Title: The promise by John the Baptist
Scriptures to Read: Mark 1:7-8; Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:15-18
John the Baptist makes it clear that he is not the Messiah
The people, the crowd that had gathered, were in a state of expectation. They were all wondering if John was the Messiah. In his answer to the crowd’s wondering John draws a contrast between himself and the Messiah, and there are two aspects to the contrast. Firstly, the Messiah is mightier than himself and secondly he is not even worthy to untie the thongs of the Messiah’s sandals.
Contrasting baptism of John and Jesus
The focus of this passage is on the different kind of baptism that the Messiah will do. Unlike John’s baptism with water, the One coming after him will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with Fire. And exactly what he means by that is spelled out in his next statement. The Greek grammar features a sentence with two parts, each of which is subsequently explained.
The purpose of the winnowing fork
What is the purpose of the Messiah’s winnowing fork? Firstly, He will use it to thoroughly clear His threshing floor. In other words, everyone (Christians and non-Christians) will be baptized one way or the other. Secondly, as the threshing floor is cleared, there will be a separation of the wheat and the chaff.
Who are the wheat?
The wheat represents those who are to be baptised by the Spirit. They are the believers, and they will be gathered into the barn. While some interpret the barn to be heaven, within Matthew’s gospel it is better to interpret it as the messianic kingdom since much of Matthew’s focus is on the messianic kingdom. The apostle Paul writes about the baptism of believers in I Corinthians 12:13.
Who are the chaff?
The chaff represents those who will be baptised by the fire, and in Matthew’s gospel the chaff focuses on unbelievers. These are the ones who will be thrown into unquenchable fire. Unquenchable fire is fire that will never be extinguished. It will go on forever. It is the Lake of fire of Revelation 20:11-15. And so the kind of baptism which will be applied to unbelievers is the baptism of fire.
There is no middle ground. There is no purgatory. Everybody is baptised either by fire, or by the Spirit. Those who believe on the Messiah will have the baptism of the Spirit and will be gathered into the messianic kingdom. And those who reject the Messiah will have the baptism of unquenchable fire. And Luke says in verse 18: So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. Luke records here the content of John’s message in summary form and he had many other things to say. However, the main point of his message and the focus of John’s ministry was the coming of the Messiah