Lesson 9

Vision Two - Judgment by Fire

(Amos 7)
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Introduction: Last week we studied Amos' vision of the judgment of his people by locusts and then by fire. I promised you that we would look at the fire vision in more detail this week. We discovered last week that if you had too many locusts, you might think that nature was simply out of control. Fire from heaven is something else. It signals divine judgment. Is that the only reason for God's use of fire? What about the final judgment by fire? Let's "jump from the frying pan into the fire!"

  1. The Purpose of Fire

    1. Read Amos 7:4-6. What is the purpose of this fire? (Verse 4: Judgment)

      1. As you think about the references to fire in the Bible, what other purpose does it have? Let's read a couple of texts on this. Read Zechariah 13:9. What is the purpose of this fire? Does it destroy the people? (No. This sounds like difficult circumstances that draw believers closer to God. The text literally says that it "refines" and "tests" God's people.)

      2. Read Malachi 3:2-3. What is the purpose of this fire? (This text also speaks of refining and cleaning "the Levites." However, since this also speaks of "the day of His coming" I get the sense that part of the "refining" is eliminating the wicked (see v.5).)

      3. Look again at Amos 7:4-6. How great is this fire? Have you ever seen a fire so hot it burns land?(This fire both "devoured" the land and dried up the sea ("the great deep.")

        1. Why would fire on Israel and Judah burn up the sea? (This is a massive fire. This may also be symbolic of great destruction.)

      4. After this review of God's uses of fire, if you were listening to Amos, what would you think God had in mind? (I certainly would be worried. God is sending trouble to "clean up" His people, but the intensity of this fire seems to be intended for judgment. Part of the purification of God's people is apparently the destruction of the wicked among them.)

        1. If God is in the business of bringing people back to faith, why would He destroy some? ( Isaiah 28:21-22 tells us that destruction is "strange work," an "alien task" for our God. Those who are destroyed must have made their final decision to reject God.)

    2. Read 2 Peter 3:10. How is this similar to Amos 7:4? (It is this same kind of intense fire.)

      1. What fire is being described in 2 Peter 3:10? (This is the "day of the Lord" the day of judgment.)

    3. After reviewing these texts, what are two of God's uses of fire? (To purify His people and to destroy the wicked.)

    4. Would God use fire to torture us? How about the wicked? (No. The idea of God using fire to eternally torture the wicked conflicts with the fundamental Bible principle of the destruction of the wicked. Satan's first lie to Eve was that she "will not surely die." Genesis 3:4. God promises His people eternal life. He promises the wicked that they will perish. John 3:16. He does not promise the wicked eternal life and eternal torture. We have seen over and over in our studies of the Bible that God is more than just with us. Imagine the injustice of seventy years of life here being "punished" with millions of years of torture. The concept defames God and His justice.)

  2. Conditional Judgment?

    1. Since Amos 7:6 tells us that God "relented" from the fire vision, will He also relent from the vision of the final judgment that he gave to Peter?

      1. Since God has shown Himself to be gracious and loving, can you see God saying, "OK, I won't destroy the wicked"?

      2. Is it possible that the final judgment is an "iffy" thing? (The key to a correct understanding of this is 2 Peter 3:15. The delay in a fire judgment for the people of Amos' time, and for all ages thereafter, is simply a matter of God's patience with us. A delay does not mean that the end game is different. A holy God will not always tolerate sin and death. 1 Corinthians 15:24-26. They must be and will be destroyed.)

    2. What do you think about this idea of "delay" in the final judgment?

      1. Is the time of the final judgment also conditional?

      2. Or, is the time of the judgment "set in cement" and it just seems to us that it is delayed because (to quote Peter) God is showing "patience?" (Our lesson (Thursday) argues, as I have, that the final judgment is not conditional. However, the lesson ("Life-Application Approach") also argues that the time of the Second Coming is a set time. Let's consider whether that has a Biblical basis.)

    3. Review Matthew 24 and read Matthew 24:34. To whom is Jesus speaking? (His disciples.)

      1. Did they understand that Jesus was going to come (the Second Coming) within their lifetime? (Yes.)

        1. Have you ever read anything in the New Testament that makes you think the disciples did NOT think Jesus was coming during their lifetime?

      2. Read Matthew 24:35. Is this prophecy conditional? (Jesus says it is unconditional.)

    4. Read 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18. Did Paul and his readers think that Jesus was coming again (the Second Coming) within their lifetime? (Certainly.)

    5. How do you explain this? Jesus tells His disciples that the end of the world will come during their generation (or, at least they understand that). Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes to his readers as though Jesus is coming again during their lifetime. Were they being deceived?

      1. Let's assume you want to keep a secret from your friend or your spouse. To keep them from knowing the truth you make a statement that you know they will misunderstand. Your statement is true, but the conclusion they reach is untrue - and you know it. Have you told a lie? (Sure, this is a lie. The issue is not the technical words you use, but the impression you convey.)

      2. Is God telling us something that is not the truth for the greater good of us being ready for heaven at any time?

      3. Is God telling us something that is not the truth for the greater good of us not becoming discouraged? (Unfortunately, this is an answer I have often heard: God knew that the disciples and we would get discouraged if we really knew the truth so, in His great mercy, He lied to us.)

      4. Are you comfortable with that explanation? Is it OK for God to lie for our own good? (No. This is a completely unacceptable explanation in my mind. Jesus starts out Matthew 24:34 with "I tell you the truth..." Satan, the enemy, is the liar. ( John 8:44) Again and again in the Bible God is equated with truth. See, for example, 1 John 4:6; Psalms 31:5)

    6. If God is the father of truth, and He would not mislead us, then how do we explain that the disciples believed (based on what Jesus told them) that Jesus would return during their lives? Do you have an explanation that is consistent with the Bible?

      1. Let's look at some texts. Read Matthew 24:36. How can Jesus say on one hand "I don't know" and on the other hand "this generation will not pass?" (The event is not conditional. The timing is conditional. It is the timing that Jesus does not know. Whatever the timing is, it is connected with the generation that sees what Jesus has described.)

        1. Is there still a problem with the "generation will not pass" statement since the disciples understood it was their generation? (Two things: First, Jesus says "I don't know the exact time" but suggests it could happen in the lifetime of the disciples. Second, Jesus has clearly said He does not know when.)

    7. Read Hebrews 3:15-19. What event does this describe? (This is the exodus from Egypt. Hebrews is describing the refusal of God's people to enter Canaan the first time they approached. (For a fuller description of this see Numbers 13&14)

      1. Was God's invitation to the people to enter Canaan conditional? Or, was the timing conditional? (The timing was conditional.)

      2. Is the writer of Hebrews comparing entering Canaan with the Second Coming of Jesus? (Yes, ultimately. Hebrews 4:1 speaks of entering into God's rest. Since these two chapters of Hebrews are speaking about salvation and the work of our High Priest (Jesus) in heaven, it is talking about our eternal salvation. If the account of God's people entering Canaan, parallels the entry of God's people into Heaven, then we can reasonably conclude the lesson for us is that the timing depends in part on our faith. This is Jesus' point to the disciples (and us) that we can affect the timing of His Second Coming. It was no lie, we have a part to play in the timing of Jesus' coming. For a fuller discussion of this idea click on my sermon "Last Chance" at http://www.GoBible.org/sermon.php3?pid=9 )

    8. Friend, God has promised a final judgment of fire to destroy sin and death. He calls on us to turn to Him. Why not turn to Him today and do what we can to hasten His Second Coming?

  3. Next Week: Vision Three - The Plumb Line

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