Three Agents Of Biblical Cleansing
                      
By Stephen Jones

    The Bible speaks of three agents of cleansing: blood, water,
    and fire. Each of these has a distinct function and purpose, and
    each had a literal application in the Old Testament and a
    spiritual application in the New.  Hebrews 9:22 and 23 says
    (NASB),

    "(22) And according to the Law, one may almost say all things
    are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is
    no forgiveness. (23) Therefore it was necessary for the copies
    of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the
    heavenly things themselves with BETTER sacrifices than these."

    So in speaking about the cleansing by blood, Hebrews says that
    the corresponding heavenly things are cleansed with BETTER
    sacrifices. It goes on to show that Christ cleansed those
    heavenly things by bringing His own blood into the temple in
    heaven. It was a better sacrifice than that of animals, but also,
    it is not likely that He brought physical blood to the heavens
    either. Because the soul of the flesh is in the blood (Lev. 17:
    11), it seems more likely that He presented His SOUL to the
    heavenly temple.

                                   Cleansing by Water

    The Old Testament uses water often as a means of cleansing.
    The priests cleansed themselves by washing their hands and
    feet with water poured from the laver through primitive
    faucets. Sacrifices were washed there. Lepers who had been
    healed of leprosy were sprinkled seven times with water and
    were pronounced CLEAN on the first day, the seventh, and the
    eighth days (Lev. 14).

    Similarly, in Numbers 19 those who touched a dead body were
    unclean for 7 days and had to be cleansed by water being
    sprinkled upon them (vs. 13, 19). Leprosy and touching a dead
    body both have reference to mortality, and so the ceremonial
    cleansings are similar. They each take 7 days to accomplish
    fully, and speak prophetically of the 7,000 years by which God
    is cleansing mankind of death (mortality).

    Likewise, the water of cleansing was to sprinkled or poured
    from above, in order to signify the heavenly origin of the
    cleansing itself. On a national level, God speaks to Israel
    through Ezekiel, telling them in Ez. 36:25,

    "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean;
    I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your
    idols."

    Also, for this same reason, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is
    pictured as water being poured out from heaven upon us. Joel
    2:28 says, "I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind." Isaiah 32:
    15 says, "Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high."
    The water of cleansing was often specified as "running water"
    as well (Lev. 14:5, 6; Num. 19:17). The Hebrew word
    translated "running" is chay, which literally means LIVING. So
    running water is living water and is meant to convey the
    solution to death, or mortality.

    In the New Testament, Jesus washed the feet of the disciples
    and pronounced them clean  (John 13:10). Later, in John 15:3,
    He said that they were clean through the WORD spoken to
    them. Paul adds in Eph. 5:25 and 26,

    " (25) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the
    church and gave Himself up for her; (26) that He might sanctify
    her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the
    word."

    Obviously, the water signifies the Word. Water may have some
    physical cleansing properties, but ceremonially speaking, it is
    only a type and shadow of the true cleansing that God provides
    for us. Without the washing by the Word of God, no amount of
    water is going to be adequate to make us acceptable to God.
    There has never been any magical quality about the water that
    can wash away sin in one's heart.

                            Cleansing by the Consuming Fire

    In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist said that the Messiah would
    baptize us "with the Holy Spirit and fire." In verse 12, John
    says by way of explanation:

    "And His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly
    clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the
    barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

    Barley is winnowed (Ruth 3:2); wheat is threshed; and grapes
    are trodden under foot. The chaff from barley comes off easily
    by using the wind (or a fan when there is not enough wind).
    This speaks of the overcomers, whose "chaff" (i.e, works of the
    flesh) falls off most easily by the working of the "wind" (Spirit).

    The wheat company (Church) takes more work, for the chaff
    falls off only by threshing.

    The grape company (the world) requires treading under foot to
    extract the juice from the pulp (the equivalent of the chaff in
    this biblical metaphor). Hence, Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:25 that He
    must "put all His enemies under His feet." The purpose is to
    destroy the flesh, not the juice.

    John the Baptist did not speak of grapes being trodden under
    foot. Instead, he used its equivalent, burning up the chaff with
    unquenchable fire. In Revelation 20, we find that the third
    group (unbelievers) are to be cast into the "lake of fire." John
    says it is "unquenchable." This does not mean that the people
    remain in the "fire" forever. It means that no man can quench it
    or stop it by intercession. Jeremiah used the same language in
    Jer. 4:4 against Jerusalem, and Isaiah says the "fire shall not be
    quenched."

    The idea is not to convey that the fire will burn forever, but
    rather that the fire cannot be quenched by man's activity or
    even by his intercession. There is a time for intercession, and a
    time when intercession is no longer possible, as Jeremiah
    learned (Jer. 7:16). When a nation comes to that point,
    judgment is inevitable and cannot be stopped or delayed by
    intercession. Hence, the fire is "unquenchable," because only
    God is able to quench it.

    So in correlating these ideas, we see that the "grapes" being
    trodden under foot, and the sinners being cast into the
    unquenchable "lake of fire" indicate that the "chaff" (flesh) of
    the sinners must be burned, and the "pulp" must be trodden
    down. The purpose is not simply to destroy but to extract the
    wine from the grape. The purpose of the fire is to purify. Yet
    this manner of purification is the most severe of the three kinds
    of cleansing.

    As I have written in The Judgments of the Divine Law and in
    other places, the fire of God was literal in the Old Testament,
    just as the water and blood were literal (physical). But these
    were all prophetic types which are not to be applied so literally
    under the New Covenant.


    This is quickly seen in the fact that the sacrifices were to be
    burned on the fire, and the burnt offering was to be totally
    consumed by fire. Jesus Christ fulfills all of those sacrifices on
    our behalf in order to deal with our sin and iniquity, taking the
    penalty for sin upon Himself. But Jesus did not have to be
    burned at the stake to fulfill those lawful penalties for sin.
    Instead, He was crucified. His crucifixion was the "fire,"
    because death was the penalty of the law for sin. "The wages
    of sin is death," Paul says in Rom. 6:23.

    Neither did Jesus have to "go to hell forever and ever" in order
    to pay the full penalty for the sin of mankind. If that were the
    divine penalty for sin, Jesus would still be there in a most
    painful situation. But instead, it was only required that He be
    dead to the third day in order to make it certain to all that He
    was indeed dead. If he had been raised the same day, some
    may have doubted the reality of his death.

    The "fiery law" (Deut. 33:2) reflects God's righteous character,
    in whose presence, all the chaff is burned away, leaving only
    righteousness