FIRE: NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL
BY: LLOYD ELLEFSON
In this study we want to look at the word FIRE, and see how it is used in the scriptures. Fire causes burning; during the burning process, something is destroyed. Fire is used in the natural realm as well as in the spiritual. Fire is destructive; it can destroy or consume useful things, but also evil things. When fire is used correctly, it is a blessing; if used incorrectly, it causes great harm. In Exodus 3 we read about an unusual fire, which did not consume the bush it was burning. We hear a lot about hell, the lake of fire, and hellfire. However, we hear little about the purpose of hell or the lake of fire. The general public's idea of what these things mean are the same as those of the church systems. The word "hellfire" is not used in the scriptures.
The King James translation gives us an entirely wrong concept of hell by mistranslating the Greek. Historically, Gehenna is a valley outside Jerusalem where the garbage and the bones of animals, which had been sacrificed and were not to be used on the altar of offering, were dumped. The translators have taken the word "Gehenna" and translated it as "hell". Then they added "fire" to it and translated it as "hellfire". This is how the word "hellfire" became the "lake of fire", because "hell" and "fire" were joined. So it has been assumed that hellfire is a literal lake of fire into which people will be cast and burned with sulfur, etc. But the words "hell" and "fire" are never joined in the scriptures. The word "hell" or "Hades" means "unperceived" or "unseen"; it is something that is not seen by natural man. For example, let's say someone is cast into hell. He is put into a place where he cannot see anything of the Spirit. He is in unperception and in darkness; he has not been illuminated. That is why the day of the Lord comes to burn away the areas of darkness people are in.
The word FIRE is often used in the scriptures in connection with God. He is a consuming fire. (Deut. 4:24; Heb. 12:29) We may find it difficult to equate a God who is love with one who is a consuming fire. Can He be both? He is God, and both are virtues or characteristics that tell us who He is. It is impossible to describe God with one word, one title or one name. We don't even know what the word "God" actually means.
Isaiah 66:15 says, "For behold, the Lord will come in fire and His chariots like the whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire." We see here that fire is an instrument that the Lord uses when He comes. When is the Lord coming with fire? Did He come with fire at His first coming? This coming with fire is going to destroy those who are trying to set themselves apart for the Lord by means that God has not specified.
"For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory. And I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations...to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations. Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations..." (Is. 66:18-20a) These verses prompt many questions. Whose brethren? Does it refer only to Jews? Has God brought all the Jews out of the nations? Can you see how easy it is to become bogged down in the carnal mind? This does not get us anywhere, does it? It does not tell us how the Lord comes with fire. Will He light a fire? If so, how?
"Then they shall go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched; and they shall be an abhorrence to all mankind." (v. 24) In Mark 9:43b-44, Jesus quoted part of this verse. "...than having your two hands, to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." An unquenchable fire is not an eternal fire; it is a fire which cannot be put out. It will continue to burn until it has accomplished its purpose. This fire will do the work it was sent to do! Jer. 17:27 says that God will kindle a fire in the gates of Jerusalem which will devour the palaces and it shall not be quenched. However, we know it is not burning in Jerusalem at the present time. It has done its work.
Malachi 3 tells us what fire does in the natural and in the spiritual realm. "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness." (vv.2-3) Fire destroys, but it also purifies and brings substances, like gold and silver, forth in their beauty. We also see that the day of His coming and the fire co-exist; they come together. You understand that Malachi is talking about fire, which purifies the ministry. Without it, the ministry will go on without being purified; it will continue on in the old teaching and lack spirituality.
The coming of the Holy Spirit to the temple can be compared to the day of the Lord. It is illumination, and it brings a fire or a purging which brings forth the purified silver and gold. The more heat that is applied to the silver and gold, the more dross rises to the top; the dross is then skimmed off, leaving only the purified silver and gold. So the purpose of the day and the fire is to identify and separate the dross from the precious, which cannot be burned up. If heat is applied to hay and stubble it will be burned.
"For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff." (Mal. 4:1a) Here we see the burning up of the chaff (like hay and stubble mentioned in 1 Cor.3). The evil that works in people will be burned by the day of the Lord, by the coming of the Spirit who brings us the illumination of Christ. Spiritually, burning has a shameful connotation. When someone wrongs us, we are to heap coals of burning fire on his head. This does not mean that God will burn him with charcoal or fire; it means that he will endure severe shame in judgment.
