OUR GOD IS A CONSUMING FIRE

Our God Is a Consuming Fire

A. T. Jones

[This is a sermon presented at the Battle Creek Tabernacle on October 22, 1898. It is slightly edited for length, but is word-for-word from A. T. Jones. If you would like the unedited version, it is available in booklet form from Laymen Ministries – (800) 245-1844 or www.lmn.org]

The Lord is coming. He is coming with power and great glory. And "our God is a consuming fire." (Heb. 12:29)...And "who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth?" (Mal. 3:2) That is the question. As He is a consuming fire: and as, when He comes, we shall see Him as He is, we shall have to meet Him as that consuming fire that he is, and there is no escaping it....

As certainly as we shall see Him as He is, so certainly will we all—each one of us—be dealt with as we are. There is no change of character, there is no room for change in us in that day. However, in that day,...it is not upon men themselves that God’s wrath is visited; but upon the sins of men, and upon men only as they are identified with their sins....And only as the man clings to his ungodliness,...shall it be that the wrath of God will be revealed from heaven against him; and even then not against him primarily, but against the sin to which he clings, and will not leave....So it is written,..."The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men."...

And at last, in that great day when the judgment is set, and on the right and on the left are all the people who have ever lived, those on the left will depart "into everlasting fire, prepared"—not for them...., but "for the devil and his angels." The Lord has done His utmost that they might never see it. He gave His Son to save them, that they might never know it. It was not prepared for them. He does not desire that they should be lost; but they have to go there because there is the company which they have chosen; that is the place with which they have connected themselves, and from which they would not be separated....

The Lord Jesus Christ in that hour,...will be just as sorrowful as He was in the hour of the cross. He will be just as sorry that these have to go into that place, which was not prepared for them, as He was in the hour of the cross. It is not His pleasure that any should be there. They are there because of that sin to which they have inseparably joined themselves....They made their choice; they stuck to there choice....God has done all that He could do, but they would not have it....

They had an opportunity to know God. Multitudes professed that they did know God, but in their works they denied Him. They had the form of godliness,--the profession,--but they denied the power thereof....And destruction comes to them, not because they had no chance, but because they despised all the chances they had: not because they had no opportunity to know God, but because they rejected every opportunity that God ever gave them to find Him out....

"If any man hear my words." That word is...the word of life of God....The word of life of God is eternal life....Then there is the word of eternal life....When it comes to you, or to me,...eternal life comes to you, or to me....In the "words of eternal life," eternal life comes to him to whom the word comes. And when he rejects the word, he rejects eternal life. And in choosing to reject eternal life, he chooses eternal death. It is his own choice to reject eternal life; and in rejecting that, he chooses death....Who sentenced him to death?—Only himself....God did all that He could: He set eternal life before him; He surrounded him with every possible inducement, and every persuasion, to receive it; He made it attractive to him; it was adorned, decorated, made as beautiful as God’s truth itself could be made....He rejected the word, and in rejecting the word of eternal life, he rejected eternal life; and in that he chose eternal death. And when he receives eternal death, it is only what he chose....

When Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch, and the Jews contradicted and blasphemed against those things which were spoken by Paul and Barnabas to the Gentiles, those men of God waxed bold, and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles." (Acts 13:46) Mark; it was not said, We judge you unworthy of eternal life. No; you "judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life." Every man who meets destruction passes upon himself the judgment of that destruction....

Then as the Lord executes vengeance primarily only against sin,...and He has done everything He could to get the people to separate from sin, then in that burning day when He comes,...and the world sees Him as He is, it will still be only sin against which He will execute vengeance. What more could God do than He did to take away sin? He gave His only-begotten Son; Christ gave Himself, what whosoever would believe on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He pledges Himself to every soul who will believe, that he shall not perish....

Whether any one is saved, depends upon what he chooses. The Lord will not save us in spite of ourselves. He has made it possible, in the gift of Christ, for every one of us to be saved. It depends upon us whether we choose the salvation that He has given....So, then, to every soul who believes in Jesus, God says, I pledge Myself that you "shall not perish."...That is a good offer. It is infinitely fair, and infinitely generous. It is as fair and generous as is God.

