Most believers who have been to Sunday school can quote John 3: 16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Likewise John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ who came to prepare the way for the Messiah (Mal 3:1) encouraged sinners to repent and be baptized in water. But, upon seeing Jesus approach him for water baptism John declared publicly to his followers something different from typical Christian rhetoric involving repentance, faith, water baptism and eternal life. Instead he announces “I verily baptize you with water, but He who comes after me whose shoes I am not worthy to unlatch (Jn 1:27), He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with Fire ( Mt 3:11).” John had made water baptism and repentance easy to understand. Baptisms in the Holy Ghost and Fire were without a doubt mystical and mysterious to the average mind. Indeed, they probably still are.
An understanding of these strange concepts remained mysterious throughout the 3 ½ years that Jesus was engaged in active ministry. This mysterious mission of Jesus only became apparent 50 days after his crucifixion. That is, after he rose from the dead he remained with his disciples for 40 days (Acts 1:3). He gave instruction that they should remain in Jerusalem, praying continuously for power from on high (Acts 1:14). Only after they received the Holy Ghost would they have power to evangelize or become “witnesses” (Acts 1:8). Ten days after his ascension, and while these 120 disciples were praying we read that they were all filled with the Holy Ghost simultaneously. First there was the sound of a mighty rushing wind followed by something that appeared like cloven tongues of fire that sat upon their heads. (Incidentally, this is a perfect description of the manifested Shekinah glory.) And while worshiping they began speaking in tongues. Finally, upon leaving the upper room it is written that the crowds that were gathered in Jerusalem considered these 120 individuals to be drunk (Acts 2:1-4 &13).
Then we read that Peter preached to the multitudes gathered for this Feast of Pentecost and that 3000 souls believed and were added to the newly born church (Acts 2:41). However, what is strange about his preaching is that he speaks about the end of the world and events that would lead up to the second coming of Christ. He mentions that there would be signs in the heavens and he referenced the Old Testament prophet, Joel who also spoke about the end of the world (Acts 2:14-20). Later he quoted from the Psalms and spoke directly of the ancient prophecies that confirmed the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Moreover, though he encourages all hearers that they and generations to come could likewise be filled with the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:39), he makes no mention of this fire that sat upon their heads which might also accompany future believers. Are we to believe that the Baptism of the Holy Ghost was for the 120 disciples as well as others that would follow, but the Baptism of Fire was not to be repeated?
Though it seems that the Baptism of the Holy Ghost and speaking in tongues has been hidden from Christians for centuries it has now become increasingly mainstream in communities throughout the United States and on public TV since the late 1940s. Originally participants were called holy-rollers but today, scarcely an American Christian alive can say that they are unaware of the charismatic movement. Indeed, many are personally acquainted with the experience or know someone who claims to have had this experience. But still, the enigmatic Baptism of Fire that occurred simultaneously with the Baptism of the Holy Ghost that occurred on the day of Pentecost remains unexplained. Perhaps Peter was trying to tell us in what started out to be an “end-time message” that Christ would baptize his followers in a kind of spiritual fire prior to his return.
I think there are aspects from the Greek that can also help to explain this mystery. In the Book of Acts when the followers received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost or the power of the Holy Ghost to become witnesses, the word used for power is “dunamis” from which we get the word dynamite. Later in the Book of Revelation chapter 11, Jesus says I will give power to my two witnesses. That is more, or a different kind of power to those who have already received dumanis-power. Here the Greek word for “additional power” is “exousia,” which is more accurately translated “authority.” So we read that there is a double portion awaiting Christians who have been filled with the Holy Ghost. It’s unfortunate but understandable why believers think that the two witnesses is a reference to the return of Moses and Elijah. For example, these two witnesses “turn the water to blood”or cause it “that it rained not” etc. (things that Moses and Elijah did). But fortunately we are provided with rules for interpreting Revelation: “to him that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev 2:7,2:29, 3:22, etc). Hence any understanding of this book necessitates a spiritual interpretation (like a metaphor) and not a literal interpretation.
Instead of Moses and Elijah, envision the Jewish-menorah, a hollow candlestick, made of solid gold-with seven extensions. It looks something like a candelabra. And keep in mind the book begins by speaking to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Hence this vessel is symbolic of a group of purified or sanctified believers who, in the Lord’s eyes, are chosen vessels kept within the temple for the Lord himself. But why TWO candlesticks in TWO olive branches? Perhaps the author is referring to 1) individuals from natural Israel who has been converted to Christ (Messianic Jews) and 2) the spiritual Israelites or those from the Gentile world who have become Christians. Is there evidence for this? Romans 11, and specifically versus 25 & 26 suggest that one day the natural Jews will acknowledge Christ as their Messiah, they will be converted. I am also compelled to ask myself if I ever remember a time in my life when there were so many Messianic Jews on television preaching the gospel? No I cannot. This is a first. The idea of a natural as well as a spiritual Israel is reiterated in Ephesians 2:12-16. Again it seems to be validated with God’s promise to Abraham’s seed (Heb 11:12): “so many as the stars of the sky in multitude (spiritual Israel) and as the sand which is by the seashore innumerable” (natural Israel).
Moving on, the two olive branches here are, no doubt, a reference to olive oil that is poured into the candlesticks, the fuel so to speak. In this case the oil represents the Holy Ghost. Actually this is a consistent metaphor maintained throughout Scripture. For example, when David was anointed king over Israel in the Prophet Samuel poured oil on his head we read that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him from that point on (I Sam 16:13). David even refers to this event in the 23rd Psalm, “thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over.”
But what good is a lamp with oil in it unless it is set ablaze. It’s like a lamp with the dead light bulb or a lamp with a good light bulb that someone forgot to plug into an electric socket. Hence the need for fire, or in the words of John the Baptist: a Baptism of Fire. The purpose of this second baptism is not just to give power so that believers can boldly witness but to give believers authority, much like the authority described by the ministries of Moses and Elijah. Recall that God introduced himself to Moses in the wilderness and spoke to him from a Burning Bush that was not consumed (Ex 3:2). After leaving Egypt, Moses and the children of Israel were led out of the wilderness and to the promised land by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. The cloud by day is a foreshadowing of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit while the pillar of fire by night is a foreshadowing of the Baptism of Fire. In other words, while there has been “heavenly sunshine” the Lord has visited his people with showers of blessing resulting in the gifts of and the fruits of the Spirit. However, as the midnight hour approaches this earth, believers will need to be possessed by our God who is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29).
On Mount Carmel Elijah told the followers of Baal “the God that answers by fire, let him be God” (1 Kg 18:24). Later we read that Elijah was carried to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kg 2:11). Other examples from the Old Testament come to mind where God uses fire to demonstrate his power and authority. Ironic that many Christians are not aware that Fire fell from the sky and consumed 144,000 sacrifices when Solomon’s Temple was dedicated (1 Kg 8: 64-65). But most believers remember how Nebuchadnezzar threw the 3 Hebrew children into a fiery furnace and they were not burned, scorched nor singed (Dan 3:24-25). This story is comforting to the believer who reads in 2 Peter 3:10 that “day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are there in shall be burned up.” Why is this thought comforting? Because, if the believer is already baptized in the Fire of the Holy Ghost he would be like the three Hebrew children thrown into the fiery furnace.
Also remember Gideon, who was called by God to drive out the Midianites from Israel. Once an army was assembled Gideon, prompted by the Lord, requested that all of the Hebrews who were gathered for battle go home if they were fearful; 22,000 left. Gideon then eliminated from the Army another 10,000 because they drank water from the brook like a dog. Finally, Gideon had only 300 men left to war against an army of thousands of Midianites. The first group that went home can be likened to Christians who mind the things of this world. The second group are easily compared to Christians who lap up the water of the Word like a dog. Whatever the preacher says they swallow it hook, line and sinker. But “You need that no man should teach you for you have an unction from the Holy One”(1 Jn 2:27). Instead Gideon kept only 300 men. Incidentally, 300 square cubits are the dimensions of the temple (the holy place combined with the holy of holies, but not the outer court believers). These 300 circled the enemy at night on the hills above the enemy camp. They blew their trumpets, yelled out loud a shout of victory, smashed their vessels of clay so that the light burning inside could shine. Whereupon, the Midianites woke from their slumber and in total darkness kill each other.
Indeed this fire-concept has captured the imagination of many popular charismatic ministers today. However, though they pray for individuals to receive the Fire of the Holy Ghost they describe the purpose of this experience as one that causes the believer to become more fervent in their faith. That is, they equate this fiery experience to a renewed passion for Christ, for improved soul winning, for a deeper and more fervent prayer life. Essentially, many of these ministers have merely defined the Baptism of Fire with a secular definition associated with the phrase “a burning passion.” The problem with this anemic, co-opted, secular definition is that it hardly mirrors the authority associated with Moses and Elijah. Their ministries were not simply a burning passion. No doubt a burning passion existed with both of these individuals but their ministries encompassed far more. They were empowered with a divine authority that superseded the kingdoms of this world.
