Fire from Heaven!

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When and how many times has God used fire, either coming from heaven or from his presence among the people, to manifest his judgment? Who were the recipients of this holy fire? What was the sin they committed that deserved such a punishment?

Punishing Entrenched Sin

The Bible's first example of God using fire from heaven to pronounce his judgement on sin involved the cities of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim. These prosperous cities were located close to each other in a fertile valley south of the Dead Sea. Their entrenched sinful lifestyles came to the attention of righteous angels who reported them to God. Jesus then personally came to the earth and confirmed for himself what was taking place (Genesis 18).

God's righteous judgment was experienced by the cities of the plain when fire and brimstone from heaven rained down and destroyed them.

Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire, from the Lord out of heaven. And He overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground (Genesis 19:24 - 25, HBFV throughout).

Marble Statue of Elijah
Elijah the Prophet
Lorenzetto, 1523

Strange versus Holy Fire

Abihu and Nadab, two of the sons of Aaron the High Priest, served within the tabernacle in the wilderness (Exodus 28:1). One day they offered "strange" or unauthorized fire (Leviticus 10:1) to the Lord. This was likely caused by them being drunk at the time (see verse 9). The judgment against them was swift.

And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, and put incense on it, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had commanded them not to do. And there went out fire from the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1 - 2).

Silencing the Complainers

The children of Israel, as was painfully common from the time they left Egypt, complained about a whole host of things. God eventually got tired of hearing their whining and killed some of them through fire. It took Moses' intervention to stop the deaths.

And the people complained about their distress, speaking evil in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord heard it, and His anger was kindled. And the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some in the outermost parts of the camp.

And the people cried to Moses. And when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched (Numbers 11:1 - 2).

Stopping a Rebellion

Korah and his followers led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron challenging their authority over the people. While God killed Korah and three Reubenite men by having the earth swallow them alive (Numbers 16:1 - 33), he used fire to consume 250 others who foolishly followed Korah's rebellion.

And there came out a fire from the Lord and burned up the two hundred and fifty men who offered incense (Numbers 16:35).

Quelling a King's Ego

After Israel's evil King Ahab dies, he is succeeded on the throne by his son Ahaziah. After ruling less than two years Ahaziah accidently falls through an upper-floor lattice and becomes seriously ill. Concerned about his chances of survival, he sends messengers to inquire from a pagan god if he will recover or not. The messengers are intercepted by Elijah who tells them to inform the king that he will surely die from his injuries (2Kings 1:2 - 4).

Ahaziah, angered at what he is told, sends 50 military men with their captain to arrest Elijah. The captain, upon seeing the prophet sitting on top of a hill, tersely demands he come down. Elijah's blunt response elicits a heaven sent judgment by fire upon the men!

And Elijah answered and said to the commander of fifty, "If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from the heavens and burn up you and your fifty." And there came down fire from the heavens and burned up him and his fifty (2Kings 1:10).

A second set of fifty men, and their captain, are sent to arrest God's prophet. Once again, Elijah's response results in the men sent from Ahaziah being instantly burned up by fire sent from heaven. A third set of men is then sent by the king. This time, however, the captain humbly comes close to the prophet and begs he and his men be spared the heavenly fire of judgment from God!

And the third commander of fifty came up and fell on his knees before Elijah, and begged him, and said to him, "Man of God, I pray you, let my life and the life of these fifty, your servants, be precious in your sight.

"Behold, fire has come down from the heavens and burned up the first two commanders of fifty with their fifties. Therefore now let my life be precious in your sight." (2Kings 1:13 - 14).

Elijah spares the lives of the soldiers and allows them to escort him to the king (2Kings 1:15).

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