ESCAPING THROUGH THE FLAMES
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
What does it mean to be saved yet so as by fire, to “escape through the flames”? Does this indicate we can lead a careless Christian life and go to Heaven anyway—perhaps with not as great an inheritance as that of a more diligent disciple? Or is there a different, more scriptural interpretation?
ESCAPING THROUGH THE FLAMES
If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (I Corinthians 3:15—KJV)
If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (I Corinthians 3:15—NIV)
“Only as one escaping through the flames”! It makes one think of Lot, doesn’t it?
There are two passages of Scripture that Christians often use to prove they do not have to live a godly life.
One passage concerns the thief on the cross, whom the Lord Jesus brought to Paradise on the basis of a last-minute profession of faith.
The second passage is above. It has to do with being saved as by fire.
The reason these two passages are popular, as I have suggested, is that they provide a basis for going to Heaven without living a godly life. This is a highly desirable idea for people who have little love for God.
Regarding the thief on the cross, our goal is not to go to Paradise. Our goal is to attain the resurrection to eternal life. One does not gain the resurrection to eternal life by making a profession of faith and living an ungodly life. We are not given to eat from the Tree of Life until we overcome sin. This is what the Bible states.
As for being saved as by fire, or as one “escaping through the flames” as the New International Version has it, this often is seized by Christians as proof we can be “saved” even though we do not lead a victorious Christian life.
The idea is that the righteous person may inherit a seven-story house while the lukewarm believer may inherit a two-story house. But who cares! The lukewarm “got there,” didn’t he?
Americans love to make a deal. The deal is, I will live a careless life, and then the Lord will save me as by fire. This way I can enjoy the world and then go to Heaven when I die. So incredibly erroneous is contemporary preaching and thinking!
Let us think about a more scriptural interpretation of what it means to be saved only as one escaping through the flames.
First, we are speaking of a believer whose works, although built on Christ, were not able to survive the fires of Divine judgment. He or she has done nothing of eternal value. Now the problem is, how is this individual to be saved.
If we are to answer this question accurately we must have a clear definition of what it means to be saved.
The traditional definition of being saved is that we go to Heaven when we die. This definition is not scriptural.
The true definition of being saved is that we are delivered from sin and brought into the eternal Life of God.
The purpose of being delivered from sin and brought into the eternal Life of God is not that we might go to Heaven when we die. It is that we might gain immortality in our body in the day of resurrection, and then that we might serve God for eternity in the numerous roles and tasks of the Kingdom of God.
We are not saved from the earth, we are saved from sin. We are saved from the torment, destruction, and death that result from sin.
We are not saved from Hell, except in a secondary sense. We are saved from Satan’s life and image and brought into God’s Life and image. Thus we are not candidates for Hell.
Current teaching seeks to save people from Hell whose behavior is of Hell and belongs in Hell. Such are not candidates for God’s Presence or for Paradise no matter how much they believe in Christ, except as their belief causes them to change their behavior.
Until we are clear on what being saved is all about, it is impossible to understand what it means to be saved only as one escaping through the flames.
I suggest at this point you take a deep breath and review what has been said thus far. There is tremendous error in the Christian traditions that bear upon salvation, its program and its objectives.
Now, let’s proceed.
We are examining the meaning of “he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
Let us apply our definition of salvation. He himself will be delivered from sin and brought into the eternal Life of God only as one escaping through the flames.”
The concept is that Divine judgment is applied to our personality until we have been delivered from sin and brought into the eternal Life of God.
You really do not have to read further. All I will proceed to do is elaborate the above sentence.
For our elaboration let us hasten to the fourth chapter of the Book of First Peter.
The theme of the fourth chapter of First Peter is that of being saved by the fire of Divine judgment. Or, one might say, that of being saved only as one escaping through the flames.
All Christians are saved by the fires of Divine judgment, whether or not their works have accomplished an enduring inheritance. The works of all Christians are examined by God’s fires.
Please note that we are not claiming that everyone eventually will be saved into God’s Kingdom. Unfortunately this is not the case. The Scripture speaks of those for whom the eternal darkness has been reserved.
They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. (Jude 1:13)
Why will some be lost for eternity even though God has the ability to burn away their wickedness? It is because God never goes against our will. There are people who simply want nothing to do with the Lord Jesus Christ. In spite of the gentle entreaties of the Spirit, they are determined to pursue their own path apart from God. These, not the grossly sinful, are the individuals who finally will be assigned to eternal darkness
As long as a person really wants to be different and to be acceptable to God, there is hope.
