THE BAPTISM WITH FIRE
Copyright © 2011 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Philippians 3:10)
There is a baptism with the Holy Spirit. Then there is a baptism with fire.
"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:11,12)
I am writing this brief essay because I believe a time of trouble is coming to the United States. We must arm ourselves with the recognition that suffering is a necessary part of our redemption. If we hold steady in faith and trust in God, we will be delivered from sin.
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (I Peter 4:1,2)
Each of us must be baptized with fire if we are to be of any use to God and man. If we hold steady during our trial we yet shall see the Glory of God.
The fiery trials of the saints can be severe indeed. They remind us of Job and what he endured in order to come to know the God of the house of God.
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. (I Peter 4:12)
But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner's fire or a launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years. (Malachi 3:2-4)
The reason for the fiery trial is given in the passage above: "Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD."
No individual enjoys suffering or desires to suffer. He would be mentally or emotionally ill if he did. But suffering plays an important role in preparing the saint for fellowship with Christ and God.
Why is this? It is because the sufferings of the cross destroy the major wall between us and God. That wall is self-centeredness.
The sufferings of the cross consist of the deferral of our most intense desires or the compelling of us to continue in situations that are not of our choosing. These imprisonments may last for many years. But they destroy out of us our self-will, self-love, self-centeredness—those traits that prevent us from entering rest in God's will.
This is how Job changed. He began as a righteous man, a religious man. When his trial was completed, He had seen God and had come to know God in a much greater way.
We Christians suffer through life the same as non-Christians. Many are the afflictions of the righteous. This world in which we are endeavoring to please God is the valley of the shadow of death. These pains and frustrations accompany life on the earth.
In order to make our stay here pleasant we must gain our pleasure at the expense of other people. The person who indulges himself in that which is pleasant and avoids what is unpleasant is a baby. He must be carried through life by disciplined people.
Such individuals may "accept Christ" as often as they wish; but they never will have fellowship with God. God is with those who patiently are denying themselves, carrying their cross behind Christ, and bearing their own problems and sometimes the problems of others as they push through various problems and pressures.
Every believer sooner or later will be put in the Lord's prison. We have to learn during those years to look for the little flowers, the small blessings that may be found in our valley. If we instead concentrate on what we cannot have, our cross will become unbearable. It is those who delight themselves in the Lord during the periods of deprivation who finally gain the desires of their heart.
The Lord promises the believers in the church in Smyrna that if they remain faithful to death they will receive the crown of life. That is just what it takes! We must place all of our treasures in Heaven, accepting the fact that we may not see them again until we die. Any consecration less than this will not survive the time of testing.
The chaff in our lives must be burned up with the unquenchable fire of the Lord if we are to walk with Him in the Fire that is God.
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? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off. (Isaiah 33:14-17)
God is a Consuming Fire, He is Everlasting Burnings. If we are to walk with God, as did Enoch, then we must behave righteously and speak the truth. Grace, in the sense of God "seeing our behavior through Christ," will not suffice for fellowship with God.
If we are to live with the Fire of Israel we must despise the gain of oppressions, that means profiting unfairly from the labors of others. We must not allow ourselves to be swayed in judgment by people who would bribe us with favors or compliments. We must not gossip or listen to gossip, making decisions about people only as we are hearing from Christ.
If we will live like this, we will be with Christ where He always is—in the Center of God's Person and will. The Lord Himself will be our wall against the enemy. In the day of famine we will have food and drink.
Best of all, our mind will be set on Christ. He always will be in front of us. Our affection will be on things above where Christ sits on the right hand of God. All this will be true if we live by the Life of Christ and not by the life of our fallen nature.
The baptism with fire, the fiery trials that every true saint must endure, will burn away that in us which is sinful and self-willed. But we must not seek to escape from our prison. If we do escape before God is finished dealing with us, we will be put back in prison and given a longer sentence; or, far, far worse, God may allow us to go on our own way until we appear at the Judgment Seat of Christ and are sent away into one of the areas of the Land of Darkness to await the final resurrection.
