“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
– Matthew 3:12
Matthew 3:12 is a Sobering Verse
John the Baptist is talking about Jesus coming and John the Baptist says his winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff, he will burn with unquenchable fire.
This imagery may not be very familiar to us, how a farmer would separate grain from chaff. He would basically take a … A farmer would take a winnowing fork, he’d toss the grain and the chaff together into the air, and when he did that, the grain which is heavier, would fall to the ground while the chaff would blow to the side. So the farmer would keep the grain and then he’d sweep all the chaff together and throw it into the fire. So, when John the Baptist is talking about Jesus, he says “His winnowing fork is in his hand,” basically he’s saying that Jesus is coming to judge the world. The part of the purpose of his coming is to separate the grain from the chaff, and he’s going to separate those who turn from their sins and trust in him, and those who don’t.
The King has come to save us, but if we don’t turn and trust in Him, we will experience His wrath and punishment forever.
Matthew 3:12 Reminds Us About the Importance of Repentance
Those who don’t repent, this verse says he will burn with unquenchable fire. The language is serious, the ax is at the tree, John the Baptist says, and he’s cutting down. Jesus is going to cut down every tree that doesn’t bear the fruit of faith and throw it into the fire, unquenchable fire. This picture of eternal punishment, fire that can never, ever, ever become quenched.
So, this is the essence of the gospel. God is King, he is righteous, he is holy. He is wholly set against sin. We are sinners, we have sin in our lives. We’re separated from God. We’re deserving of death, and the whole picture here in the coming of Christ is the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. The King has come in Christ to save us from our sins. Yes, but if we do not turn and trust in him, we will experience his wrath and punishment forever.
There’s good news and bad news here in the coming of Christ. The good news, obviously for all who will turn and trust in him, we can be saved from the wrath and judgment we deserve. But, for all who don’t turn from our sin and don’t trust in Jesus, we will go to unquenchable fire.
This Verse Provides Evidence for the Importance of Putting Your Faith in Jesus
Let this soak in, let it drive your praying. First, in your own heart to make sure you have put your faith and your trust in Jesus. Your eternity is dependent on this. Then to realize what this means for people around us, for people around the world.
Prayer for the Lost
God, we pray that your message of love and mercy in Christ. And the salvation that he brings would be made known to more and more people who right now are under your wrath and judgment. God, we know that every single person in the world, their eternity is dependent on how they respond to you. We think about friends and family members around us. We think about co-workers around us, people that we see on a daily basis, who right now are under your wrath in their sin, who don’t know your mercy, have not trusted in Jesus. God, bring them the faith in Jesus.
Please, God, save them from their sin, and please use us. Please help us to share the gospel with them. To warn them in a John the Baptist-like way, and to warn them to trust in Christ. And Finally, to turn from sin. God, help us not to be silent with this news of impending judgment. Just as John the Baptist proclaimed the coming of Christ, help us to proclaim the coming of Christ. Just as John the Baptist proclaimed salvation and condemnation based on how people respond to Christ, God help us to do the same, we pray. Help us to do that around us, and wherever you might lead us to do that in the world.
Jesus, we praise you for saving us form unquenchable fire, and we pray that you would use our lives to save others from unquenchable fire. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.