The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is noted in 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:26-28. This occurs at salvation for Church Age believers only. This baptism is God the Holy Spirit identifying us with the Lord Jesus Christ forever. It is the means of forming the Royal Family and breaking the back of the Old Sin Nature as the ruler of human life. We are positionally changed. No water is involved in this Real Baptism. We are identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection, Eph 4:5; Acts 1:5. It is the process in which God the Holy Spirit enters us into union with Jesus Christ at the right hand of the Father, making us positionally higher than angels.
This is one of seven ministries of God the Holy Spirit:
1. Efficacious grace is the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to make faith in Jesus Christ effective for eternal salvation. When positive volition is exercised toward gospel information resulting in faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit picks up that weak faith from the spiritually dead unbeliever and makes that faith effectual, carrying the believer to the point of salvation.
2. Regeneration is where the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit creates a human spirit for the imputation of eternal life to that human spirit. This is being spiritually born again. The new believer then becomes trichotomous, having a body, soul, and spirit.
3. In the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit creates a temple in the believer’s body for the indwelling of Christ as the shekinah glory, 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19‑20; 2 Cor 6:16.
4. In the sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit, God the Holy Spirit makes us joint‑heirs with Christ and guarantees through His own signature the preservation of our redemption and eternal life, Eph 1:13‑14, 4:30. It guarantees our eternity, and therefore provides us eternal security.
5. In the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit enters the believer into union with Christ, making the Church Age believer a part of the Royal Family of God forever.
6. The sovereign distribution of spiritual gifts to every believer at salvation is a ministry of the Holy Spirit, which is for the function of royalty, 1 Cor 12:11.
7. The Filling of the Spirit is the initial entrance into the God’s Power System at the point of salvation where the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit can be utilized in the execution of the protocol plan of God, Eph 5:18.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the means of forming the Royal Family of God during the Church Age. It is a function of the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit at salvation. By being entered into union with Christ, we are adopted as Royal Family of God. This union with Christ is called Positional Sanctification or the sanctification of the body, Eph 5:25-27.
Eph 5:25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.”
This is the one and only baptism that unifies the Royal Family of God, Rom 6:3-5; Eph 4:5.
Eph 4:5, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
Rom 6:3, “Do you not know that all of us have been baptized into Jesus Christ? 4Therefore, we have been buried with him through baptism into his death, in order that as Christ was raised again from the dead to the glory of the father, we also might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death (and we have), and not only this (retroactive positional truth), we shall also be united in the likeness of his resurrection.”
The “newness of life” refers to our being a made new spiritual species, 2 Cor 5:7; Gal 6:15, and Royal Family of God. So, Rom 6:3-5, teaches identification with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.
The many references to Positional Sanctification or the Baptism of the Holy Spirit are often found in the prepositional phrase EN + the locative of CHRISTOS, translated “in Christ.” Almost everywhere this phrase is found, it is a technical reference to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and resultant positional truth, cf. Rom 8:1; 1 Cor 15:22.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is related to the Church Age only. This ministry of the Holy Spirit is not found in the OT, and there are no eschatological references to it beyond the Church Age. In fact, John the Baptist made the first prophecy regarding it and our Lord followed it up upon His ascension in Acts 1:5.
Acts 1:5, “For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
The mechanics of the baptism of the Holy Spirit are found in Gal 3:26-28, “For all of you are the sons of God (Royal Family) through faith in Christ Jesus. 27For all of you were baptized into Christ, and have clothed yourselves (put on) with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Being in union with Christ, all human distinctions are removed by the formation of the Royal Family of God. Neither race nor status in life is an issue. No racial, social, or economic distinctions are made.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an experience, 1 Cor 12:13. It is not the function of any spiritual gift, as alleged by the “holy roller” heresy, which equates the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues. No one has legitimately spoken in tongues since 70-90 A.D. Therefore, because of the universality of the baptism of the Holy Spirit provided for all Church Age believers, it is not in any sense experiential. The only experience that those who are baptized with the Holy Spirit are ever conscious of is the experience of sensing their absolute unworthiness. It is not the baptism of the Holy Spirit that changes people, but the power of the ascended Christ coming into their lives through the Holy Spirit. We all too often separate things that the New Testament never separates. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not an experience apart from Jesus Christ—it is the evidence of the ascended Christ.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is an act of the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit. Any time God uses His Divine power, whether it is the omnipotence of God the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, it excludes any form of experiential cooperation. That is grace! In addition, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit occurred first in Jerusalem and included the gift of tongues to warn the Jews of the coming of the 5th Cycle of Discipline, as John also warns about in our passage, Luke 3:16-17. As such, it was not a function or cause of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, but a separate unique ministry of the Holy Spirit; His gift giving and convicting ministries.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit could not occur until there was the strategic victory of Jesus Christ in the Angelic Conflict. The Levitical priesthood was inadequate for the Church Age. In addition, Christ as battlefield royalty had no Royal Family. Therefore, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is the mechanics for providing Christ with a Royal Family to go along with our Lord’s third royal title, “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” And, since every believer in the Church Age is now a target of Satan, there was a necessity for a universal Royal Priesthood, 1 Peter 2:5; 9. Therefore, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is unique to this dispensation.
Our union with Jesus Christ is a permanent identification which distinguishes Christianity from religion. In religion, man by man’s efforts seeks to gain the approbation of God, a satanic function. In Christianity, the believer through union with Jesus Christ has a permanent relationship with God. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit forms the body of Christ; Christ being the head. As such, all Church Age believers are formed into one body and one Royal Family, Eph 2:16; 4:4‑5; 5:30‑32; Col 1:24; 2:19. The Holy Spirit is the agent in the formation of the body of Christ, the church universal, the Royal Family of God. This is the Doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
God the Father appointed Jesus Christ as the head of the body as a part of His third royal title. Synonyms for the Royal Family of God are:
- The Royal Family in union with Christ is called, “the body.”
- The Royal Family on earth is called, “the Church.”
- The Royal Family in eternity is called, “the bride of Christ.”
The entire world is not the family of God. Only those who believe in Christ become the children of God, at which point the Baptism of the Holy Spirit makes us in the Church Age Royal Family of God.
Equal privilege for all Church Age believers is based on the doctrine of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, a doctrine which involves the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit. Through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, equal privilege in the Royal Family of God is related to two doctrinal facts:
- The omnipotence of the Holy Spirit creates a Royal Family of God, the body of Christ, as an organism, not as an institution.
- Simultaneously, from the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit creates a new spiritual species for spiritual living (not for psychological living) in the devil’s world. Every Church Age believer is a part of this unique spiritual species. Furthermore, the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit also provides equal opportunity for the fulfillment of the protocol plan of God through residence inside God’s Power System, (GPS).
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is the most important thing that happens to us at salvation. It forms the church universal, the body, the Royal Family of God, the new spiritual species, etc. This distinguishes us from every other dispensation, and makes it possible for us to have equal privilege and equal opportunity under the Plan of God.
