misquoted verses – baptism of fire

Mat 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

There are those who believe that the events of Pentecost in Acts 2 is a fulfillment of this prophecy that Jesus would “baptize with fire”. From Acts 2:

Act 2:3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.
Act 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

In Acts 2, we have both elements of Holy Ghost and Fire mentioned in Matthew 3. It is an attractive notion for some to see this as a fulfillment of Matthew 3, after all, when else did Christ “baptize with fire”? Is this a failed prophecy? How was it fulfilled?

There are glaring problems with this interpretation. Number 1, John was not teaching to the “disciples” but to common people who never heard of Jesus. When did they get baptized with fire? Number 2: Pentecost never attributes the tongues of fire to Jesus. Number 3: it was a onetime event. When John the Baptist taught Jesus would baptize by fire, did he mean only once to a select group of people? Number 4: the Bible does not describe the tongues of fire as baptism.

The immediate context of Matthew 3 is John the Baptist’s ministry. The very verse before this one states:

Mat 3:10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Here we have more traditional elements of Jesus’ ministry (although this was John, Jesus’ precursor). Jesus talks about “everlasting fire” (Mat 25:41). He claims to have come to set fire on the earth (Luke 12:49). He tells of “wrath to come” (Mat 3:7). Jesus’ ministry was all about a coming final judgment and a Kingdom of God on earth where the evil would be punished and the good exalted. When Matthew 3:11 is put in context, this theme is clearly present:

Mat 3:10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Mat 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Mat 3:12 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.”)

So every tree that does not “bear good fruit” is thrown into the fire. Jesus will clean “His threshing floor” and “burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” This is definitely not Pentecost; this is death and/or hell.

This presents a real problem to those who are not dispensationalists, because Jesus never brought fire. When Christians claim he did (or will in the future), they play word games (“umm, well, at his second coming he will bring judgment), but this is not the meaning John the Baptist was communicating to his disciples and it was not the meaning that Jesus communicated to His disciples.

The gospel Jesus preached never came to pass, it was supplanted by Paul’s gospel of Grace. God did this to delay judgment for the sake of mankind. As Peter writes:

2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
This entry was posted in Bible, Jesus, Misquoted Verses, Prophecy, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to misquoted verses – baptism of fire

  1. Eliza says:

    The gospel is the same no matter who preached it and all who reject it will suffer eternity in hell.
    http://holdingforthhisword.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/teachers/

  2. Tom Torbeyns says:

    Maybe it has to do with the wrong western filoloque interpretation? Think about it :-)

  3. Tom Torbeyns says:

    I think the dispensationalist interpretation is not necessary at all and is more of a modern teaching.

  4. Tom Torbeyns says:

    How about the translation “He will baptize you with holy wind and with fire”? Like the chaff and the grains?

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