- As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. - Matthew 3:11
In this sense, the Baptism of Fire was prophetic of Christ’s judgment, whereby the unregenerate are placed into Hell and then for all eternity into the Lake of Fire. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit prophesied the then future ministry of the Holy Spirit, whereby He immersed or placed believers into the Body of Christ (i.e., the Universal Church). This baptism began on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit appeared as “tongues of fire,” resting upon each believer. At that moment, the Apostles and other disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit.
- And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. - Acts 2:3-4
When God delivered the Law, He descended upon the mount in fire (Exodus 19:18).
- Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. - Exodus 19:18
Jewish tradition states that when God gave the Law in written form, each of the seventy Elders had a flame of fire appear above their heads. Now, God gave the Holy Spirit, who will write the Law upon the hearts of people, and a flame of fire appeared above their heads.
The appearance of the Holy Spirit as a fire was a sign to the Jews that God’s presence and power were upon the Apostles and disciples. As well, just as God’s fire in the Old Testament placed God’s approval upon Elijah’s ministry, so too the appearance of the Holy Spirit as fire upon those early believers authenticated God’s blessing upon their ministry.