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit demands that the believer think of himself as a person, totally apart from any form of superiority or inferiority. You are not to think of yourself as superior or inferior, or with any form of human prejudice or hypocrisy. Spiritual living must replace psychological living, see Gal 3:26‑29, once again.
Gal 3:26-29, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.”
Summary – The Characteristics of the Baptism of the Spirit.
- It is not an experience. It is not an emotional activity or ecstatics. Therefore, it is not speaking in tongues.
- It is not related to human feeling(s).
- It is not progressive. Therefore, it cannot be improved in either time or eternity. Our union with Christ is perfect from salvation.
- It is not related to any human merit or ability. There is nothing you can do to have the Baptism of the Spirit.
- It is obtained in total at the moment of salvation. It is not a post-salvation experience. It is not the “second blessing,” so called by holy rollers. Union with Christ is a completed ministry by the Holy Spirit. Hence, it cannot be reversed by any human failure.
- It is eternal and unchangeable in nature. It cannot be canceled or changed by God or man. It is a part of your eternal security. No renunciation; no sin, human good, or evil; no moral or immoral degeneracy can cancel this ministry of the Holy Spirit.
- It is known and understood only through perception of the mystery doctrine of the Church Age. Therefore, it cannot be applied in a state of ignorance. It is invisible, not subject to empiricism; it is subject to cognition of Bible doctrine only.
- The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is one of the POLITEUMA privileges, i.e., one of the ten unique features of the Church Age, making the Church Age believer unique because it is the basis for making us Royal Family of God.
Doctrine of the Baptism with Fire
“Fire,” is the Greek Noun PUR. In the OT, fire was used for both a cleansing, purifying agent and an agent of destruction. God demonstrated His pleasure with fire upon the altar, Gen 15:17; Lev 9:23f.; Judges 6:21; 1 Kings 18:38; 1 Chron 21:26; 2 Chron 7:1. Yet, fire also demonstrated God’s displeasure and was a sign of His wrath and judgment, Gen 19:24; Ex 9:24; Lev 10:2; Num 11:1; 16:35; 2 Kings 1:10; Amos 1:4, 7. In addition, the Lord God is described as a “consuming fire,” Deut 4:24; 9:3; Isa 33:14.
The first mention of “fire” in the Bible is Gen 19:24-25, the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. The last mention in the OT is Mal 3:1-2, the 2nd Advent of our Lord. The first mention in the NT, is Mat 3:10, the parallel passage to Luke 3:16, the Baptism with Fire. The last mention in the Bible is Rev 21:8, the final judgment of the unbeliever, the second death, the eternal Lake of Fire.
Fire was also used by our Lord as a physical manifestation of Jesus Christ in the OT, called a “theophany.” This is illustrated several times in the Bible including:
- The making of the covenant with Abraham, Gen 15:17.
- The appearance in the burning bush, Ex 3:2.
- Leading the Israelites by a pillar of fire by night, Ex 13:21-22; 14:24; Num 9:15-16; 14:14; etc.
- His appearance on Mount Sinai, Ex 19:18; 24:17; Deut 4:11-36; 5:4-26; etc.
- And others, 1 Kings 18:24, 38; 1 Chron 21:26; 2 Chron 7:1, 3.
Fire was also used symbolically in Israel’s worship to represent God’s constant presence with Israel, Lev 6:12-13. God’s presence as fire represented both judgment and purification. Our English words purify and purge both come from the Greek word for fire, PUR.
Used about 75 times in the NT, it carries the same meanings as in the OT. It is particularly used to represent Jesus’ judgments: On the believer’s works in 1 Cor 3:13-15; on the unbeliever’s works in Rev 20:11-14; 2 Thes 1:7-9.
2 Thess 1:7-9, “And to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
Likewise, Jesus referred to the judgment of eternal condemnation as a place of fire, of unquenchable flame, Mat 5:22; 13:42, 50; 18:8-9; 25:41; Mark 9:43, 48; Luke 3:17. No less horrible is the idea of being eternally lost in the Lake of Fire, Rev 14:9-11; 19:20; 20:14-15; 21:8.
Now, as for the baptism that Jesus Christ will perform called “the Baptism with Fire,” in our verse, there are several interpretations.
1. Many believe the “Baptism with the Holy Spirit” and the “Baptism with Fire” in Luke 3:16, are one and the same because of the conjunction KAI, “and,” usage in this verse, linking them together, and especially because on the day of Pentecost, the visible manifestation of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, was described as “tongues as like fire,” in Acts 2:1-4. But the reading of Acts 2 says, “like as fire” not “is fire.” This coupled with “fire” being an analogy for the Holy Spirit, leads them to this interpretation. Thus, when John the Baptist says “I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me…will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire,” Mat 3:11, Luke 3:16, they understand this to be one positive promise to believers that they will be baptized both “with the Holy Spirit” and “with fire.”
Even further, some separate these two as two baptisms of the Holy Spirit during the believer’s life, where the “2nd Baptism” is manifested in some charismatic way. In addition, they even tell their congregants to “pray for the 2nd Baptism.” They construe it as an experience to be sought, a kind of “second Pentecost.” Yet, these interpretations are manifestly erroneous, and it is not scriptural to pray for a Baptism with Fire.
Yet, in context, the Baptism with the Holy Spirit and with Fire are two are separate things, because when we carefully read Acts 2:3, the text says the tongues were “as or like fire,” (using the Greek Adverb HOSEI), and not “of fire,” (which the Greek would exclude HOSEI if that were the correct reading). Therefore, this was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost for the Disciples in the upper room, but not the Baptism with Fire.
2. Some interpret the “Baptism with Fire” as an ongoing cleansing that the Holy Spirit brings to the believer post salvation. This interpretation applies the purifying aspect of fire to the believer’s life, as being trials and tribulations, or the Holy Spirit’s purifying work in the life of the believer to bring them to perfected holiness. They apply the OT analogies of the refining fire on gold or silver where the dross is removed to make the precious metal more pure. They believe this is the analogy applied to believers post salvation. This is where we get our current day idiom “baptism with fire,” meaning someone goes through a difficult task that results in some kind of advancement.
3. The Theological Dictionary also notes that the Gnostics would seal the initiates with a hot iron on the lobe of the right ear, calling it the “Baptism with Fire.”
4. The correct interpretation of “Baptism with Fire,” is that it is a separate baptism from the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, as we have noted above in the outline of the Seven Baptisms Found in Scripture. Not only is it separate, but it is performed by Jesus Christ upon His Second Advent, and does not affect the Church Age believer, and only affects unbelievers.
As we have noted above, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit, is a positive promise to believers who will be immersed in the Spirit and entered into union with Jesus Christ at the moment of their salvation, making them members of the Royal Family of God. On the other hand, the “Baptism with Fire,” is a negative promise of judgment to the unbeliever, as fire is also associated with Divine judgment in Scripture. Therefore, Jesus will baptize everyone with one or the other. You either receive the Spirit from Christ or else He will cast you into the fire. This was John’s point, as we will define further below.
