John the Baptist proclaimed that the Messiah would come and baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11 Matthew 3:11I indeed baptize you with water to repentance. but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
American King James Version×). Some, reading this, believe they need to receive this baptism of fire. But to understand what John was saying, let’s take a closer look at this passage.
Those refusing to repent and change their way of thinking will be consumed by fire.
In Matthew 3:8 John demanded evidence from members of the leading Jewish sects of His day, the Pharisees and Sadducees, of their repentance from sin, making use of two metaphors to drive home his point. First, he noted that when a tree does not bear good fruit, it is cut down at the roots and burned up (Matthew 3:10 Matthew 3:10And now also the ax is laid to the root of the trees: therefore every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
American King James Version×). Jesus repeated this principle in Matthew 7:19 Matthew 7:19Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
American King James Version×.
John’s second metaphor was of winnowing wheat. Winnowing means separating the wheat from the husks, stalks and chaff. John this time was picturing how Jesus will deal with people who bear no fruit. “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12 Matthew 3:12Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
American King James Version×).
Both examples show the major theme of the Bible, that God wants us to become like Christ and produce fruit! For this, Jesus promises us eternal life, which is the message of the gospel. Those refusing to repent and change their way of thinking will be consumed by fire (Malachi 4:1 Malachi 4:1For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, said the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
American King James Version×).
Speaking of attitudes of sin, Jesus proclaims that “the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8 Revelation 21:8But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
American King James Version×). Revelation 20:15 Revelation 20:15And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
American King James Version×adds, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
This lake of fire is the second death, the baptism of fire for the unrepentant, and is certainly not something that we should desire to experience.
To learn more, read or download our free booklet Heaven and Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach?