Now, of course, I’m on the heels of watching the Strange Fire conference for the second time, mostly because I came out of a Oneness Pentecostal church and it resonates with me deeply. I’ve seen people convulsing on the floor next to me, doing summersaults, running in and spinning in circles, leaping, screaming/wailing, moaning, you name it. That was a normal fire-filled Sunday night service. And I was one of them, singing songs like “Fire fall down like rain!” (The problem here is what Scripture about fire falling like rain…it’s not good!)
And as I review back over those years in my mind, I ask myself, how could I stand and watch such mockery of God’s Spirit take place and feel like this was the most Spiritual thing that could be done? The only people in Scripture that behaved the way we did, in Worship, were the demonically possessed and mentally ill that Jesus came to heal…
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. ~ Matthew 25:41, ESV
In more modern Charismatic circles (nothing is new under the sun) we see the likes of Rodney Howard-Brown, self-appointed Holy Ghost Bartender setting people on ‘fire’ and laughing hysterically, getting them and himself ‘drunk’ on demand. The Charismatic/Pentecostal circles use this word fire all the time. There is a Jesus Culture song that lasts for nearly 20 minutes, repeating, “Fire… fall down… Fire… fall down… Fire… fall down…we pray…” and young teenagers eat this up with no understanding of Scripture – just lights, smoke, and emotions.
Many Charismatics today harken back to what is most commonly referred to as the Toronto Blessing which was a similar type of revival that began in 1994 at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church, who later renamed themselves to Catch The Fire Toronto in 2010.
Benny Hinn and all of those likes have video after video of ‘Fire falling on kids’ and ‘Fire falling on pastors’ and Fire this and Fire that. There was a summer camp for kids (there is a famous documentary exposing this cult-style indoctrination camp) called Jesus Camp, a Pentecostal camp that shouted the fire down until kids were speaking in tongues and so juiced up on the hype that they were marching in war-bands to songs, dressed in camo with their faces painted, praising then-President George W. Bush and taking hammers to coffee mugs to show them conquering the world and going to war.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. ~ Matthew 7:19, ESV
Going back even further to the birthing of the Charismatic/Pentecostal system, we land on the names of three influential characters who are filled with intrigue, controversy, falsehood, and heresy but are the forefathers of this Pentecostal Fire movement.
Charles F. Parham, William Seymour, and Amiee Semple McPherson. William Seymour, while a protege of Charles F. Parham, is the predominant name as he started, orchestrated and carried what is known as the Asuza St. Revival of 1906. A Los Angeles reporter at the time of the revival reported things such as;
they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit.
Charles F. Parham may be slightly vindicated in this historical narrative, for while he is known as the founder of the ‘Seeking Tongues’ movement in his little Bible College in Topeka, KS, Mr. Parhman later visited the Asuza St. Revivals and renounced what was taking place as extreme, not of God and wanted nothing to do with it. This fallout between Parham and Seymour left Parham in the backdrop of Pentecostalism with Seymour rising to fame and truly becoming the ‘Father’ of the movement that would spread like wildfire.
And to get a sense of just how widespread this notion is, simply Google ‘Pentecostal Fire’ and see how many results you get.
So what is the big deal? So what about the Fire? A Fire Tunnel? Fire Falling? Fire this, fire that…
Fire in the Bible
The first big issue is just how ignorant we must become of Holy Scripture to sing songs with a single lyric, for 20 minutes, saying, “Fire…fall down…Fire…fall down…Fire…fall down…we pray.”
And yes – I’m aware of the Acts 2 origin of this Pentecostal Fire, but there are two glaring fallacies with this notion – the first being that the Acts 2 birthing of the Church was/is NOT a repeatable event. This is the heresy that the Oneness Pentecostal church has adopted, alongside many other false doctrines.
Their claim to fame is the Acts 2:38 motto, describing that the only way in which a New Testament believer can/is saved is by repeating the Acts 2:38 narrative which includes the necessity to speak in tongues. Any believer who has not spoken in tongues is not saved they teach. That is heretical when aligned to Scripture and we are called to expose false doctrines.
The second fallacy is the simple two/three words (depending on the translation) that precede the word ‘fire’ in Acts 2:3, and that is, ‘like as of‘. I’m not trying to split hairs here, trust me…I’ve written about the hair topic enough! But Context is King in Biblical hermeneutics and it’s very damning to take a word or a couple of words in a passage and use it as a proof text.
That simple two/three-word translation makes all the difference in the world to this narrative. The fire wasn’t falling from Heaven or raining down on Believers.
“A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.”
Looking at the Acts 2:3 passage in a multitude of translations really helps to set the stage for what was being seen and written;
“There appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were being distributed [among them], and they rested on each one of them [as each person received the Holy Spirit].” ~ AMP
“They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” ~ NIV
“Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on their heads.” ~ The Living Bible
Now there must have been a reason for this – and I’ve heard throughout the years all kinds of cockamamie examples, parallels, stretchings of Scripture, etc., to prove the point that this passage illustrated a truth, that ALL believers will and must Speak in Tongues when they receive the Spirit of Christ. That ‘Fire’ was the anointing of God, the Spirit.