There are seven feasts of the Lord. The sixth feast, that which takes place before the final, climactic feast of Tabernacles, is the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement might be termed The Day of Reconciliation, because it is during that experience we are reconciled to God.
When we first come to Christ and are baptized in water, we enter the Kingdom of God. The Passover blood shields us when God judges the gods of the world, passing over us as destruction stalks the land.
After being born again and filled with God's Spirit, we are ready to enter the experiences that will reconcile us to God and God to us. It may be a time of darkness, during which the joy we had formerly seems to have left us.
There may be sickness, or the loss of a loved one, or economic hardships, or trouble in our family. We no longer may be the happy Christian, rejoicing that we have so much faith that we do not have the troubles we see other people having.
Then the axe falls. Perhaps not as dramatically as in the case of the righteous Job, but sooner or later we begin to wonder if we are in a tunnel or a grave. The outlook is dark.
Day unto day is filled with speech, but night unto night brings the knowledge of the holy. We can remember how blithe we were when we had been saved for a few years. We knew all about Christ, we thought. We sang the triumphant songs of Zion. We loved Christ and Christ loved us.
But if we are called to be in the image of Christ, we have to experience the sufferings of Christ. After all, resurrection follows crucifixion.
But what are the sufferings of Christ? Rejection, for one thing. When God begins to show us that we are shallow and fellowshiping with shallow believers, we may say unwise things. Remember Joseph! Your brothers and sisters won't want to have you around if you are being called into a deeper walk. Do you remember how Job's friends treated him? Your Christian friends will treat you the same way when they see God humble you.
Christ was a popular preacher, we might say. But when He spoke of the important aspect of the Kingdom of God, such as eating His flesh and drinking His blood, the multitude left Him.
The experience of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane goes far beyond our comprehension. He felt God leave Him. The fear was that He would never be restored to God's Presence.
In some of our darkest hours we may wonder if we ever will experience the Presence of Christ again. We have to trust, just as Christ had to trust, that God will never abandon the person who is trusting in Him. Christ had to survive by trusting in the faithfulness of God, and we have to survive by trusting in the faithfulness of Christ.
The Roman method of execution was bad enough, and also the pain and humiliation as Christ was being taunted by the Roman soldiers. But the real test had to do with the fear that He never again would be rejoicing in the ivory palaces. We too have to trust that our present distress will not continue after the grave.
Those of my readers who have experienced the baptism with fire know exactly what I mean.
Our fellow Christians often have no idea what we are suffering.
"He wouldn't be having that trouble if he had faith. She must be doing something wrong. I heard some things about him that may account for what he is going through. What? Her son was killed? She must in some manner have been responsible. I always knew he was not as pure as he claimed to be."
Do not expect understanding or comfort from your friends. They are enjoying life as you formerly did. The best medicine that Job's friend could have been given would have been a severe case of boils.
I believe I am correct in claiming that the higher one's calling in the Kingdom is, the more that individual is going to share in the sufferings of Christ. Few of us are called to sacrifice our son, as was Abraham. But look at Abraham's destiny? Look at how the testimony of Job has strengthened people?
There are many passages in the Book of Second Corinthians that tell of the sufferings of the Apostle Paul. Paul had learned to live as though he was continually dying. He had the sentence of death in himself.
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. (II Corinthians 1:8,9)
Paul could have been a rich Jew, residing in the City of Tarsus as a born Roman citizen. Instead Paul's life was one area of suffering after another. All this trouble was necessary if Paul was to attain to the high place of fruitfulness in the Kingdom to which God had called him.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (II Corinthians 4:8-10)
According to the Apostle Paul, such sufferings were the path to the inward resurrection, the necessary preparation for the resurrection when Christ next appears. They also were the means of bringing forth eternal life to those to whom Paul ministered.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)
Those who are to be resurrected when the Lord appears must pass before the Judgment Seat of Christ right now. Some of the sufferings of the righteous are the result of this judgment.
Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (II Corinthians 6:4-10)
Why so much trouble and suffering for the man whom God had called to minister to the Gentiles? Simply because of Paul's high rank and role in the Kingdom. To this day we are studying what Paul wrote. Paul's fruitfulness in bringing the image of Christ to other people has been incalculable. His fruit has come from the resurrection life that enabled Paul to bear with his numerous pressures and pains.
For when we came into Macedonia, this body of ours had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. (II Corinthians 7:5)
Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? (II Corinthians 11:23-29)
The above portray Paul's sharing in the sufferings of Christ. I wonder sometimes if Christ is suffering today as His beloved servants experience every kind of trouble, deprivation, pain, and persecution. It is a fellowship of sharing in Christ's sufferings. Intercessors may experience some of this pain.
Paul at one time was caught up to the third heaven, to Paradise. He heard "inexpressible things." This tells us that when we are called on to bear unusual hardships we will be given unusual grace as a compensation.
Paul then was sent a "messenger of Satan." It has been speculated that this was some sort of infection in his eyes. Notice that Paul did not "rebuke the devil,"as is fashionable today. Rather he pleaded with the Lord three times to remove the affliction from him.
Paul prayed until he received an answer. We term this "praying through." When we have a dire need we are to pray until we know we have been heard. When we know God has heard us, we know we have the answer.
It appears as though God did not answer Paul by removing the affliction immediately. But God always answers prayer. The deepest desire of Paul was to serve Christ. His affliction enabled him to do that. This was Paul's answer at a higher level.
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12:7-10)
Paul had experienced "surpassingly great revelations." After all of the troubles he had experienced you would think he would have had no problem with deceit. But we humans have a desperately wicked sinful nature. We have to suffer much before the wall of self-seeking that prevents our full reconciliation to God is completely torn down.
Fiery suffering always is experienced by those whom God has chosen to be near Himself. They learn to walk in that consuming fire; to love the purifying influence that removes their sin and self-love. The sufferings of the cross are not enjoyable but they result in the righteousness, love, joy, and peace that we so desire.
The baptism with the Holy Spirit is of great importance in our redemption. The Spirit leads us into the rest of God, where we abide in God's Presence and will.
The baptism with fire also is of great importance. It burns away the chaff in our life so that we come before the Lord as a spirit completely free from every aspect of Satan's personality and behavior.
Zion always is redeemed with judgment and her converts with righteousness. Judgment always begin in the household of God, and that accounts for our fiery trials. We enter the Kingdom of God through much tribulation. God's elect always receive double punishment for their sins.
The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. (Isaiah 4:4)
The Lord chastens every son whom He receives. This experience can be very unpleasant, but it yields a harvest of righteousness and peace. In this manner we become a partaker of God's holiness.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." (Hebrews 12:4-6)
The Lord Jesus told us that those whom He loves He rebukes and chastens.
There is a teaching today that "Jesus did it all"; that our judgment was completed on the cross. This idea does not at all fit the Scriptures or the manner in which God deals with us.
It assuredly is true that the Lord Jesus destroyed the legal hold that Satan has on us. But our sinful nature, that which keeps us from being reconciled to God completely, dwells in us. We have been forgiven by means of the blood atonement; but we have not been delivered.
Deliverance is accomplished through judgment. The evil that is in us must be judged and cast out. Therefore we have been commanded to confess our sins that we might be forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness.
In addition to the sin that dwells in us, there also is what we might term "native" sin, or "original" sin that is part of our spirit as a human being. The Spirit of God deals with these through things we experience, sometimes accompanied by severe pain and other sorts of suffering. Our part is to present our body as a living sacrifice that we might understand the will of God at every moment.
