“The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:10-12 NIV
The privilege of the nation of Israel is almost over. They have not followed their God and Saviour. The huge benefits they have received in terms of spiritual history and holy example, have not turned the nation to God. Salvation is by grace alone and the Israelite nation has not exercised faith in their Messiah. There have been the remnant that have believed and have been saved. The rest have rejected the way to God in favour of idols and man-made rules.
The picture is of a sharp and heavy axe that is being raised to cut down the tree that has born no fruit for God. They have grown for themselves bad fruit that only benefits them in this life, but is not the fruits of righteousness that God requires. The rules and regulations they have constructed around the purity of the sacrificial lamb, has rendered the offering of no value. The legalism of the Jewish system, cannot save them from the consequences of their sin. So, the tree will be used as fuel in the fire against them.
The same is true for all those who refuse God and His offer of a free and full forgiveness through Jesus the eternal Son. All who lack the fruits of righteousness, faith, love, peace and joy, will face the axe of separation from God’s kingdom and eternal life.
But, there is hope for the Jews, and the Gentiles. The water baptism of repentance carried out by John the Baptist, paves the way for the saving work of the Saviour, Jesus Christ. God will rescue His people and He will break down every barrier that we can construct against Him.
This Jesus is more powerful than even the powerful John the Baptist. In fact, this Saviour, Jesus, has such authority and reverence, that John is not worthy to even carry his shoes. The amazing, holy, spirit- filled John the Baptist, is lower than the shoe-shine boy…
This Jesus is going to do such a work in people’s lives that they will be filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit of God. All those who repent and believe will be immersed in the power of the Spirit and their lives will be on fire for God. These will be the fruitful wheat on the winnowing floor of the Saviour of the world. As they are chosen and as they repent from sinful hearts and lives, they are winnowed up into the barn of eternity. The threading floor will be cleared. The wheat will be lifted to God and the dead chaff into the fire unquenchable.
This is no game of leisure. This is a winnowing, a sorting that is going on all the time. The destiny of the wheat and the chaff couldn’t be more polarised. There is no in-between or compromise with the outcome, but a serious and permanent state of being when the threashing floor is cleared. There is no stopping the axe or the winnowing fork. The Sovereign Lord of all is this Saviour, the Garner of repentant souls. All who seek Him and forsake their sin, are saved from the fate of those who refuse Him. These repentant ones are the souls who live to God and are the wheat in the garner of the Lord.
The situation of the nation and religion of the Jews, is not unique to them. Without careful study of the Scriptures and earnest seeking the Lord for ourselves, we also fall into the deadness of orthodoxy. We will remain as chaff without the work of the Spirit in our souls. We must take this Scripture to ourselves and think on its seriousness. The contents of the threshing floor will be sifted. This world will be judged by its Saviour. Wheat or chaff? This is the final destiny of all people.