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The Consuming Fire

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March 2021 - The Consuming Fire

Issue #392
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Issue #392March 2021

The Consuming Fire

Exodus 19:16, 17 says,

16 The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. 17 And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top.

The people saw the glory of the Lord as a consuming fire on the Mount. Forty years later the same “consuming fire” led them across the Jordan River. Moses says in Deut. 9:3,

3 Know therefore today that it is the Lord your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire…

Hence, the same glory that came down on the Mount to establish Pentecost was the glory that led them into the Promised Land forty years later. This established the pattern for the New Testament version of “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38 KJV). The glory came down to the disciples in the upper room on Pentecost, and that same glory will lead us into the Promised Land at the end of the church’s wilderness journey.

The main difference between the Israel church and the NT church is that the glory was external under Moses but internal in us. That is because under Moses the people lived under the Old Covenant, whereas we live under the New. They received the law on (external) tablets of stone; we have the law written internally on our hearts.

The Light and the Glory

Paul says in 2 Cor. 3:18,

18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Later, the same passage says in 2 Cor. 4:6, 7,

6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.

In the beginning God said, “Let there be light,” which Paul paraphrases as “Light shall shine out of darkness.” John tells us that this Light was Christ. “The Light shines in the darkness” (John 1:5). In John 9:5 Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world.”

The glory of God is the Light, and so the Son is the Light and glory of the Father, the Word spoken at the beginning, “the Firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15) and “the only-begotten God” (John 1:18). The word of God is the seed that begot the Son to reflect the glory of His Father.

This glory manifests as light, but its nature is to consume flesh—not so much physical flesh, but “the will of the flesh” (John 1:13). Flesh is anything in man’s will that opposes God or disagrees with His plan (agenda). Flesh prioritizes the rights of men over the rights of the Creator.

Manifesting His Glory

In the beginning, man was created to manifest the glory of God, that is, His fire. The Hebrew word for fire is esh, spelled alef-shin. Alef literally means an ox, signifying “strength” but also meaning “first,” since it is the first letter of the alphabet.

The letter shin literally means “teeth,” and signifies eating or consuming. Hence, esh is a strong consuming fire. It consumes as long as there is something to consume. The burning bush, on the other hand, had nothing to consume, so “the bush was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2).

With nothing to consume, the bush became a carrier of God’s glory. We are destined to become burning bushes as well, carriers of His glory, “when He comes to be glorified in His saints and to be marveled at among all who have believed” (2 Thess. 1:10).

In other words, the purpose of God for all creation will be fulfilled in us at His coming. The rest of humanity, those who did not believe in their lifetime, will be glorified later. They must first see God’s glory in the overcomers and hear the word, so that God’s seed may beget them as sons. For them there will be hope for the future, based on the New Covenant promise of God to save the world (1 John 2:2).

The True Man and True Woman

Gen. 2:23, 23 says,

22 The Lord God fashioned into a woman [ishah] the rib which He had taken from the man and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman [ishah] because she was taken out of Man [ish].

This is the first time Scripture uses the terms ish and ishah. These terms are built around the Hebrew word esh, “fire.” The word ish is spelled alef-yod-shin, which is esh with a yod in the middle.

A yod means “a closed hand,” signifying works or deeds. In other words, the man was created to do all things in the midst of the fire—the glory of God. All that he does ought to reflect God’s deeds. Moses pictured this when he came off the mount with his face glowing with God’s glory in Exodus 34:29,

29 It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him.

The fact that Moses was holding “the two tablets of the testimony” suggests that his works were engulfed in the glory of God. In that moment he pictured the true Man, whose purpose was to do only what he saw his Father do. So we read in verse 32,

32 Afterward all the sons of Israel came near, and he commanded them to do everything that the Lord had spoken to him on Mount Sinai.

This was, of course, the second giving of the law. Moses had broken the first tablets of the law (Exodus 32:19). Later, we read in Exodus 34:1,

1 Now the Lord said to Moses, “Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered.

The two sets of Ten Commandments represent the law being given under the two covenants. Under the Old Covenant, the law was broken (“shattered”); under the New Covenant, the same law was given, and, when written on our hearts (Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10), would not be broken.

In other words, the New Covenant did not dispose of the law but relocated them in our hearts so that the true Man could fulfill them perfectly.

As for the true Woman, the Hebrew word is ishah, “what comes from fire.” The word is esh plus the hey, which, when it appears at the end of a word, means “what comes from.”

