for. God can’t just say, yeah that’s fine, I’ll look the other way because I love you. No, something had to endure the fire. Sins must be atoned for. God’s fire licking up that sacrifice shows God’s holiness being satisfied upon the offering of his Son for our sins. That sacrifice Elijah offered satisfied the fire and turned the hearts. There’s still power in obedience to the gospel. And after the fire came the rain. What a picture it is. There is no rain before the fire. There is no blessing before the cross. The land had been without dew or rain for over three years. If you are a parched sinner, the rain and dew of heaven will only come when you turn your eyes on Jesus Christ and believe on him for salvation from sin.
Either Jesus is consumed, yet not consumed, for you… or you will be forever consumed in God’s holiness and anger and wrath. That’s just the facts. See Jesus did endure God’s wrath, yet he was not consumed. Why do you think Jesus said “I thirst” on the cross. He was enduring the wrath of God against sin, he was enduring the fire. But God’s wrath was satisfied upon him. And Jesus rose from the dead. But when you are consumed, it is forever. You won’t cease to exist, you’ll just dwell with everlasting burnings as the Bible says. There was another man who was thirsty in the Bible, can you think of him in Luke 16, just wanting a drop of water to cool his tongue in hell… will that be you one day? Is the fire of God that awaits at the end of your life? The reason why hell and the lake of fire are forever is because you can never be good enough, the fire will never cease because you can never pay your sin debt. Hell is burning for eternity.
What struck me that I had never seen before was in Numbers 28:3 – “It is a continual burnt offering, which was ordained in mount Sinai for a sweet savour, a sacrifice made by fire unto the LORD.” It was a continual burnt offering that they offered. God had said that the fire shall never go out. You know, our entire eternity will always rely on who Jesus is, and what Jesus has done for us. The only reason we can continue, is because he continues forever. He only died once, and he rose once, that’s fact, and that one time offering of himself for sin is the basis for our eternal life. It’s a forever sacrifice, it has no expiry date.
So we’ve seen that the sacrifices were always burnt with fire because it’s showing God’s holy wrath and righteous anger and judgment against sin being meted out on an innocent animal. The reason they had to keep doing it though was because those sacrifices couldn’t take away their sin. They were merely pointing to the one, Jesus Christ, who would satisfy the fire of God. His onetime sacrifice of himself is an atonement that continues forever and is the basis of an eternal covenant and reconciliation between God and man for all who believe.
You know the first mention ever of fire in the Bible is in Genesis 19:24 – “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;” If you ever get the idea God is ok with your sin, think again. He is so holy. He is so perfect. He is so pure. He has such integrity of moral character even the slightest sin must be dealt with and avenged. And that’s comforting to me. God will deal with all this sin and evil and wickedness. His light will utterly dispel the darkness. God is no ok with sin. He’s not ok with sinners. The Bible says God is angry with the wicked every day. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is the first mention of fire, what does that tell you about what God thinks of sodomy and sexual perversion? And the Bible says that was an example to us, so we would not walk in the same footsteps they did. We have an example, we are without excuse.
Another thing that really stood out to me looking at “fire” in the Bible was how the children of Israel made their children pass through the fire to Molech. It made me think of the perversion of the message, the perversion of their religion and the perversion of the fire. That’s what happens when you change your God. Your new Bibles will have you doing all sorts of stuff and believing all sorts of stuff that isn’t God and that God did not command. Your complete distortion of God is your fault, the product of your perverse mind. What kind of a fire was that… a fire you’re throwing your own babies in to? I’m sure they thought they were serving God. But they were serving the devil. God never demanded that of them, to burn their babies to a pagan deity. The perversion of the fire is rife in churches today. And we are seeing so much sin and wickedness in the church house, in Christendom. Look at Aaron’s sons, they took strange fire and offered it to God. See, if God is pictured as a consuming fire, and they took strange fire, we see that they had a different “God”. They preferred a different kind of fire. Modern Christianity is guilty of trying to pervert the fire, change the fire, and it’s producing sin as ugly as them taking their flesh and blood down to Molech to try and appease their gods so that they could get better crops and harvests and advance their own selfish interests.
