“The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out.” (Leviticus 6:13)
The so-called “eternal flame” at the tomb of former President John Kennedy will surely eventually be extinguished. The same proved to be true for the continual burnt offering ordained by God in Israel’s ancient tabernacle sacrifices. The continual sacrifices for sin were of no more avail once God’s own sacrifice had been slain. “Every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; . . . For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:11-12, 14).
There is one flame, however, which is truly eternal. Jesus spoke of it several times. For example: “It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched” (Mark 9:43). “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). Then, in the last book of the Bible describing the final judgment, “the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. . . . And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:10, 15).
But there is also another symbolic significance to the continual burnt offering: “Did not our heart burn within us, . . . while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). “His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jeremiah 20:9). “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually” (Hebrews 13:15). Set on fire by the Word of God and the love of Christ, our hearts should burn with His praises continually. HMM