Fire, Judgment, And Sanctification


Sanctification is that work of the Holy Spirit by which the child of God is separated from sin unto God and is enabled to love God with all the heart and to walk in all His holy commandments blameless. Sanctification is initiated at the moment of justification and regeneration.

"We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," Acts 14:22

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. John 17:17-19 (The word of God sanctifies us.)

Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.' 1 Peter 1:22
(Purification of the soul by obeying God's word.)

'Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.' 2 Corinthians 7:1 (Cleansing and purifying toward holiness.)


Now let's take a look at how judgment and sanctification are essentially synonymous. We tend to understand sanctification, but our understanding of judgment gets twisted. 

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: Heb. 9:27 (The judgement does not mean eternal conscious torment, or a sentencing arraignment in which your eternal destiny is determined. The judgement is a time period of sanctification, or period of time with corrective discipline. This verse can not mean physical death, but spiritual death. Why must it mean that. Because the passage below in 1 Pet. 4 says that judgment is now on the house of God. This is referencing the fact that Christians have died spiritually to their old self of the sin nature. Now comes sanctification through judgment. So too will this be the case for unbelievers in the lake of fire as will be shown in the pages ahead.)

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 1 Peter 4:12-17 (Judgment is seen here to be the fiery suffering of trials that test us which is the process of sanctification to Christ likeness.)

Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 2 Thess. 1:4-5
(Judgment here is defined as suffering, trials, and persecution. But this is to the saints, so the clear implication is that judgment is for sanctification and refinement with a positive end in view.)

When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness. Isaiah 26:9 (Let us not forget that judgement is for a positive purpose and end, it teaches us righteousness. God is the ultimate teacher and parent.)

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. Rev. 3:19 (Is this not likened to an earthly father that disciplines his kids in love with a goal towards repentance?)

Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. Job 5:17-18 (Correction and discipline from God is shown to be restorative in nature and purpose.)

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Heb. 12:5-11 (The restorative purpose of God's discipline is here shown. It is God that uses the analogy of an earthly Father disciplining his child for their good. It is God that gives himself the title of Father for this very reason, so that we can understand the true nature of God and his judgments.)

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees...I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Psalm 119:71,75 (It is for learning and sanctification that affliction and judgment is rendered toward us by God.)

Restorative Justice

Does universalism deny that God is just? Absolutely not, the difference is in how justice is defined. Justice is typically defined as retributive, or as in purely penal, or as in purely punishment focused. But this is not how to properly define justice as God does. Universalists define bibiblical justice as restorative in nature. This doesn't mean that there isn't a punishment aspect to it. But that the overall end goal of his justice is for the purpose of restoration. It is no different than the mentality behind a parent punishing their child. If the parent doesn't have restoration or repentance in mind with their punishment, it becomes abuse. Any loving parent punishes their children in order to restore them to right behavior in the end. How much greater of a parent is our Heavenly Father?

“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Zech. 7:9 (This is how true justice is defined by God, with mercy and compassion. These things cause restoration which is what true justice is all about.)

Fire Purifies And Sanctifies

We often times fail to see the symbolic nature of scripture. Fire is used many many times as symbolism to show a deeper meaning. We would be wise to heed the true meaning of the use of this word. Taking this word literally at every turn leads us to false teaching and not rightly dividing the word of God. This segment will come as a shock to many.

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. 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. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. Mal. 3:1-3 (Jesus is described as a refining fire, who cleanses with soap. He purifies precious metals. The metals themselves can not be destroyed, but the impurities within the metals will be eliminated by fire. This is not a literal fire.)

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. 1 Cor. 3:11-15 (This is more symbolic language. It is not referencing real fire or precious metals. The gold, silver, and costly stones are our indestructible good works. The wood, hay, and straw is our sinful nature which will be destroyed by the fire. It will be burned up and not able to stand. What survives receives a reward, and what doesn't is gone. The person suffers loss, but is still saved from the fire.)

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. Isaiah 48:10 (This furnace of fire is not literal. Fire refines, restores, makes perfect by affliction, tribulation, suffering, pain, and trial.)

And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. Zech. 13:9 (Again this in not a literal fire God throws people into. This fire is symbolic for tribulation, suffering, and trials. This fire refines and tests the precious metals. The metals themselves are the indestructible good works. The metals are purified in the fire by burning away all impurities, which is the sin nature.)

Everyone will be salted with fire. “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” Mark 9:49-50(To be salted symbolizes being purified, perfected, made indestructible. Fire represents the spirit of God doing this by trials and tribulations, and everything else fire symbolizes. The context is being in the fires of hell(gehenna). So while the purification by fire is agonizing, it is ultimately for good. Obviously we aren't talking about literal fire or salt here.)

