Judgment by fire. God's spiritual fire is for cleansing......
by Phillip Raper on Monday, June 6, 2011 at 7:49pm ·
Believers are being tried and judged BY FIRE according to HOW we are living. What fire? God's fire. God's "CONSUMING [spiritual] FIRE" (Heb. 12:29)! God is SPIRIT and likewise His fire is SPIRIT. I have never heard a minister or teacher preach on the good and beneficial side of God's FIRE. Fire is usually portrayed as bringing about pain, evil, and destruction. Since God is GOOD (Luke 18:19), and God is SPIRIT (John 4:24), and God is INVISIBLE (Col. 1:15), why does the church teach the world that God as a CONSUMING FIRE (Heb. 12:29) is visible and not invisible, literal and not spiritual, and bad rather than good?
For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones [valuable traits of Godly spiritual character] wood, hay, stubble [carnal traits of no value]; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because IT SHALL BE REVEALED BY FIRE; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is" 1 Cor. 3:10
Every thought, every word, and every deed that proceeds out of the heart and mind of man is his "WORKS." And every thought, every word, and every deed of man will come into the judgment of Almighty God's "CONSUMING FIRE." Notice that it is both our things of great value: "gold, silver, precious stones," and our things of no value: "wood, hay, stubble" that are tried in the fire, God's Consuming Fire. Every person possesses knowledge, therefore, every person is a combination of both good and evil (for knowledge can only be a combination of both good and evil knowledge).
"Now if any man build upon this [spiritual] foundation [Christ] gold, silver, precious stones [godly character traits], wood, hay, stubble [carnal character traits]; Every man's work [thoughts, words, and deeds] shall be made manifest [become known, come to light]: for the day shall declare it [make it evident], because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is" (I Cor. 3:12-13).
The fire in these verses is no more literal than are the gold or stubble suggested as building materials. People do not construct large buildings out of gold, neither do they set them on fire after completion to see how well they will fare. This is all figurative and symbolic language to instruct us in much higher spiritual development. We are not literaI gardens of God neither are we literal buildings of God. But we are like gardens in certain ways—we are to produce good spiritual fruit. We are like buildings in certain ways—we are to be a spiritual dwelling place for God. We have works that are like gold and silver in certain ways—we have thoughts, words, and deeds of good and lasting value. We also have carnal and evil works—bad thoughts, crass words, and evil deeds that are of no lasting value and are only fit for destruction. Only God's SPIRITUAL FIRE can burn away spiritual wickedness and evils of the heart.
All of these material items are used as symbols of spiritual things. Therefore, of necessity, the fire that tries these material symbols is also SPIRITUAL. It is not possible to burn up with fire an inanimate character flaw without burning up the person who harbors it. Likewise, it is not possible to purge and purify the good qualities of character in a person with literal fire without burning up the individual that possesses them. But spiritual fire, God's all consuming, purging and purifying fire is perfectly suited to do just that. This trying and purging is not always pleasant, however, it is not a torture chamber either. Does this fire harm the physical person being purged in this fire? No, our merciful and graceful loving God and Father does not eternally torture humanity IN fire, but rather eternally saves humanity BY fire.
Let's read it and rejoice:
"Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he has built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED; YET SO AS BY FIRE" (1 Cor. 3:13-15).
NO ONE is tortured, killed, or annihilated in this fire! This fire of God SAVES people who go through it! There is salvation BY means of this fire. This fire is part of God's judgment and grace!
So 1 Cor. 3 cannot completely answer all that is contained within its verses without the aid of the ONLY other such Scripture in the Bible, Rev. 20. And Rev. 20 cannot completely answer all that is contained within its verses without the aid of the ONLY other such Scripture in the Bible, 1 Cor. 3!
Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 2: 12-13 that,
"Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might KNOW THE THINGS that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak [in only twelve more verses Paul Himself speaks of just such spiritual things concerning the judgment of men's works in fire] not in the words which man's wisdom teaches [not the same physical torture in physical fire taught by the foolish understanding of the church] but which the Holy Spirit teaches; COMPARING [OR MATCHING] SPIRITUAL THINGS WITH SPIRITUAL."
By comparing these two spiritually matched Scriptures with one another we can come to the truth of God's intention for BOTH of these fires that judge and try EVERY MAN'S WORK in their own order.
The fire of 1 Cor. 3 accomplishes the very same thing as the fire of Rev. 20 accomplishes. Both of these fires are symbolic. Literal fire does not burn up inanimate flaws (wood, straw and stubble) of human character. But AS literal fire does burn up literal wood, straw and stubble, SO ALSO does God's spiritual fire burn up human character flaws. We are not told of this "wood, straw and stubble" in the lake of fire, nor of the "gold, silver and precious stones." We learn from I Cor. 3 that this is the case with the lake of fire also because these two sets of Scripture are the ONLY spiritual match in the entirety of the Bible. And just as we learn new things and additional things about the lake of fire in 1 Cor. 3, we also learn something new and different in Rev. 20:10 that is not mentioned in 1 Cor. 3.
