Brimstone and Fire – What is the Biblical Meaning?

Chances are you have heard the term “fire and brimstone.” However, this well-known phenomenon only appears fourteen times in the Bible.

The significance of God’s judgment in connection with brimstone and fire is worthy of a more in-depth understanding.

brimstone and fire

Definition of Brimstone

Brimstone (sulfur) is a well-known simple mineral substance, crystalline, easily melted, and very inflammable. The origin of the word brimstone comes from how sulfur was referred to in ancient times. Scientists have simply assigned it a proper scientific name. 

When burning, brimstone (sulfur) emits blue flames and a peculiar suffocating odor resembling rotten eggs. It is found in great abundance near volcanoes. 

The soil around the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah abounded in sulfur and bitumen. The inflammability of both substances (the quality of being easily ignited and burning rapidly) is high. In other words, you don’t want to walk around with a torch near either substance!

Related post: What is Light? Biblical and Spiritual Characteristics


Where is Brimstone Found?

According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, brimstone (sulfur) existed in Palestine in early times. It was known by most of the ancient nations as a combustible substance. In the vicinity of the Dead Sea, deposits of sulphur are still being formed along its shores.

During some of the disastrous earthquakes that took place in this part of the world, hot lava likely ignited bitumen along with sulfer. Such a fireworks display added to the horrors of an earthquake’s destruction caused by burning pitch and brimstone.

In 1896, German geologist Max Blanckenhorn proposed a verifiable hypothesis. He believed that the combustible formation was due to the action of bituminous matter upon crystals of gypsum. Both substances are found in our present time associated with each other in the cities of the plain.

[Join me on my next Holy Land tour here.]

Qumran, Israel

Modern Scientific Facts About Brimstone

Scientists have found that the vast majority of brimstone (sulfer) dwells deep in the Earth’s core.  

Researchers estimate that the Earth’s core contains 10 times the amount of sulfur than found on its surface.

Confirming the presence of lighter elements, like sulfur, in the core, provides vital information. Temperatures, pressures, and oxygen content in the Earth’s mantle surrounds the core and separates sulfer from the crust on which we walk.

Related post: The Biblical Meaning of Rainbows and Double Rainbows

What is the Biblical meaning of rainbows?

Figurative Use of Brimstone

Why are we so captivated by the term “fire and brimstone”? The figurative use of brimstone symbolizes God’s punishment, destruction, and terrible suffering of the unfaithful. 

The figurative use of the word brimstone is associated with the wrath of God’s judgment. It references being cast into a lake of fire, burning wind, and great hailstones of a metaphorical “rain of fire.” That is the stuff of movies!

However, God’s divine judgments are anything but Hollywood’s visual effects. God’s wrath is a consuming fire that wiped out inhabitants of the cities of old with inextinguishable flames. 

Related post: What Does Longsuffering Mean in the Bible?


Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

Sodom and Gomorrah are two cities mentioned in the Bible that were destroyed for their wickedness and sinfulness. The Book of Genesis states: “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground” (Genesis 19:24-25, KJV). 

God sent angels to the cities that were destined for destruction. Lot invited the angels into his home but a group of people surrounded the house. They demanded that Lot release them so that the villagers could have their way with them. Lot refused and protected the men, even offering his virgin daughters in their place. 

Having confirmed the iniquity and destruction of these cities, the angels told Lot and his family to flee at daybreak. They were instructed not look back during the overthrow of Sodom. Lot’s wife could not resist throwing a backward glance at her home and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Deuteronomy 29:23 reveals: “The whole land burned out with brimstone and salt, nothing sown and nothing growing, where no plant can sprout, an overthrow like that of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the Lord overthrew in his anger and wrath.”

Related post: 10 Powerful Prayers for Repentance and Restoration

prayers for repentance

Brimstone in the Old Testament

Most occurrences of brimstone (accompanied by fire and burning) appear in the Old Testament.

For a burning place has long been prepared; indeed, for the king it is made ready, its pyre made deep and wide, with fire and wood in abundance; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of sulfur, doth kindle it” (Isaiah 30:33). 

Isaiah 34:9: “And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch.” Even though that is the King James translation of the Bible, eternal punishment comes through loud and clear.

Psalm 11:6: “Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.”

Looking at Isaiah 34:9 in the King James Bible, fire and brimstone are combined to depict eternal damnation. “And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch.”

Such passages like Ezekiel 38:22 contain sobering visuals of the power of God’s punishment and destruction: “With pestilence and bloodshed I will enter into judgment with him, and I will rain upon him and his hordes and the many peoples who are with him torrential rains and hailstones, fire and sulfur.”

Related post: Powerful Prayer for God’s Protection from Psalm 91

God's protection

Brimstone in the New Testament

Three times in the Book of Revelation, fire and brimstone are used to express the idea of excruciating torment.

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb” (Revelation 14:9-10, ESV). 

And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur” (Revelation 19:20, ESV). 

And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10, ESV). 

The inhabitants of the land will experience the horrible tempest of burning sulfur (or rain coals). If the deposits caught fire it would melt and run in a stream of brimstone down the ravines. It would have spread suffocating fumes (such as come from the ordinary brimstone match). 

Related post: What Does Rain Symbolize in the Bible?

What Does Rain Symbolize in the Bible?

Brimstone in our Modern Day

Sulfur is an element boasting a bright yellow color that is abundant in nature even today. A nonmetal, sulfur is the 10th most abundant element in the universe, according to the Jefferson National Linear Accelerator Laboratory.

Sulfur compounds called “mercaptans” give skunks their defensive odor. Rotten eggs and stink bombs get their distinctive aroma because of hydrogen sulfide.

Today, the most common use of sulfur is in the manufacture of sulfuric acid. That acid goes into fertilizers, batteries, and cleaners. It’s also used to refine oil and in processing ores.

Related post: The Mandela Effect and the Bible

The Mandela Effect and the Bible

Our Hope in Christ

Destruction from the breath of Jehovah is NOT the destiny of those who place their hope in Christ. The love of God provided a way out of eternal destruction by sending Jesus to die for our sins.

There is good news! Salvation is a beautiful gift of God. Salvation is given to all those who believe by faith that Jesus is the Son of God. God desires every name to be written in the Book of Life because the grace of God reigns supreme.

Related Posts:

About the Author

Donna is a sought-after speaker, multi-published author, and Bible teacher. Her path from being unchurched to becoming passionate about sharing Jesus was not easy. Read about her God-breathed journey: “From Unchurched to Becoming a Multi-Published Author and Sought-After Speaker.” If you want to send Donna a quick message, then visit her here.

{Some of these links are affiliate links. If you purchase through that link, the ministry may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.}