It is also worth noting that the gospels of Mark and John present far less detail on the content of John’s preaching. Specifically, neither of them mention John’s warnings of impending judgment or his vivid image of “the axe laid at the trees root where every fruitless tree is cut down and thrown into the fire” and “chaff being cast into the fire,” as Matthew and Luke do, cf. Mat 3:10-12; Luke 3:9, 16-17. As such, when Mark and John present John the Baptist’s words about Christ, they leave out the reference to the “Baptism with Fire” that Luke includes in vs. 16.
Mark 1:7-8, “And he was preaching, and saying, ‘After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. 8I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit’.”
John 1:33, “And I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit’.”
Mark and John do not include it in their gospels because judgment is not in view in their accounts of this scene. Therefore, we are not told about a “Baptism with Fire.” In every case where the judgment of the wicked is not discussed and only the positive promise to believers is in view, the language about baptizing with fire is absent, cf. Acts 1:4-5; 11:15-17.
In the same way, the OT spoke of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:16-18, cf. Joel 2:28-29, the OT prophets used a similar image related to the idea of a “fire baptism,” cf. Zeph 3:8.
Joel 2:28-29, “And it will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”
Zeph 3:8, “‘Therefore, wait for Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘For the day when I rise up to the prey. Indeed, My decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out on them My indignation, all My burning anger; for all the earth will be devoured by the fire of My zeal’.”
The burning fire of God’s indignation will be poured out on all the nations and peoples of the earth. This is the Baptism with Fire. Similar language is used for God’s judgment elsewhere, such as:
Lam 2:4, “He has bent His bow like an enemy; He has set His right hand like an adversary and slain all that were pleasant to the eye; in the tent of the daughter of Zion He has poured out His wrath like fire.”
Lam 4:11, “The Lord has accomplished His wrath, He has poured out His fierce anger; and He has kindled a fire in Zion which has consumed its foundations.”
Nahum 1:6, “Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the burning of His anger? His wrath is poured out like fire and the rocks are broken up by Him.”
Ezekiel 22:31, “‘Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads,’ declares the Lord God.”
Thus, just as the “Baptism of the Spirit” pointed back to the promises of God “pouring out His Spirit,” so too does the image of a “Baptism with Fire” point back to the imagery of God pouring out the fire of His wrath.
Now, as we have noted above, the Baptism with Fire is one of seven different Baptisms in the Bible. There are 4 Real and 3 Ritual Baptisms. A “Real Baptism” is without water and identifies someone or something with someone else directly. “Ritual Baptism” is with water and uses water as a representation of someone or something that another is identified with.
The Ritual Baptisms included:
1) The Baptism of John, Mat 3:6-11; John 1:25-33.
2) The Baptism of Jesus Christ, Mat 3:13-17.
3) Christian Water Baptism, Acts 2:38, 41; 8:36, 38; 16:15, 33.
The Real Baptisms include:
1) The Baptism of Moses, 1 Cor 10:2.
2) The Baptism of the Cross, Mat 20:22; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24.
3) The Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Acts 1:5; Rom 6:3-4; 1 Cor 12:13; Gal 3:26-28; Eph 4:5; Col 2:12.
4) The Baptism of Fire, Luke 3:16-17; Mat 3:11-12; 25:31, 33; 2 Thes 1:7-9.
2 Thes 1:7b-9, “…when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
The announcement of the Baptism with Fire was given to John the Baptist as noted in Mat 3:11‑12; Luke 3:16‑17. Later, the Apostle John would write about it in Rev 19:11.
Rev 19:11, “And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war.”
In Rev 19:11, the Baptism with Fire is defined as the judgment of the Tribulational unbelievers at the Second Advent. The time of the Baptism with Fire is at the Second Advent of Jesus Christ. Upon His Second Advent, all living unbelievers are removed from the earth and placed in fire, (Hades), for 1000 years until the last judgment. The punishment area for the Baptism with Fire is the “Place of Torments” in Hades, where all unbelievers await the last judgment. Both Jews and Gentiles who are Tribulational unbelievers are involved in this Second Advent judgment. This judgment results in the Millennium beginning with believers only, Mat 3:11‑12; Luke 3:16-17. Therefore, this is the real identification of unbelieving Jews and Gentiles at the end of the Tribulation with fire in Hades and eventually the eternal Lake of Fire, at the Great White Throne Judgment Seat of Jesus Christ, when all unbelievers throughout human history are identified with fire forever. This signifies that the Tribulational unbelievers, as are all unbelievers, are identified with the defeat of Satan.
In Luke 12:49, Jesus exclaimed, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” Notice, Jesus was saying He came to judge the earth. People do not read this passage, but we must realize that he came to judge. He came to send fire on the earth.
Then Jesus said in vs. 50, “But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!” Before he could send fire on the earth, He had another baptism to undergo, the Baptism of the Cross, the payment of the penalty for our sins. He had to experience this before He could send fire on earth. By receiving John’s baptism, Jesus was announcing that the Messiah will soon be baptized with the baptism of the Cross, which, in turn, will take away the sin of the world.
So, John mentioned two baptisms: The Baptism with the Spirit and The Baptism with Fire. The Baptism with the Spirit began at Pentecost, Acts 1:5; (note that Jesus said nothing about fire at that time). The fact that Jesus did not append “with fire” to His announcement of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:5, further confirms that the Baptism with Fire refers to a future separate baptism.
Today, whenever a sinner trusts Christ, he is born again and immediately baptized with the Spirit which places the believer in union with Jesus Christ and into the body of Christ, the Church, 1 Cor 12:12-13. In contrast, the Baptism with Fire refers to the future judgment of unbelievers which both Luke and Matthew explain in the verses following the announcement of the two baptisms.
The analogy to the Baptism with Fire is found in Mat 24:36-41. The one left in the field is the mature believer; the one taken is the unbeliever. This is not a “rapture” passage for the Church. It is passage about the Second Advent of Jesus Christ that is compared to the days of Noah when people had no time for Bible doctrine because they were too distracted by the pleasures of normal living. In the days of Noah, all unbelievers were removed from the earth by water; at the Second Advent, it will be by fire. In addition, we see a similar judgment when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone to remove the unbelieving sinful population, Gen 19:24-25, which is the first mention of fire in the Bible.
Gen 19:24-25, “Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, 25and He overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.”
Therefore, we see that the Baptism with Fire is necessary for the beginning of a new civilization in the Millennium. In each civilization man has a different life span, each civilization has its own climate and its own variation in species, and all civilizations begin with believers only. Remember that a civilization is the Divine protection of the human race during the Angelic Conflict. As such, God has ordained four civilizations in human history: Antediluvian, Postdiluvian, Millennium, and Eternity.
The NT also gives us various parables of the Baptism with Fire, including:
- The wheat and the tares, Mat 13:24-30, 36-43.
- The good and bad fish, Mat 13:47-50.
- The ten virgins, Mat 25:1-13.
- The sheep and the goats, Mat 25:31-46.
- The talent test, Mat 25:14-30. The one talent man represents the unbeliever.
