Baptism of Fire

Posted Oct 07, 2013 by desmond in General Hits: 2,032

This is a personal comment on last lesson from the previous SDA Sabbath school lesson study guide (date: September 25, 2013) entitled “baptism of fire”.  Going to the statement of the sabbath school lesson (I copied it as it is), it says:

 

Both the Old and New Testaments use a variety of symbols, such as water, wind, and oil, to describe the work of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist links another image, that of fire, to the work of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11, Luke 3:16).

There are many who have misunderstood John’s statement. The passage does not say, “ ‘He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit or with fire’ ” (NKJV). It says, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The second expression, “ ‘and with fire,’ ” explains the first expression, “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the baptism of fire The word baptism in the New Testament is used 80 times and refers to total immersion.

The symbolism of fire is a symbol of the glory, presence, and power of God manifest in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. To be baptized with fire is to be immersed in the glory of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit in order to witness in His power.   

when tongues of fire fell on Pentecost (see EJ Waggoner’s comment on this), the disciples witnessed in languages that they had never before known. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is immersion in the presence and power of God in order that we can effectively witness of His glory. Once again, in the last days of earth’s history, God’s people will be immersed in His presence, filled with His power, and sent out to wit­ness of His glory to the world.

 

The lesson referenced to two (2) verses and please allow me to post it also for our study:

1) Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:  … And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and [with] fire:  Whose fan [is] in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire – Matthew 3:8,10-12. 

2) Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance… And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  … I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:  Whose fan [is] in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable – Luke 3:8,9,16,17.

 

My observations:

Honestly, when I read that section, I respectfully disagreed with the Sabbath school lesson because if the words of the scripture were followed as they are, the phrase “baptism of fire” would have a different meaning. First, the subject of John deals with the mixed multitude involving the Pharisees and the Sadducees (Matt. 3:7) whom he referred to as “generation of vipers” – a very strong word. Then followed by the words of “repentance followed by its fruits”.  As my little understanding grasped it, the people  personify the “tree” and those who continue in their evilness are the trees which bear bad fruit and their destiny is to be hewn down and “cast into the fire”.  This is the first mention of fire here and it is “negative”, it deals with the destiny of the wicked people.

Next John said his baptism is of “repentance”, then he points to Christ baptizing with the Holy Spirit, and baptizing with fire.  The second mention of the word fire.

The third mention of the word fire is when Christ will gather the wheat (righteous) into His garner, but the chaff (wicked) He will burn with unquenchable fire.  This is the third mention of the word fire and it isnt’t for the righteous but for the wicked.  Notice the word “chaff” is antagonized against the word “wheat” to signify their complete and uncompromising difference.  “Chaff” refers to the kingdoms to be destroyed (Dan. 2:35, 44), aside from the verses mentioned the wicked are to be the ones burned in fire (Malachi 4:1-3, Rev. 19:20, Rev. 20:10, Rev. 20:14-15).  Thus, the consistency of the verse tells us primarily that the baptism of fire “is not” the baptism of the Holy Spirit but the immersion of the wicked and the devil to an unquenchable fire that will make them all ashes. 

The second objection I have to the lesson deals with the method of interpretation: We ask, is baptism here literal? YES, continuing, is the Holy Spirit literal” YES, is baptism of the Holy Spirit then a literal baptism of the Holy Spirit? YES.  We move with fire…is fire literal? YES, thus baptism of fire is a “LITERAL” event involving baptism or immersion in fire.  This is not for the righteous, this is for the wicked…to this interpretation, I am dealing “contextually” to the two mentioned references above (Matt. Chap. 3 & Luke chap. 3)

The third objection is, the pen of EGW and the Pioneers points opposite to the claim of the present Sabbath school lesson.  Please be patient to read and consider their views.       

