What does Jesus mean when he says, "I have come to cast fire upon the earth"? John the Baptist proclaimed that Jesus would
Matt. 3:11 "...baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."
And we read in Acts 2 that when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit,
Acts 2:3 ...there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.
So, Jesus eagerly wanted to baptize His disciples with the Holy Spirit, but first He had to be baptized - not the symbolic submerging in water, or the awesome anointing of the Spirit, but the brutal baptism of the grave. As Paul wrote,
Rom. 6:3-4 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death...
Although Jesus came to bring peace to our hearts, He also brought division into the world. The light of the lives that we live separates the relationships that we've had. Five times Jesus promised, "You will be hated by all on account of Me." And Paul promised Timothy that...
2Tim. 3:12 ...All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
I think back to when I first got saved - I didn't lose any friends. All my worldly buddies were still hanging out at my house. I wasn't trying to be a witness, I was trying to show them that I was still the same Ron, that nothing had changed. But I wasn't the same Ron, and everything had changed. 2Corinthians says,
2Cor. 5:17 Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Then one night, a friend and I were hanging out drinking beers when he looked at me and said, "Dude, you're the coolest Christian I know!" All of a sudden it hit me - even though "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted", the world loved me! That night, I had an attitude change. I decided I wanted to be godly instead of worldly. I wanted to live a life of commitment instead of compromise. And you know what? Every one of those friends I had suddenly wanted nothing to do with me. Tonight, we're headed back to my old hometown, a place I lived for more than 7 years, and I can't think of even one person that would want to hear from me.
Why do we try so hard to have the world love us, when Jesus promised that they would hate us? Are we trying to prove Him wrong? Or do we really just not believe what He said? Live a godly life - if the world hates you for it, praise the Lord!
Know the time. I worked at a sportswear company for a number of years. My office was very close to the noisy machines that printed the t-shirts. The guys that used those machines quit working at 3:30, and I got off work at 4. So every day that I would hear those noisemakers turn off, I would get ancy. I knew that it was coming up to the end of my workday - just another 1/2 hour!
Jesus is saying here - if things like that are so obvious to you, why aren't you understanding what time it is on the world's clock? Why aren't you looking at the signs of the times?
There is a two-fold message in what He's saying. Let's look at the immediate application first - the application to the multitudes. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel, he told him,
Dan. 9:25 "So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks..."
Gabriel was saying, "Exactly 173,880 days from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem will be the appearance of Messiah as king." And he also made it very clear: "So you are to KNOW and DISCERN".
The decree was issued by Artaxerxes Longimanus of Persia on March 6th, 444 B.C. Exactly 173,880 days later, on March 29, 33 A.D., Jesus Christ rode towards Jerusalem on a donkey, being hailed as a king. But when He saw the city, He wept over it,
Luke 19:41-44 ...saying, "If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you when your enemies will throw up a bank before you, and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."
Gabriel had told them the exact day to watch for Messiah. he had emphasized it - "you are to KNOW and DISCERN." Jesus was saying, "Why aren't you analyzing the present time?" It was so close - the clock had ticked down from 173,880 days to just a few lest! They rejected their Messiah when He came, and as a result, Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Jews were scattered. They were held accountable to understand the times they were in.
Now, for the 2nd part of this two-fold application: If they were held so accountable for understanding the times, how much more accountable are we? People, it's time we woke up and took a look at the times. Paul told Timothy in his final letter before being executed,
2Tim. 3:1-8 But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected as regards the faith.
People, we need to recognize the times. We are in the last of the last days. At no other time in history has mankind been so accurately described by 2Timothy 3. Never before the invention of television have false teachers been able to worm their way into the homes of women. Never before in history have "Christian" teachers come out against the truth of the Word of God like this generation. You can look at your watch and tell what time of day it is - look at the world and discern what time it is! The time is at hand - everything has fallen together!
- The Bible told us that there would be a regathering of the nation Israel. That has happened in just the last 40 years! After almost 2,000 years, Israel became a nation again in May of 1948, and all of Jerusalem was liberated in June of 1967, during the Six Day War.
- The Bible told us that there would be a common market and currency, stemming from a confederation of nations that were in the Roman Empire. The European market began just 5 years ago, made up of those nations. They have a common currency, the Euro Dollar. Never before in history could we imagine it - but the dropping of trade borders, a common market, a common currency, it's here!
- The Bible tells us that there will be a great apostasy, not a fall from religion and spirituality (for in fact that will increase), but a huge falling away from the true Biblical Christian faith. The fastest growing movement in Christendom today is the Counterfeit "Revival", where people have forsaken the word of God to follow after feel-good experiences. They pass out, tremble, bark, laugh, and get "drunk in the Spirit".
But the Bible does not prophesy a revival in our times, but instead a great apostasy. When many of these people have found that they've been led down the wrong path, they've not only forsaken their churches, but completely lost faith in God Himself. And the number of them is increasing every day. The great apostasy is upon us.
- The Bible tells us that in the last days, the temple will be rebuilt - guess what? The blueprints are drawn, the sacred vessels are made. Nearly 200 students are being trained in the priesthood to perform the sacrifices and ceremonies. Everything is in place - they're just waiting for their Messiah to come and make a deal with a Charismatic world leader to give them access to the temple mount - the false prophet and the anti-Christ.
An interesting note: until last year, one difficulty was the requirement that priests purify their bodies with the cremated ashes of an unblemished red heifer before they enter the Temple. But in October of 1996, a red heifer was in a farm in the village of Kfar Hasidim - the first flawless red heifer to be born within the biblical land of Israel for the last 2,000 years!
- The Bible tells us that men will have to receive a mark, without which no one can buy or sell. The computer technology is here, a tiny microchip,implanted under the skin, that contains personal, medical, and financial information. It is not only here, but is already being used on livestock, such as ostriches and cattle.
Never before in history have all these things been culminated. How many more indicators do we need? If you can look at your watch and see that it is two minutes to midnight, if a fisherman can tell a storm is coming by seeing red clouds in the morning, then why won't we look around and realize that we're right at the conclusion of everything?
2Pet. 3:10-12 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!
So, what sort of people ought we to be? Consumed with worldly wealth? Or concerned with people on their way to hell? Too busy satisfying our own fleshly desires? Or busy about our Father's business - the business of the Kingdom? Jesus gives us another eye-opener in the next three verses:
Look at the days we live in, and then at the pettiness of our squabbles and problems. Settle the problems, ask forgiveness from your opponents. We've got no time to harbor bitterness and unforgiveness - there's so much real work to be done for the kingdom.
If you don't settle up, I guarantee that you will be thrown into prison. What do I mean by that? What prison incarcerates unforgivers? Let's read the parable Jesus taught in Matthew 18...
Matt. 18:23-35 "...The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. And when he had begun to settle them, there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.' And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' He was unwilling however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?' And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."
When we are unforgiving, two people are thrown into prison. First, the person we won't forgive, and then we ourselves our cast into bondage. When we refuse to forgive, when we harbor bitterness - we can't go any further. We lose the freedom we have in Christ to walk close to the Lord, and grow freely in His Spirit. We get trapped in a place that we will never get out of unless we repay everything that we owe - completely giving up the bitterness and unforgiveness that we've harbored in our hearts.