I love it when I spend time in the Word and have an "Ah-Ha" moment, as I like to call them. In truth, I believe that these are really times when the Holy Spirit gives us understanding, and they are rich times.
I had one of these the other day as I was studying Matthew chapter 3.
1 Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying,
2 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
3 For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said,
"THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS,
'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'"
4 Now John himself had a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.
5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan;
6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 "Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;
9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.
10 "The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 "As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
12 "His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
There's so much here...and I don't have much time right now, so I'll just share with you my big realization that the Lord showed me.
I've always struggled with what it meant in verse 11 that "He (Jesus) will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire". WHAT that meant, I couldn't ever get. I know that some would teach that it means that when one receives the Holy Spirit, they also receieve the gift of tongues as happened in Acts on the day of Pentecost.
However, I don't see that as a through-line through Scripture. I don't believe that in order to have the Holy Spirit, one must have the manifestation of speaking in tongues. I, as well as other belivers that I know, have prayed earnestly to receive that gift if it's God's will, and never have. Paul even wrote that he would prefer that people have the gift of prophesy over tongues..so it's clear to me that not all believers will receive it, anymore than that all believers will receive all the other gifts.
But, when I "SAW" it the other day in my study time, I was blown away!
As you study through Chapter 3, you see over and over again what the Messiah is going to do..how He is going to separate those who are truly His from those who are not.
These verses are replete with contrasts:
The people of Jerusalem, Judea, and the districts around the Jordan would going out and confessing their sins and being baptized for repentance..they were, in essence, getting ready for the arrival of Messiah...
The Pharisees and Sadducees were coming out to be baptized with no fruit of repentance or confession
The Pharisees and Sadducees wanted to rest in having Abraham as their father
John made it clear that wouldn't cut it (Abraham's FAITH is what God reckoned to him as righteousness..clearly the Pharisees and Sadducees weren't operating in FAITH)
Israel is represented in Scripture as the Olive Tree..yet John makes it clear that the fruit in keeping with repentance must be there in them, in order not to be "thrown into the fire"
Then in verse 12 we see the example of the winnowing fork...the wheat Messiah will gather into His barn
the chaff He will burn up with unquenchable fire
So, my big "moment" was in verse 11....based in the fact that these verses are all about contrasts, I realized that when we are told "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire", that is also a contrast.
The Holy Spirit is the baptism that will be given to those who are His...those who bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Those who receive Him as Lord and Savior, and follow Him.
The baptism of fire is what is referenced in the very next verse...the unquenchable fire.
This may not be a big deal for you, but it was huge for me..I've always wondered, "Lord, I was baptised in Your name, I repented...but what's this baptism of fire? Is that something else?"
Now I know. It is something else indeed, and I won't ever have to go through it.
Have you repented? Have you received the gift that Jesus gave you when He died on the cross to pay your sin debt? It's free. It's yours to receive. All He asks is that you repent of your sin, turn from it and follow Him....in doing so, that you'll receive Him as your Lord and Master and die to self so that He may live through you.
It's the most important decision you'll ever make..for it impacts your eternity.