For instance, one parallel was that in the Old Testament, the chosen vessel of God was anointed with oil. And because oil is flammable, the anointing is now represented as Fire in the New Testament. See how slippery that is? (pardon the pun!)
But if we are able now to say that Fire represents God’s blessings and the anointing, completely ignoring the entire counsel of Scripture, then let Every Man be True and God a Liar. (God forbid! Romans 3:4)
You see, in Scripture, Old and New, fire is judgment. Fire is damnation. The eternal lake of Fire is reserved for Satan and his angels. (Rev 20:10, 20:14, 15) From the very beginning of the book (Genesis 19:24) when God allowed Fire to Fall Down the first time, it destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.
When God freed His people from Egyptian bondage, Fire ‘rained down’ and destroyed the earth, crops, and livestock of the enemy of God’s people. (Exodus 9:22-24)
In Leviticus 10, fire fell down from heaven and consumed the false prophets, and they died!
Even Moses, who arguably had the best experience with Fire in the burning bush, said in Deuteronomy 4, “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God!” There was no ‘anointing indicated here, but a warning call to the people to avoid wrath.
In Deuteronomy 32 the Lord Yahweh says, “For a fire is kindled by my anger, and it burns to the depths of Sheol, devours the earth and its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.”
Throughout the book of Psalm fire is the scariest thing someone would see!
Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him. ~ Psalm 18:8
Our God comes; he does not keep silence; before him is a devouring fire, around him a mighty tempest. ~ Psalm 50:3
Therefore, when the LORD heard, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; his anger rose against Israel, ~ Psalm 78:21
Jeremiah prophesied that the wicked are consumed by fire like lead in the bellows! (Jeremiah 6:29) And again, God says to David in Jeremiah 21:12, “…lest my wrath go forth like fire and burn with none to quench it, because of your evil deeds!”
“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! ~ Luke 12:49
Paul taught in Hebrews 10 that those who willfully sin against God, in open rebellion, unrepentant and in open mockery have a ‘fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.’
As I read through these and near the end of this article I am filled with wonder, awe, and fear! I resonate with the Scripture in Jude that declares one of our purposes as Christians, and Shephards is to SNATCH them OUT of the FIRE, them being those who are in doubt, who are not walking in the ways of the Lord as they should be, the fire being God’s Holy Judgment.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. ~ Jude 1:20-23, ESV
And I do, I want to snatch those caught up in Pentecostal Fire and get them out of that ignorance and danger. As hard as the book of Revelation is to understand, the word FIRE is used 25 times across 21 chapters, and never one time is it a blessing or an anointing, it is always seen as the final wrath of God, the judgment of all judgments. The very last mention of Fire in the Bible says this;
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Rev 21:8
Why, oh why, would we want to ask God to rain down fire on us? I am reminded of one final Scripture that comes (ironically) right on the heels of the miracle of the birth of the Church;
“And with many other words he solemnly urged and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this crooked(warped) generation!” ~ Acts 2:40
There is no fire the Believer should ask to see or want to feel! Jesus came to bring life, abundant life, and he called himself the Good Shephard because a good Shephard lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:10
The fire was an instrument of death and destruction, the opposite of God’s mercy and grace. To the unbelieving and rebellious is a reservation with the lake of Fire. For the believer and follower of Christ, is eternal life.
To my Charismatic and Pentecostal friends, I can only urge a sincere and deep investigation of Scripture. To pray for the rain of fire is to seek judgment and the end of life. It is meant well undoubtedly but also rooted in complete and total ignorance of Holy Scripture.
We are to snatch people from the fires of judgment not usher them into it. We are to expose the falsity of this World not embrace it. It may sound good on a Sunday service with the music pumping and the heart racing, but when inspected along Scripture it is contrary to His True Word.
Fire is going to fall on the wicked – and most sadly, on those who believe they are doing miracles in Jesus’ name but are of a strange fire – which is probably the heaviest indictment against the Charismatic movement in Scripture. Who today is seeking the signs and wonders, the fire?
We must snatch them from the fire…by the Glory of God and for the Glory of the Father
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ~ Matthew 7:21-23
Lord – I humbly seek your favor, and grace, that you would open the eyes, mine, to the truth of your Word. We do not wish to be cast into fire nor to call down the fire of your wrath ignorantly. We seek the refreshment of your Spirit, the waters of your Grace, the comfort of our Father. I pray that you would forgive us our ignorance, guide us in truth, illuminate your Word, and Father, that you, through your Son Christ Jesus, might pour out your Spirit upon us, to anoint us and teach us your ways, for they are much, much higher than our own. Amen