Destruction of sin is the only way of salvation. His name shall be called "Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." So when I accept His offer, as certainly as I believe in Jesus I shall not perish. And in that, I accept the provision that I will let sin go. I agree that I am willing to be separated from the sin, and that I will separate from sin. Listen: "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him that the body of sin might be destroyed." Then the object of the cross of Christ is the destruction of sin. Never miss that thought. Hold fast to it forever: the cross of Jesus Christ...is the destruction of sin. Thank the Lord, that object will be accomplished. Now let us read the whole verse: "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." (Rom. 6:6) Not only is there destruction of sin, but freedom from the service of sin. "For sin shall not have dominion over you." (Verse 14) Let us follow that thought briefly right through the chapter. There is in it a whole world of Christian victory and joy.

"For he that is dead is freed from sin." He who is crucified, he who has accepted the death of Jesus Christ, and is crucified with Him, he it is that is freed from sin. "Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him." But where does H live? Does He live in sin?—He never did. Then as certainly as we live with Him, we live with Him free from sin. "Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him."...It had the dominion, because He gave Himself up in surrender to the dominion of death; but death could not hold Him, because He was separated from sin. Neither can death hold anybody else; even though it has dominion, it cannot hold the man who is free from sin.

"Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you."...

"Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" The next verse reads: "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." The cross of Christ gives not only freedom from sin, but makes men servants of righteousness. The next verse tells us that the service of righteousness is "unto holiness;" the end of holiness is everlasting life; and without holiness "no man shall see the Lord."

Then it is perfectly plain, as plain as A B C, that the only true preparation for the coming of the Lord is separation from sin. It makes no difference how much we talk about the coming of the Lord; nor how much we preach the signs of the times; nor how much we prepare for it otherwise, though we sell all we have, and give to the poor,--if we are not separating from sin, making it our constant consideration to be absolutely separated from sin, and to be servants of righteousness unto holiness, we are not making preparation for the coming of the Lord at all: our profession is all a fraud....It may be that we are deceiving ourselves by it; but that makes no difference: if our constant consideration is not entire separation from sin, our profession is a fraud.

The profession of being an Adventist, of being a Seventh-day Adventist, looking for the coming of the Lord, telling people that the coming of the Lord is near, watching the signs of the times,--all this is right, absolutely and forever right. But, though I have all this, and have not that one thing,--the sole ambition to be completely separated from sin, and from the service of sin,--my profession of the Adventist faith is a fraud; for if I am not separated from sin, I can not meet the Lord at all in peace. Therefore if my sole ambition is not separation from sin, and from the service of it, I am not preparing at all to meet the Lord.

Then the question for every one of us here today, and for Seventh-day Adventists of all people, is, Are you preparing to meet the Lord, whom, without holiness, no man shall see? I am going to ask you more than that: Are you ready to meet the Lord?...It is proper for me, now and forever, to stand here and ask, Are you separated from sin?...Because our God is a consuming fire, and there is no use trying to get away from that....He says that is just what He is; and the sooner you and I make up our minds that God is a consuming fire, the better....

He is coming in flaming fire, He comes as a consuming fire; but I want to know what is the use of talking about His coming unless we are ready to meet Him in this consuming fire?...Do you not remember that the Word not only says that we shall see Him, but see Him as He is? that is, we shall see Him as a consuming fire,--and I am glad of it. Thank the Lord! Here is a description of Him when John saw Him as He is,--saw Him as we shall see Him..."His eyes were as a flame of fire." "His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace;" and "his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength." His raiment was "white as snow,"..."as white as the light"—the whiteness of piercing, consuming brightness. That is He. And that is He as He is when He comes; and without holiness no man shall see Him. Without separation from sin, no man shall stand.

Then the question with you and with me today, and all the time is, How shall we be so separated from sin that we may meet Him in flaming fire! How, how, how!...We will look at the evil traits that are in us, at the struggles we have made, and the longing we have had to overcome these besetments, and to separate ourselves from all the evil, that we might indeed be ready. Where is there time to get ourselves ready? In the short time that intervenes between now and that day,--is there time? and if so, when shall be that time when you and I shall have that thing so accomplished, shall have so separated ourselves from sin, that we shall be ready to meet Him in flaming fire? The answer is, Never. That time will never, never come.

What, then, shall we do? Do not misunderstand. I did not say that the time never would come when we could be separated from sin. I said, Look at yourself, and I will look at myself, and we will see what we are, how full of evil traits, and what little progress we have made in this work of overcoming, and ask the question, When will the time ever come when you and I shall have so separated ourselves from sin that we can meet Him in flaming fire? It is that time which I say will never, never come.