 

A statement regarding the baptism of fire from the pen of Ellen G. White:

 

The inhabitants of the antediluvian world were condemned to destruction for their iniquity, yet they had the offer of mercy. By repentance and reformation of life they might have secured forgiveness and the protection of God. So in this dispensation, every one who believes and obeys the divine word will find pardon and a shelter from the wrath to come. The history of their sins, with the sure destruction that followed, should be a warning to us. There is to be a “baptism of fire” as there was of water, and all the unbelief and scoffing of the ungodly will not hinder the event.  {ST, February 16, 1882 par. 7} 

 

My observation:

The sentence, “there is to be a baptism of fire as there was of water” deals with the fact “condemned to destruction” for their iniquity.  The point of the sentence is, the baptism of water to the antediluvian world is actually the “flood of Noah’s time” which “destroyed them all”.  But here is brought to us a consideration “baptism of fire” is actually the “fire from heaven which devoured all the wicked – root and branch”.  This is further testified by the statement following, “…and all the unbelief and scoffing of the ungodly will not hinder the event.”  This is the proof that the pen of Ellen G. White is telling us that the baptism of fire is not for the righteous but for the wicked and that the baptism of fire deals with the unquenchable fire that will purify the earth by the complete removal of sin from root to the tip of its branches.  Said Malachi, they (wicked) shall be ashes upon the soles of your feet (Mal. 4:3).

                Said Peter to support the pen of EGW of a similar subject (the words inside parenthesis are mine), “Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished (this is the baptism of water on the wicked people of the antediluvian world):  But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire (this is the coming baptism of fire for the wicked) against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men – 2Peter 3:6-7. Read again the statement from the pen of EGW and they are in agreement.

 

A Statement regarding the baptism of fire from E.J. Waggoner:

 

E.J. Waggoner, has written several articles published about the subject of “baptism of fire”. In my personal opinion, he represents the general view of Seventh Day Adventist church in his time.  We read his message on this subject:

 

"The Baptism of Fire" The Signs of the Times 13, 26.

E. J. Waggoner

To the multitude who had come to the banks of Jordan to be baptized, John the Baptist said: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire." Matt. 3:11. There is no question but that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was administered on the day of Pentecost, although it is not probable that John had special reference to that occasion. That was simply a notable example of what John said should take place. All believers in Christ must be baptized with the Spirit, and must "walk in the Spirit," if they share the final reward. But many people suppose that the baptism of fire was also administered on the day of Pentecost, which is a grave error. {July 7, 1887 EJW, SITI 408.1}

The next verse plainly indicates what was meant by the baptism of fire: "Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." This shows that although the words of verse 11 were addressed to all the multitude, John did not mean that all should receive both the baptism of the Holy Ghost and the baptism of fire. He might baptize them all with water, and thus they might all be counted by men as followers of Christ; but He who should come after, would have his fan in his hand, and would thoroughly purge his floor, saving the wheat, and burning up the chaff in the fire. This is the meaning of John's words. The expression, "He will thoroughly purge his floor," shows that especial reference is made here to those who, by baptism, have professed to be Christ's. It was well understood by all that those who did not profess to be Christ's would be destroyed, but here they are shown that a profession alone is not sufficient, because the floor will be purged. {July 7, 1887 EJW, SITI 408.2}

Now there was no baptism of fire on the day of Pentecost. It is true that "there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them" (Acts 2:3), but this was not a baptism of fire. In the first place it is not said that there was actual fire present, but something which had the appearance of fire. Secondly, even if it had been fire, it would not have constituted a baptism of fire, for baptism is not administered in that way. Baptism means immersion, or an overwhelming. The disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit, because "it filled all the house where they were sitting." They were completely submerged in the Spirit. And the cloven tongues like fire formed a part of this manifestation of the Spirit. {July 7, 1887 EJW, SITI 408.3}

But who will receive the baptism of fire? All those who do not receive the Spirit, or who, having once received it, do not walk in it, they will be burned up in that fire that shall burn as an oven. In Rev. 20:10; 21:8 it is said that the wicked shall have their part in a "lake of fire." The whole earth will be melted (2 Peter 3:10) with the fervent heat, and will present the appearance of a sea of liquid fire. "And the works that are therein shall be burned up." The destruction of the wicked in this lake of fire may, without doing violence to language, fitly be called a baptism. In this lake of fire they will be submerged, and will be consumed root and branch. {July 7, 1887 EJW, SITI 408.4}