We also have a problem with our self-will, the desire to live our own life in the manner we desire. The Spirit of God deals with the chains of self-will, self-love, and all other forms of rebellion by keeping us in prisons of one sort or another. Our intense desires are deferred. What we want we cannot have, without breaking God's laws. We are compelled to endure distressing circumstances—sometimes for years on end.
If the reader should find what I am saying too hard, too unpleasant, it is because he or she is not oriented properly to the rigors of discipleship. We must—each one of us—have the sentence of death in ourselves. We must place all of our treasures in Heaven, having no hope that we will receive them until we die.
The Christian teaching of our day is altogether too soft, when we compare ourselves with the heroes of faith who have gone before us. They are described in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews.
Even today, in many parts of the world, the believers in Christ are suffering as much as many of their brothers and sisters have suffered throughout history. The prophets of God do not enjoy comfortable living, and every true Christian is a prophet of God in that he or she reveals the Person of God, His will, His way, and His eternal purpose in Christ.
The spiritual fulfillment of the Day of Atonement has begun. The trumpet has sounded in the spirit world, and the task of reconciling man to God, and God to man, has begun.
The atonement has been made for our sins, and also the sins of the whole world. So in that sense, mankind has been reconciled to God through the blood of the cross. This is true legally. But in order for the reconciliation to be complete, we have to accept God's chastening that we might be His sons.
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:2)
We love God and we want to please Him, most of us, but there are aspects of our personality that must be removed from us before we are in the image of Christ and at peace in the Center of God's Person and will.
Notice the following:
"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (II Corinthians 6:17,18)
We can understand therefore that if we are to be a child of God we must cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.
As I stated, the Day of Atonement, Day of Reconciliation has begun. If you are walking close to Jesus you may find that sins you thought you would never be troubled with are coming to the surface. They are in your personality but have remained hidden.
Now the Spirit of God is calling them out. You must confess them specifically as sin and turn away from them. You cannot say to God that you are a helpless sinner and that He must deliver you from your entire wicked nature. Rather, you must face your actions one at a time, confess them, denounce them, renounce them, and turn away from them with all your strength. Christ will help you and deliver you from that which has been confessed.
There are no shortcuts. This is the spiritual fulfillment of the Day of Atonement of the Jews. It will continue from now until the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age. When the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descends through the sky to be established for eternity upon the gigantic new earth, no sinful behavior of any sort will be acceptable. God's victorious saints will see to that.
Will people be able to sin even in the holy atmosphere of Heaven, as Adam and Eve sinned while they were in Paradise on the earth? Yes, man and angels have been endowed by their creator with the ability to make choices. But the saints will maintain order so that Paradise is not lost to us again.
Now we can understand readily why those who are to govern the new world, God's kings, judges, and priests, must endure the baptism with fire. We must be delivered completely from sin and self-will if we are to serve God throughout the ages to come.
There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:5)
Over whom will the saints reign? They will reign over the saved peoples from the nations of the earth.
Why will there be a need for rulers? To insure that God's will is done by the citizens of the new earth.
There must be a cleansing of the Kingdom, because sin is not acceptable. All kinds of people are brought in when the salvation call goes out. So there must come a time of sifting:
"As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." (Matthew 13:40-43)
I would imagine all Christian people know intuitively there will be no sinful behavior in the Kingdom of God. But we have not known how this can be accomplished.
One theory is that God always will relate to us by "grace," meaning He doesn't see our sinful behavior because He "sees us through Christ."
But that is not practical, is it? We do not want to live in a world where everyone is acceptable to God by "grace" but who cause all kinds of pain and confusion for the rest of us.
There is no doubt in my mind but that the current teaching of grace as an alternative to a change in our behavior is the most deadly error ever to enter Christian thinking. It has destroyed the testimony of the Christian churches, the only God-given source of moral standards, with the result that our government is in moral shambles.
Divine judgment cannot be far off because of the current emphasis on sexual lust, the acquisition of more money than we need, violence, and entertainment.