The Holy Spirit and the Bride of the Lamb are always inviting people to come. Whoever chooses to come may drink freely of the water of eternal life that flows from the Spirit of God through the Bride.
Notice how the fourth chapter of First Peter commences:
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. (I Peter 4:1,2)
We Christians are to arm ourselves with the thought that God will send suffering on us so we will stop sinning. Do you see that the salvation mentioned here is salvation from sin and entrance into the will of God? The salvation is accomplished by suffering.
But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit. (I Peter 4:5,6)
The above passage informs us that from the time of the Apostle Peter, God has been sending suffering on His elect so they will be free from sin and will be doing His will.
It is interesting that this same process is being accomplished in the spirit realm with the deceased members of God’s family. We are not speaking of a Purgatory in which we finally earn our way into Paradise, Rather, we are referring to the removal of sin from our personality.
We usually do not think of such things taking place in the spirit realm, but I Peter 4:6 cannot be denied. Christ is judging the living and the dead.
Let’s think for a moment about punishment.
That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:47,48)
It appears we are not speaking of Hell or the Lake of Fire. We are referring to a severe or less than severe punishment. I don’t think this would apply to eternal incarceration in Hell or the Lake of Fire.
If such is true, when does such punishment take place—while we are alive on earth, after we die, or when the Lord appears? It probably doesn’t matter, does it? At some point the guilty servant is going to be beaten. Ordinarily a beating is for the purpose of punishment and correction. We don’t whip a man and then hang him!
The fact that Christ is judging the living means if we will apply ourselves we can pass through Divine judgment now in preparation for the return of the Lord. We can confess and renounce our sins as the Spirit leads us. Then we will be forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness.
If we are to be raised and glorified when the Lord Jesus appears, we must be judged and delivered from sin prior to this event. It simply cannot be that the Lord Jesus will raise a Christian from the dead, give him or her immortality in the body, catch up the individual into the air where Christ and His army are preparing for the attack of Armageddon, and after that deal with the worldliness, lust, and self-will in the believer’s personality. This is unscriptural and unreasonable.
No, we must be judged and purified prior to the return of the Lord, or we will not be raised from the dead, glorified, and caught up to meet Him in the air.
Christ is judging the living and the dead now. We must purify ourselves with the help of the Holy Spirit.
The believers in the church at Corinth were in a mess. The Christians were striving against one another. The rich were feasting and some were drunk. The poor had nothing. Then they would partake of the Lord’s table.
In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. (I Corinthians 11:17-19)
The result was, some became ill and some died. Why? Because God sent fiery judgment upon them so they would not be condemned with the world. Their hearts were full of selfishness and anger and so they did not recognize they were partaking of the body and blood of God’s Son.
God says if we would judge ourselves we would not be judged. But when we are judged we are disciplined. In other words, we are saved as one escaping through the flames.
For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so we will not be condemned with the world. (I Corinthians 11:29-32)
We see from the above passages that God sends fiery punishment on us to save us from sin, just as it states in the fourth chapter of First Peter.
But to continue in Peter:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. (I Peter 4:12)
Why do we experience painful trials? From the context of the verse we would say that such pain and suffering is the judgment of God on our personality so we will be free from sin and disobedience to God.
Suffering makes us worthy of the Kingdom of God. It is not that further atonement is needed, or that we earn salvation by torturing ourselves. Rather the flames of judgment burn away the worldliness, lust, and self-will that are in us until we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Kingdom of God.
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. (II Thessalonians 1:5)
The teaching that only Christ is worthy and we always will remain unworthy is not scriptural. It is a false humility. This idea results in our crying Lord! Lord! and then not doing what Jesus says to do. We end up building our house on the sand while thinking we are exalting God.
For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (I Peter 4:17)
Christian teaching maintains that all of our judgment as Christians was accomplished on the cross of Calvary. Obviously this is not the case. Let us explain.
Because of the cross of Calvary the sins we committed prior to receiving Christ as our Savior are no longer an issue. They have been forgiven totally and we err when we go back in our mind and mourn over them. Don’t we believe God when He says He has cast our sins behind His back?
God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—(Romans 3:25)
The “sins committed beforehand” have all been forgiven.
