The Flames of Wrath
There are many baptisms found in Scripture. Two of those baptisms, water and Spirit, seem to take precedence in our social activities because of the ongoing debates that surround them.
Another baptism – ‘fire baptism’ – has caused quite a stir simply because it has been confused with the events of the Day of Pentecost. Those disciples that were waiting as Jesus had commanded experienced a supernatural event whereby God sent tongues of fire to rest on each of them. The mentioning of fire leads some to believe that fire baptism is synonymous with the spirit baptism that happened to the disciples on Pentecost. But that is not so.
Fire baptism is actually mentioned only twice in the Bible and both occurrences record the same event in history – a discourse by John the Baptist proclaiming the difference between the baptism that he was performing and the coming baptism that the Christ would perform.
He says that Christ will baptize with two mediums: the Holy Spirit and fire. It is clear at this point that there are some definite distinctions between the two. Spirit baptism and fire baptism are not the same thing. Rather, the definitions of both lie in the context of the third chapter of the gospel of Matthew.
John is proclaiming a coming separation work whereby Christ will divide the wheat from the chaff. This was a strong rebuke to some Sadducees and Pharisees who came to disrupt the baptism of John.
John tells these men that “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 in the fire” (Matthew 3:10). Again, “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.”
Baptism was commonly understood to mean “to submerge or immerse.” Here, John is teaching that Christ will gather those who have repented of their sins and leave the rest to be immersed in the unquenchable fire of hell
In conclusion, God gives Spirit baptism to those who repent from their sins during their lives on earth. But He also reserves a future, eternal baptism of fire for those who refuse to repent.
Verses for Further Reflection