As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices and the glory of the Lord filled the Lord's house. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord's house. (2 Chron. 7:1-2)The event parallels the dedication of the tabernacle nearly five hundred years earlier.
So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. (Exodus 40:33-34)The event is mentioned in Leviticus also, but with a few additional details.
And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar (Lev. 9:23-24)Leviticus makes clear that not only did the glory of God appear and fill the tabernacle, but also that fire came down from heaven and consumed the offerings. The same things are mentioned in connection with Solomon's dedication of the temple in the first passage quoted above: the glory of the Lord and fire.
The New Testament counterpart to these events, of course, is the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Paul says that the church--not a physical building, but the people who belong Jesus--is "growing into a holy temple in the Lord...a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." (Eph. 2:21-22) Peter, too, speaks of this when he says, "you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house [i.e., a temple]." (1 Pet. 2:5).
The Christian church--the New Testament temple--was dedicated on the Day of Pentecost. The glory of the Lord (the Holy Spirit) filled his temple. This connection has long been clear to me. What I noticed today that I had missed before, was the role of the fire. The passage in Exodus concerning the dedication of the tabernacle doesn't mention the fire of God falling from heaven and consuming the sacrifices. It is left to the careful reader of Scripture to connect Leviticus 9:23-24 to Exodus 40:33-34 and to see that the same event is in view. It was my reading of 2 Chronicles this morning that helped me to make the connection. There the dedication of the temple, the appearing of the glory of God, and the falling of fire from heaven are all mentioned together. As I read it, I couldn't help but to think of the gathered church in Acts 2, and specifically of the "tongues of fire" that appeared and rested "on each one of them" (v. 3).
What do the tongues of fire signify? I have always taught that the imagery of fire on the Day of Pentecost signifies purifying work of the Spirit. But it now seems to me that the tongues of fire should be seen in light of the fire of God that fell upon and consumed the burnt offerings in Leviticus 9 and 2 Chronicles 7. The imagery of Scripture is rich and varied. It can speak of believers as living stones being built together into a holy temple, a habitation of the Spirit; and it can also speak of us as being "living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God" (Rom. 12:1).
The sacrifices consumed by the fire of God in Leviticus 9 and 2 Chronicles 7 were "burnt offerings." It is important to know that one of the distinctive features of the burnt offering (as opposed to the sin offering, the guilt offering, and the peace offering) is the fact that the whole animal was offered to God by fire. With the other sacrifices, portions were shared by priest and worshiper alike. Not so with the burnt offering. The whole animal was given to God.
The message is clear. If the descent of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is the anti-type of Exodus 40:33-34/Leviticus 9:23-24 and 2 Chronicles 7:1-2, then the tongues of fire that fell upon the believers indicate that we are to reckon ourselves as wholly (and holy!) given to God. We are not our own (1 Cor. 6:19-20). As living sacrifices we belong in body and soul, in life and death to Jesus Christ our faithful Savior.