That Consuming Fire
We serve an awesome God. The Preacher even calls him “a consuming fire.” In other words, God is both terrible and merciful, both frightening and loving. And the fact that this holy and terrible God has provided a way of salvation for us out of His own love at no obligation to us when we deserved His wrath instead—it is this fact that makes us wonder how in the world He could choose us. He is so great and mighty and we are so small and powerless; He is so pure and holy and we are so corrupt and defiled. His justice and mercy came together on the cross as His Son took our sins, and so we gladly return the debt of love as we come together to worship with reverence and awe—awe as we contemplate His holiness and reverence as we consider the depth of His great mercy.
And this is why apostasy is so great a sin—turning away from the Lord when one has tasted and seen that the Lord is good. The Israelites turned away when they worshiped the golden calf made with their own hands and several thousand died at God’s hands (Exodus 32:35). And with that ancient story in mind, the Preacher implores, “Much less will we escape if we reject Him who warns from heaven.” For such a one, it would have been better had he never known the way of life (2 Peter 2:21). We may argue over whether such people were ever really saved in the first place, but whether or not, their end is destruction.
And so the Preacher warns as he has done throughout this sermon: Be vigilant! Once before God shook the earth; soon He will shake heaven as well and all that will remain is that which is permanent—which is His Kingdom and those who will people it. There shall be a Last Judgment beyond which there is no appeal. Then shall our God be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28). This is an appeal to the faithful: Remain faithful. Do not bow before the pressure to conform to this world; do not sacrifice the gospel for your job, financial gain, approval, or even your own family; do not indulge in a little sin thinking that you won’t get burned; and do not become complacent as that is the most subtle way of falling away. Instead keep yourself pure; abstain from even the appearance of evil; be diligent in the spiritual disciplines; be held accountable; kill the sin that so easily besets you; be merciful to others but merciless with your own sins; discern what the will of the Lord is. Above all, keep going into the presence of our holy and redeeming God. Yes, He is a consuming fire—let that fire consume all the sinful dross from you now so there will be no need of fire in that Day.