The Bible says if a nation repents, God will hear from Heaven and heal the land. But there will be no repentance in America because we have been taught that God does not see the sinful behavior of Christians. How can Christians repent and save our nation when we have nothing to repent of?
The best an American Christian can do in the current hour is to save himself and his loved ones by serving God faithfully.
Then there is the thought that at Christ's coming we all will be changed "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye." But this teaching is from the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation and is speaking of the change in the body only, not of the personality.
In the parable of the sower we see that Christ did not glorify the lazy servant. Rather, He took his Kingdom resources and sent him away into the outer darkness, referring to him as a wicked, lazy servant. So much for our being changed when the Lord appears.
First John, in the third chapter, claims we will be like Him when He appears. Then the chapter proceeds to detail what probably is the strongest warning about sinful behavior to be found in the entire New Testament.
I think numerous Christians believe that while they do not serve Christ as they should, once they die and go to Heaven they will be model saints. However, there is no scriptural basis for the belief that death will be our redeemer. Death is referred to as the "last enemy."
What kind of change would take place in our personality when we die? It is true that the body will no longer be part of us. But sin is a spiritual force, not a physical force. Sin began in Heaven with Satan and his angels. There is nothing in Heaven that will prevent us from sinning or will give us a heart to obey God.
If we are proud now we will be proud after we die. If we tell lies now we will tell lies after we die. lf we will not forgive people now we will not forgive people after we die. Why should we change? What power would change us that is not now available to us?
The Apostle Paul longed for a redeemed body so he could behave righteously. He referred to his body as a body of sin and death. And so it was. But Paul's inward nature was living by the Life of Christ; and so once he was shed of his physical body he was free from sin and disobedience.
What will take place after we die, however, is that we shall be placed with people who behave as we do. God does not like mixtures. The holy will go to be with the holy. The filthy will go to live with the filthy in the land of darkness in the spirit world. Such is the perfect justice of God, who will not permit sinful, self-centered people to destroy the Kingdom and Paradise God has prepared for the faithful.
The victorious saints are being judged today, during their lifetime on the earth. I expect this judgment is taking place also in the spirit world.
Soon the Lord Jesus will appear with His victorious saints and compel the doing of God's will on the earth.
After a thousand years of the rule of Christ and His saints, Satan will be released from the Bottomless Pit and lead the peoples of the earth in rebellion against Christ and His saints. This is the final exhibition of man choosing his own way instead of being obedient to God.
God then will destroy the present physical creation. All the dead of history, with the exception of those who had attained to the initial resurrection at the appearing of Christ, will be brought before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The dead will be judged according to the books that are opened at that time. Those who had lived decent lives, including those who did not reject Christ when He was presented to them, will be brought forward to citizenship on the new earth. They already have been reconciled to God by one means or another.
Those who refused the lordship of Jesus Christ will be thrown into the Lake of Fire to be forever with Satan and his angels. As the ages roll by, those in the Lake of Fire will become more and more a part of Satan. Those who were saved from the Lake of Fire will become more and more a part of Jesus Christ.
So in the end, all will be reconciled to God through Christ, except for those living in the Lake of Fire with Satan.
I wonder sometimes if there is only one fire. If we are part of Christ, the Fire of God strengthens us instead of destroying us. If we are not part of Christ, to be touched with the Fire that God is will be the worst torment we ever have experienced. I may be wrong about this, however.
In any case, there is a baptism with fire. Its purpose is to remove from God's Kingdom all that is not of Him. This baptism will begin with those who are the closest to God, and expand outward until everything of the Kingdom has been purified with the Divine Fire.
Who can walk with the Fire? He and she who have clean hands and a pure heart. They shall rest in the bosom of the consuming fire, rejoicing in holiness. To be holy is to be without mixture. When we are single of eye, our whole body being filled with light, we can dwell with God in righteousness, love, joy, and peace.
Let each one of us see to it that we do not come short of God's Glory!
And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God. (Zechariah 13:9)