Fire From Heaven
A reader has submitted the following: "In II Kings 1, Elijah calls down fire from heaven to consume two bands of fifty men and their captains. In Luke 9:54-56, James and John were forbidden by Jesus to do the same thing to a Samaritan village where He had not been received. The Lord’s explanation was, ‘Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.’ Their desire does seem very vindictive but surely they were of the same spirit as Elijah?"
This question is a rather interesting one and underscores, in my judgment, a truth that is still applicable today.
Briefly, as far as the question itself is concerned, the answer is that the two events took place under entirely different circumstances.
The two bands of soldiers that were burned to a crisp were sent by wicked Ahaziah, king of the Northern Kingdom. King Ahaziah had fallen through a lattice in his upper chamber (II Kings 1:2) and had apparently hurt himself so seriously that the possibility of death, because of his injuries, was real. But, although he knew that Elijah was Jehovah’s prophet who brought the Word of God to the Northern Kingdom, he did not send messengers to Elijah to learn God’s will but sent men to Baalzebub, an idol of the Philistines. This was an intolerable sin, a calculated insult to the Most High and a defiant rejection of Israel’s God, Jehovah.
Ahaziah knew that Jehovah was God alone. He knew Israel’s history. He knew Elijah, for he was the son of Ahab and knew what had happened on Mount Carmel (I Kings 18:17-46). He knew that Jehovah was a jealous God who visited the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, as the second commandment says. And he knew God’s judgments in all their horror, for he had lived through the years of famine (I Kings 17:1; James 5:17). But he rejected all this and blatantly told his people that the god of the Philistines was wiser and more knowledgeable than the God of Israel.
But his sin was yet greater. When his plan to inquire at Baalzebub was frustrated, he resolved to kill Elijah who was reminding him of his calling before Israel’s God. Ahaziah sent soldiers to capture Elijah and bring him to the palace to be slain. His sin was the measure of the terrible apostasy in the Northern Kingdom, begun by Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, and culminating in the captivity that destroyed forever the Northern Kingdom.
The sin of the Samaritans in Luke 9 was quite different. They were not Israelites. They were people from other nations who had been put in the land of Canaan by the general of the Assyrian armies, which had destroyed Israel. They did not know Jehovah, although they had learned something of the religion of the Jews (II Kings 17:24-41). So Samaria was populated with people who had never, in all their generations, been in God’s covenant. Their sin was far less than the sin of Ahaziah (Matt. 11:20-24).
In fact, when in the new dispensation God ordained that the gospel would now be brought to the Gentiles, Samaria was the first country to which He would turn (Acts 1:8; 8:5-24).
God works in the salvation of His church in an orderly way. Israel was His covenant people. They rejected Jehovah their God and worshipped the golden calves. God’s judgment comes upon a nation that knew Him, confessed His name and then rejected Him in their sin. God had determined judgment on Israel. Elijah, whose name means, "My God is Jehovah," stood alone in the nation to proclaim by his work and name that though all Israel might say, "Our God is Baal," he would insist, "My God is Jehovah." If Israel rejected that, they would be destroyed.
Let us not forget that God does not return again and again to a nation that has rejected Him. Europe and America had the gospel, confessed it and held to it. Now they are rejecting it with monstrous sins and with bitter hatred against God and His Christ and people. Prayers for revival are hopeless whistling in the wind, made in ignorance of God’s organic working. God is turning to the Orient where many doors are opening to the preaching of the gospel. After all, not only election, but also reprobation is in the line of continuing generations. There is a time when God puts a roof on His temple, which is built on the foundation of the prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20-22).
After Pentecost, the gospel went from Jerusalem and even away from Jerusalem to return there never again. It went to Judaea, then to Samaria and then to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). In its progress, it has moved westward. It conquered Europe and America. But now these nations are rejecting Christ. It will soon move to the ends of the earth, and is doing so already. But the judgment of the fury of God’s wrath that burns to a cinder the disobedient will not come on these nations until they too have received the gospel and then rejected it.
When Jesus and His disciples were on earth, Samaria could not yet be destroyed, for the elect had yet to be saved. The time would come—as it has come before our day, when Samaria would become ripe from destruction. But also Europe and America! Do Europe and America think, in their haughtiness, that they are better than Israel? They do! Judgment, they reckon, will never come. But fire will pour from heaven and burn them as surely as it did Ahaziah’s captains and their fifties.
But the elect are safe and will be delivered as Lot was, for Jehovah God is our refuge and hiding place in Jesus Christ. Prof. Herman Hanko
- Volume: 14
- Issue: 19
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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