Moses had just returned from the fire on the Mount. Thus, he manifested the true Woman, not in gender but in purpose. He came forth from the midst of the fire.

Hence, in that moment Moses pictured Man-Woman in the image of God. God is complete in Himself, lacking nothing. The man (awdawm, or Adam) in Gen. 1:25 was in God’s image, being complete. Later, however, God took the Woman out of Man, making each incomplete without the other. Only through unity (agreement), could they remain complete.

Such is the purpose of marriage. God separated the two, not to cause division but to establish the law of the double witness, whereby they could know the will of God.

The Man is a reflection of the Father God, Yahweh, while the Woman is a reflection of the Mother side of God, El Shaddai. Though God is one, Man and Woman are now two biologically, but one in the eyes of the law (Gen. 2:24).

The oneness of God is stated in Gen. 17:1,

1 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, Yahweh appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai.”

Yahweh is El Shaddai, for there is one God who is able to manifest in multiple ways. In this case God identified as El Shaddai because the promise was being given that Sarah would bear a son (Gen. 17:19). Later, it was Yahweh who came down as the consuming fire upon Mount Sinai to give the law and bring discipline to the son (Israel) that had been born out of Egypt.

The name Yahweh was unknown to Moses prior to his call at the burning bush. In Exodus 6:2, 3 we read,

2 God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am Yahweh; 3 and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but by My name Yahweh I did not make Myself known to them.

When Moses compiled the eleven family histories in what we know as the book of Genesis, he inserted this newly-revealed name of Yahweh into the text, beginning with the second manuscript (Gen. 2:4). The first manuscript refers to the Creator as “God” (Elohim); the second manuscript refers to the Creator as “The Lord God” (Yahweh Elohim). It is the same God under different names.

It is unfortunate, in my view, that most translators chose to translate the original names, rather than present them to us in their original form. The translators have hidden the male and female side of God by not telling us about Yahweh and El Shaddai. Most people have lost the prime Example of New Covenant marriage principles, especially that of unity and agreement instead of division and obedience (as a slave, or servant).

The Law as the Consuming Fire

God came down on Mount Sinai to give the law and bring discipline to His son that was born out of Egypt. The Father manifested as a consuming fire, whose purpose was to “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11). The giving of the law occurred on the day later known by the Greek name, Pentecost.

While Passover commemorated the birth of Israel out of Egypt, Pentecost commemorated the discipline of the sons. Such discipline, coming through the law, is the mark of a legitimate son, for Heb. 12:8 says,

8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

Hence, we are not to despise God’s discipline, which is to say, we are not to despise His law. Discipline brings maturity. Immature sons are no different from slaves (Gal. 4:1). If any believer wishes to be a slave, all he needs to do is to despise the law of his Father.

It is ironic, then, how many believers love God but despise the law, thinking that the path to freedom is to cast out the law. To compound the matter, they hold fast to the Old Covenant. They ought to cast out the Old Covenant and keep the law, not the other way around.

Many Pentecostals want the fire (glory) of God, but they think the discipline of God’s law cramps their freedom. The result is an astounding mixture of faith and sin. This is well illustrated by the story of Saul, who was crowned king on the day of wheat harvest, i.e., Pentecost (1 Sam. 12:17). Saul prophesied and yet rebelled against God’s discipline. So the proverb arose in Israel, “Is Saul also among the prophets?”

When men encountered a strange contradiction, they would throw up their hands and say, “Is Saul also among the prophets?” In other words, “This is crazy! I don’t understand!”

Saul, the Pentecostal king, was given to us as the prime example of the church in the Pentecostal Age. Not only does each year in the reign of Saul represent a Jubilee cycle (49 years) in church history, but his lawlessness prophesies of the rebellion in church leadership over the centuries.

Hence, the corruption in the church does not overthrow my faith but strengthens it, for this very corruption was prophesied in the word of God in the story of Saul. His word is true, and my faith is in God, not in the church. My faith is based on His word, not upon the character of the church.

Paul tells us that our faith precedes our works and that our salvation is based on faith in the promises of God. The book of James shows us that our faith is demonstrated by our works and that faith without works is dead (James 2:17).

Both are true. Each apostle deals with a different problem. If our faith bears no fruit, it is lifeless. If we base our salvation on works (i.e., the will of man), it is faith in ourselves, not in God. Both problems are seen in the church.

If “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38 KJV) had been willing to hear God’s voice, the law might have been written on their hearts. Instead, they begged for an indirect relationship with God. They sent Moses up the Mount to hear God, preferring to hear Moses, rather than God.

