By Philip Cottraux
Leviticus 6:13: The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.
Before the children of Israel left Mount Sinai to begin the long journey to the Promised Land, the Law had to be given. Moses received strict instructions for the building of the tabernacle and the establishment of the priesthood. In the atonement offering, a spotless lamb was to be sacrificed and its blood spilled on the altar. And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the Lord, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: (Leviticus 6:6).
Then a peace offering had to be made, for which a fire was to burn continually before the altar. And the fire upon the altar shall be burning in it; it shall not be put out: and the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order upon it; (verse 12). A priest had to be on hand at all times to lay wood upon it; to let it get down to glowing embers was blasphemy.
The atonement foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus, His blood shed on Calvary for the sins of all mankind. But it was incomplete without the peace offering and the fire that accompanied it. This represented the Holy Ghost Baptism. We are commanded to keep the fire burning on the altars of our souls at all times. Each piece of wood we lay on it, reading the Word, prayer, and fasting, is fuel that keeps the Holy Ghost burning brightly within us.
The altar where the flame was to be kept was before the veil that separated the Holiest of Holies from the rest of the tabernacle. As part of the ritual of keeping it burning, Aaron and his sons were to wave incense before the Lord every morning and evening. Exodus 30:7: And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. The Spirit rejoiced daily in its holy fragrance. And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations (verse 7). God wanted the flame to be passed down from generation to generation; it was never His will for it to go out. How sad that so many churches today preach that the fire of the Holy Ghost was for the Early Church only and not today. This false doctrine completely violates Acts 2:38-39: Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
Exodus 30:25: And thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil. The incense was so crucial to the ceremony that the Lord even specified the ingredients of the oil that would fuel it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: (verse 34). The oil was so holy that God commanded it should not only burn 24/7, but that the entire tabernacle, from the altar to the laver to the ark to even the candlesticks, should be anointed with it (verses 26-28). The room would be so filled with His glory that to touch anything in it would make one holy before Him. Verse 29: And thou shalt sanctify them, that they may be most holy: whatsoever toucheth them shall be holy.
But the ingredients of this oil were not to be tampered with. If it were made out of anything other than the exact recipe listed in verse 25, it would produce a strange odor that would stink in the nostrils of God. Verse 9 gives the ominous warning: Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.
Unfortunately, as soon as the temple rituals started, two of Aaron’s sons did just that. Leviticus 10:1: And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. The fire in their censers burned from oil that was not made from the sacred ingredients listed in Exodus 25. This could have been a result of either ignorance or laziness. They may have thrown it together, looking at the ingredients and thinking “we don’t need to add this, or that. It’s just oil. God won’t know the difference.” Isn’t this typical of the attitude so many bring to church today? They come to His house with an attitude of indifference. God has strict instructions for what should burn at the altars of our souls, but so many ignore His Word, throwing in sin or worldliness that creates a foul odor before Him.
Every morning, the Lord looked forward to the sweet smell of fire burning from the holy oil. It filled the tabernacle with the fragrance of His glory. The evenings would continue this tradition; just like in Eden, He would come down and allow His presence to dwell in this room. But this time, something was different. It wasn’t a holy fragrance. The smell of blasphemy lingered in the air.
Leviticus 10:2: And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. This was the fire of judgment. It was the same sulfurous brimstone that fell and incinerated Sodom and Gomorrah. It was the fire of hell, and once it destroyed them, it filled His glorious tabernacle with the putrid stench of death.
So great was the sin of Nadab and Abihu, that the priests recovering their charred, smoking skeletons were not even allowed to touch them, and had to carry them out by their coats: And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp. So they went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as Moses had said (verses 4-5).
God’s anger was so great that Moses realized the camp was in a state of emergency. In verse 3, he immediately warned Aaron to say nothing in protest, even though his sons had just been killed, because God’s wrath would fall on him next. Then, after the bodies were removed, he instructed Aaron and Eleazar and Ithamar to go back into the temple with their heads covered, and re-anoint and rededicate everything, and not leave until it was done. Verse 7: And ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the Lord is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses.
The strange fire offered by the sons of Aaron represents speaking in tongues at will. The real Baptism of the Holy Ghost is pure and holy, the genuine flame that fell on the apostles at the Day of Pentecost: And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:3-4). But for every gift of God, the devil has a counterfeit, and tongues are no different.
When you receive the real Holy Ghost, you will speak in heavenly languages, feeling His power but not be able to control it. When you are completely surrendered, He will have His way as long as He wants. 1 Thessalonians 5:19: Quench not the Spirit. No one can teach you to do it; you have to simply yield.
I’ve seen it on TV. People speak gibberish into the air, “warming-up” their services with fake tongues. When members come forward to receive, they say “repeat after me,” as if the real Holy Ghost can be taught. It’s not a switch we can just turn on and off. They are offering strange fire before the Lord. It may sound like the Spirit, but something is off. What the sons of Aaron offered probably looked like the holy fire, but it stunk in God’s nostrils. The fake fire may fool others, but you can’t fool God.
Those who speak in tongues at will are in danger of blasphemy. They have made a mockery of the Spirit. They have replaced the true genuine oil with a substance made of flesh. They grieve the Spirit by offering a counterfeit, and God despises it. They are in danger of suffering the same fate as Nadab and Abihu; the flames of hell will be their eternal destiny if they don’t start seeking the real Holy Ghost.
When the Spirit is removed, flesh always takes over. The Pentecostal churches have replaced the true fire with strobe lights, the cloud of His glory with fog machines, and genuine dancing in the Spirit with choreographed dance moves. The holiness of old-time Pentecostalism has been reduced to a feel-good secular rock concert; we are offering strange fires before Him.
In Numbers 16, Korah led a rebellion against Moses’ leadership. Moses responded by offering Korah a challenge: This do; Take you censers, Korah, and all his company; And put fire therein, and put incense in them before the Lord to morrow: and it shall be that the man whom the Lord doth choose, he shall be holy: (verses 6-7). Moses would offer holy incense before God, and Korah and his rebels would offer their own incense, and the Lord Himself would choose who would be the leader. The next morning, the two groups set up their offerings; but from Korah’s censer burnt a strange fire and God did not hesitate: the ground opened up and all those who offered it fell into the earth, where they were engulfed in hell for all eternity. The Israelites who had gathered to watch ran and screamed in terror. Verses 32-33: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.
Just like the sons of Aaron, this is the fate of all those who offer strange fire before the Lord. God is giving this ominous warning to those who speak in tongues at will: And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; (Isaiah 66:24).