We talk about the day of the Lord. Generally speaking, people fear the day of the Lord because of the burning and judgment, which is connected with it. It is the Lord who brings the day of the Lord. He is the day, the light, the illumination, the new sun, the light of His coming, the light of the heavens, the Christ. When He comes, the day of the Lord comes. It is not a historical event. We are children of the day because we are born of Him.
What is spiritual fire as compared to natural fire? This day, this illumination, this coming of the Lord, shall burn as a furnace, and the proud and the wicked and the stubborn will be burned up. Do you suppose this is the fire of the Lord? It is not going to burn up the gold and silver; it is going to purify and refine the sons of Levi. It is going to purify the priesthood so it is not contaminated, and will not build with hay, stubble and things that will be burned in judgment. Judgment consumes them, just as truth consumes error. Truth is a tremendous thing, isn't it? If we are believing a lie, and suddenly discover the truth - what happens to error? It disappears completely, doesn't it? It is destroyed; it goes away. So instead of trying to get rid of error, the priesthood is going to bring in truth, and truth will destroy the error. We are looking at spiritual truth as it is brought forth in natural terms.
We think the purification of the priesthood is the answer to doing away with all the wicked and wrong ideas, but this will come as the result of the Lord coming to His temple. "`Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,' says the Lord of hosts." (Mal. 3:1) It comes because the Holy Spirit comes, bringing the Christ who accomplishes this purification.
Malachi 3:2 says, "But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap." There are two kinds of people - the wicked, and those who will be purified. "And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness."
How is this going to be accomplished? Through the sons of Levi who have been purged, and through those who fear the Lord's name. In Luke 10:19 it says, "Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you." Jesus rejoiced greatly in Spirit because the 70 He had sent, were casting out demons. He had given them the power to tread on scorpions; He had put everything under their feet. This was now being enacted (put into effect). It was through the virtue of the Head (Christ) that the body (the disciples) had gone out, casting out demons. Jesus was rejoicing because He was fulfilling prophecy; He was casting out error and wrong ideas - demons that had fastened themselves onto people.
"Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord." (Malachi 4:4-5) At one time Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" Some said He was a prophet, others said Elijah, and others Jeremiah. They were still looking for the fulfillment of these Old Testament prophecies in a natural way - something they could see. However, Jesus came with the message of the kingdom of God which you cannot see. The disciples wanted to know about the fulfillment of this prophecy in Mal. 4:5. Jesus said that Elijah had already come, for the spirit of Elijah was in John the Baptist.
Before the coming of the day, which comes with fire, we have the coming of Elijah in John the Baptist, preaching repentance and a baptism in water. Do you remember what Elijah did on Mt. Carmel? He challenged the Baal-worshiping priesthood to prove the power of Baal - which they could not do. Then Elijah called down fire from heaven that consumed the sacrifice, the altar, the stones, the water and everything. It burned up the old system completely; the system, which allowed all this abomination. Is that what repentance is? There were 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah who were eating at Jezebel's table. Jezebel had destroyed the prophets of the Lord, and now she wanted to kill Elijah, because he had destroyed all her prophets of Baal! In type, John the Baptist was doing the same thing Elijah had been doing. He came to bring a heavenly judgment upon the false priesthood, which was ruling in Israel, and upon the Roman hierarchy represented by Herod. That is why he was beheaded.
Since Elijah, the prophet, has to come before the dreadful day of the Lord, something has to happen in our ministry before the Lord's Day comes to us. The Lord's Day could be shining everywhere, but those who do not have the Christ, would not see it. They would still be looking for it, and would not have the purging and burning away of those undesirable things within them. Their priesthood would not be purified, and they would not be getting rid of that old chaff.
When John the Baptist was speaking to the Jews in Judea He said, "And do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, `We have Abraham for our father '; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham." (Matt. 3:9) God was not worried about people saying they are natural sons of Abraham; He still isn't. John the Baptist informed them that there is no spiritual merit in being a natural Jew or Israelite. They were to repent of that kind of thinking. When Paul said that he did not put any confidence in the flesh, that he regarded being a Pharisee of the Pharisees and the keeping of all the laws as rubbish in order that he might gain Christ, it showed that he had repented of his previous attitude. That was past.
