There is an interesting story about Jesus and his disciples that occurs in the gospels only in Luke 9. The time frame of the story is in the very late stages of Jesus public ministry. He has taken his disciples to the northernmost part of Israel, to Caesarea Philippi, where He revealed to them what was about to take place as far as his death and resurrection were concerned.
Then he takes three of the disciples, Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain to experience what has been called the “transfiguration”. While they are watching, Jesus meets with and talks to the “angelic” appearing Moses and Elijah, two of Israel’s greatest prophets, who have long since died and gone to heaven. They also see their rabbi transfigured and hear the voice of God thunder from the heavens. It is obvious that they are in special company in a special time in history.
After this amazing incident, the Bible says that Jesus, realizing that his time to be crucified was at hand, set his face resolutely towards Jerusalem. To get to Jerusalem, which is south of the Galilee quite a distance, the group decided to go the shortest route through the Samaritan mountains. They had taken this route in the past, if you remember when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well in Samaria. The Samaritans and the Jews did not get along, at all. Most Jews would not even risk going through Samaria and the same could be said for the Samaritans, as they were reluctant to go through Israel. Their hatred for each other had been going on for centuries.
As they traveled in Samaria, Jesus sent some messengers ahead to reserve a place to stay and to have something to eat. However, the Samaritans were not friendly at all, and would not let the disciples make any arrangements for their rabbi.
When James and John saw the Samaritans rude behavior, they quickly asked Jesus,”Can we call down fire from heaven on these guys and teach them a lesson and destroy this Samaritan village?”Jesus rebuked James and John and said, we’ll just go to another village. In the King James translation, Jesus replies, “I did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them”.
Why would the disciples want to call fire down from heaven, besides the obvious fact that they were mad at them? If we knew our text better, the answer would be obvious. Elijah, the first great prophet of Israel, the one that they had just seen on the mountain, had done the exact same thing to the exact same people, in the exact same area, for the exact same reason! Look at the story in 2 Kings Ch.1! By gosh, if Elijah didn’t put up with these unruly Samaritans, then neither will we! Also, Elijah had called down fire from heaven in the contest with Baal on top of Mt. Carmel. So the fire from heaven was a prophet thing!
Moses, the other great leader of Israel that they had just witnessed, also called down fire from heaven on the Sons of Korah in Numbers 16:35 and on Aaron’s sons in Leviticus 10:2. So the disciples were trying to emulate these great prophets when they asked Jesus for permission to scorch these Samaritans! They had great precedent to do so; surely their rabbi would go along with it.
Jesus, however, said, “My ministry is going to be a little different “. What Moses and Elijah did was appropriate for that time and situation, but my ministry is going to be about trying to save these people’s lives, not wipe them out”. In fact, Jesus uses the Samaritans as examples in a lot of his parables and stories to show that we’ve got to love even our worst enemy, e.g. the story of the Good Samaritan.
Doesn’t this make this story a lot more interesting when you know the history and the context behind what was happening? We need to know our Hebrew Testament so much better! That is the book and the stories that Jesus and his disciples would have been so familiar with. This should motivate us to be better students of the text! Our rabbi and his disciples certainly were good students!
About the author:
Bob is the creator of this site and a disciple of Ray Vander Laan. Along with his wife of 50 years, he teaches a Bible study at Christ’s Church in Roswell, NM. He is also an avid hunter and fisher.
No, He shows up exactly when He is supposed to. I am so grateful you love history and share what you learn with us.
