For the last two weeks the Holy Spirit has been emphasizing the fire of the Lord. On the 7th June, one of South Africa’s most popular tourist regions experienced a devastating inferno which wiped out about 500 houses in one town and left the inhabitants huddled on the beach awaiting rescue as all outbound roads had been cut off by flames. The fire had been fanned by gale-force winds preceding a massive storm that hit the Cape area. Exactly one week later on the 14th June, the Grenfell Tower in London was incinerated by a raging fire. During both these tragedies, I became acutely aware of the suddenness of the coming of the ‘day that burns like an oven’ and learned some vital things concerning its unfolding. I would like to share them with you in the hope that they provide confirmation and encouragement to you in these days.
Today, exactly one week after the Grenfell tower fire, is 27th of Sivan in the Hebrew calendar. Not coincidentally, it is the anniversary of another fire in the 2nd Century: ‘When the Romans discovered Rabbi Chananya ben Tradyon teaching the outlawed Torah they wrapped him in a Torah scroll, piled bundles of twigs around him, and before setting him afire they placed damp woollen cloths on him to prolong the agony of being burned to death. As the flames engulfed him, his disciples asked him, “Master, what do you see?” Rabbi Chananya replied: “I see a scroll burning, but the letters flying up to Heaven.”’ The day that burns like an oven brings both spiritual and natural fire. It brings flames that burn all that is built with wood, hay or stubble – both in poor and wealthy neighbourhoods. It also openly reveals the consuming fire of zeal for God’s house which burns within the hearts of those prepared to lay down their lives rather than deny Him. The outer scroll may be burning; the body that houses the spirit of a believer may be destroyed by the flames, but the letter containing the spirit of what has been penned within this living letter by the hand of God, will return to Him Who breathed His life into them in the first place.
Ecc 12:7 Then shall the dust [out of which God made man’s body] return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God Who gave it
Beloved remnant of God, we need never fear those who can kill the body for Paul tells us we have already passed from death to life, on the day we first surrendered our lives into the hands of our Redeemer (John 5:24). This year, we have seen through the horrific actions of Isis and others, the martyring of many of our brothers and sisters in Christ by both fire and the sword – and a martyr’s crown awaits them.
Rev 6:11 Then they were each given a long and flowing and festive white robe and told to rest and wait patiently a little while longer, until the number should be complete of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church and there is a complete number which must come in and take their place at the foot of the altar amongst the exalted ranks of those slain for the Word of God and their testimony, before the last great harvest is reaped in the earth. They are the grains of wheat which fall to the ground to purchase the souls of sinners in the geographical areas where their blood is shed. Some centuries before the slaying of this Rabbi who loved the Word of God more than his own life, 3 young men in Babylon chose to be thrown in the fire heated 7 times hotter, rather than to bow to an idol. Their words should be the life motto of all who truly serve the King of Kings in these end-times:
Dan 3:17 If it is so that our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace, then He will deliver out of your hand, O king. Dan 3:18 And if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.
Beloved, is your heart ready to say, “If God doesn’t deliver me from this fate, I will still not serve any other gods”? We need to resolve our stance on this issue now, before the moment when we may have to face the blade or the flames. The crux of the matter is, in essence, whether we are completely His. The Word says we are not our own; we have been bought with a price – this is the way we should be approaching every moment of life, but the reality is that there may be some areas in our hearts which are still bowing the knee to the idol of Self. If this is the case, it is that small bit of territory that Self still lords it over which will prove to be our undoing when faced with the possibility of losing our lives for the sake of Christ. Perhaps now you can understand the rigorous dealings of the Refiner’s fire in the past season of preparation. The Holy Spirit wants to do just that – make you HOLY; set apart completely for the Bridegroom and His Kingdom purposes. Secondly He wants to make you fire-proof and sword-proof, as far as the temptation to deny the Lord goes.
To be honest with you, I am a bit startled at the direction in which this writing has flowed. I sat down to record my recent lessons during the two recent horrendous fires and yet, the Spirit has seen fit to begin the whole topic with a discourse on martyrdom! No doubt it is more than necessary. It seems we are appointed one more fierce blast of the Spirit of Burning to flush out any unsurrendered portions of our hearts from behind the drapes. Then we will be vessels of honor, fully fit and ready for the Master’s use.
Perhaps this latest fiery encounter will take us back to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus wrestled with Self, “If it were possible, take this cup from Me….nevertheless, not My will but Yours be done.” Jesus knew what was waiting for Him and it is my observation that many Christian martyrs have been shown by the Spirit what they would be facing and given the strength and grace to go through it victoriously. The martyr’s death of Polycarp, the 2nd century bishop of Smyrna, is inspiring and comforting:
‘Three days before he was arrested, while he was praying, he had a vision of the pillow under his head in flames. He said prophetically to those who were with him,” I will be burnt alive.” Herod sent soldiers to bring him to the stadium and he refused to flee, saying, “God’s will be done”. As Polycarp was being taken into the arena, a voice came to him from heaven: “Be strong, Polycarp and play the man!” No one saw who had spoken, but brothers who were there heard the voice. The Proconsul tried to persuade him to apostatize, saying, “Have respect for your old age, swear by the fortune of Caesar. Repent, and say, ‘Down with the Atheists!’” Polycarp looked grimly at the wicked heathen multitude in the stadium, and gesturing towards them, he said, “Down with the Atheists!” “Swear,” urged the Proconsul, “reproach Christ, and I will set you free.” “86 years have I have served him,” Polycarp declared, “and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” When threatened with death by fire, he said, “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and is then extinguished, but you know nothing of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. Why are you waiting? Bring on whatever you want.”
The crowd gathered wood and because he refused to be nailed to the stake, they simply bound him with his hands behind him. Ready to be an acceptable burnt-offering to God, he looked up to heaven, and said, “O Lord God Almighty, the Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of you, the God of angels, powers and every creature, and of all the righteous who live before you, I give you thanks that you count me worthy to be numbered among your martyrs, sharing the cup of Christ and the resurrection to eternal life, both of soul and body, through the immortality of the Holy Spirit. May I be received this day as an acceptable sacrifice, as you, the true God, have predestined, revealed to me, and now fulfilled. I praise you for all these things, I bless you and glorify you, along with the everlasting Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. To you, with him, through the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and forever. Amen.”
Then the fire was lit, and the flames blazed furiously. The Christians who were privileged to witness it saw a great miracle, and recounted that the fire shaped itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, and formed a circle around the body of the martyr. Inside it, he looked not like flesh that is burnt, but like bread that is baked, or gold and silver glowing in a furnace. And we smelt a sweet scent, like frankincense or some such precious spices.
Eventually, when those wicked men saw that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to pierce him with a dagger. When he did this a dove flew out and such a great quantity of blood flowed that the fire was extinguished.’
What a profound sign! In fact, this whole account has so many prophetic parallels of the protection upon a life wholly surrendered to God’s will.
Isa 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you.
When we are shown the way we will go home to be with our Father, will we lay our head upon that fate as if it were a pillow and be at complete rest with His will? Have we learned to dwell with the everlasting burnings as Isaiah 33:14 describes? Do our lives give forth a sweet fragrance of precious spices? Is the sight of our lives in the midst of the fire that of gold or silver vessels? Polycarp means ‘much fruit’ in the Greek. Have our lives fallen to the ground and died so that we can bring forth a rich harvest? Are we abiding in the Vine that we can bring forth much fruit?
Joh 15:8 In this My Father is glorified, that you should bear much fruit; and you will be disciples to Me.
Pierced with a dagger at the fifth rib as Jesus was, the blood flowed copiously accompanied by release of a move of the Spirit in the form of a dove. Beloved, as we are conformed to the death of Christ, the power of the Blood is released to destroy the works of the enemy and the Spirit moves mightily amongst those who observe our godly example. WE are seen to be His alone, bondslaves of the Lamb.
In the aftermath of the Knysna fire, one man went to sift through the ashes that remained of their home and found a partially melted jewellery box. Inside was his wife’s engagement ring, untouched by the flames. Speaking later from her temporary home, she said, “My diamond ring, which my husband had made before we got married thirteen years ago, has such sentimental value and, when he arrived with it this week after having sifted through the rubble, I feel so blessed, even though we lost everything”.
The minute I read this, I knew it was sign from the Spirit. They had lost everything they owned but their lives and those of their children were spared. Paul spoke of counting all things as loss:
Php 3:8 But, no, rather I also count all things to be loss because of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them to be trash, that I might gain Christ
An engagement ring speaks of betrothal; of the entering into the first stages of a marriage covenant. It is the property of the Bride-to-be. When this fire had passed through and reduced everything in its path to ash, the betrothal ring was untouched and it was brought forth from a jewelry box. Does the Word not speak of those who fear the Lord being openly revealed as His jewels, in Malachi, the chapter about the coming of the Refiner’s fire?
Mal 3:17 And they shall be Mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I publicly recognize and openly declare them to be My jewels (My special possession, My peculiar treasure). And I will spare them, as a man spares his own son who serves him. Mal 3:18 Then shall you return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him who serves God and him who does not serve Him.
It is the Refiner’s fire that reduces much to ashes, revealing His jewels in the process. Look at that picture – ash all around but the betrothal ring untouched, spared as a sign of those who fear the Lord passing through the day that burns like an oven unmarred. And those who survey the devastation will be able to discern who are truly His and who do not serve God. Which will you be?
(part 2 to follow)