"And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Matt.3:10) What does this refer to? This does not mean that we are supposed to cut down trees. Adam and Eve ate the fruit of a certain tree in the garden and got smart. This was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There was another tree in the garden called the tree of life; it is knowledge, the knowledge of life. Now what are all the other trees of the garden? Don't they represent the knowledge that comes to mankind? Trees represent knowledge in the Bible. When Adam hid from God, he hid among the trees of the garden. Where is Adam hiding today? The Adamic man of today is hiding from God in the knowledge of the world. Because he has eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he is afraid of God and the tree of life, and so he hides - he hides among the trees of worldly knowledge. And so has the priesthood! That is why the coming of the Spirit has to purge with fire, and burn out the dross of man's ideas.
"As for me, I baptize you in water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I...He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." (v.11) The word "baptize" means "to place into". When we are baptized in water, we are placed into water. Water is figurative of natural judgment, and fire is a picture of spiritual judgment. Unless we know the nature of fire, we will not understand some of the things about which we read. When it speaks about the things cast into the lake of fire, we get a mental picture of a big lake, like a lake of water, which is burning. People are thrown into this lake and they cannot get out. I don't think that is the impression the Spirit is bringing us about what is meant by fire, judgment, and purging.
Those who have been baptized in the Spirit have been placed into a fire, like gold and silver are placed in a fire in order to be purified. Malachi said, "I will purge the sons of Levi" - that is the coming of the new priesthood. It needs cleansing so that which is of God in them, may come forth. It will not be burned up, but it will shine more brightly. If we have been baptized in the Holy Spirit, there is a fire burning in us, which will burn out the dross and cause the silver of Christ's redemption and His nature of gold to become evident. This process is going on in us even though we don't always realize it.
Jesus said, "I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished." (Luke 12:49-50) He was in a narrow way, where He was pressured until He had kindled a fire on earth and was baptized into a baptism of death. He had to go into death to be able to have resurrection - to be raised up to have life. He had to take humanity into death - go into death Himself - to bring humanity into life and minister life. That is the ministry of fire; that is the fire He started. It is the judgment against natural things. That is why His eyes are flames of fire in Revelation.
"And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean His threshing floor, and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matt. 3:12) Do you realize that chaff is necessary to produce grain? Before a seed sprouts, it has to go through a death process, then it comes forth in new life. As this new form matures, that which once was necessary for growth and maturation, is no longer needed. It has become useless and needs to be cut off. A separation has to take place, and the chaff is burned.
Let us look and see how this applies to our growth and development. When we first become a believer, we are involved in baptisms and communion services. We learn the commandments, etc. These are only forms of truth. Do you think they are going to burn? What will happen if we hang on to all the forms and things that helped us to grow into the likeness of the seed? If we cannot allow ourselves to be cut off from the earth, and separated from the chaff, we have a problem. We need to rejoice as the chaff burns. If we hang on to the chaff (the old forms), we will never become free of it; we will always worship Christ through forms. The fruit will not develop and the kernel will not be exposed. This is why He sent the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire to purge His floor, and to separate His wheat from the chaff. It needs to be burned. The fire is only going to destroy that which helped us to grow into the image of the seed that was planted; it will not destroy the grain! So that is part of His ministry.
Matt.5:22, "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother `Raca,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say,`You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the hell of fire." What is meant by "hell of fire" or "hellfire"? Why is "Gehenna" translated "hell"? Gehenna was a picture of hell, so the translators translated it as hell. This is done a lot in the King James version. You can check the Concordant for the correct usage. The wrong translation of words may be is some of the chaff that needs to be burned; the idea that the King James translation is always right.
Mark 9:43: "And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell (Gehenna), into the fire unquenchable." In Matt.5:30 the word is also "Gehenna". Jesus is talking about entering into life, and we enter into life by birth. It is better to go into life, not seeing right or not walking right, than it is to go into Gehenna; that is, into judgment with all our faculties.