“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Luke 12:49-50 (Jesus is saying that he must first die and be resurrected before he can bring fire on the earth. And what he is referencing is the Holy Spirit sanctifying believers to Christ likeness. So this is again not a literal fire.)

The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger. “Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him shoulder to shoulder. Zeph. 3:8-9 
(This is not literal fire. Everyone goes through the fire which purifies us so that we may call on the name of the Lord. The fire may not be enjoyable, but it is for our ultimate good and restoration. Fire is directly linked here to purification.)

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 2 Tim. 1:6 (We don't have a literal fire in us. The Holy Spirit is the fire that is in us refining us to perfection and Christ likeness.)

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Heb. 12:26-29 (God is not literally made up of the same elements as that of fire. God is a consuming fire because he is a God of restoration and perfection. He refines and purifies his people through the fire of his spirit and the fire of trials, suffering, and tribulation. The good things of God can not be shaken or destroyed, but the bad things of the sin nature can be shaken and destroyed.)

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. Deut. 4:24 
(Another reference of God being a consuming fire, but also a jealous God. This means that God must consume us because he wants all of us, not just part of us. This is again not a literal fire.)

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2 (Fire and water are often mentioned together. The water cleanses and the fire purifies. The fire can also represent trials, suffering, and tribulation from which one is refined to perfection. This verse uses both fire and water symbolically, and that God will not let these trials overcome them.) 

For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. Psalm 66:10-12 (The fire is not pleasant, as it represents trials, suffering, and tribulations. The water cleanses, the fire purifies. The precious metals are the good works that can not be destroyed, the impurities are the sin nature that is destroyed. But notice the fire is for good and abundance. Not for total destruction, except for that of the sin nature.)

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold. Job 23:10 (The objective of the judgment of fire, or the baptism of fire is to create perfected gold that is indestructible and imperishable. The gold represents a fully sanctified believer. How do you rid the gold of impurities? It is done by fire. But he fire that rids a person of the impurities of sin, is not literal fire.)

The Lord will wash away the filth of the women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgment and a spirit of fire. Isaiah 4:4 (More evidence that ties fire and judgment to cleansing and purification. The fire is not literal fire.)

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Pet. 1:6-7 (This fire is not literal. Thus fire refines the believer through suffering and trials that sanctify us.)

And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. Heb. 1:7 (Another tool of fire sanctification is God's people as ministers. His ministers are called flames of fire because they refine and sanctify the believer through preaching the word. So this is not a literal fire.)

Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Jer. 23:29 (The word of God is also described as fire due to its ability to sanctify. Fire is again used as a symbol.)

He came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them. Deut. 33:4 (The law is described as "fiery" due to its ability to sanctify. Again this is symbolic language describing the affect the law has on God's people.)

And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:3 (In the Millennium we see this fiery law going out into the world from God's throne.)

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the 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 therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 2 Peter 3:9-13 (Notice a couple things in this passage. Holy conversation, godliness, and righteousness are all related to the heat that burns up the elements and the WORKS of the earth. So it's not burning up everything, just the perishable sin nature and all that causes sin. This is not a literal fire, but a symbolic fire describing the task of eliminating sin from the earth.)

The city(Jericho)and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord...All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.”...They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys...Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. Joshua 6:17, 19, 21, 24 (So once again not everything is getting burned up, just everything that isn't imperishable. The fire destroys everything not suited for the kingdom.)

“Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace,” Exodus 19:18 (This was a precursor to the baptism of fire as the mountain is immersed in the fire.)


The use of the word "brimstone" is significant when used in relation to fire. "T
heion," the word translated brimstone, means divine. Theioo is the verb form which means to make holy, divine, or to devote to a God. The word "theos" is used for God. So "brimstone" used in symbolic terms, means divine purification. 

Pentecost Fire

Pentecost is full of symbolism that we can learn from. Pentecost leaven was to be burned by fire to destroy the leaven. The only way to stop leaven is to burn it. Leaven is symbolic for sin. So we see here, that fire is used to destroy and defeat sin.

Soothing Aroma

Another symbolic means of revelation is from the old covenant sacrifices. The sacrificed animal was imputed with sin and the flesh had to burn in fire which transformed it into a soothing aroma for God. Why was the smoke of this burning flesh a "soothing aroma" for God? It is because the sin was destroyed, and this is a good thing. Sin is defeated by fire.