BAPTISM OF FIRE: the lost wisdom concerning fire & sacrifice. Troops going into battle for the first time experience a baptism of fire, Christ went thru one (1), and said his disciples would also.(2) This post like a military training manual is to deepen our practical understanding of the cosmic war between good & evil by explaining Biblical images & texts.
THE FIRE RITUALS OF GOD’S TEMPLE– A STEP BETWEEN NATURAL IMPULSES & VICTORY. Before religious texts & history were written, mankind worldwide has linked the concepts of fire & sacrifice. In ancient Greece, sacrifices to the gods of Olympus were partially consumed by the sacrificial fire & partially consumed after burning by eating. In 7th cent. B.C. Assyria, the first born child was sacrificed by fire to the appropriate god. Ancient Athens kept slaves at public expense, so they would be ready to sacrifice to appease the gods if misfortune hit the city. Osiris of Egypt at times received a human sacrifice. In India, prior to the British takeover and their ban on human sacrifices, the goddess Kali received a human sacrifice every Friday eve. at her shrine. The rite of sacrifice (incl. humans) has essentially been a universal rite and a fundamental religious impulse. The Temple rituals of Israel were an intermediate step between those natural pagan impulses & the final sacrifice to end all blood sacrifices by Christ. Sadly, a big part of what Christ’s sacrifice did/meant has been lost because Protestantism’s pietism has narrowly viewed evil as a personal individual battle (rather than a cosmic war against an extensive system of dark powers) and the sacrificial atonement’s efficacy as merely helping individuals.
CHRIST TAKES THE MORAL HIGH GROUND TO BATTLE EVIL. 1 COR 15 speaks of a war where Christ “must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet….And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto Him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”(3) What this is referring to is the ancient custom of when a king conquered another king, then the conqueror would place his foot on the neck of the vanquished and use it as a footstool. (See note 4 for examples from history & prophecy in the Bible.)
In ZECH 3:1, the Word pictures Satan at God’s right hand like a D.A. in court out to get someone. After Christ’s resurrection, Christ is pictured at God’s right hand. These images illustrate that Christ’s victory went way beyond individual redemption, but was a broad cosmic victory. He disarmed “the rulers & authorities.”(5) And he destroyed the entire power structure of the devil (6) and conquered the one who had power over death, the devil (7) and as 1 COR 15 taught he continues reigning ‘til this war is fought to its bitter end. By Christ’s sacrificial atonement & resurrection, he scored a major victory by freeing Satan’s slaves BOTH from spiritual death (sin) & from physical death (our future resurrection). That is why it says he drove out the cosmic murderer.(8) Likewise, the faithful (the church) are an extension of his fight to continue engaging & toppling evil power.
THE BATTLE IS NOT LIKE A HOLLYWOOD FILM. Just like real battle demands constant maintenance; for example, hundreds of tank bolts tightened ec. night on a tank, & cleaning a rifle daily, etc. (which Hollyweird’s films don’t show), our warfare is similar. There are 1,000s of spiritual lessons portrayed in the specifics of God’s Temple…I will focus only on a few relevant ones related to fire & sacrifice. The elaborate tabernacle system was given by God to reveal things about Himself & spiritual warfare.(9)
WE ARE A HOLY PRIESTHOOD TO OFFER UP SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES.(10) 5 kinds of sacrifices were given, 3 of which related to praise & thanksgiving, 2 to show how sin would be dealt with. A spotless lamb was sacrificed every day, but prophecy was that God himself would provide the Lamb of God.(11) In the Messianic era, all sacrifices are voided, except the Korban Todah (the Offering of Thanksgiving! Likewise, all prayers but those of thanksgiving will someday end.(12) Meanwhile, we can apply the lessons of the 2 altars: an outward & inward altar burned constantly…representing our public & private devotional life. We need to keep the flame continually burning in each. What flame? The flame of the Holy Spirit, who cleanses our hearts like a fire.(13) And when our hearts are cleansed we have ashes that need to be cleaned out, that means to take care of dealing with what was shown to us, like confessing our faults to one another (14) before we go to the altar again, because if we don’t the fire dies from the ashes, but if we deal with the ashes, then the flame of the Holy Spirit fires up again. This is what Zacchaeus did when touched by the Spirit, he restored money he’d falsely obtained. We read in 2 TIM 1:6 (which uses words of fire imagery) to “stir up”—that is “bring to life like a fire” our gifts from the Spirit. This is the lesson from the imagery of the priests daily cleaning out the ashes from the ash pans.(15) The altar’s fire was used to light the menorah & burn incense, any other fire was “strange fire” and forbidden. Likewise, the Holy Spirit should be our only inspiration, other spirits are strange fire. Back to the subject of keeping the fire going continually, we need the Spirit in our lives continually by the anointing, and by prayer, Bible study & meditation & fellowship. Even when Israel journeyed or were ritually impure the fire was to stay lit. When we go on the journeys of life we must take special care to keep the integrity of the light going, just as the priests had a special travel container.
FINAL THOUGHTS. When we see from the Bible the intricate spiritual plans, and the details for our warfare it gives us encouragement, that our Commander in Chief has got things under control. The Word says we should become burnt-offerings, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” ROM 12:1 Such a burnt-offering must be voluntary. Like I say, in this war, we may receive our own Baptism of Fire. He wants volunteers.
(1) LK 12:49-50 (2) MT 3:11, MK 10:38-39, LK 12:49-50 (3) 1 COR 15:25, 28 (4) JOSH 10:24, PS 110:1, MT 12:36, 44, LK 20:43, ACTS 2:32-36, HEB 1:13 (5) COL 2:15 (6) 1 JN 3:8 (7) HEB 2:14 (8) JN 12:31, 8:44 (9) Study esp. Hebrews, along w/ DT, LEV & EX as well as the entire Bible to see the lessons (10) 1 PTR 2:5, cf. REV 1:6 (11) 1 PTR 1:18-20, Abraham’s story, & many other scriptures (12) cf. ISA 52:7 (13) 1 JN 1:9 (14) cf. MT 5:23 (15) LEV 6:10-11