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theophilus

Tongues of fire

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When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Acts 2:1-4 ESV

 

This was the first time anyone was baptized with the Holy Spirit and two things happened to them: tongues of fire appeared and rested on each of them and they spoke in other tongues. There would be other occasions when people were baptized by the Spirit and spoke in tongues but this is the only time tongues of fire appeared.

 

To see the significance of this we need to compare it to two events that are recorded in the Old Testament.

 

The first one happened when the tabernacle had been built and the first sacrifices were being made.

 

Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

Leviticus 9:22-24 ESV

 

The second one took place at the inauguration of the temple that Solomon built.

 

As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 7:1-3 ESV

 

The tabernacle and the temple were both built at God’s command to serve as his dwelling place on the earth. He showed his presence by sending fire to burn up the first offerings in each of these places. In each case sending the fire was a one time event that was never repeated.

 

Today God lives in a new kind of temple that wasn’t built by men.

 

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22 ESV

 

This temple came into existence when the believers were baptized by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The tongues of fire were the visible sign showing the presence of God in them.

 

In the tabernacle and in Solomon’s temple the worshippers brought animals and sacrificed them. The fire that God sent showed that he accepted these sacrifices. But these sacrifices were meant to picture the sacrifice Christ would make when he died on the cross for our sins. Now that Christ has done this animal sacrifices are no longer needed. God requires a different kind of sacrifice today.

 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Romans 12:1 ESV

 

The animals sacrifices had to die so their blood could atone for sins. We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices so we can serve God. God’s response to this sacrifice is to fill us with the Holy Spirit so we will have the power we need for this service.

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