But, bless the Lord! there is time to be separated from sin. No time will ever come when we can do this work ourselves; but the time is now, JUST NOW, to be separated from sin. The time to be separated from sin is right now, and that now is all the time....Only God can separate us from sin; He will do it, and He will do it just now. Bless His name!

Yet, what everyone must understand is this: the only way that God does, or can, separate anybody from sin is by that very consuming fire of His presence. The only way, therefore, in which you and I can ever be so separated from sin as to meet God as He is, in the flaming fire that He is, in that great day, is to meet Him TODAY as He is, in the consuming fire that He is. The only way that we can be prepared to meet Him at His coming in that great day is to meet Him in His coming today. For there is a coming to men now....But do not forget that whether He comes to you or to me now, or whether He comes to other people in that great day, He comes only as a consuming fire.

Listen: "If any man hear my voice, and open the door,"—what does He say?—"I will come in to him." Good. Thank the Lord! And "he is a consuming fire;" and when He comes in to you, that coming will consume all the sin in you, so that when He comes in the clouds of heaven in flaming fire, you can meet Him in joy in the consuming fire that He is.

Then do you hear His voice? "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I WILL COME IN TO HIM." Do you hear His voice? Then swing open wide the door, and keep it everlastingly open. Bid Him welcome, in the consuming fire that He is: and that flaming fire of His presence will consume sin in all your being, and so will thoroughly cleanse and prepare you to meet Him in flaming fire in that great day.

When I meet Him today "in flaming fire," when I welcome Him today "a consuming fire" in me, shall I be afraid to meet Him in flaming fire in that day?—No; I shall be accustomed to it; and knowing what a blessed thing it is to become familiar with meeting Him as "a consuming fire," knowing what a blessing that has brought to me today, I shall be delighted to meet Him on that other day, when He shall be revealed from heaven in flaming fire. "Our God is a consuming fire." Bless the Lord!

"Who may abide the day of his coming? Who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s FIRE." Good. Then when I meet Him now, in the consuming fire that He is, I meet Him in a fire that is refining, that purifies. "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 an offering in righteousness." That is separation from sin; that is purification from sin. And that sets us where we offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness: we become the servants of righteousness unto holiness, that we may meet the Lord. So, then, bless the Lord that He is a consuming fire,--that He is as a refiner’s fire.

Look again at that expression in Revelation: "His eyes were as a flame of fire." In that day His eyes will rest upon each one of us, and He will look clear through us. When...those eyes in that great day rest upon everyone of us, and look clear through us, what will that look do for everyone who is wrapped up, body and soul, in sin?—It will consume the sin, and the sinner with it; because he would not be separated from the sin. And today, just now, those eyes are the same that they will be in that day. Today His eyes are as a flame of fire; and "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." Very good, then....Why not accept the fact, choose to have it so, and on our part open up everything to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do? And having opened up the life thus to Him, to the flaming fire of the glory of His shining eyes, what will that do?—Those eyes of living flame will look clear through us, and will consume away all the sin,...and will refine us so that He shall see in us the image of Himself....

Here again, is the word of the Lord: "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me." (Ps. 139:23, 24) That is the word given to us for today and for all time. Another word goes right along with it: "O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising,...and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me." Another translation has it: "Thou has compassed me all around; and holdest thine hand over me." (Verses 1-5) That is a fact. He has compassed us all around, and His hand is over us. Whether we accept it or not, is another matter; but that is the fact with every man in all this wide world....

Then when it is a fact that He has searched us, and known us, and does search out and know us all the time, why not accept it as a fact, and have the benefit of it? Why not present to Him the word, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts"? What for?—"And see if there be any wicked way in me." O, that sets me before His face; for His glorious eyes of light to look upon me, and to shine through me, as the fire, searching out if there be any wicked way in me! And having searched it out, and being a consuming fire, he consumes it all away, and leads me in the way everlasting.

So, then, the sure way to escape the flaming fire of that great day is to welcome that flaming fire this day. Therefore, I say again, Let it never escape from your thought that "our God is a consuming fire;" and that the sure way to escape from that consuming fire in that great day when there will be no chance to change, and no time to choose, is to choose today the blessed change that is wrought, by welcoming freely, gladly, into the life, our God, who is a consuming fire.

I remember the word that was spoken to Moses. As Moses had come nearer and nearer to God, he said at last: "I beseech thee, show me thy glory." That is exactly what appears in the coming great day that is at hand: He comes "in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." His glory covers the heavens in that day, and the earth is filled with His praise. In that day He is "wrapped in a blaze of boundless glory," "and every eye shall see him." But who shall endure it? That is the question; and the answer is: Only those who have prayed, and now pray, that Christian prayer, "I beseech thee, show me thy glory."