What, then, is the issue? The issue is the sin that dwells in us. The past has been wiped clean. Now God is dealing with our sin nature. It is not enough that our sins are forgiven. Salvation under the new covenant includes the removing of our sin nature so God can entrust us with bodily immortality.
If God did not remove our sin nature, and then furnished us with an immortal body, we would be a danger to the entire creation. We would be as a sinful angel. God would have no recourse but to put us into the Lake of Fire with no further hope of redemption.
The salvation that is in Christ Jesus our Lord includes enormously more than the forgiveness of our sins. It includes our total release from the person and will of Satan. It includes our transformation into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ in Spirit, soul, and body. It includes our being filled for eternity with the Persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
After all these areas of salvation have been accomplished we have an eternity to grow into a mature son of God in the image of Christ, which is the image of our Father.
The forgiveness of our sins gives us the authority to enter the program of redemption. The Holy Spirit furnishes us with the wisdom and power to participate in the program of redemption, of salvation. Now it is time, in God’s schedule, for the sin nature to be removed from His saints and for them to be filled with His Person and will through the Lord Jesus Christ.
As was stated previously, all of us are baptized with Divine fire that we may be saved. Some of us will have an inheritance because our works have been wrought in God. Others will have no inheritance in the Kingdom but they will be delivered from sin by passing through the flames of Divine fire—in some instances, prolonged, intense fires as the self-will and lust are burned from their personality.
Whoever thinks being saved by fire is a pleasant experience has never experienced Divine judgment.
The following verse makes perfect sense in view of what we have been saying. However, in terms of the traditional Christian message that all we need do is “accept Christ” and the work is done, the following verse makes no sense at all.
And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (I Peter 4:17)
Why is it difficult for a righteous person to be saved? It is difficult because our body has sin dwelling in it, our soul finds its security and survival in the resources of the world, and our deepest instinct is to accomplish our own will.
During the program of redemption, of salvation, the sin that dwells in our flesh must be put to death by the Spirit of God; we must choose to cease trusting in the world for security and survival; and we must wait patiently in the prison God places us in until our self-will is crucified and we enter the rest of God.
All of this is difficult for us, no matter how righteous we are, how willing to keep God’s commandments. Our adamic nature strives to preserve its life. Satan places many temptations and deceptions before us—traps into which we fall unless we are diligent in prayer. He who endures to the end shall be saved; and truly we must be willing to suffer many pains and frustrations if we indeed are to persevere until the Lord calls us home.
Many of today’s Christians have experienced the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Now it is time for the baptism with the fire of Divine judgment.
“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness,” (Malachi 3:1-3)
The “messenger” who prepared the way was John the Baptist. The “Messenger of the covenant” is the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus is to purify the members of the royal priesthood with the fire of judgment. Until He purifies us with fire we are not able to bring offerings in righteousness. We are not able to lift up holy hands in adoration and supplication.
We see this condition today where much of what is done in the Christian churches is accompanied by slander, division, hatred, jealousy, covetousness, immorality, and lying. Many young ministers are horrified when they find out what takes place among the established ministry.
The Christian churches of today do not compose an unblemished bride for the Lamb. Therefore we are about to be baptized with fire.
The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:10-12)
I suppose we always thought the baptism with the Holy Spirit and the baptism with fire were one and the same. I don’t think this is true.
The purpose of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is to give us power to bear witness of the atoning death and triumphant resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The purpose of the baptism with fire is as John the Baptist stated: “He will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
The Holy Spirit provides us with the several gifts and ministries that enable the Body of Christ to grow to maturity.
The baptism with fire burns away the dross until the “gold” and “silver” of the Divine Nature that Christ has placed in us have been purified.
Notice the following promise to the believer who overcomes the work of the enemy in his or her life:
… He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. (Revelation 2:11)
The second death, which is the Lake of Fire, has authority over the eight primary types of sin. This authority is suspended as long as we have placed our faith in Christ and are following the Holy Spirit as He enables us to put to death the sinful deeds of our flesh.
If however, we do not follow the Spirit diligently; if we do not confess and renounce our sinful behavior when such behavior is pointed out by the Spirit; we can be hurt by the Divine fire.