Thus John was speaking of two baptisms,-one which saves and one which destroys. And since he was talking, not to certain individuals whose destiny he might foresee, but was talking to the multitude collectively, some of whom would be saved, and some lost, he could truthfully say to them collectively, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." Some of them would receive one baptism, and some the other. {July 7, 1887 EJW, SITI 408.5}

There are some well-meaning persons who pray to be baptized with fire; and there are hymns which call for the baptism of fire. Such prayers and hymns cannot but cause a shudder to one who knows what the baptism of fire will be. Let us pray above all things for the baptism of the Spirit, but let us pray most earnestly to be saved from the baptism of fire. W. {July 7, 1887 EJW, SITI 408.6}

 

June 24, 1899

"The Baptism of Fire" The Bible Echo 14, 25.

E. J. Waggoner

The words of John the Baptist to the Pharisees and Sadducees among the crowds of Jews assembled on the bank of Jordan were these: "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire; whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Matt. 3:11, 12. The record in the third of Luke is the same. {June 24, 1899 EJW, BEST 243.1}

We have here two classes of people brought to view,-the wheat and the chaff; and likewise we have two treatments mentioned,-the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and the baptism of fire. The two baptisms are as distinct as are the two classes of people. As the question concerns only the baptism of fire, we shall consider that alone. {June 24, 1899 EJW, BEST 243.2}

It would seem as though the text itself should be sufficient to give a good idea, if not to settle the question, as to what is meant by the baptism of fire. Having stated of Christ that He will baptize with fire, it says that He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. This sets us on the right track; let us see how perfectly the figure fits the final destruction of the wicked. {June 24, 1899 EJW, BEST 244.1}

In the first place, it must be borne in mind that "baptism" always and everywhere means immersion, and that only. "Baptism" of a whole congregation with a quart of water was a thing unheard of for the first two or three centuries after Christ. John baptized in Ænon near to Salim, "because there was much water there." John 3:23. It would not require as much water to "baptize" a thousand people according to the papal perversion of the ordinance, as would suffice to quench the thirst of half a dozen men. Without going further into detailed proof, let it be remembered that whenever a person or thing is said to be baptized in any fluid substance, the person or thing baptized is wholly enveloped in the substance. {June 24, 1899 EJW, BEST 244.2}

Let the well-known fact also be borne in mind that it is the nature of fire to consume and destroy that which is cast into it. This is its nature, and it will also do so unless the thing is immediately removed after being cast in, or else the fire is quenched before it can begin its devouring work. But if the fire is so great and so fierce as to be unquenchable, then there is no hope of saving anything that it has enveloped. Especially is this so when the substance cast into it is as combustible and as light as chaff, to which the wicked are compared. {June 24, 1899 EJW, BEST 244.3}

Now read Rev. 21:8: "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death." Rev. 20:14, 15 also speaks of the "lake of fire." {June 24, 1899 EJW, BEST 244.4}

This lake of fire will be at the time when "the elements shall melt with fervent heat" (2 Peter 3:10), and the earth shall be "clean dissolved" by the fire of destruction. See Isa. 24:19. When the earth is melted with the intensity of the heat, there will be indeed a "lake of fire," into this the wicked, as chaff, thorns, and worthless branches, will be cast, and burned up. They will “literally” be immersed in a lake of liquid fire. And this is the "baptism of fire," for which some earnest but misinformed souls sing and pray. {June 24, 1899 EJW, BEST 244.5}

Baptism in water is for the remission of sins, and so it is sometimes referred to as washing away sin. See Acts 22:16. Consistently with this idea, the baptisms of fire for the purpose of washing away sin; but there is this difference; the baptism by water is for the remission of sin and the salvation of the individual; but the baptism by fire is for the destruction of the sin and of the individual upon whom it is found. It is this that is brought to view in Isa. 4:3, 4:- {June 24, 1899 EJW, BEST 244.6}