When Moses prayed that blessed Christian prayer, the Lord said: "There is a place by me,...and I will put thee in a cleft of the rock," "and I will make all my goodness pass before thee." "And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by," I "will cover thee with my hand," and you shall see me. (Ex. 33:21-23) So, though every man should dread the terror of the consuming glory of the Lord in that great day, there is today a place by Him. So we are to bid all souls; and from Him I bid you, today, Come, and stand in this place by Him, in the very presence of the flaming glory. Do not be afraid. Moses was not able to bear the fullness of that consuming glory that day; but the Lord, in His love, covered him with His hand, and protected him from the effects of that glory, which he was unable to bear.

The great trouble in that great day is that the people are not able to bear the glory. The kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, the chief men and the captains, and every bondman, and every freeman flee to the rocks and mountains to hide themselves, and say to the rocks and mountains, "Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" The blazing glory of God will shine upon the earth, and these people cannot bear it.

But today do not be afraid. He says: "There is a place by me;" there is a place "in a cleft of the rock," and "I will put thee in a cleft of the rock," and I "will cover thee with my hand," so that you can bear the blaze, and the purifying power, of my glory. And that consuming fire of My presence shall consume away all the sin.

I "will cover thee with my hand,"—I will protect you even from that weakness which, in you, makes you unable to bear the fullness of my glory. And when He takes away His hand in that great day, those who have dwelt by His side; and been purified by living in this consuming fire until they are made white and tried, can look upon His unveiled face. In the full brightness of His glory, we shall look upon Him, and see Him as He is.

And that is where we are now to look. With open face we can look, even now, into His face. For, in the flesh of Jesus Christ, God has veiled the annihilating power of the glory of His face; for, having shined into our hearts, He gives the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. In looking into the face of Jesus Christ, we see the face of God, and "we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Then let every soul welcome the glorious message that God sends to the world, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost;" welcome that blessed Spirit that works this change by which we are changed from glory to glory, and made ready to meet Him in that great day of glory....Only in this way shall we be made perfect in Christ Jesus; and in Christ be made ready to meet Him as He is.
God is a consuming fire; and I am glad of it. Our God is coming; and I am glad of it. He is coming in flaming fire; and I am glad of it. He is coming in all His glory; and I am glad of it....I am glad that the day is coming when all sin will be swept away by our God, who is a consuming fire.

Come, brethren. Are you ready? Are you ready to meet Him in that day? If not, He says to you today, "There is a place by me." Come today, and stand in this place by Me. I will reveal to you all my glory; "I will make all my goodness pass before thee." And where there is any defect in you that cannot just now bear the deeply consuming fire of this glory, I "will cover thee with my hand" until it is all over: so that I may separate you from all sin, and save you in that day of glory.

O, then, welcome Him who is a consuming fire! Dwell in His presence. Open up the life. Recognize the fact that He is a consuming fire—that He is never anything else. Then rejoice in that today. Dwell in that consuming fire today. And when that great day breaks upon the earth, in all His glory, we shall also rejoice in that day. Then we shall stand and say, "Lo, this is our God." But what! with the mountains hurling through the air; every island fleeing out of its place; the earth coming up from beneath; the heavens departing as a scroll, with a noise that is more than deafening; and flaming fire all around, His face as the sun, His eyes as a flame of fire,--in all this shall we rejoice?—Yes, bless the Lord! We shall rejoice, because "this is our God." We have seen Him before; we have lived with Him; we have welcomed His consuming presence; we have welcomed the living flame of which His eyes are as a flaming fire, that they should pierce us through, and search out any wicked way in us.

We know what blessing and joy were brought into our lives when His consuming glory purified us from sin and from sinning, and made us the servants of righteousness unto holiness. And knowing what blessedness that was, we exclaim, in the fullness of perfect joy, "Lo, this is our God" indeed. We see Him now, more fully than before. That means more blessing still. "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation." (Isa. 25:9)

[Friends, this is finishing the work. This is the mission statement of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This is what it means to be a Seventh-day Adventist. This is the final atonement. This is the cleansing of the sanctuary. This is the blotting out of sin. This is salvation by grace through faith. Let us not accept any cheap substitutes that are sugary sweet but have no substance. This is translation-power preaching.]