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

    2. What do you think about this idea of “delay” in the final

      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

      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

      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 )

    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