Holy Relics and Hilarity?

The Lord Jesus said; “A wicked and adulterous generation demands a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” (Matthew 16:4)

       In yesterday’s edition of Israel Today Online a headline read; “Israel Helps Christian ‘Holy Fire’ Spread Around the World.” The Sub-headline read; “Coronavirus might have changed many things, but Israel will ensure that the ‘Holy Fire’ still burns. The article went on to say; “The coronavirus has completely altered our everyday lives and made impossible many things that we took for granted. Even major international events like the Olympics had to be cancelled or postponed. And while the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City has also been closed amid a nationwide lockdown, Israel is going to let it open for one very special event this weekend.

        Today, being April 18 one day before the Orthodox Christian Easter, the Jewish state will make sure that Christians of Orthodox persuasions don’t miss out on what they believe is the annual “miracle” of the “Holy Fire.” Of course, Israel can’t allow entry to the tens of thousands of Christians who usually participate in the event, in which Orthodox Churches claim a divine fire descends from heaven upon the place where many believe Jesus was buried. But Israel will grant entry and provide escort to representatives of the various churches so that they can witness the “miracle” and take the “Holy Fire” to their home countries.

           For decades, the ‘Holy Fire’ has been flown directly from Israel to the various Orthodox Christian countries, such as Greece, Russia, Bulgaria, Romania and Armenia. And the Jewish state is determined that this year will not be any different in that regard, in spite of the coronavirus crisis. Earlier this month, Israel issued special instructions to the churches and countries desiring to participate this year and to take home some of the ‘Holy Fire.’ Watching a video of this event held in the past there seemed to be no “fire falling from heaven” but someone lighting a torch and running through the crowd lighting other torches in the hands of the devotees.

       This sort of euphoria is nothing new especially in Israel where religious fervour abounds in Christian Orthodox circles, much like it did in the medieval period when relics, statues, icons and other supposed artifacts were touted to be genuine but were of a very dubious source accompanied by bogus claims from the priests and clergy promoting this kind of stuff. Today is no different within wider Orthodox Christendom. For those in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church such things like ‘the Holy Fire’ coming down in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City is part and parcel of this religious euphoria by many when visiting the ‘holy sites’ in Jerusalem. Of course ‘holy’ relics are still around, ‘visions’ and ‘apparitions’ still happen, but are they of God? Are they Biblical? Does Christianity really consist of these religious ceremonies, relics, icons and apparitions?

       The ‘Holy Fire’ for those ‘Christians’ who flock to this annual event is for them a visible manifestation of the divine presence of God in their midst. However, many claim it is not real. No one it seems has really witnessed the literal fire fall from the heavens. Having said this, what does the Bible tell us about the Shekinah of God or His Divine Presence in relation to His people?

Let’s look at this Biblically…

       The Shekinah, God’s divine presence, the genuine Holy Fire dwelt in the tabernacle in the wilderness. His divine presence dwelt in Solomon’s Temple at its dedication. He dwelt in the Messiah our Lord Jesus, the living Tabernacle of God in the flesh. “The Eternal Word of God Himself became flesh and tabernacled among us.” (John 1:14) Even the Lord Jesus said Himself; “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again…” He was speaking about the temple of his body.” (John 2:19, 21) The Shekinah dwells in the heart of every born again believer in the Messiah. (Galatians 4:6) The blessed Holy Spirit Himself is the Shekinah of God because He is God the Holy Spirit, having the same divine attributes as God the Father and God the Son. He is the Eternal Spirit. (Hebrews 9:14)

       The blessed Holy Spirit dwells in the believer individually and operates in and through the Body of the Messiah corporately. (Romans 5:5) (1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11-13) The real “Holy Fire” is in the heart of every born again, blood washed, blood redeemed, child of the Living God. The Apostle Paul writes; “For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be My people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16)

       This is God’s perspective written by the Apostle Peter; “Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:2-4)

        If a person is born again and filled with the Holy Spirit then they have within them all of “the Holy Fire” they will ever need!” Did not Mathew record what Jesus said and did in regards to bogus miracles or even genuine miracles and those seeking ‘signs’; “A wicked and adulterous generation demands a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Then He left them and went away.” (Matthew 16:4) He was saying that the work of salvation at the cross was sufficient and that this great truth was to be the central focus for believers when preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and not holy relics or holy fire orchestrated by man. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) Any other ‘gospel’ preached other than the Gospel of the Kingdom, the Lord Jesus walks away from it! He has nothing to do with it!

        Did not the LORD actually slay the sons of Aaron Nadab and Abihu who offered up “strange fire” on the altar in a way that God Himself had not ordained and instead of the fire from heaven falling on the altar it fell upon them! Religious orthodoxy always needs outward signs, apparitions, relics, icons, statues or genuflecting before the bread and the wine on the altar as an act of worshipping them and even the manifestation of ‘miracles, signs and wonders,’ which in many cases can be “strange fire” which God has nothing to do with.

        It was this kind of idolatry that the Jews saw within wider Christendom and turned away from Christianity. In doing these things professing Christians were violating the first of the 10 Commandments, which in their entirety, were written personally by the finger of God Himself and given to Moses. Outward sacramental practices and objects of worship cannot bring about the inner reality of a God who lives in His people individually and moves among them corporately.

        Another thought came to me when I was in the kitchen marinating the meat for lunch yesterday. I was thinking on these church leaders taking some of this ‘holy fire’ back to their countries? It reminded me of the so called “Toronto Blessing” or the laughing Revival thing (the false fire) some years ago. Watching quite a bit of video footage of this form of so called ‘Holy Fire’ one would think the people involved were in a zoo!  Many well known church leaders came to Toronto to get some of the ‘Holy Fire’ and take it back to their churches.

        Watching the video footage one saw ‘hilarity’ and people out of control and laughing and sliding down the seats. Others were writhing around on the floor laughing uncontrollably including many ‘leading lights’ within Charismania. Many other pastors and church leaders were also caught up in the euphoria of this so called ‘Holy Fire.’ It seems “hilarity was the name of the game!” Of course it was another version of the Golden Calf Syndrome in Exodus where “the people rose up to laugh” (Hebrew text) and that around the golden calf (money). Sounds familiar?

        We are living in days when we are to be spiritually sober and alert because the days are evil and spiritual deception abounds today within wider Christendom. The blessed Holy Spirit is a Spirit who Himself imparts to our reborn inner spirit, love, power and self-control or a spirit of a sound mind. (1Timothy 1:7) As it is also written; “For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:3)

       You know King Solomon was right when he wrote; “What has been will be again, and what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun!” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) Today more than at any other time in the history of Christendom the spiritual gift of discernment is desperately needed in the Body of the Messiah to discern the genuine Holy Fire of the Spirit from holy relics and hilarity!