The Baptism with Fire is used to motivate and evangelize Jews of the Church Age, Heb 12:27‑29. The Jewish Baptism with Fire is noted in Ezek 20:34-38; Isa 1:25-27. All Jewish unbelievers of the Tribulation go into fire, Mal 3:1-6, 4:1-2. It is the picture of Christ judging them in the desert. Mal 3:2, is the last mention of fire in the OT, before our Lord’s first Advent.
Mal 4:1, “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,” says the LORD of hosts, “so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.”
It is also used to motivate and evangelize Gentiles as the Gentile Baptism with Fire is noted in Mat 5:22, 29-30; 25:31-46; cf. Mark 9:43.
Mark 9:43, “And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire.”
So, both the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism with Fire demonstrate the power of Jesus Christ to judge. To be in God’s presence is to be in the presence of absolute holiness where no sin or unrighteousness can stand. Because God cannot be in the presence of sin, He is able to judge and destroy sin and the sinner, and purify the repentant sinner. Therefore, John shows that “He who is coming,” is more than an earthly Davidic king; He is a supernatural Person who establishes the kingdom and reigns as Savior and Judge. John’s message of salvation and judgment announces that the Messianic age is upon them.
Like the OT prophets, John may not have necessarily seen the time difference between the First and Second Advents of Christ. He may have seen them both in one picture. As such, John was saying, especially in vs. 17, that the Messiah, when He came, would prepare a remnant (wheat) for the kingdom by empowering and cleansing the people. Those who reject Him (chaff) would be judged and cast into eternal unquenchable fire, cf. Mal 4:1.
Finally, the Baptism with Fire also vindicates the character of Jesus Christ, Acts 2:19; Rev 19:11.
Acts 2:19, “And I will grant wonders in the sky above, and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke,” cf. Joel 2:30.
Rev 19:11, “And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war.”
In conclusion, the Baptism with Fire, is not to be confused with the cleansing efficacy of the Holy Spirit, nor with the tongues “as / like of fire” that appeared at Pentecost. “He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire,” is placed in direct contrast to gathering the “wheat into the garner,” in vs. 17. It is clear from the immediate context of this reference in both Mat 3:9-12 and Luke 3:16-17, and from the general testimony of Scripture, that this Baptism with Fire is connected with judgment at the Second Advent of Christ, as the Baptism with the Holy Spirit, Acts 1:5; 11:16, is connected with grace flowing from the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ at His First Advent. As John F. Walvoord correctly observes, “While the Church Age is introduced with a baptism of the Spirit, the Kingdom Age is to be introduced with a baptism of fire” (Doctrine of the Holy Spirit). Therefore, the Baptism with Fire is thus to be interpreted as eschatological judgment.
After saying that Jesus Christ would baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire” in vs. 16, John used an agricultural analogy in vs. 17, to describe it and its results. Jesus will not only “gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the separated chaff with unquenchable fire.” This means that after His Second Advent, Christ will take repentant converts into His Millennial Kingdom, but will send the unrepentant people to fire or Hades and then in Rev 19:20; 20:15, to “the Lake of Fire.” So, the context shows that the Baptism with the Holy Spirit is a good result for believers only, but the Baptism with Fire is a punishment for unbelievers only. The Baptism with the Holy Spirit began after Jesus’ First Advent and the Baptism with Fire will begin after His Second Advent. This was the view of the early church father Origen and others, and is among many modern commentators today.
“His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
This verse begins with the relative Pronoun HOS, “of whom,” to indicate this winnowing fork is the Lord Jesus Christ’s; the same person from vs. 16, who will baptize both “with the Holy Spirit,” for believers only, and “with Fire,” for unbelievers only.
Interestingly, this verse has 4 Greek words that are only used in this narrative about John the Baptist’s proclamation about Jesus, both here and in Mat 3:12. They include the Greek words for: “winnowing fork,” “thoroughly clear,” “threshing floor,” and “chaff,” that we will note below. In addition, “unquenchable” is only used in these two texts and Mark 9:43, 45, where all 4 usages define hell / the eternal Lake of Fire.
The reason for the unique usage of these words and phrases is that John was witnessing to OT saints. These words are rich in OT theology that would have been known by his hearers in that day. In addition, because they are steeped in OT analogies of God’s judgment, especially towards His people Israel, it was powerful language for them to understand and apply. Therefore, John uses terms rich in OT theology for the Jews of his day to recognize the Messiah / King, who also judges.
“Winnowing fork,” is the Noun PTUON, πτύον that means, “fan or winnowing fork or shovel.” It is only used in this narrative of John the Baptist, here and in Mat 3:12. It denotes a tool used in winnowing grain. It was a fork with which farmers would toss threshed grain up against the wind in the process of separating the chaff and stalks from the grain, by letting the wind blow away the chaff or stalks, while the grain fell back to the ground to be collected.
Since it is only used here in the NT, we look at its use in the OT. This is where John was getting his imagery from. In the OT, it is equivalent to the Hebrew Noun ZARAH that means, “to scatter or winnow.” It was used literally for winnowing wheat or barely, Ruth 3:2, and for God’s judgment, Isa 30:24-25, that describes the lead up to the battle of Armageddon, cf. Lev 26:33; 1 Kings 14:15; Psa 44:11; Jer 4:11; 31:10; 49:32, 36; Ezek 12:14f; 30:23, 26; Zech 1:19.
Its first use in the Bible refers to judgment against a rebellious people. It is used in Ex 32:20 for when Moses took the golden calf that Aaron had made, pulverized it and scattered the powder on the water, and made the children of Israel drink it as a punishment.
Of direct correlation to our passage, there is another Hebrew noun MIZREH that means, “winnowing fork or fan,” that is only used in Isa 30:24; Jer 15:7, where both passages speak to the judgment of God against Israel. The first, Isa 30:24, speaks of God’s judgment of blessing the people in the last days, after he has separated out the unbelievers. This verse also uses a hapaxlegomena Hebrew word, RACHATH that means, “winnowing shovel,” used to gather the grain after the fork had separated the chaff by tossing. So, the gathering of God’s elect is also noted in that passage.
The second, Jer 15:7, speaks of His judgment towards the unbelieving. Therefore, this process is used as a metaphor of the effects upon the wheat and the chaff with the varying results to each.
In addition, in both Hebrew and Greek, the word “spirit” can mean “wind,” RUACH and PNEUMA respectively. In this sense, the Holy Spirit or “Wind” is the instrument of judgment, cf. John 16:8, used by our Lord to separate the believer from the unbeliever, as is “Fire.”
“In His hand,” CHEIR, means Jesus is ready for immediate work and for the work to begin.
“Thoroughly clear,” is also only used in this narrative in our verse and Mat 3:12. It is the verb DIAKATHARIZO, διακαθαρίζω or DIAKATHAIRO, διακαθαίρω in the Aorist, Active, Infinitive that means, “cleanse thoroughly or perfectly, clean out, thresh out, or to winnow.” It comes from the root verb KATHAIRO that means, “to cleanse or purge,” or KATHARIZO that means, “cleanse, make clean, or purify.” It uses the prefix DIA to intensify the word. This term is not found in either classical Greek or the Septuagint. This “cleansing / winnowing process” is analogues to the “baptism” analogy.