Let's just get it straight what Gehenna is. Gehenna was a valley outside of Jerusalem, actually called the valley of Hinnom. It is the name of this valley that is used to typify hell. Nothing was ever recovered out of that dump. That was NOT a place of recovery! The fire which purges will purge us from things that are not recoverable. They are separated from us entirely. It is not that God is making evil good, like some teach. God is not in the process of taking things that are bad and making them good. These things are dross - they are not part of the gold or silver; they cannot be purified. So when we are on the altar, a separation takes place, and the chaff is burned. The things that are put into Gehenna are put under judgment, and God's judgment remains on them.
This judgment is spiritual; it is an unquenchable fire and cannot be put out; it will accomplish its purpose. The unquenchable fire of judgment on murder (for example), will continually be on murder, for it cannot be recycled into good. The fire destroys that which is not profitable - it does not destroy the silver and gold. These are refined; but the dross (tares or darnel) is "burned up". It never becomes good. Since we are baptized with this spiritual fire, it will destroy things, which are not profitable in us. The things that are not useful in the kingdom never become useful and are always judged. This ought to put things into perspective for us.
"And the field is the world; as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one." (v. 38) Here is a parable of the tares in the field. The enemy that sowed the tares is the adversary. The sons of the kingdom are the good seed; they are born out of Christ. Christ is the truth, and the tares (darnel) are the error. The field is the world. Here we find a mixture; error grows alongside the truth in this field where the Christians are. This is the work of the adversary. The adversary is the devil. He comes and says, "Has God said?" He is the adversary to the words of God; he opposes the promises of God.
So right in the midst of the kingdom in the field we have the adversary. As the good seed and the tares grow up together, there are some who can see the difference between them, but many cannot. The difference will be very noticeable when they bear fruit, at the time of harvest. At that time a separation will take place. The tares will be bundled up and burned. This will happen at the time of harvest, at the end of the age. All the error will be gathered out of His kingdom, placed together, and put under spiritual judgment. The harvest concludes an age. Jesus said, "the harvest is ripe." The reaping of the law, the fruit of the law is what brings us into Christ.
"And the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels (or messengers). Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness." (vv. 39-41) This is the Son of Man sending His message to cull out the tares - those who are lawless. He does this through His body, the corporate Christ in the earth. Not many people today are culling out those who are saying wrong things, etc. Most people are adding to it. They are still meshed in the delusion. But there are some people who have discernment, and through their messages are separating the truth from the error, and bundling the error. And that is what constitutes the harvest.
"And they shall be casting them into a furnace of fire." (v.42a Concordant) The messengers of the Son of Man are casting them into the fire. How do they put them into the fire? Is it not with the judgment of words? When truth comes through the priesthood that has been purged, fire comes. The life of Christ that has gone through death, kindles a fire in the earth. And aren't we a part of the fire that causes this purification process? "There shall be lamentation and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the just be shining out as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (vv.42b-43)
Let's look at Paul's teaching on this judgment. "According to the grace of God which is being granted to me, as a wise foreman I lay a foundation, yet another is building on it. Yet let each one beware how he is building on it. For other foundation can no one lay beside that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone is building on this foundation gold and silver, precious stones, wood, grass, straw, each one's work will become apparent, for the day will make it evident, for it is being revealed by fire. And the fire, it will be testing each one's work - what kind it is." (1 Cor.3:10-13) This is the judgment of fire - not water. Water baptism is a type of judgment on the flesh, while the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire brings spiritual judgment.
To illustrate this let's look at the parable of the wise man who built his house upon a rock, and the foolish man who built his house upon the sand. When the rain and the floods came, they took away the FOUNDATION, and the HOUSE fell. I believe that the law lays the correct foundation for Christ. On it is built the house of the Lord, which is the truth, the Christ, our spiritual dwelling place. If your dwelling place would fall down, you would feel naked, homeless and afraid. The world is full of people who feel that way, because the floods of error, lasciviousness and evil, have washed away their foundation. They are looking and crying for counsel, trying for this and that, etc. The error and evil needs to be burned up.
"Each one's work will become apparent for the day will make it evident." We are not looking for a future day because the Lord is the day. He is that illumination and brightness. He is the light that illumines every man that comes into the world; He is the daystar, the dawning of the day. Peter said it will dawn in our hearts. Malachi said the day comes with burning and brings judgment. (Mal. 4:1) Judgment is going on today, but not everyone can do the judging. Only those who allow themselves to be purged by the Holy Spirit can see whether wrong things are being built on the foundation. The illumination Christ brings to us that reveals what needs to be burned up.
