15 "For behold, the LORD will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.
16 For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment, and by his sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many.
27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Simply put, God’s fire is judgment. It is judgment for the unbeliever, and it is
judgment for the saints.
God be praised that both the purpose and the consequence of that judgment by fire
are as different as night and day regarding its’ implementation in the lives
of the unbeliever, as well as the saint.
The use of the word fire, in specific context, determines its’ meanings to God’s people.
1Peter 4: 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives."
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw--
13 each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.
15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap.
3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.
4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.
5 "Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts.
6 "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.
What should be clear is that God’s discipline toward His disobedient children displays His great love for them. Those who are not His children, the illegitimate, i.e. the pretenders, are not judged by the Father’s loving disciplinary judgment. Peter proclaims the fact that judgment always begins in the house of God. He tells us further on in his letter that we are that house. 1 Peter 2:5
If judgment begins with us, then how will it be for those of us who are not obedient to the Gospel? That question applies to the church.
Jesus tells us that the father prunes the fruitful branches in Christ, the vine, and cuts off and burns the unfruitful branches in Christ. Both are branches in Christ, therefore John 15 is not speaking of eternal damnation, but rather the Lord uses the metaphor of burning unfruitful branches to speak of the discipline of judgment in a believer’s life.
(Let us not forget, Paul reveals in Romans 11:23 that God can graft any branch that has been cut off, back into Christ)
Paul in 1 Cor 3 writes of the judgment on the work of the saints concerning their use of proper building materials. Only the right material will withstand the fire which will reveal the quality of their work. Many, if not all, will suffer some loss in that day, but will be saved through the fire.
In this passage Paul is stating that the builders he is speaking of are building on the true foundation, that is, Jesus Christ, so there is no question that this refers to believers.
In contrast we see Jesus referring to true and false foundations in Matthew 7:24-27, a different matter entirely. The materials used in both houses seem to be of quality, it is the foundation that they are built on that reveals their ability to weather the storms. Therefore many will come in his name, saying all the right words, doing all the right things, and will not be doing the will of the father, i.e. not building on the true foundation, Christ Jesus.
21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'
23 And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'
The prophecy of Malachi is directed to the Levites, the temple priests. Thus in copy and shadow it speaks to God’s kingdom of priests who attend His living temple. He is the refiner’s fire which purifies and refines us, as silver and gold are refined. He is the fuller’s soap that cleanses. Then our offerings are acceptable to the Lord. Then our sacrifice is wrought in righteousness. (Eph 5:25-27;Romans 12:1)
Then when He appears in judgment toward us, His fire consumes all that is not of Him, all that is evil and impure, but the sons of Jacob are not consumed, since they have already been through the fire. Malachi 4 prophesies of the Lord’s return. Only those who have already been through the refining fire of judgment will endure and stand in that day. More on that further on.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
So for the saints, there is not the loss of salvation, but rather the loss of the impurities, and all that is not of God in our lives.
The Unbelievers/The Condemned (John 3:18)
1Peter 4: 18 And "If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?"
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
:9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
1 "For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.
2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts.
7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison
8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.
9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them,
10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.
12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.
14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
There is judgment by fire for the unbeliever at the return of Christ. The intensity of the fire of the Lord’s coming will turn them into ash; ash which Malachi says we will tread upon. He is coming to judge in power. John the Baptist in Matthew 3 is speaking both of, and to, the saints and the unbelievers. Note that he says the axe is already laid at the root of trees. Christ's initial advent into creation brings judgment.
15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever."
16 And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God,
17 saying, "We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.
18 The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth."
To put it bluntly, the fire of judgment for the unregenerate never ends (the lake of fire). This is so since they have never suffered through the judgment leading to salvation in this life. For them, the fire is never ending, as their impurities are never ending,and their salvation never comes.
4 Is it for your fear of him that he reproves you and enters into judgment with you?
5 Is not your evil abundant? There is no end to your iniquities.
Rev 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."
So let us thank God for His judgment and discipline in our lives. He not only makes us fit to be co-workers with Him in his kingdom now (Php4:3), not only makes us a fit temple for Him to dwell in (Eph 2:19-22), but makes us fit to dwell with Him in eternity. (Rev 21:3)
28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,
29 for our God is a consuming fire.
Soli Deo Gloria!