I had a dream which went like this: It was night time and I looked out the back door and saw first of all that the neighbour’s back yard to the right was on fire. Then I looked left and the neighbour’s back yard was also on fire. The flames were higher than the fence and threatening to come into our back yard. Then I fell on my knees and called out, “Have mercy!” Then the flames went out. Both yards were bare of any vegetation but there was no more danger of our yard catching fire.
This is an attempt to understand what the dream means. I have taken this as a prophetic dream because of two things: I remembered it and I was clearly praying in the dream. There are a lot of references to fire in the Bible. In trying to understand what this means I have generally stuck to those instances where fire is used in a metaphorical rather than literal sense. However, sometimes the literal examples of fire from God actually help to explain the metaphorical uses.
Fire in the Old Testament
The first thing which fire as imagery in the Bible tells us is that God is holy. This is found in literal examples of fire from God such as Leviticus 10:1-7. The sons of Aaron did not treat the sanctuary of the LORD with reverence. They ignored the holiness of God and offered “unauthorised fire” before the LORD and the LORD consumed the sons of Aaron with fire (10:1-2). This was to demonstrate his holiness and so that the people of God might hallow this holy God (10:3). There are instances in which breach of sexual purity laws were punished by burning in fire (Lev 20:14; 21:9). When the people of God grumbled many of them were consumed by fire from the LORD (Num 11:1-3). Some Levites staged a rebellion against Moses and 250 of them were consumed by the fire of God (Num 16:35).
The LORD God of Israel is a consuming fire, a jealous God who will not tolerate and idol (Deut 4:23). The consuming fire who is the LORD will consume the enemies of Israel (Deut 9:3). Yet the anger of the LORD burns against Israel when they are not faithful to their God (Deut 32:15-22). Elijah called down fire from heaven against those who came against the prophet of the LORD (2 Kings 1:10). The fire of God is often used as a metaphor for his wrath (Pss 21:9; 78:21; 89:46). Sometimes that wrath is against Israel (Isa 9:18-19; Jer 11:16; 15:14). Sometimes it is against the wicked nations which come against Israel (Isa 30:27-33; Amos 1:4). Sometimes his fiery judgment is against all people (Isa 66:16; Zeph 1:18). The wrath of God is like fire against those who do wickedness (Jer 4:4). The fire comes against those who fail to bring about justice (Jer 21:12). “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. (Mal. 4:1 ESV). The word of the prophet is also a fire which consumes the arrogant wicked (Jer 5:12-14), because the word of God himself is like fire (Jer 23:29). The purpose of the wrath is to call God’s people back to him (Amos 4:11; 5:6).
Some uses of fire are more positive. There are instances in which fire from the LORD is a demonstration that he has accepted the sacrifice being offered (1 Kings 18:24, 38). David offered sacrifices on the threshing floor of Araunah and he was answered with the fire of God (1 Chron 21:26). When Solomon had finished the temple, the offerings and sacrifices were accepted by the LORD, indicated by being consumed by the fire of God (2 Chron 7:1). The fire from the altar of God is used to cleanse Isaiah from guilt (Isa 6:6-7). The LORD cleanses his remnant through putting them in the fire like someone refining silver. Then they will truly be his people (Zech 13:8-9).
Fire in the New Testament
The NT uses the OT themes to do with fire and judgment. When John the Baptist proclaims the kingdom of God he expects that the fire of God will consume sinners.
“Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. ‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’” (Matt. 3:10-12 ESV). The difference is that Jesus takes this fire of God upon himself in the cross where he stands in the place of sinners (Luke 12:49-50).
Instead of the fire being a metaphor for the wrath of God through invading armies, it is used for the torments of Hell which the wicked will experience (Matt 5:22; 18:8-9; 25:41). There is only one way to escape such a judgement, that is, to abide in Jesus. To reject the salvation wrought by the Son of God is to invite a fiery judgment (John 15:6; Heb 10:26-29). The Day of the Lord will come and the elements will be destroyed by fire, the destruction of the heavens by fire. Knowing this should result in a desire to live a godly life (2 Pet 3:10-12).
The writer to the Hebrews reiterates the warning from Deuteronomy that “our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29). He does this in the context of a warning to worship God acceptably with reverence and awe (12:28). In the context of Hebrews acceptable worship is that done through our High Priest, Jesus, in contrast to the Jewish sacrificial system which is superseded by Christ’s perfect self-offering and priesthood.
The faith of Christians is tested by fire, that is, trials, so that believers will be given glory when Jesus is revealed (1 Pet 1:6-7). For believers fire will test the quality of their works to see if they are done on the foundation of Christ. Even if the believer’s work is burned up, that person will still be saved as one escaping the flames (1 Cor 3:10-14). So Christians are advised by Jesus to buy gold refined by the fire (Rev 3:18).
If we are to take the characters in my dream as representative of things, then I presumably represent both Australian believers and the prophet who cries out to God on behalf of someone. Also the fire seems to represent to wrath of God on the nation. The fact that the fire was licking over the fence would suggest that the church is in danger of coming under judgment. That judgement might only be temporal. Yet if the flames licking over my fence are from the judgement of the world, then the two things are very much tied together. While the church fails to cry out for mercy for the world in its sinful and lost state, then Australia remains under the wrath of God. It is as if we are unconcerned about the state of the nation under the wrath of God. But even more troubling is the church is involved too much in the things of the world. This is why it is in danger of being judged with the world without repentance.
Yet the solution to the problem was not complicated. In my dream I cried out, “Have mercy!” and the flames went out. Perhaps this implies that as a church we have failed to perceive the lost state of the nation and failed to call out to our merciful God to stay his hand over this country. If we continue in this course the flames will come over the fence into our back yard.
But the final state of the back yards of my neighbours in my dream was empty. They had been purged of all vegetation. This would suggest the need to rebuild the country from the ground up. Perhaps this is part of the mercy of God. Australia needs a new foundation. Not worn out “Christian principles” from our “Christian heritage” but the foundation which is Christ. If anyone builds on any other foundation he/she is in danger of the flames. The church needs to again build on the foundation which is Christ.