Fire is judgment - and fire will be testing the quality of each man's work. If anyone's work which he has built upon it remains, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burnt up, he will forfeit it, but he himself will be saved yet so as through fire. "Are you not aware that you are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God is making His home in you? If anyone is corrupting the temple, God will corrupt him, for the temple of God is holy, which you are." So we see the wood, hay, and stubble will be burned up, and that which is gold and silver will be purified. So the very same day that brings shame and loss to some people will bring revelation and virtue to others.
This is going on today. If Christ is in us, Christ is here in the Spirit. Then the judgment seat of Christ, or the bema(?) of Christ being accepted in Him, is at work today. To think that the lake of fire, the purging, the coming of Christ, the day of the Lord, are only for the future, is error. Those are tares among the wheat. When we recognize the error, we are bundling it up. When we speak against it, we are putting fire to it. The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit, so he does not recognize the error.
In Rev. 13:13 one of the beasts that came out of the earth makes fire come down from heaven. This is false fire. The fire for the incense on the censer (in the Old Testament) had to come from the altar. When someone offered his own fire to God, God sent a plague and killed him. False fire symbolizes wrong judgment. Before the coming of Christ, there was no true judgment, for Jesus said, "All who came before Me are thieves and robbers." Since He alone is the truth, all who came before Him were taking away the truth - they could only present forms of truth, so they were thieves and robbers. He might talk about truth, but is really takes the truth itself away.
In Rev. 20:14 it speaks about the lake of fire. This fire is wonderful for the Christian, but a shame to those who aren't. It purges us. The lake of fire not a lake of water. A lake is surrounded by land, while an island is surrounded by water. So a lake typifies something that is in the midst of the earth. It says that death and Hades, and anyone whose name was not found in the book of life, were thrown into the lake of fire. Some people will have their part in the lake of fire, but it doesn't say they will be there forever.
In Rev. 20:7-8, "And when the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for war;..." Some believe this is the mobilization (by Satan) of Russia (Gog and Magog) and the northern tribes. A great horde of them will come down to Jerusalem, and put an antichrist in the temple.
"And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city..." (v.9) Do you think natural Jerusalem is the beloved city? Not anymore. Jesus said, "Come out of her, My children" and "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. (Matt. 23:37) By keeping her children in bondage to law and works and self-righteousness, doesn't she become an enemy of God? Jesus is calling them into His righteousness and into the grace of God. He wanted their children, but they were unwilling.
Let us look at this spiritually. The new covenant (the new Jerusalem) is the mother of us all. She is our home. Now if she is surrounded by bad guys, who would they be? If they were gathered by the adversary, wouldn't they be spirits of error, an army of lies that come against the truth, the city of the saints - those who have come out of the old Jerusalem? That is the war between the old Jerusalem (the error in the natural mind) and the new Jerusalem (the city of God, the new covenant, the people of God, the Son of Man). I believe this is what the battle is all about.
"And fire descended from God out of heaven and devoured them." (Rev. 20:9b) These enemies are defeated by the same fire that purges us; the purging that the day of the Lord brings. It does not say that they capture the city, nor that they put an antichrist in the temple. It says fire came down from God and consumed them. God is a consuming fire; He consumes those things that are against Him. Since He is a consuming fire, He also makes His ministers a flame of fire.
"And the devil who deceived them was thrown was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also..." The devil who had deceived those that were devoured (consumed), was cast into the same lake of fire and sulphur where the beast and the false prophet were. (Rev. 19:20) They are already under judgment.
"And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them." (v. 13) Hell is the unseen. In Rev. 6:8 we read that there was an ashen horse upon which death was riding. Hades followed him. So Hades follows death. When Hades gives up its dead, only death is left. Through death comes lack of perception. The unseen, or unperceived, follows death. When Adam was put into death, he lacked perception of spiritual realities, so he was in darkness. This darkness followed death. Jesus Christ dealt with death and then brought light and perception to us.
"And they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds." (v.13b) "And death and the unseen were cast into the lake of fire." (v. 14a Concordant) In the lake of fire we now have the wild beast, the false prophet, death and Hades or the unseen. All these have been put under the judgment of God. The lake of fire is the second death.
