If the item was made of metal, and could withstand the heat of fire, it was to pass through that fire. The same object was also required to go through a cleansing of water, called the “water of separation”. For items that could not withstand the heat of the fire, it was still required to go through the cleansing of water.
These two elements seem to be the principle means by which God cleanses and purifies. On a large scale, we consider the planet earth. In ancient days, God “cleansed” the earth via the flood in Noah’s day. God also adamantly declared that He would never again bring that same judgment and cleansing by water, and sealed that Promise with the rainbow for all to see. Yet, there remains another cleansing and judgment of the earth. (2 Thessalonians 1:8 , 2 Peter 3:10-13) One day, in the future, God will judge the earth with fire. After this global event, we will enter the time of the “new heaven” and “new earth”.
Interestingly, it is the same two elements that God chose for the cleansing and separation of His people. When redeeming Israel out of Egypt, after the night of the Passover, the people passed through the Red Sea (water) under the direction of the pillar of cloud and fire. (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). When John the Baptist arrived on the scene to prepare the way for the Christ, he boldly declared, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11)
During the discourse of Jesus with Nicodemus, Jesus spoke of two aspects of the new birth; water and spirit. From John’s words, we understand that the birth or baptism of the Holy Ghost is symbolic of the fire of God. On the Day of Pentecost, when receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost, the 120 in the Upper Room were touched by “cloven tongues like as of fire”. This, no doubt, was to clarify the significance of this event in the minds of the recipients. They were indeed receiving the promised baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire. On the same day, 3,000 were baptized in water in the name of Jesus.
Even in our daily walk with God, we continue to permit the water and the Spirit to cleanse our lives. We are in constant need of being washed in the water of the Word. (Ephesians 5:26) Each day we strive in prayer and worship to be renewed in the fire of the Holy Ghost. (Titus 3:5)