Hence, the psalmist looks back at Israel’s history and says, “Today if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7, 8). To hear His voice is to boldly overcome the fear of God’s consuming fire. But if one thinks that the fire is evil, how can he or she draw near without fear of being burned?

Men cast aside the law of God, because the flesh fears the consuming fire of God. They want the glory without the discipline. They want life without dying to self. They want sovereign grace while still remaining in control of their salvation. None of this makes any sense. Is Saul also among the prophets?

The lawless nature of the flesh contradicts the purpose of Pentecost, which is to burn chaff (flesh) and set us free from our own slave master, the will of the flesh. This terrorizes the flesh, causing all sorts of mischief and deception that would turn us aside from the entering the fire of God. The fire is misunderstood, for they equate it to “hell,” rather than to the “fiery law” (Deut. 33:2 KJV).

God’s Nature: The Standard of Law

When God appeared as fire, it was meant to reveal the divine nature that is supposed to be in man and the earth in general. The earth was created to express the nature of God. This could happen only if everything on earth was in submission to the laws (commands) of God. More to the point, this could happen only if the earth was in agreement with heaven.

This describes also a New Covenant marriage between heaven and earth. It is not enough for the earth to obey God; the earth must do the will of God, not by compulsion but by agreement. This is the prophesied destiny of the earth. The earth is not destined for destruction but for marriage.

The problem of sin and death has delayed this marriage for thousands of years. God’s Old Covenant marriage covenant at Mount Sinai failed and ended in divorce, because it was based on the will of man. The New Covenant marriage cannot fail, because it is based on the will of God and His ability to keep His promises, vows, and oaths.

In all of this, the law of God is the standard by which all sin and righteousness is measured. The law is an expression of His nature, to which all must conform in the end. So too the divine court judges all sin according to the law, that is, how well our behavior measures up to the divine nature.

The judgments of the law, then, are pictured as a fire. The “fiery law” (Deut. 33:2) is not about burning people at the stake (or in “hell”) but is rather about applying the law of God to correct and reconcile all things through justice. Justice is not done until all the victims of injustice have received restitution.

Justice cannot be done under the principle of “eternal torment.” Never-ending judgment is incapable of bringing divine justice to a conclusion. It does nothing for the victims, nor does it allow God to fulfill His vows to save the world. Therefore, even the law of Jubilee, which limits the time of judgment, is an aspect of God’s “fire.”

The law of beatings is another example, for the law limits such judgment to forty lashes (Deut. 25:3). Jesus called this form of judgment a “fire” in Luke 12:49, for after telling us about the few or many lashes that will be administered in the day of judgment, He says,

49 I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!

Jesus was not anxious to send people to hell, as many have interpreted this. He wished to kindle that fire in order to bring correction and reconciliation to the world through divine judgment.

The River and Lake of Fire

Daniel was shown a vision of the great White Throne judgment at the end of the age. Dan. 7:9, 10 says,

9 I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, its wheels were a burning fire. 10 A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him… The court sat, and the books were opened.

The “river of fire” proceeded out from the fiery throne as it judged those who were being raised from the dead. Centuries later, John saw a similar scene, except that he saw a “lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14). The river has produced a lake downstream. His vision focused upon the long-term results of that judgment.

Whereas Daniel saw the judgment being meted out, John saw the decrees of the Judge being carried out for the allotted time until the Creation Jubilee.

The fiery justice of the law demands recompense for the victims, not mere punishment inflicted upon the sinner. The purpose of the law (in the mind of God) is to restore sinners by making them pay restitution to their victims. When the payment is complete, the sinner and his victim are restored.

This is the “fire” of the law. The law does not demand eternal torture as payment for sin, for if it did, then Jesus would have had to pay that penalty to save us.

The sacrifices under the Old Covenant pictured Christ’s true Sacrifice on the cross. Though the burnt offerings were burn up completely in the fire, Jesus fulfilled this by dying on the cross. He was not burned by a literal fire, nor was this necessary to fulfill the prophetic type.

It was the law that “burned” Him. He took upon Himself the full penalty of the fiery law, including forty lashes. The judgment was very real, but the law does not demand that anyone should be burned alive or eternally tortured. The books that are “opened” at the Judgment are the books of the law, because God judges all men by His own law, not by the laws of men, and certainly not by church law.

The consuming fire is designed to consume the flesh, so that all may be cleansed and glorified. In this way God fulfills His oath to fill the earth with His light and glory.