We notice that it does not say that those who were thrown into the lake of fire are thirsty, like it says about the rich man who was in Hades while Lazarus was in Abraham's bosom. (Luke 16:19-31) The rich man was in agony in "this flame" and he was thirsty. If the judgment on that rich man's life was the judgment we bring spiritually, he would be thirsty for the water of life. "To him who is thirsty I shall give of the water of life." That is not the kind of thirst you get from burning in a natural fire. That is only a picture of it. "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone (sulphur), which is the second death." (Rev.21:8)
Now He says, "Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years." (Rev.20:6) Those who have been baptized in the Spirit and purged with fire, are to be the priesthood. They are not to be the ones cast into the fire. The light and judgment they bring will do the casting in.
What is meant by the first and second resurrection? I believe the first resurrection takes place when we are resurrected into life with Christ. We have been put to death, buried, and raised again, and now in Christ we are His ministers (His angels or messengers) in the earth. To many, resurrection is a historical event that will take place some time in the future. They fear it, and that which they fear is going to come upon them, because the second death is the resurrection. Jesus says there is a resurrection of the just and the unjust. So if you are not resurrected by faith in Christ, and by faith believe it is yours now, then you will have to die in the judgment of those that have already passed through that judgment, and you are going to wake up and face the Christ which is a many-membered body, with shame.
People will feel shame in the presence of Christ in the second resurrection. And we are part of the body of Christ. We are the presence of Christ in the earth. That shame is going to come because of Christ and His body; they are one. So blessed is he who takes part in the first resurrection. He will not have to experience the second resurrection, and have a part in the lake of fire. Through the processings of Christ in us, we have judged ourselves so that we are not judged again. The Spirit has come to us who are believers, to teach us truth; this destroys error and the adversaries are judged. We are the ones who embrace truth and reproduce it. So unbelievers are judged by the truth that is coming through Christ and His body.
In Matt. 16:18b-19a, Jesus said, "...and the gates of Hades will not overpower it (or prevail against the church). I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven." The gates of hell are trying to overcome the church; they are trying to prevail against the church - not the other way around. Here Jesus tells us that they do not have this power or ability! What a comforting and encouraging promise! Gates have a two-fold function. They keep people in, but they also keep people out. The reason Jesus Christ gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven, was to open gates. If these gates have been prevailing against the church, and Jesus Christ said the gates would not prevail against the church, it means they cannot overpower the church and keep it from bringing the good news to those who are in unperception.
We have many misconceptions of Hades or hell. Hades means the unperceived or the unseen. These are things man cannot see; they are things God has to show us. The church is the ecclesia, the called of God. It has received revelation through the Spirit of God, and can go beyond the gates of hell to bring light into darkness. It can bring knowledge to the unseen or the unperceiving. For what purpose? So they can come out of hell. If this is only to take place some time in the future, then why were the keys given for now? We are the church, the body of Christ in the earth. The unseen and the gates of Hades are contemporaneous with the church. The church has the keys of the kingdom, and the heavens have been opened to them by the Spirit. We are going with truth and light to release people from hell.
People who do not perceive who God is, are in Hades right now where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. The sons of the kingdom shall be cast into the outer darkness. (Matt. 8:12) Outer darkness is a place of extreme darkness - away from the light or understanding of God and who we are. Folks, we have a tremendous calling in God! We must not neglect so great a salvation! Having been called of God, we are a city on a hill, our light should not be hidden; our light is the understanding. When light comes to something, which is in darkness, the darkness cannot prevail against it. Error cannot prevail against truth! Death cannot prevail against life!
Through the coming of Christ we have received life, understanding and salvation. Actually, this is the coming of Christ! He comes in us, and then through us to others.
There are a lot of people in the church who are still in hell. The greater part of their personality is still in the unseen. Jesus said, "It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal (eonian) fire." (Matt. 18:8) To enter life is so great, that it is better to enter it crippled or with one eye, than not at all. But that is not the ideal. There are a lot of people who have gone into life crippled or with one eye; it is better to go into life with two eyes than one, but if one is bad, it is better to go into life with one than not at all. Many of our brothers and sisters have been crippled or hurt in life. To them we want to give a cup of water, or whatever God has given us to pass on to them. This is the way God uses people. We give that which we have received; we don't give what someone else has received. God bless you!