Calling down fire now is not a real fire, but it is the fire of God, that purging presence that is so unmistakenly God. It purges the heart and turns men back to Him. An amazing thing to witness. AMEN! Suze and Bill Vanderbeck, His Right ARM Ministries/Suzanne Vanderbeck Ministries I see you haven’t been here in a long time I pray you get this 🙂 God bless~! ( Dec 10, 2013 … You can partner with God to bring His holy fire on the earth. Here’s how you can pray for a fresh move of God. <— Charisma Magazine )
I experienced the return of the former rain (ala Joel ch. 2) in 1984. The former rain is the glory of God that appeared during the old covenants (the 2000 yrs of the Torah). This kind of rain is experienced by the physical senses. It may be visible, audible, tangible, etc. I saw fire as it had appeared to Moses and there was no difference in it from real fire except that it did not consume the tree it was in. In 1990, I experienced the former rain as it intensified in the birth of the Outpouring (once again, that which was prophesied in Joel ch. 2) and I heard the Lord slam arrows of fire (lightning)
into the earth. He did it instead of speaking. It seemed to be an affirmative gesture, sometimes indicating that He was arriving on the scene or leaving it, or that He was 100 percent in agreement with what I was declaring. I did not have to call down this fire because He was very capable of directing this sign all by Himself. The lightning was real and it was His fire. This sign made a believer out of everyone who witnessed it.
Glory to God! 🙂 Amen to that. 🙂
We don’t need to call down fire any mor because the name of Jesus has been given to us for our salvation. He who shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Jesus presence in lives of men is far more than calling on fire. God no longer operates as in the Old Testament because we now worship him through Christ.
Jesus came before and called down fire in his *likely* pre-incarnattion in Genesis 19:24 on Sodom and Gomorrah. (I say “likely”, since the person of the Father does not leave His throne in Heaven.)
Then, same as when he was with his disciples, the goal was to “see for Himself” in an effort to save lives, such as when Abraham bartered for the lives of the “righteous” at the end of the preceding Chapter 18. His angels did not find any except Lot and his family, however.
Elijah’ s situation is perhaps more appropriate, but there is no doubt a link back to Genesis 19 and the deeper meaning of God showing Himself to be compassionate and do everything He can to save us…to His glory and praise.
Surely we can call down fire from heaven upon our spiritual enemies, demons, evil spirits, and all forces of darkness
All these stories are great however I believe we can call down fire from heaven to burn up the works of the evil one, just. Just as we can dispatch angels to protect us we can call down fire against the demonic world.
Leviticus 10:2 didn’t God send the fire on Aaron’s 2 son, not Moses?
Yes, JESUS came to save, to change the individual on the inside. If we called down fire on everybody that disagrees with us or hates us or makes things hard for us, we would have to get burned as well. Besides, if all were burnt up, how would they be saved? They would be dead. They need to hear the “good news” about what JESUS came to earth for. A person can’t learn a lesson if they are dead. The LORD awakens us by way of our heart & shows us our need of a savior.
Most know John 3:16 but seem to forget the next verse ,3:17, that “GOD did NOT send HIS SON into the world to condemn it but to SAVE it.”
Many i meet are focused on GRACE for themselves but hold things against others…
Interesting insight. Thanks for the context.
Isn’t there a revelation quote where someone throws fire down from heaven? I am unable to find it on google, maybe I’m mistaken. I am interested in it in context of the DEWeapons from satellites folks have shown evidence of lately.
Psm. 119 “God inhabits the praises of His people”
If you would have the fire of God come down. start praising Him in spirit and Truth. You can start with all the titles of Jesus. We praise God for who He is. No demon is going to want to be around when He descends into our midst. “Our God is a consuming fire” Hebrews 12:29. To believers it is the fire of the Holy Spirit (to purify); to enemies (especially demons) it is terrifying.
I was so delighted and filled with interest of knowing more of biblical Histories. Thanks so much.
Cant see any biblical validation for calling down fire when Jesus came to save save and not condemn Acts 8:6-8 worth reading cheers
Cannot find any biblical exergesis to validate calling down fire read Acts 8:6-8 Jesus ministry is to save and NOT condemn cheers
God is God.He can do what he wants when he wants.Nothing is impossible for him.I think U could ask him to do something only he can do and he will make himself real to you.
I believe there are clear differences, motives and outcomes between Moses and Elijah calling down Fire to the request from James and John to Jesus. God never changes, what was a Righteous act in the past would still be the same today if the circumstances were the same, but the circumstances are vastly different. In a more lengthy reply, Jesus could have said to James and John, your motives are wrong and based solely on Indignant Pride and Self Righteous Anger. That is the Spirit of the “old man/woman”, not the motive of the Holy Spirit who has no unrighteous human Pride, and who is slow to Anger.