Mankind is wicked. It comes naturally to us. And the fire of God stands as a beacon, just like that pillar of fire by night, in the darkness of this world. God is still true. God is still holy. If you don’t have Jesus, you can’t approach to God, you can’t abide the day of his fierce wrath, you can’t abide his judgment, and that’s why you can’t abide and endure his word. They told Moses to make him stop, make it stop, it was too much for them at Mount Sinai. Maybe that’s why you’ve turned away from God, the fire is a bit too much for you… because your deeds are evil. You know, because of Christ we don’t come to Mount Sinai, but to heavenly Jerusalem, mount Zion… we as Christians have something even more fearful… such grace and mercy extended to us… the Bible says “see that ye refuse not him that speaketh”. Read about it in Hebrews 12.
There is just so much about fire in the Bible and the more you read, the more clarity God gives on who he is, and what he requires of us. In Numbers 11, the people complained and the Bible says it displeased the Lord, the Lord heard it, and his anger was kindled “and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp”. If you’re a Christian and you’re dwelling on the edge, you’re mixing your religion with world, with flesh, with sin… you have no idea what you’re doing and who you are messing with. On the fringes, on the edges of a camp that had the tabernacle of God, whom God dwelt among, people were getting burnt up. Think twice about straying from God, think twice about dwelling on the fringes of truth. God’s fire was burning people up, they were a rebellious, sinful, and lustful bunch.
Think about this verse… 1 Peter 4:18 – “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” What a verse. We gotta get back a right idea of who God is. We’ve got to get back to that view of the glory of God dwelling in fire on the tabernacle. Exodus 40:38 – ” For the cloud of the LORD was upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.” We are so deep in idolatry it’s mindboggling. The fire of God was kindled and burnt among the people, consuming them. You don’t mess with the fire, even though they did. People don’t like the fire of God’s word consuming their hard heart and rejection of truth. Is that why you depart from God, because his word consumes your lies, it throws light on your darkness… and you’re retreating away because like the children of Israel, there is an evil heart of unbelief in you.
We have already seen verses where the glory of God appeared as fire. That is his glory. He is perfect. He judges sin. He is angry with the wicked every day. And if you don’t have a sacrifice to bring that the fire can be satisfied upon, that fire will be on you, and it will consume you forever in a Christless eternity. God could’ve started Genesis with John 3:16, but you read through the Bible from start to finish and you’re going to get a really good view of God’s utter holiness before you see Jesus. Yes, Jesus is in it all now looking back, but God was teaching them about himself to prepare their hearts for the Saviour who would come. They really thought they could be good enough, do good enough, they had no idea who God was. They had to be taught who God was, they had to be taught what was right and wrong, they were that far removed from God. And so are we.
Israel would burn the cities and idols with fire that they conquered. Why is that? Get rid of these pagan wicked nations, get rid of everything so they don’t affect and influence us. When Korah led his rebellion against Moses, the Bible says the fire of the Lord consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense. It was a fiery law people. You know, when the fire of God burnt among the people, Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire was quenched (Numbers 11). When you pray that prayer of faith, when you plead the blood of Christ, when you ask for mercy, that’s what will quench that fire. You know, Jesus prays for us, he intercedes for us, it is on the basis of Christ that the fire can be quenced. That fire is on our heels, if you are not saved, you’re in danger of eternal fire. It’s as simple as that.
We need to realize God spoke out of the fire. We aren’t dealing with the word of man, we have the word of God. It is pure, perfect, preserved. It’s that pure, the fire doesn’t burn or consume it. When you dispute, doubt, deny, and disobey the word of God, you’re in trouble with God. When you call him a liar, you’re in trouble with God. His word does pretty well in the fire, how will you go in a fire of perfection? God’s word has no mistakes, it doesn’t need revising, it doesn’t need to be made more up to date, there are no problems with it. The problem is with you. God’s word spoke out of the fire just fine, how will you do when the fire comes on you? Moses saw a bush on fire, but not consumed. The only way you will not be consumed is if your faith and trust is in Jesus Christ. If you go into the fire with anything less than the righteousness of Christ, there will be nothing left.
