Heavenly Fire: Jesus the Firestarter

Heavenly Fire: Jesus the Firestarter

Heavenly Fire: Jesus the Firestarter.

“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”  (Luke 12:49).

Of all the heavenly fires in Scripture, the fire brought by Christ is perhaps the most perplexing. What kind of fire did Jesus want to spread when He came to earth from the eternal fire in heaven? Jesus came to set the world on fire and He did exactly that, but in what way? What was Jesus thinking when He said He wanted to kindle a fire? There is much disagreement about what Jesus meant. Here are a few fires that Jesus started in the world.

  1. The fire of conflict. He may be the Prince of Peace, but he also brought the sword of division and controversy. “I have come not to bring peace but a sword.” (Matt. 10:34). Jesus was, after all, the holy alternative to the tainted righteousness of the fallen world. With Jesus, He introduced either-or predicaments. It follows that He would bring unrest, conflict, division in His wake. Conflict is inevitable when choosing to remain loyal to Christ at all costs. To be loyal to Jesus is in many ways to be disloyal to that which is not in Christ, to those people who would not accept the Lord’s ways of doing things. So Jesus threw division into homes, into intimate relationships. Often enough, the fiery trials of believers began in divided homes and communities. He warned of this happening, and His warnings came true, of course. There will indeed be fires of conflict wherever Jesus goes and wherever His Word is heard.  Christ came to be a Firestarter. “Don’t think for a moment that I came to grant peace and harmony to everyone. No, for my coming will change everything and create hostility among you. From now on, even family members will be divided over me and will choose sides against one another.” (Luke 12:51, TPT).
  2. The fire of passion. Jesus wanted His disciples to be characterized by a zeal, a spiritual enthusiasm, that would turn the world upside down. Or maybe it’s rightside up. He wanted the hearts to be ablaze, eager to spread the Good News, zealous to walk the Christian life, to deepen a passion for Christ. Jesus wanted the initial brush fire of the Spirit to expand into a raging inferno of love and blessing, spreading into foreign lands, crisscrossing the Roman Empire and even encircling it. Christ yearned for the day the eternal fire of His presence would cover the earth with a fire that could not be put out. Christ wanted everyone to know that the kingdom of God was worthy of one’s highest passions. The passionate believer St. Paul encouraged us to “Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it – because it does. Give yourselves to the gifts God gives you. Most of all, try to proclaim His truth.” (1 Corinthains 14:1-2, MSG).
  3. The fire of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist foretold that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Luke 3:16-17). John’s words were fulfilled at Pentecost, when the Spirit descended to a gathered group of believers and appeared as tongues of fire, flames lighting on each believer present. (Acts 2:1-4). The fire of God had come, flames from the ancient pillar of fire, and the world has never been the same. The fires of Christ’s Spirit was kindled, and the fire raged around the world. Jesus said that He came to set the world on fire, and He was true to His word through the Holy Spirit. Those first Christian believers were baptized with fire, and the fire will never be snuffed out.
  4. The fire of God’s Word. Perhaps the fire Jesus yearned to bring to the earth was the powerful fire of His Word. Jeremiah said it best… “His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones.” (20:9); “Is not my word like a fire?” (23:29); “Behold, I will make my words in your mouth fire.” (5:14). Nothing can quite burn its way into one’s mind, conscience, and heart like the Word. Jesus wanted God’s Word to blaze hot on the earth, igniting the people, allowing them to almost self-combust when given the privilege of reading God’s mind in His Word. Perhaps Jesus wanted His Father’s eternal Word to rage across the earth, giving spiritual insight and understanding to those who are open to His wisdom. The Word-made-flesh brings a holy fire wherever He goes, a heavenly fire whenever His Word is proclaimed. The flames of the Word bring the fire of salvation.
  5. The fire of purification. Perhaps the fire that Jesus brings is the fire that purifies the heart, burning away the guilt and shame of sin. His fire of goodness will awaken the conscience and expose the shame of unrighteousness. The refiner’s fire may even come in the form of burning coals of shame on the heads of those convicted of sin. “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” (Proverbs 25:21-22). Just as the fires of purification in the Tabernacle burned out foreign objects and the taint of death and sin, Jesus’ fire of purification will burn away those parts of one’s life that are foreign to God’s goodness and life. (Numbers 31). So maybe Jesus wants to set the fires on earth that would purge sin and death from the people.
  6. The fire of judgment. In many ways Jesus pronounced judgment on evil simply by being righteous. He also wasn’t shy about denouncing evil and unrighteousness in no uncertain terms.  Everywhere He went, people would see what goodness looks like and repent of their sinful heart. Jesus too might have been referring to the final judgment. It shouldn’t be surprising that we speculate that Jesus was yearning for the final day of moral accountability, to set the world right. He looked forward to the time when God’s purity and holiness would finally be revealed for the whole world to see. On the one hand, Jesus is waiting patiently for the final judgment so more people could come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). On the other hand, perhaps the fires of judgment will add the needed closure to world history, establishing that God’s justice is eternal, and sin and death are no more. There is no doubt Jesus was looking forward to that day. So perhaps Jesus wanted the fire of judgment to rage on the earth to hasten the day of His coming.

“I’ve come to start a fire on this earth – how I wish it were blazing right now! I’ve come to change everything, turn everything rightside up – how I long for it to be finished!” (Luke 12:49, MSG).