Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:28-29)
God Is A Consuming Fire
There is much to be said about the nature of God. His love is everlasting, His mercy abounding, and His grace unmatched. The image of the Father as a loving, kind, and benevolent shepherd is found throughout scripture. Isaiah compares God’s love for Israel to a mother who bears a child and will not desert him. Can a mother forget her nursing child? John the apostle writes extensively about the love of God. Because of the compassion of the Almighty, salvation is found in Jesus Christ. People cling to these ideals of God with great hope and peace and tragically forget there is another side to the nature of God.
The first-century Jewish Christians were in peril of giving up their faith. Throughout the book of Hebrews, the writer appeals to the courage of the Jewish saints to face persecution with the assured promise of a heavenly country. Examples of men and women who faced great trials in life and overcame by their faith fill the pages of Hebrews. The exhortation to faithfulness is measured by the reality that failing to remain constant in obedience to the commands of God will bring terrible consequences. Like a loving Father, the Lord will chasten His children. Everyone should examine themselves closely lest they fall short of the grace of God. A great company of saints awaits the faithful on the mountain of God who will not give up their faith. Refusing to listen to the word of God will bring eternal judgment upon the disobedient. The kingdom of God will not suffer from the hands of the evil one. This should reassure the saint’s God’s word is eternal. Serving God acceptably with reverence and godly fear is demanded. To refuse brings a severe penalty.
Fire is a very destructive element. It can be used to cook food, warm a body, and do many good things. The terrible nature of fire is when used for destruction; it becomes a devouring presence. God is a consuming fire, and there should be no mistake about it. The love of God is eternal, but many will not enjoy the love of God because of their own disobedience. Judgment has always been a part of God’s will. Cain was punished for his sin, the world of Noah was destroyed with a flood because of wickedness, Sodom and Gomorrah were obliterated from the earth as judgment, and the nation of Israel was destroyed for refusing to repent. Jesus often spoke of the Father’s goodness and the Father’s severity. Hell is real because Jesus said it was.
God is a consuming fire because He is a righteous God. If the Lord God were not willing to punish disobedience, He would not be righteous. The nature of God demands justice for those who refuse to obey His will. God is a jealous God prompting His wrath upon disobedience. He is no more a friend to evil than when He first removed Adam and Eve from the garden. Faithfulness comes from a healthy understanding of the dreadful wrath of God against the unfaithful. God is not just a fire – He is a devouring fire. Serve God because you love Him and obey His word because of His wrath. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.