The children of Israel said in Deuteronomy 5:25 – “Now therefore why should we die? for this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, then we shall die.” God had talked with them out of the midst of the fire and they were terrified. They’d received the ten commandments, a demand so high none of us could keep it. That’s the kind of man that’s not burnt up, the one that keeps the ten commandments. But we’ve all broken it. None of us are that good. Not even close. They saw the glory and holiness of God and they couldn’t endure it. There is only one blessed man, only one man of whom God himself gave testimony “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”, there is only one man who pleased and satisfied and was accepted by God. If you don’t place your faith and trust in him, and pin your soul and eternity to him, you’ve got nothing that will abide the flame of God’s righteousness, holiness and judgment.
How about this verse? Deuteronomy 32:22 – “For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.” When the Bible says God is a consuming fire, God is not joking. If you die unsaved and unbelieving and unrepentant, your eternity will be in the eternal fire. The flame will never be quenched. It will never be cooled. A drop of water would’ve just been nice for that rich man, but in his lifetime he refused and rejected the word of God, and now he is in his eternal state in fire and torments. It didn’t need to be that way. When Jesus said “I thirst” he took the unimaginable fire of God for us. He was going through what all those burnt sacrifices pictured and looked forward to for so long.
To finish, I’ve mentioned Elijah already but in 1 Kings 18:38 – “Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.” Elijah offered a sacrifice to God to prove who the true God was. Is it the Lord or is it Baal. There are many false Christs, but only one Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible. The nation was dry and desperate. If you want some water instead of fire, you must return to Jesus Christ. Because after the fire, God sent the rain. Your sin must be dealt with, confession must be made, truth must be acknowledged, and Jesus must be trusted in… for there to be rain. 1 Kings 18:41 – “And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain.”
I’ve often pictured this … 1 Kings 18:45,46 – “And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.” If you’ve ever been outside when a storm with driving rain has come in, you run! But what a rain it would’ve been. No rain for three and a half years because the nation was so wicked. And then suddenly, after Elijah prays and prays again and prays again, a cloud appears. And the wind starts blowing and the sky becomes black with clouds full of rain. If you don’t want to get soaked… run! You can imagine the Israelites who were there who couldn’t make it to shelter rejoicing and jumping up and down for joy in the driving rain. If you want water, you have to do what Elijah did, the rain comes off the back of repairing the altar, praying to the true God, and the true God answers based on his word “let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.”
The fire was satisfied upon the sacrifice, it consumed the burnt sacrifice. And then the rain. Jesus said he had the water of life, and you don’t need to have fire, you can have water. You can have mercy. The fire can be satisfied and not consume you because it rested upon Christ. And you can confidently approach God on the basis of Jesus Christ. That’s what incredible. If you’ve read the Old Testament and then go to Hebrews, the contrast is amazing. Jesus took the fire for us, and now we can walk the fire. The three Hebrew children walked the fire, and were not burnt, because there was a fourth guy in there… the Son of God. That’s the key. Having Jesus Christ in you, and living a life serving and obeying him is how to abide the fire. May God reveal himself to you through his glory in the picture of fire. He is holy, he is righteous, he is just, he always does what is perfectly good and right. In Christ is the only way we won’t be burnt up. It’s that simple. Our God is a consuming fire.
Hi, my name is Joseph Zadow. I am a 30 y/o Bible Blogger. I was new to blogging once! God’s word is the best thing that we can be given, and once we have it and know it for ourselves it is both a privilege and responsibility to bring it to others! We are blessed to be a blessing! I am a sinner (for sure!) saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and I am a Lord Jesus Christ follower. He is faithful even though I rarely am to him. I believe the Bible is the word of God, and stake my life on it. My destination is heaven. As they say, I’m just a passin’ through this world… although most of the time it’s more like hangin’ by a thread in Jericho! I love playing sports – particularly cricket… I currently work on an orchard and a side hobby business of mine is growing vegetables etc – they are good for you! I love writing. Always happy to talk, so feel free to leave a comment. You can read more about me and my blog here – kjvbibletruth.com/about :)