“Threshing floor,” is the Noun HALON, ἅλων that is also only used in these two passages. It is related to the Verb ALOAO that means, “thresh.” In the ancient world a threshing floor was often a hard place in an open field where grain was piled to be threshed and winnowed. Interestingly, the first time “threshing floor,” is used in the Bible is Gen 50:10, with the Hebrew Noun GOREN, for the “threshing floor of Atad,” which was the place that Joseph and his brothers, and many others, lamented over the death and burial of Jacob/Israel. There was “great and sorrowful lamentations there. This reminds us of the “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” which describes Hades and the Lake of Fire, Mat 8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28.
Luke 13:28, “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out.”
Its last use in the OT is Micah 4:12, that speaks about the Baptism of Fire for Israel and the separation of the Sheep nations from the Goat nations.
Micah 4:12, “But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD, and they do not understand His purpose; For He has gathered them like sheaves to the threshing floor.”
Next, we see the first purpose of this winnowing process, “to gather,” (SUNAGO), “the wheat,” (SITOS, used symbolically for the life of a righteous person versus the unrighteous who at death will be rewarded by God with a new, resurrected life, cf. 1 Cor 15:37; John 12:24, in heaven with God, cf. Mat 3:12; 13:25, 29), “into His barn,” (EIS APOTHEKE).
APOTHEKE meaning, “barn, storehouse, or granary,” is used 6 times in the NT, and only by Matthew and Luke. Besides this narrative, it is also used in several parables by our Lord, cf. Mat 6:26; 13:30; Luke 12:18; 12:24. This phrase is a metaphor or idiom for gathering believers unto Himself and bringing them to heaven.
Mat 13:30, “Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn’.”
Then we have “but,” the Contrasting Conjunction DE that introduces the second purpose of God’s winnowing process that is directed towards unbelievers.
“He will burn up,” the Future, Active, Indicative of KATAKAIO, κατακαίω, “burn down, burn up, consume by fire.” To prevent chaff from being blown back and mixed again with the wheat, it was burned up. There will be no mixing of good and bad after death, Rev 22:15; cf. Mat 8:12; 1 Cor 6:9f; Gal 5:19-21; Rev 21:8.
“The chaff,” ACHURON, only used in this narrative, nevertheless when the Bible wants to show the worthlessness and doom of the ungodly, “chaff” is one of its favorite figures, cf. Job 21:18; Psa 1:4; Isa 17:13; Jer 15:7; Hosea 13:3; Mal 4:1.
“With unquenchable fire,” ASBESTOS PUR. The Adjective ASBESTOS, ἄσβεστος means, “inextinguishable, or not to be quenched.” This is where we get our English word for a material that is heat resistant called “asbestos.” It is used in this narrative and Mark 9:43, 45 for the Eternal Lake of Fire. This portrays the eternal finality and irreversible nature of the final judgment. It fits well the description of Gehenna as a metaphor for the place of eternal judgment, for there Jerusalem’s garbage was burned, and its fires never went out. So, here and in other places, 2 Thes 1:8-9; Mark 9:48; Mat 25:41, the future suffering of the wicked is taught in the Bible.
As such, Jesus made extensive use of fire, burning, or a flame to portray the agony of those who will experience everlasting punishment. The gospels record at least thirteen instances of such descriptions from Jesus, Mat 5:22; 7:19; 13:40, 42, 50; 18:8–9; 25:41; Mark 9:43, 48–49; Luke 16:24; John 15:6, and six more mentions of the same by John the Baptist, Mat 3:10-12; Luke 3:9, 16-17.
Jesus used the figure of Gehenna eleven times to portray the misery of eternal punishment, Mat 5:22, 29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5. In two instances He combined the two words into the expression “Gehenna of fire.” Gehenna was the designation of a valley to the south and southwest of Jerusalem where garbage was dumped to furnish fuel for a fire that burned continually. Earlier the place had acquired a bad reputation because of sacrifices offered to the god Moloch there. The name became the equivalent to the hell of the last judgment.
So, Hell will be a place of great heat in a literal sense, probably hotter than any heat ever generated in this creation, and a place of great suffering, both physical and spiritual, suffering the likes of which no human has yet endured, suffering that Jesus likened to other types of human misery.
Therefore, the separation of the chaff (i.e., the wicked) is a picture of the Lord’s judgment prior to and after the eschatological kingdom of the Messiah. John is telling the people that Jesus is coming ready to judge, and His Cross will be the determining factor. If people believe, they are the wheat gathered into heaven, if they do not believe in Jesus, they are the chaff that is burned up in the unquenchable fire called Hell or the Eternal Lake of Fire.
The image here of the threshing floor is as sobering as the ax laid to the root of the unfruitful tree, vs. 9. “Christ plunges the winnowing shovel of the gospel into the world, and the wheat of faith is collected while the chaff of unbelief gets burned away in condemnation. Christians must bear faithful witness to Christ the Judge in a world that would rather Jesus were only a babe in a manger; they would only have Jesus be some wise teacher and consistently deny that he is Judge. Jesus is both the saving Lord who gives his life for sinners and the judging King who weighs us all.” (Christ-Centered Exposition).
Preaching the gospel is not just about eternal salvation, it includes the potential for eternal condemnation. It is always about the forgiveness of sins, since Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, yet that forgiveness is either realized by those that believe or unrealized by those who reject Jesus as the Savior / Messiah. For those that reject Him, there is the reality of eternal condemnation. Therefore, God’s judgment of eternal condemnation towards the unbeliever is part of the gospel message, as we see in John’s preaching.
The Doctrine of the Eternal Lake of Fire / Hell
Throughout His ministry Jesus taught that the lost would depart into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; an eternal punishment. In other words, they will suffer endless, conscious agony away from the presence of God and His Son.
2 Thes 1:9-10, “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed.”
Jesus’ last extended teaching about how the lost would spend eternity came in His description of the sheep-and-goat judgment in Mat 25:31-46, where He made pronouncements of judgment regarding two groups. The pronouncements will come when He returns to earth to initiate His Millennial reign and will deal specifically with the living Jews and Gentiles on earth at that time. He will reach His verdict on the basis of how the two groups have treated believing Israelites during the persecutions of Daniel’s seventieth week, treatments that will reflect whether they have trusted in Him to receive eternal life. The consequences of Jesus’ pronouncements will be happy for believers, but for unbelievers they will be unspeakably horrible. The latter group, the goats, will depart from His presence into unending punishment worse than the suffering one experiences when he has his flesh consumed with fire.
The Lake of Fire is the final destination for both fallen angels and unbelieving mankind. It is both literal and eternal. It was prepared originally for Satan and his angels, Mat 25:41; Rev 20:10.
Mat 25:41, “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Yet, unbelievers also go there, and there is no way out, John 3:18, 36; Heb 9:27. Hell is eternal and irreversible, Rev 20:11-15; 21:8.
Heb 9:27, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”
John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Rev 14:11, “The smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever and they have no rest day and night.”