God will attempt to burn away cowardice from the believer. If God is successful, the person being willing to overcome his cowardice, he will become “fireproof” in this area of personality. He will be able to have fellowship with the Consuming Fire
If God is not successful, because of a lack of willingness and cooperation by the individual, that person is in danger of being cast into the Lake of Fire. The Lake of Fire has authority over all cowards.
God will attempt to burn away unbelief from the believers. If God is successful, that person being willing to overcome his unbelief, he will become “fireproof” in this area of his personality. He will be able to live in the Divine Fire.
If God is not successful, because of a lack of willingness and cooperation by the individual, the unbeliever is in danger of being cast into the Lake of Fire. The Lake of Fire retains authority over all unbelievers.
The same holds true for the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all liars.
The erroneous teaching of today is that such is true of those who are not “saved”; but once we “accept Christ” we cannot be harmed by the Lake of Fire. This is not the case. The Bible states that it is the overcomer who will not be hurt at all by the second death.
We of today are attempting to use Divine grace as a means of bringing the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and the liars into the Presence of God. This never can be! God is a consuming fire. All such sinners would experience very great torment in His Presence.
The atoning blood of the Lord Jesus forgives our sin when we are walking in the light of God’s will. Then we can have fellowship with God on this basis. But the presumption is that we are following the Spirit of God into victory over sin.
The believers of today have been taught that by professing faith in the blood atonement God will receive them in their sin. In other words, Divine grace has become an alternative to deliverance.
The truth is, Divine grace is not an alternative to deliverance. Divine grace forgives us when we come to Christ, and then sets out immediately to burn out the lust and self-will that characterize our adamic nature.
The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless: Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning? (Isaiah 33:14)
Who among us can dwell with the Consuming Fire? The answer is always the same:
He who walks righteously and speaks what is right, who rejects gain from extortion and keeps his hand from accepting bribes, who stops his ears against plots of murder and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil—(Isaiah 33:15)
We of today have accepted a gospel that teaches we do not have to live righteously to have fellowship with God. This concept contradicts all the teachings of the Old Testament. It also contradicts all the teachings of the Gospels and the Epistles of the Apostles of the Lamb.
It is one of the great misunderstandings of history. It has destroyed the testimony of the Christian churches.
If we never had read the Bible, our common sense ought to tell us the God of Heaven has not decided to have fellowship with sin. But then when we read the multitude of exhortations to righteous living found in the New Testament, we understand beyond doubt that the new covenant is not a perpetual forgiveness of believers who continue in sin, but a compassionate device to enable whoever chooses to do so to overcome the works of the devil and to gain perfect fellowship with God.
As we enter the age of moral horrors that has come upon us, as the tares of wickedness come to maturity, we may experience major changes in our life. Some of these changes may be quite threatening, and we may have to give to God relationships, circumstances, and things we thought would always be in our possession.
If we are to continue in peace and joy we will have to trust in God when He sees fit to baptize us with the fires of pressure, of denial, of frustration, of perplexity, of persecution. The idols in our personality will writhe in pain as we draw near to God. They must be removed from us if we are to have fellowship with God.
Meanwhile Christ is being formed in us. Christ is God’s Wall against sin and rebellion.
The Church stands at the brink of Jordan as it were, waiting for the signal to cross over and attack the enemy. Christ has had to wait until the Father is ready to make His enemies His footstool. Perhaps the signal has come. Perhaps those with ears to hear are hearing the call of the Spirit to war. The drums of Hell as well as the drums of El Shaddai are beating to the attack. The conflict of the ages is upon us.
The Bride of the Lamb will be purified by the Divine Fire. Every work of the adamic nature must be burned away. Only the pure gold of Divinity and the pure silver of redemption will remain.
God is making all things new. The day will come when the darkness of sin has been banished from the Presence of God and His Church. The nations of saved people will walk in the light of God shining forth through His living Temple. Satan and all other evildoers will be confined for eternity where they cannot harm the love, joy, and peace of God’s new world.
This purification, this transformation, is beginning with those who have chosen to walk closely to Jesus. They are learning to live with the Consuming Fire, with everlasting burnings.
“That where I am, there you may be also,” Jesus promised. Jesus lives in the very Center of the Divine Fire. This is where He wants you and me to be.
We can attain to this place of residence if it is what we desire above all else. When we arrive where Jesus is, the fire that at one time brought pain to us will now bring everlasting love, joy, and peace.
(“Escaping Through the Flames”, 3091-1)