Throughout the Bible, fire is utilised for domestic cooking, heating, burning of sacrifices, destroying idols and conquering cities (Ex 12:8; Lev 1:7; Deut 7:5; Josh 6:24).

The Bible portrays fire as having two special functions – refining and punishing. Metallic ores are refined by fire to extract precious metals and this ‘purifying by heat’ analogy is carried over into the personal character realm, “I have tested you in the furnace of affliction” (Prov 17:3; Isa 6:5-7, 48:10;

Fire purifies or destroys

Zech 13:9; 1 Pet 1:7). What is unprofitable, useless and evil is burnt up while what survives the testing is of good and lasting worth (Gen 19:28; Mt 3:10,12, 7:19; Jn 15:6; 1 Cor 3:12-15).

At the end of time the sun will scorch people and the world will be destroyed by fire (2 Pet 3:3-7,10-12; Rev 16:8,9). Jesus referred to Hell as the place where the tormenting fire doesn’t go out – the lake of fire to which the unbelievers are doomed is eternal damnation (Mt 5:22; Mk 9:43; Rev 19:20, 20:10-15, 21:8).

The Bible describes God as "a consuming fire" (Heb 12:29). His presence was symbolised at the burning bush; the pillar of fire giving guidance to the Israelites, providing proof He was the true God; and the Holy Spirit coming on the disciples as tongues of fire, on the day of Pentecost (Ex 3:2, 13:21; 1 Kgs 18:21-38; Act 2:3). John the Baptist had stated to the crowd that ranged from ardent seekers to those totally opposed to the things of God, “You will be baptised with the Holy Spirit and fire” referring to His refining and purifying power (Mt 3:11). The context referring to "fire" alludes to the destiny of the wicked who do not turn to Jesus for salvation (Mt 3:10,12; Rom 6:23; Rev 20:15, 21:8). In contrast the baptism of the Holy Spirit speaks of purification of sin through the process of sanctification for all who will submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The seemingly instant result of those "clothed with this power from on high" was they had a passion that enabled them to preach the Word of God boldly and suffer intense persecution (Lk 24:49; Act 4:31, 5:40, 16:23, 22:24; 2 Cor 11:23-27). The Holy Spirit creates the passion of God within, "Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us...?" (Lk 24:32). When people are ‘on fire for God’ this infers they are enthusiastic and devoted to Christ and His Kingdom. Today the Holy Spirit is still powerfully impacting those who intentionally avail themselves of His ongoing transforming power (Gal 5:16; Eph 5:18). It is our focus and hunger that provides the fuel for the Spirit as "Without wood the fire goes out..." (Prov 26:20). Without our co-operation we are "putting out [pouring water on] the Spirit's fire" (1 Thes 5:19).

Several biblical illustrations also use fire, e.g. “Can a man play with the fire of temptation and not be burnt”, and “The tongue is a fire setting great forests on fire” (Prov 6:27-29; Jas 3:5,6).

The causal use of the phrase 'baptism by fire' refers to a difficult introduction to a new job. It is a misquote of trial by fire (1 Pet 1:6,7). The point is that the difficult trials and hardships are like a fire that tests the genuineness of gold and that burns out any impurities in the metal.

Fire walking is practiced by certain Pacific Islanders where participants walk bare foot across white-hot stones.  It is highly probable evil spirits are invoked to protect the feet of these walkers.

See also: baptism, end times, eternal damnation, Holy Spirit, refine, test/testing.