Rev 20:14, “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.”
Rev 20:15, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
The first occupants of the Lake of Fire will be the beast and false prophet of the Tribulation, Rev 19:20. The devil will also join them in the Lake of Fire, Rev 20:10.
After the Great White Throne Judgment of Jesus Christ, all unbelievers of the human race will be there, Rev 20:14. In that process, unbelievers are pulled out of the fire of Hades, judged, and cast into the Lake of Fire, Rev 20:15; 21:8.
In fact, Hell had to be enlarged to accommodate the unbelievers of human history, Isa 5:14a, “Therefore Sheol has enlarged its throat and opened its mouth without measure.”
In a parable, our Lord warns to correct our lives by having faith in Him for salvation, otherwise we will suffer the results of His judgment into the Eternal Lake of Fire, as it is also described as a place, “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” Cf. Isa 66:24; Mark 9:43, 48-49.
Isa 66:24, “Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.”
One difference between fire as known in the present life and eternal fire is that this fire will never run out of fuel and burn out. Jesus described the fire as “unquenchable,” Mark 9:43, as did John the Baptist in our verse and the parallel of Mat 3:12. Jesus said it will be a fire that acts like salt, preserving rather than destroying, when He said, “Everyone will be salted with fire,” Mark 9:49. Its burning will never end. Therefore, this suffering and punishment will be for all of eternity, Mat 25:46; Jude 1:7.
Jude 1:7, “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”
Mat 25:46, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Key facts about eternity:
- Everyone will exist eternally either in heaven or hell, Dan 12:2, 3; Mat 25:46; John 5:28; Rev 20:4-5.
- Everyone has only one life in which to determine their destiny, Heb 9:27.
- Heaven or hell is determined by whether a person believes, puts their trust in Christ alone to save them, John 3:16, 36, etc.
- Hell is conscious torment forever, Mat 13:49; Mark 9:48; Rev 14:10.
Mat 13:49, “Furnace of fire…weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Mark 9:48, “Where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.”
Rev 14:10, “He will be tormented with fire and brimstone.”
Erroneous views of Hell:
1. The second chance view – After death there is still a way to escape hell.
Answer: Heb 9:27, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”
2. Universalism – All are eternally saved.
Answer: It denies the truth of salvation through Christ which means that a person decides to either trust in Christ or else he/she rejects Christ and goes to hell, John 3:16; 3:36.
3. Annihilationism – Hell means a person dies like an animal – ceases to exist.
Answer: It denies the resurrection of the unsaved, John 5:28, etc. It denies conscious torment.
John 5:28-29, “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, 29and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”
4. Atheist / Humanist view; There is no such thing as Hell.
5. Buddhist view; Hell is temporary for its inhabitant, life is cyclic. Buddhists do not accept that these places are eternal. It is unreasonable to condemn a man to eternal hell for his human weakness but quite reasonable to give him every chance to develop himself. From the Buddhist point of view, those who go to hell can work themselves upward by making use of the merit that they had acquired previously. There are no locks on the gates of hell. Hell is a temporary place and there is no reason for those beings to suffer there forever. The Buddha’s Teaching says there are heavens and hells not only beyond this world, but in this very world itself.
6. Jehovah’s Witnesses view; They believe people who die pass out of existence, from Psa146:4; Ecc 9:5, 10. They do not suffer in a fiery hell of torment and that God will bring billions back from death by means of a resurrection, Acts 24:15. However, those who refuse to learn God’s ways after being raised to life will be destroyed forever with no hope of a resurrection, Rev 20:14-15. It is a form of annihilationism.
7. Seventh Day Adventist’s view; they believe Hell is not an eternity of suffering and torture. They believe God is just but also merciful and it’s not in the nature of God to torture the unrighteous for eternity. Instead, sinners and unbelievers will ultimately die for eternity. They believe in a variant of annihilationism.
8. Catholicism view; Purgatory, people have a second chance. The Catholic Church holds that “all who die in God’s grace and friendship but still imperfectly purified” undergo this process, which the Church calls purgatory, “so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” They get this doctrine from the misinterpretation of 1 Cor 3:15 and 1 Peter 1:7, and to the mention by Jesus of forgiveness in the age to come in Mat 12:32.
1 Peter 1:7, “That the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Many of the erroneous views of today regarding Hell come from the 14th century writings of the Italian Dante Alighieri. In the first part of his writing called Divine Comedy, he writes a story about being in “Inferno,” which is the Italian word for Hell. It is followed by Purgatorio and Paradiso. In Inferno, he tells a story of the journey of Dante through Hell, guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as nine concentric circles of torment located within the Earth; it is the “realm … of those who have rejected spiritual values by yielding to bestial appetites or violence, or by perverting their human intellect to fraud or malice against their fellow men,” As an allegory, the Divine Comedy represents the journey of the soul toward God, with the Inferno describing the recognition and rejection of sin. The nine circles of torment include:
1. Limbo, for the unbaptized and virtuous pagans, who are punished with eternity in an inferior form of Heaven. They live in a castle with seven gates which symbolize the seven virtues.
2. Lust, where souls are blown about in a violent storm preventing them from finding hope of rest and peace. Strong winds symbolize the restlessness of a person who is led by the desire for fleshly pleasures.
3. Gluttony, for the gluttons who are forced to lie in vile freezing slush produced by never-ending icy rain. The vile slush symbolizes personal degradation of one who overindulges in food, drink, and other worldly pleasures, while the inability to see others lying nearby represents the gluttons’ selfishness and coldness.
4. Greed or Avarice and Prodigality, here are the souls of people who are punished for greed. They are divided into two groups: those who hoarded possessions and those who lavishly spent it, jousting. They use great weights as a weapon, pushing it with their chests which symbolizes their selfish drive for fortune during their lifetime. The miserly and spendthrift push great heavy weights together, crashing them time and time again.
5. Anger or Wrath and Sullenness, where the wrathful fight each other on the surface of the Styx river, while the sullen gurgle beneath it. Again, the punishment reflects the type of the sin committed during their lifetime.
6. Heresy, where the heretics are trapped in flaming tombs.
7. Violence, where the violent against people and property, the suicides, the blasphemers, the sodomites and the usurers reside. It is divided into three rings. The Outer Ring houses murderers and others who were violent to other people and property. In the Middle Ring, the poet sees suicides who have been turned into trees and bushes which are fed upon by harpies. But he also sees here profligates, chased and torn to pieces by dogs. In the Inner Ring are blasphemers and sodomites, residing in a desert of burning sand and burning rain falling from the sky.
8. Fraud, where panderers and seducers, flatterers, sorcerers, false prophets, liars, and thieves are. This circle of Hell is divided into 10 Bolgias or stony ditches with bridges between them. In Bolgia 1, Dante sees panderers and seducer. In Bolgia 2 he finds flatterers. After crossing the bridge to Bolgia 3, he and Virgil see those who are guilty of simony. After crossing another bridge between the ditches to Bolgia 4, they find sorcerers and false prophets. In Bolgia 5 are housed corrupt politicians, in Bolgia 6 are hypocrites and in the remaining 4 ditches, Dante finds hypocrites (Bolgia 7), thieves (Bolgia 7), evil counselors and advisers (Bolgia 8), divisive individuals (Bolgia 9) and various falsifiers such as alchemists, perjurers, and counterfeits (Bolgia 10).