"And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning." {June 24, 1899 EJW, BEST 244.7}

This is the time when "whomsoever was not found written in the book of life ["written among the living in Jerusalem"] was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:15); the time of the melting of the elements with fervent heat, in the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:7, 10), when "the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left." Isa. 24:6. {June 24, 1899 EJW, BEST 244.8}

At that time the filth of the daughters of Zion shall be washed away, and the blood of Jerusalem purged with fire. The earth will be cleansed from the curse of sin. Before that time all will be given a chance to wash themselves from sin in the blood of the Lamb; on such the second death-the lake of fire-will have no power. But those who refuse the gracious offer will have to be baptized when the time comes for this to be done, those who have fully identified themselves with sin, and who are permeated with it, will necessarily be destroyed by the same fire which removes it from the earth.

E. J. WAGGONER. {June 24, 1899 EJW, BEST 244.9}     

 

"Baptized by Fire" The Signs of the Times 15, 6.

E. J. Waggoner

How often do we hear people ask the lord to baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with fire! But they do not know for what they are asking. They connect in a vague sort of way Matt. 3:11 and Acts 2:3, and suppose the latter to be the fulfillment of the former. But even though the cloven tongues were as of fire, and although they were upon all, the disciples were not in any sense baptized with the tongues or the fire. Baptize means to immerse, not to sit upon. They were on the day of Pentecost baptized with the Holy Spirit. The room in which they were was filled with the divine, life-giving influence, and they were literally immersed in the Holy Spirit, and the tongues were but another manifestation of the same Spirit. {February 11, 1889 EJW, SITI 88.10}

There are two classes spoken of by john in matt. 3:11. one class-the faithful-will be baptized with the Holy Spirit; the other-the wicked-will be baptized by fire; immersed in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15), and utterly burned up. Rev. 20:9. This application of Matt. 3:11 is shown to be correct, by the next verse: "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire; whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." {February 11, 1889 EJW, SITI 88.11}

Let no one pray, therefore, to be baptized with fire, unless he wishes the Lord to burn him with fire. {February 11, 1889 EJW, SITI 88.12}

 

A Statement regarding the baptism of fire from AT Jones:

Here are shown two reapings. One is by the Son of God, reaping the harvest of the earth, gathering the wheat into the garner of god. The other is to gather together those who are to be cast into the wine press of the wrath of God. The former are the fruits of the true Vine, Jesus Christ. For he says: "I am the true Vine." "I am the Vine, ye are the branches." This is the Vine of heaven; for Christ, the true Vine, came down from heaven to do his Father's will; and of this Vine the "Father is the Husbandman." All who abide in Christ, the true Vine, will be gathered by the angels into the kingdom of God, when he comes on the white cloud to reap the harvest of the earth. The others are called the clusters of the vine of the earth. Those have no connection with the heavenly Vine, but are of the earth, earthy. And when the clusters of this vine are gathered, it is only to be cast into the wine press of the wrath of God. {October 9, 1900 ATJ, ARSH 648.10}

This same result is shown by John the Baptist under another figure: "He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Matt. 3:11, 12. {October 9, 1900 ATJ, ARSH 648.11}

 

 

My conclusion and suggestion: The baptism of fire is not for the righteous but for the wicked.  I would like to echo the words of EJ Waggoner, let no one pray, therefore, to be baptized with fire, unless he wishes the Lord to burn him with fire… but let us pray most earnestly to be saved from the baptism of fire.

 

One last question remains in me, the respected contributor, Pastor Mark Finley has been knowledgeable of this issue, how he arrived at an opposite explanation of the subject? I don’t know, yet I pray for the author of the Sabbath school lesson.

 

Blessings to all who read this, and should there be a way for Pastor Mark Finley to read this response, it would be more of a blessing. You may also suggest, should there be some informations which may support Pastor Finley’s views for me to study also.

 

 

Your brother in Christ,

Desmond

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