Fire From Heaven
God's Strange Act
Fire from heaven, in many minds, is connected to "God's strange act" and is understood and used by many as a reference to God destroying the lost in the Revelation's lake of fire. The words "God's strange act" are from the following verse:
"For the Lord shall rise up as in Mount Perazim: He shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon - that He may do His work, His strange work; and bring to pass His act, His strange act." (Isa. 28:21)
Most people have believed and taught that God's strange act is the final destruction via fire from heaven of the wicked following the millennium. The next verse actually reads like this could be connected to the final destruction:
"Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong: for I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth." (Isa 28:22)
This especially sounds like it fits as we read verses such as this:
"And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth." (Zech 14:12)
The wicked, in the end, will be destroyed by fire from heaven - no doubt about it. And it will be a final destruction with no ongoing, eternal punishment as some believe. Even Satan himself will be finally destroyed:
"Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more." (Eze 28:18)
The wicked will be destroyed and we, in our understanding, have granted God the right to do this - to destroy the wicked - since He created us and everything else in the first place. While we cannot argue His right to do as He pleases, there is something that is indeed strange about God finally killing His enemies when He tells us to love our own. Personally, I would feel a lot better about Him if I could see Him being consistent in that.
The wicked will perish; the question is: how does it happen? So let's take a careful look at "fire from heaven" and "God's strange act" and see if, in fact, they support the idea that God, in the end, seems to change character and kill His enemies.
The context of Isaiah 28 is the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians. And God is warning Judah (see v 14, especially) that the same could happen to them.
God's strange work is described as being "as in Mount Perazim" and "as in the valley of Gibeon;" so there is something similar in those events to the destruction of the city of Jerusalem they are being warned about in Isa 28.
Before we look at that, let's consider how God has dealt with sin and sinners in the past.
The Law of Reaping and Sowing
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." (Gal 6:7)
"Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same." (Job 4:8)
"His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate." (Psa 7:16)
God knows that sin contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction. Sin destroys, which is why He is always trying to protect us from it. So why would God be always trying to protect us from the harmful results of sin and, in the end, personally kill those who have not separated themselves from it? Does that make sense? That would be a strange act indeed!
Command Fire to Come Down From Heaven
Jesus came to show us what the Father is like. Here is one incident where He said something about character:
"And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village." (Luke 9:51-56)
Jesus was saying that He and, by implication, His Father whom He came to represent and to reveal were not like that; not of that Spirit of revenge.
The Acted Parable of the Fig Tree
In another incident, it seems at first that Jesus did a work of destruction upon a fig tree but notice that it did not wither immediately. A study on the meaning of "to curse" from God's perspective will reveal that when God curses someone or something He leaves them/it. With His life-giving and life-sustaining presence withdrawn, ultimately, death is the result. By the next day, the fig tree was showing the results of the withdrawal of God's life-sustaining presence:
"And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it." (Mark 11:13-14)
The next day they walked by the tree again and the disciples saw it withered:
"And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away." (Mark 11:21)
In this acted parable, Jesus used the fig tree as a symbol of the nation of Israel to illustrate what would happen to them if they rejected the Messiah and His protective care.
As in Mount Perazim
God's strange work is also depicted to us on Mount Perazim and in the valley of Gibeon. How are these incidents similar? Because God's strange work of destruction will occur in a similar way.
At Mount Perazim, there was a battle between David and the Philistines:
"But when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines came up to seek David; and David heard of it, and went down to the hold. The Philistines also came and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim. And David enquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up to the Philistines? wilt thou deliver them into mine hand? And the LORD said unto David, Go up: for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into thine hand. And David came to Baalperazim, and David smote them there, and said, The LORD hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me, as the breach of waters. Therefore he called the name of that place Baalperazim." (2 Sam 5:17-20)
"Baalperazim" has the meaning of "Baal (or Lord) of breakings forth." What happened there was that God delivered the Philistines into the hand of David and his army. While God did nothing to protect the Philistines, He did not personally fight against them; He simply withdrew His protective care from them. We should not think that a God of love only cared about the nation of Israel.
The Valley of Gibeon. Joshua versus Amorites
"Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel. ... for the LORD your God hath delivered them into your hand." (Josh 10:12-14,19)
In this incident, in the Valley of Gibeon, "the Lord fought for Israel" in the sense that He did nothing to protect the Amorites.
What Does God Say About How Israel Was Destroyed?
"O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help." (Hos 13:9)
"As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." (Eze. 33:11)
To our merciful God, the act of leaving us to reap the consequences of what we have sown is a strange act.
"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee." (Isa 49:15)
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!" (Luke 13:34)
It seems to me that God's strange act, if we want to call it that at the final judgment, would be for God to let go of all those who refuse to accept Him and allow them to reap what they have sown. I believe that, rightly understood, nowhere does the Bible depict God personally killing anyone with fire from heaven or by any other means.
We say "but it says plainly ..." But the Bible also says many things about the character of God. We can just pass over these and say that "God kills" or we can look more closely and see if the apparent discrepancies can be resolved. If we want to understand God's character we do need to look closely.
To understand the nature of the final fire from heaven and what it does, read
Fire and Brimstone.
There you will find that the final fire from heaven is merely a cleansing fire that burns up dead corpses (but does not kill anyone) to cleanse the earth making it ready for God's work of making a new earth.
reporting and analysing world events related to prophecy.
The Greek has multiple words for forgiveness? God forgives (charizomai
) whether we ask or not. Receiving forgiveness (apheimi
) is by our choice.
God always forgives!