9. Treachery, where betrayers of special relationships are frozen in a lake of ice. It is divided into 4 Rounds according to the seriousness of the sin, although all residents are frozen in an icy lake. Those who committed more severe sin are deeper within the ice.
In addition, Dante assigned various historical figures to each of the circles as examples. Some even Biblical figures like Judas Iscariot.
Degrees of Punishment in Hell.
Though now definition of degrees or levels of punishment in Hell are given to us in Scripture, it does seem to allude to the fact that there will be different degrees of punishment in the Eternal Lake of Fire for the unbeliever. Luke 12:47-48, clarifies that all the unbelievers will not endure the same degree of suffering: “And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, 48but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”
The measure of a person’s punishment will depend on how much of the Lord’s will a person knew and rejected / disobeyed, but even those knowing the least will face unimaginable anguish that never ends. Incidentally, an annihilationist has no response to the Biblical teaching of degrees of punishment. If the lost are to become obliterated, degrees of nonexistence are impossible.
This doctrine / belief comes from two directions. The first is logical in that since there are different rewards for believers in heaven there must be different levels of punishment for those in Hell. James 1:12, is one of the verses that tells us of different rewards in heaven. And the fact that in Rev 20:11-15, unbelievers works are judged, may allude to not only the proof of their unbelief in Jesus, but also to the degree of punishment they will receive in the Lake of Fire. The second direction is from various scriptures that emphasize punishment in Hell, Luke 20:45-47. Notice the last phrase of vs. 47.
Luke 20:45-47, “And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, 46“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 47who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.””
This is also stated in Mat 23:14; Mark 12:40. Greater condemnation is viewed as greater levels of punishment in Hell. This doctrine has few scriptures for comparison, so many commentators skip over it and act like it is not even there. So, there has not been a lot of discussion in theology about this topic.
The Greek word for Condemnation is the word KRIMA that is the basic/root word for “judgment” that also means, “sentence and condemnation.” So, a greater/more extensive judgment is brought against these individuals.
Luke 10:10-16, is another passage that leads to the doctrine of greater judgment. In vs. 14, the word for judgment is KRISIS, which also means, “judgment or a decision made or sentence.” Cf. Heb 10:29-31.
In addition, Judas is said to be in “his own place,” Acts 1:25, which has been interpreted by some as referring to a reserved spot in Hell, and the Pharisees’ converts were said to be “twice the son of Hell” as their mentors, Mat 23:15. Cf. Psa 62:12; Prov 24:12; Jer 17:10; Ezek 18:20, 30.
That there are degrees of punishment in the afterlife is strongly implied in the teachings of Scripture. It is accurate to think of Hell as a place with physical dimensions that can be experienced as a reality.
On the other side of the coin, those who do not believe in different levels of judgment in Hell for the unbeliever view these scriptures as Divine punitive judgment on the individuals while here on earth.
“So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people.”
This verse tells us that Luke is not reproducing one of John’s sermons word for word, but rather is giving a sampling of his teachings. No one had recorded John the Baptist’s teachings. Yet, Luke had access to early eyewitnesses who had heard the sermons. He probably had access to many of the actual speakers in the Book of Acts too. So, Luke is saying this was what John was in the habit of doing, preaching, and teaching.
From this we can also see that John the Baptist used the doctrines of the Baptism with Holy Spirit and the Baptism with Fire, plus “many other exhortations,” (PARAKELEO) to “continually preach the gospel” (EUANGELIZO, Imperfect, Middle, Indicative), of Jesus Christ, “to the people,” (LAOS).
To preach the gospel always means to preach the “good news” of God about His plan of and offer for salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. Therefore, preaching about the union with Jesus Christ that believers receive at the moment of salvation through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the judgment of the Eternal Lake of Fire for the unbeliever who rejects Jesus Christ as their Savior, are part of the “good news” / gospel of Jesus Christ.
Next we come to our fifth section.
5. John preaches against Herod and Herod’s retribution toward John, vs. 19-20.
Here, we see the persecution of John the Baptist by Herod Antipas, who was the “Tetrarch” of the region of Galilee at that time, as we noted in vs. 1. In vs. 1, Luke used the Verb TETRARCHEO τετραρχέω, “to be a tetrarch.” Here he uses the noun TETRARCHES τετράρχης. This word is only used for Herod in the NT, here and in Mat 14:1; Luke 9:7; Acts 13:1. Herod Antipas was the Tetrarch of Galilee and Peraea, ca. 4 B.C. – 39 A.D. 39.
Luke 3:19, “But when Herod the tetrarch was reproved by him on account of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and on account of all the wicked things which Herod had done.”
In this verse, we once again see the adulterous and incestuous relationship Herod had with his current wife Herodias, who was previously married to his half-brother Philip, who is also another half-brother’s, Aristobulus, daughter, making Herodias Herod’s niece.
Here, we see an important fact that only Luke mentions, that is John also preached against Herod, “was reproved by him,” which uses the Present, Passive, Participle of the Verb ELENCHO ἐλέγχω that means, “refute, convict, or reprove.” In classical Greek, it meant, “to disgrace or to put (someone) to shame.” Secondly, it referred to “cross-examine, question for the purpose of disproving or reproving, to censure, or to accuse.” Also the sense of “to expose” should not be overlooked, because reproof “exposes” sin for examination, John 3:20; Eph 5:11-13.
John 3:20, “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
Nevertheless, although it involves reproof of sin, it has as its goal a restoring or an establishing of a relationship, whether that relationship is between persons or a person and God. John was trying to get Herod, and others, to repent so that they could be entered into union with Jesus Christ through the Baptism with the Spirit and avoid the judgment of the Baptism with Fire.
As we preach and witness, we have the authority as Royal Priests and Royal Ambassadors to reprove and rebuke, in our exhortation. But remember, it does not always necessarily generate success in turning someone away from sin. That is still an issue of their own volition. All we can do is tell them the truth about Christ and about sin, e.g., the Baptism with the Holy Spirit and the Baptism with Fire. This is especially a part of the Pastor/Teachers’ and Deacons’ authority, 1 Tim 5:20; 2 Tim 4:2; Titus 1:9, 13.
1 Tim 5:20, “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning.”
Titus 1:13, “This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith.”
Vs. 19, also says that John exhorted Herod and others, “on account of all the wicked things Herod had done,” where the word “wicked,” is the Adjective PONEROS πονηρός that means, “painful, serious, grievous, bad, wicked, evil, or depraved.” It was also used to describe the desire to do evil and hurt others; for example, a woman who intended to seduce a man was called a PONERA. When the Article HO is used with it, it becomes a title for Satan, “the Evil One,” 1 John 2:13-14; 5:18-19; cf. Luke 8:12.
