Tried in the Fire -
It's Either Now or Later
Being "tried in the fire" is a process we usually think of in terms of the growing Christian experience of God's people. It is understood that the trials and challenges of life can teach us patience and help to take the rough edges off of our characters.
This is part four of a seven-part study on the true meaning of The Lake of Fire and Brimstone. Go back to part three
Trial by Fire.
However, as we saw in the previous page (link above), there are some things that seem to be common between the experiences of the saved and the lost in terms of being tried in the fire.
We don't generally have a hard time with the idea that the wicked are judged by fire but how is it that the saints could be judged (or purified or cleansed) by fire?
The purification process involves a removal of that which is undesirable so that only the pure gold remains. This is really speaking, as 1 Corinthians 3:12-13 puts it, of removing ungodly character traits so that only the desirable traits remain. This happens in two primary ways.
1. Instruction. We are given the example of the life of Christ who showed us by word and deed how to live:
"He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." (1 John 2:6)
"For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:" (1 Pet 2:21)
2. Motivation. By beholding Him and His love, as recorded in scripture, we are given the motivation to also love others. Our motivation comes from an appreciation for the great love He has shown us by dying in our place:
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)
God has a way of helping us to remove our character flaws, of making imperfect people perfect. He has chosen to call it (symbolically) fire. We have read a number of verses and this should be very clear. This is sometimes referred to as the beholding principle - we become like that which we behold.
For the Christian, this experience of being tried in the fire happens day by day in our earthly experience as we behold Him and, in a response of love, willingly submit to the sanctification that God desires for us. Beholding Him and His character changes us and "burns" out of our characters those un-Christlike traits.
Revelation of spiritual truth is given progressively as a person is able to bear it:
"I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able." (1 Cor 3:2)
"And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it." (Mark 4:33)
"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." (John 16:12)
This verse equates "milk," symbolically, with "the first principles of the oracles of God" and "strong meat" with more advanced truth (such as might equip one to be a teacher):
"For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." (Heb 5:12)
Paul then equates this strong meat (advanced truth) with the ability "to discern both good and evil" which would include the ability to judge one's own character and actions whether they are good or evil:
"But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Heb 5:14)
God, in a cooperative process with us, gives us spiritual truth, in part, to aid us in the process of removing or burning out of our characters that which is impure. Literal fire does not burn up inanimate flaws (symbolized by wood, straw and stubble) of human character but God's spiritual fire does burn up human character flaws if we consent to the process.
So if "fire" is used in a symbolic sense to refine the saints, how does it work in a symbolic sense when applied to the cases of the lost? Will they also be tried in the fire? We will soon see the answer but first we need to consider what the Bible means by its use of the term
in part five of this study.