Are you totally confused, or are you beginning to get what I’m saying? Peter referenced the end of the age and the coming of Christ when he spoke of these two baptisms. Since the baptism of the Holy Ghost has been available en masse for some 70 years, Christ is now pouring out on believers who desire more of him the Baptism of Fire. Please understand I am not opposed to a believer acquiring a burning passion for Jesus. Indeed, this may be a prelude to the promised fiery baptism. What I am simply sharing with you is that we are indeed at the end of the “Age of the Gentiles” and the Baptism of Fire is no longer just available to a few medieval saints. The Fire of the Holy Ghost is being poured out to all who ask, seek and knock. In Malachi 3:2-3 we read, “But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord and offering in righteousness.” He will indeed “do a quick work unto righteousness” (Rom 9:28). During the earth’s darkest hour, soon to be upon us, he will give authority to his two witnesses. I guarantee you that you will see in the very, very near future many Christians who are walking in incredible authority. (Of course they will be accused of being false Christ’s.) Even now God is leading many a spirit filled believer to boldly declare many things in the name of Jesus. In fact, these believers are shocked themselves at the immediacy of God’s response.
Re-read the Book of Acts. I suspect that what was recorded in that book will be seen as minor compared to what is right around the corner. Remember how Christians like Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead because they lied to the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:1-10). Or how Peters shadow heals the sick and delivers the possessed (Acts 5:15-17). Or do you remember reading how Stephen, while being stoned to death, fell asleep and was unaffected by pain (Acts 7:60). Prior to his death we read that Stephen did great wonders and miracles among the people (Acts 6:8) and when he spoke to the Sanhedrin “his face shone bright as an angel” (Acts 6:15). Remember Peter was jailed by Herod but led out of a well-guarded prison by an angel, and he thought he was dreaming the whole time. Immediately after that miraculous escape from prison Herod was eaten of worms (Acts 12). Remember Paul and Silas who were imprisoned for casting a demon out of a woman in the marketplace who made money for her captors by telling fortunes. They were later released from their bonds by an earthquake that shook the jail. And immediately afterwards their jail keeper who thought to end his life because he believed prisoners had escaped, instead was gloriously saved and Paul and Silas were set free (Acts 16: 23-34). Later we read Paul’s handkerchiefs and aprons healed all who touch the pieces of cloth that had been touched by Paul (Acts 19:12). Remember how Paul was unaffected by a venomous snake bite (Acts 28:3-5) following a shipwreck where no one died because he prophesied it so (Acts 27:22). Also recall Jesus said this gospel shall be preached in all the world and then shall the end come (Mt 24:14). Coincidentally, this gospel has been preached in the entire world since the late 1940s following the charismatic renewal. So basically, we should be expecting the end to come.
Now back to the original question, “Why did Jesus come?” Answer: to the sinner he offers salvation and eternal life. To those who have received salvation and eternal life and are awaiting his return, he offers to baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with Fire. The Holy Ghost is needed to give us boldness to witness to a dying world. You are that Temple of the Holy Ghost if you have been filled by his Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). The middle wall of partition was ripped in half when Jesus died on the cross so that you and He are ONE (Jn 17:21). The holy place and the holy of holies constitute one room now.
Like Gideon’s army God is sounding his trumpet in this hour so that believers can and will also receive the Fire of God. Like Gideon’s shattered vessels yield yourself totally to him so that his light can shine through you. Run into the Fire of God so that he can give you His authority. When this simultaneously occurs at the midnight hour, the wise virgins who have kept their lamps trimmed (Matt 25:4) will be seen as “lightning that shines from the East to the West” (Matt 24:27) and “all eyes shall see him” (Rev 1:7) For “He shall come to be glorified in his saints” (2 Thes 1:10). In this way the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together” (Isa 40:5). The worldly systems on the earth will be burned up and melt away (2 Pet 3:10-12) by we who who are joint heirs and constitute the corporate Body of Christ. All creation will be set free (Rom 8: 17-19). On that day “the meek shall inherit the earth”(Matt 5:5).
That’s how much Jesus loves you and me.
God bless you all,
Brother Jerry Turk