In this lake of fire of Rev. 20 we find a most unusual thing--brimstone. BRIMSTONE? OH NO! NOT BRIMSTONE! Isn't this lake of fire going to be painful enough without adding "brimstone?" First we learn from Christendom that the non-believers and wicked will be tortured for all eternity in literal white-hot fire, and now we read in the Scriptures that there is going to be BRIMSTONE in this lake of fire! Whose idea is it to add brimstone to this fire? Is this a cruel curse from Satan? That doesn't seem plausible seeing that this is GOD'S WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT, and not Satan's BLACK THRONE JUDGMENT. But why then would God be putting this cursed brimstone into this fire? Wait a minute... Maybe the brimstone isn't a cruel curse from God, but rather a marvelous blessing. Is that possible? With God all things are possible.
What is brimstone anyway? Everything in the book of Revelation is "signified" (SYMBOLIZED). We know that there is literal fire and there is spiritual fire; and there is literal brimstone, but is there also spiritual brimstone? Ask any nominal Christian why there is brimstone in the lake of fire, and he will probably tell you that it is there to make the fire hotter and more painful. Oh really? Is there something about brimstone that is caustic to the skin that would cause great pain? Does brimstone somehow cause fire to burn hotter and hotter? Does brimstone make the flesh hotter? Or is it corrosive material that eats away at the skin and flesh thus causing even more intense insane pain. The very sound of the word brimstone has come to represent something Satanic. Nothing could be further or diametric opposite from reality. Look up the word "brimstone" in any dictionary and you will find it defined as "sulfur." Brimstone is sulfur. What then are the properties and uses of sulfur? I have known the Scriptural meaning and uses of sulfur for a long time, but I had never looked up the word sulfur in my Encyclopedia Britannica before—what a revelation.
SULFUR: "It is often called brimstone (burning stone) and ignited sulfur is mentioned in the earlier records of many countries as having been used for religious ceremonies, for PURIFYING (fumigating) buildings and for bleaching cloth" (Encyclopedia Britannica, page 536d). Gee, I wonder if spiritual brimstone might be used to PURIFY and fumigate people and bleach their darkened hearts to a bright white? Under the caption: "Methods of Production—Ancient producers described their method of obtaining sulfur from its ore as PURIFICATION BY FIRE" (Page 537a)."Purification by fire." That sounds very Biblical. Does God "purify" good and wonderful things by "fire?" Yes, He does: The WORDS of the Lord are pure words: as silver [silver? Isn't the silver qualities of our character also tried in 'fire,' I Cor. 3:12-13?] tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times" (Psalm 12:6). Now we all know that the very "words" of God are not burned in a literal fire. But "AS" silver is tried in literal fire, so SPIRITUALLY God's words are tried in spiritual fire.
But surely, according to what we have been told by doomsday prophets of eternal hell, sulfur must cause great torturing pain when brought into contact with human skin, and wouldn't the smell alone be enough to suffocate all in its presence? Continuing: "Physical Properties—Sulfur is TASTELESS and ODORLESS. IT HAS NO ACTION ON THE SKIN" (Page 537d)!
So maybe it's just the heat that is intensified by the use of sulfur, and that is its purpose in the lake of fire—to increase the intensity of the fire's heat to cause more insane pain? Continuing: "Physical Properties—Sulfur is A POOR CONDUCTOR OF BOTH HEAT and electricity..." (Page 538a)! Imagine that—a POOR CONDUCTOR OF HEAT! Theoretically, if God were to put enough brimstone into the lake of fire it would protect those in the fire like an asbestos suit! Are you beginning to see the sheer folly in the church's teaching that the lake of fire and brimstone are literal? I sure hope so.
Let me give you some scriptural use of figurative fire.
"His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were as a flame of FIRE" (Rev. 1:14).
"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes though it be tarried with FIRE, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:7).
"And the tongue is a FIRE..." (James 3:6).
"And of the angels He says, Who makes His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of FIRE" (Heb. 1:7).
"Every man's work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by FIRE; and the FIRE shall try every man's work of what sort it is" (1 Cor. 3:13).
"For our God is a consuming FIRE" (Heb. 12:29).
"Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of FIRE on his head" (Rom. 12:20).
"John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I comes, the latchet of Whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with FIRE" (Luke 3:16).
"For EVERY ONE shall be salted with FIRE, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt" (Mark 9:49).
"But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appears? For He is like a REFINER'S FIRE, and like fullers' SOAP" (Malachi 3:2).
"...for all the earth shall be devoured with the FIRE of my jealousy" (Zeph. 3:8).
"For in My jealousy and in the FIRE of My wrath have I spoken" (Ezek. 38;19).
"From above has He sent FIRE into my bones..." (Lamentations 1:13).
"Is not My word like as a FIRE? saith the Lord" (Jer. 23:29).
"Who makes His angels spirits; His ministers a flaming FIRE" (Psalm 104:4).