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Christ in the Flame of Fire
“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.” (Exodus 3:2)
When the Lord appeared to Abraham and confirmed his covenant to him, fire passed between the divided pieces of the sacrifice and consumed them (Genesis 15:17-18). In Exodus 3 the Lord God is about to send Moses back to Egypt to deliver his people, in fulfillment of that covenant promise he made to Abraham in Genesis 15:13-14. When he was about to fulfill his covenant by delivering his people from Egypt, we read in Exodus 3:2, “The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire.” Here we see Christ in the flame of fire, and have a clear example of fire used in a typical way portraying our blessed Savior.
We have before us a vision of Christ, the Angel of the Lord, in a bush burning with fire; and we are told specifically that our Savior appeared to Moses “in a flame of fire.” The afflictions of Israel were great, but the Lord’s mercies were greater. The Son of God appeared in a flame of fire, displaying his incomprehensible deity, majesty, and glory as our Deliverer and Savior.
Fire is a good, instructive type of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Light is always associated with fire; and our Savior declares, “I am the Light of the world” (John 8:12). He is the brightness of the Father’s glory and the express image of his person (Hebrews 1:3). His brightness is described as “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). All who follow the Lord Jesus, all who believe him, walk in the light as he is in the light. Walking in the Light, we confess our sins and confess that Christ alone is our Light and our Righteousness (1 John 1:1-2:2).
Fire provides heat and warmth. When the Lord Jesus comes to us, opens the Scriptures to us, and shows us things concerning himself out of the Book, he causes our hearts to burn within us. — “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us …and while He opened unto us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). When our hearts are cold as ice and hard as a stone, if Christ will appear, we are melted before him immediately.
We commonly associate purity and purification with fire. And, when Christ the Sun of Righteousness arises in our hearts with healing in his wings (Malachi 4:2), giving us life and faith in him, we stand with him and in him pure before our God with “a pure conscience,” clothed in the pure, white linen of his righteousness (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
We all know that fire is consuming. When our Lord Jesus comes in grace, he is our Light and our Purification. By his presence and his grace, we are warmed. But when he comes upon his enemies in wrath and judgment, he comes to consume. He is a consuming fire for us, going before us to destroy our enemies (Deuteronomy 9:3; Hebrews 11:29).
Yet, there was something in this appearance of Christ to Moses that was startling and great. “He looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.” How beautiful that is! How blessed! Although the fire completely engulfed the bush, possessing it entirely, it did not harm even its most tender twig or most delicate bud! The same divine fire, which consumes the wicked, blesses us. It was in fire that he appeared at Sinai in the giving of the law (Exodus 19:18-19). Yet, it was in that same fire that he appeared in saving mercy to Isaiah (Isaiah 6:4), and to Ezekiel at the river Chebar (Ezekiel 1:4), and to John on the Isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:14). And Malachi tells us, that in all his works as our great High Priest, he is “as a refiner’s fire” (Malachi 3:2), not to destroy, but to refine, cleanse, purify, and perfect.
As John the Baptist asserted, though he shall burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire, he baptizes his own with the Holy Ghost and with fire (Matthew 3:11). God the Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning” (Isaiah 4:4; 28:6). As the Spirit of judgment, he illuminates and convicts us of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. As the Spirit of burning, he enflames our souls by shedding abroad in our hearts the love of God for us, making us, like John, “burning and shining lights” (John 5:35) in a world of darkness. William Huntington wrote…
“In the light of the Spirit there are such views of Christ’s person, loveliness, and fulness, and such beauties in God, his Word, and ways, as give heat and fervor to all our devotions, while the promises which flow into the heart, come as live coals from the altar, and increase the ardor. And the joy that springs from love is, at times, like the visible flames which on the altar, ascending to God from the hallowed fire within, which is pent up in the heart till the flames of joy give it vent.”
The Lord Jesus frequently appeared in the Old Testament in a flame of fire. Each appearance, like those given to Abraham in Genesis 15 and this one given to Moses in Exodus 3, are full of instruction. As he led Israel through the wilderness, “the LORD went before them … by night in a pillar of fire to give them light” (Exodus 13:21). Our blessed Savior will never leave us in darkness.
When he entered into a covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai, “the Lord descended upon it in fire” (Exodus 19:18; 24:17). The fire at Sinai is both an emblem of his justice and of his unapproachable holiness, teaching us that we must come to God only by faith in Christ, upon his altar, without any works of our own (Exodus 20:24-26).
There was an unceasing representation of the Lord Jesus on the altar in the “holy fire that never went out” (Leviticus 6:13), typically assuring us of the everlasting efficacy of Christ as our sin-atoning sacrifice, by which we are perpetually accepted in him
Of all the Old Testament appearances of our Lord in a flame of fire, none is more delightful to consider than his appearance to Manoah and his wife (Judges 13:17-20). If you look in the marginal reference of your Bible, you will notice that the word “secret” in verse 18 is really “Wonderful.” You know whose name that is. It belongs to our Savior (Isaiah 9:6), for whom and by whom are all things. Everything is designed to bring honor and glory to him whose name is Wonderful. Most particularly, the work of redemption and salvation is to the praise, honor, and glory of his Wonderful name (Revelation 4 and 5). When Manoah and his wife made a sacrifice to him, “the Angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar” (Judges 13:20). Similarly, the intercessions of Christ ascend to heaven with our prayers (Revelation 8:3; Romans 8:26-28).
When Solomon dedicated the temple, “fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple” (2 Chronicles 7:1‑3). — The Lord God hereby shows us his acceptance of our sacrifices, including those of our bodies (Romans 12:1) and our praise (Hebrews 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5), by Christ Jesus.
When he revealed himself in his initial vision to Ezekiel, he had “the appearance of fire all around” (Ezekiel 1:27). — So our Lord Jesus Christ reveals himself in light and glory (John 1:14), as the Lord of all providence, doing all things with wisdom and purity.
And, today, as he walks in the midst of his churches, our blessed Savior has “eyes like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14; 2:18). — In his house, by the preaching of the gospel, our Savior gives his light to purify and warm, to refine and comfort, to guide and to protect his own.
The Lord God makes his servants “a flame of fire.” And the Word of God is compared to fire. — “Is not my word like a fire, saith the Lord, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29). Our Savior declared, “I am come to send fire on the earth.” And so he does.
Once more, when Christ comes again, his eyes will be “like a flame of fire” (Revelation 19:12). — He comes as a consuming fire of wrath upon the ungodly. The torments of the damned are uniformly described in Scripture under the image of fire. — “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 nations” (Deuteronomy 32:22). — “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?” (Isaiah 33:14). The Son of God speaks repeatedly of a worm that never dies and a fire that never is quenched. And in his solemn description of the last day, in the tremendous judgment of it, he has already recorded the very words with which he will speak to the damned. — “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). What terrible language is used to speak of the fire of God’s wrath in that last great day in Revelation 20!
Men have, through the ages, hotly debated about whether the fires of hell and of judgment are literal or figurative. But the question is altogether insignificant. Whatever the fires of hell are, they are exactly suited to their purpose: — The Execution of God’s Furious Wrath. It is written, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” And at the same time we read, “For the needy shall not always be forgotten; the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever” (Psalm 9:17-18). That is sufficient.
“Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10)
Does Christ’s fire enlighten, warm, and purify you? Or will it consume you? “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure.”