John said, “I indeed baptize with water because of repentance, but Someone is coming after me who will baptize you with Holy Spirit and fire. His fan is in His hand and He will completely clean His threshing floor; the chaff will be thrown (by the wind of the fan) into a fire that cannot be put out.”
The Bible is filled with references and revelations of spiritual fire. Heaven has fiery ones – seraphs – rushing about; God makes His messengers flames of fire representing His nature and an aspect of His function – “Our God is a consuming fire.” The design of the tabernacle answers to the fire of sacrifices made before the days of Moses – Abel, Noah, Abraham, and Israel, etc – and after Moses leading up to the days of Solomon’s Temple including the massive sacrificial display of David as Glory was being parked on Zion.
Specific fire was kindled for Tabernacle worship: God’s fire was given for the sacrifices of Brazen Altar and Incense Altar. When some drunk priests kindled their own fire, bringing a lighter to church, instead of using God’s fire for worship, God’s fire “went out and consumed them.” Drunkenness and worship received a greater degree of separation because of that display of “bringing God what we want Him to have.” Elijah identified Jehovah to Israel through fire upon the altar. We could, of course, go on and on here about fire.
God’s Baptism of Fire
Fire manifests an aspect of God. His fire is a line of fire that separates. His fire is a ring of fire that surrounds. His fire is a consuming fire that purifies the “combustibles” of flesh. Fire is a purifying agent because God has used fire to get things into His presence: the way to give something to God involved a process of consuming it or fire consuming something as a substitute.
When Jesus came upon John’s scene of preparation ministry, receiving water baptism as a prophetic action of something buried and something coming to life, He was baptized in water to do the right thing fully. Yet, Jesus’ baptism would be available in a very different form and accomplish a very different goal. His baptism would continue operation, not a dip or immersion, but a continuing process of purification. He would immerse us in Holy Spirit and fire.
Perhaps, some of this message has been neglected or simply backgrounded by other aspects of our spiritual lives: born of the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, empowered by Holy Spirit, and being temples of Holy Spirit. Yet, the reality of what Jesus’ baptism is and does has not changed since John’s announcement, and that was made clear when the first incident of this baptism was experienced in the Upper Room by the waiting 120. The breath of God blew into the room and filled them, and fire shaped like tongues or flames of fire separated from His breath and rested upon each of their heads as a natural picture of the spiritual reality that was beginning within.
God’s fire immerses us and we remain immersed in this soaking bath. Jesus’ baptism was explained by John, and we have lost the significance of that explanation to some extent, it seems. John was clear about the purpose of his water baptism. John was clear about the greater baptism of Jesus and the purpose of the spiritual fire.
God’s tabernacle and temples housed expression of His fire. Now, the Body of Christ is His temple, and individual believers are His temples, filled with spiritual fire.
John explains what this condition is doing.