Christianity 201

February 18, 2013

End Times Prophecy in Matthew’s Gospel

Matthew 3 (NLT): 11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”

When we think prophecy, we think often of Bible books like Revelation and Daniel; but Matthew’s gospel records many of the end-times prophetic words of Jesus. The passage above contains imagery that is foreign to us, and even the NLT (above) uses terminology that is foreign to urban dwellers in the 21st century. Our featured writer today breaks this down for us with related scriptures and commentary. (You’ll see references to Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament.) He also uses the KJV as a base text, but in this case all the texts are challenging because of the agrarian imagery. You’re encouraged to click through to Don Costello’s blog, Theophobic*.  This is a great example of how to exegete a passage; how to do a thorough study on a single verse.


Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. ~ Matthew 3:12

1. “Whose fan is in his hand…”

a. The “his” of this phrase is the Holy Ghost of the previous verse, the fan is in his hand.

  • 1). Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

b. fan [4425 * ptyon][Thayer: a winnowing shovel.]

  •  1). Brethren NT Commentary: “A light, broad shovel with which grain was thrown against the wind to clear it of chaff. The breadth of the shovel had the effect of spreading the grain into the air, that the air might more thoroughly separate the chaff from the grain. This illustrates the thoroughness of the separation that God will make between the good and the bad.”
  •  2). Albert Barnes NT Commentary:  “The word used here and rendered “fan” means a winnowing shovel instead. It was used for throwing the grain, after it was threshed, into the air, so that the chaff might be driven away by the wind. This mode of separating the grain from the chaff is still practiced in the East.”
  •  3). When the Holy Ghost came into the earth he came in a mighty rushing wind. 4). In this dispensation the Holy Ghost will blow upon our lives, he will speak to us in our hearts through the Scriptures and in prayer, he will move upon us to be obedient to the word and be more conformed to the image of Christ, to get rid of the chaff in our lives.
    • a). Acts 2:2-4 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
    • b). John 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

2. “…and he will thoroughly purge his floor,

a. purge [1245 * diakatharizo][Thayer: to cleanse thoroughly.]

b. floor [257 * halon][Thayer: a ground plot or threshing floor, i.e. a place in the field made hard after the harvest by a roller, where grain was threshed out.]

c. The purging is the work of the Holy Ghost in our lives. In this dispensation the Holy Ghost will blow upon our lives, he will speak to us in our hearts through the Scriptures and in prayer, he will move upon us to be obedient to the word and be more conformed to the image of Christ, to get rid of the chaff in our lives.

3. “…and gather his wheat into the garner…”

  •  a. This is the harvesting process. What a privilege, to be harvested and gathered into his garner.

4. “…but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

a. Jesus spoke of those in his kingdom who instead of responding to the work of the Holy Ghost would continue to offend and work iniquity; he spoke of their end.

  •  1). Matthew 13:41, 42 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

b. In the book of Isaiah we get a picture of those who do not make the harvest and those who do.

  • 1). Isaiah 33:11-16 Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you. And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire. Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.

c. We need to seek his face so he can speak to our hearts and we can in the power of the Holy Ghost in the grace of God yield our lives in obedience, throwing off the chaff so we may be gathered into his garner, Heaven.


*The name “theophobic” comes from a combination of two Greek words, “phobia” which is the Greek word for fear and “theo” which is the Greek word for God. I instantly thought of the phrase “God fearers” in the book of Acts and thought of “theophobia”.

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