Ultimately, John’s call for repentance caused trouble for the corrupt government. The Herods who were naturalized Jews were well-known for their affinity with heathen ethics. Therefore, John called out Herod’s many sins and transgressions, first to get Herod to wake up and repent, and secondly, as an example for the people as to what not to do, by pointing out the differences between Satan’s cosmic kingdom and God’s Heavenly Kingdom that is gained through faith in Jesus Christ.
Luke 3:20, “He added this also to them all, that he locked John up in prison.”
Here we see that Herod compounds his sin. John had spoken the truth to Herod as fearlessly as he did to the Pharisees, tax-gatherers, and soldiers. As a result of John’s reproving and rebuking preaching against Herod, and especially his wife Herodias, Herod “locked him up,” KATAKLEIO, “shut up, lock up, or confine.” It is used only here and in Acts 26:10, regarding Saul’s actions against the early church before his conversion.
“In prison,” is the Preposition EN with the Noun PHULAKE in the Dative Case for, “guarding, a guard, prison, or a watch.” Here, it means putting John in prison, where he was held for about two years, which latter resulted in John’s martyrdom. So, “added this to them all,” includes illegally putting John the Baptist in prison and killing him unjustly.
Luke does not go into detail here about John’s persecution or martyrdom, as Matthew and Mark point out that Herodias was responsible for John’s death in prison, Mat 14:3-12; Mark 6:17-29. Luke does not record John’s death, but alludes to it in Luke 9:7-9.
Josephus states that John was arrested because he was popular with the people and Herod feared what John might tell them to do, (Josephus, Antiquities 18.5.2). Herod has heard about john and his preaching. He wanted to see the strange desert-preacher. We are told he sent for him and he liked to hear John talk. There was something about that earnest man that appealed to the poor, wretched, godless Herod, and he was stirred within. Josephus also noted that John’s imprisonment was in the fortress at Machærus, east of the Dead Sea, which was a combination palace, fortress, and prison near the southern tip of Herod’s territory.
The accounts in Josephus present various motives for Herod as well as an interesting reconstruction of the events. Herod feared John’s power but hesitated to move against him until John verbally attacked him, which Luke records here. Once imprisoned, Herodias forced Herod to execute John. John the Baptist’s imprisonment and illegal execution was also a foreshadow of Jesus’ fate, for this was the fate of all the prophets, Luke 13:33; cf. Luke 4:24; 11:49–51; Acts 7:52.
This is the last we see of John for a while as Luke records that John was imprisoned, then promptly drops him from the story line until Chapter 7, and therefore does not record John’s execution as do Matthew and Mark. Luke also does not explicitly tell us that John was the one who baptized Jesus; although, it is easy to ascertain from this narrative that it would be John who baptized Him. Once John has defined true repentance, prophesied about Jesus, and predicted the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel of Luke views John’s task as essentially complete. The duration of the ministry of John the Baptist is variously estimated at fourteen to eighteen months. Nevertheless, John had faithfully finished his God-given assignment and prepared the people to meet the Messiah, the Son of God.
John gives us a model of faithful persevering witnessing in several ways.
- John remains faithful with the gospel itself, vs. 18. He keeps preaching the good news in many ways and fashions.
- We see his faithfulness no matter the audience, vs. 19. He preached the same gospel to Herod the Tetrarch. He does not bend the message to suit the itching ears of his hearers.
- We see John’s faithfulness no matter the cost, vs. 20. For preaching the gospel without compromise to Herod, John finds himself locked up in prison, and before long, Herod will have John beheaded, Mat 14:1-2; Mark 6:14-29. Sometimes, our preaching will cost us our freedom or our lives, which may be the only way we make it clear that Jesus is Lord in both our preaching and our pain, that we fear God and not man. This is God’s calling on the Christian life and how the world will know who Jesus is.
- Herod liked to hear him preach as long as he did not touch the sin of Herod’s own life. There are many people like that. They can enjoy fervent, earnest preaching as long as it is directed to somebody else, but when it comes home to them it is too personal. They do not like it.
- John could have compromised his message and spared his life, but he was a faithful witness who declared God’s truth without fear or favor.
- His ministry was a brief one and may have appeared to be a failure, but he fulfilled his work, Acts 13:25 and was pleasing to the Lord, Luke 7:18-35.
6. Jesus’ Baptism by John, vs. 21-22.
These two verses are one single sentence in Greek. Here, Luke sees Jesus’ baptism as the climax and culmination of John’s ministry of baptism, yet he does not say directly that John baptized Jesus, although it is more than highly likely given the context of this chapter.
Luke 3:21, “Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened.”
A better translation of this verse reads: “Now at the time all the people came to be baptized, Jesus also was baptized, and while praying, heaven was opened.”
Luke 3:22, “And the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased’.”
Why was Jesus baptized?
Neither John nor Jesus saw in Jesus’ baptism an acknowledgment of a need for Jesus to personally repent. John, for his part, recognized his own unworthiness to carry out such a sacred duty, but Jesus said in Mat 3:15, “‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he permitted Him.” In this statement, the Lord Jesus Christ says that He came into the world to fulfill all the righteous requirements of the law. We have broken all those righteous requirements, so Jesus stands in our place not just as our sin bearer but also as our righteousness. All the active and positive obedience we owe God as his creatures, the Lord Jesus provides perfectly, even down to His willingness to be baptized by John for the remission of sins he had not committed.
In addition, as our High Priest, Heb 2:17; 4:14, Jesus consecrated Himself in the likeness of the OT high Priest in fulfillment of the Law, who would ceremonially be purified by washing with water to be consecrated before entering into the special service before God, which in Lev 6:14 was the “scape goat” ceremony. Jesus, prior to entering into His ministry and special service before God, (to bring righteousness to all of mankind through the Cross giving us escape or pardon of our sins and condemnation), underwent the washing of water Baptism by John to be consecrated and prepared. And, just after Jesus’ baptism we see a unique consecration and enabling to perform His special work for God. Likewise, as the Scapegoat was sent out into the wilderness, so too was our Lord immediately following His baptism. As you read Lev 6, you will see many types of our Lord and His ministry before the Father.
Jesus’ baptism is noted in more detail in Mat 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; John 1:29-34. Luke’s emphasis on the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ sonship manifests itself quite clearly in how his Gospel recounts the story of John’s baptism in contrast to the other Synoptic Gospels.
a) Mark shows how the baptism confirmed Jesus’ Messiahship, already asserted in Mark 1:1, 7, by recording the voice from heaven, Mark 1:11.
b) Matthew’s Gospel emphasizes the supremacy of Jesus over John in its exclusive recounting of John’s reluctance to baptize Jesus, Mat 3:14-15.
c) Like John’s Gospel, Luke concentrates on the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus, John 1:33. The Holy Spirit inspired each of the four to bring out distinctive aspects of Jesus’ ministry.
Nevertheless, Luke adds a couple of interesting points.
- Jesus was baptized while others were being baptized. His baptism was like everyone else’s. It shows us that Jesus was numbered amongst the people. He did not have a special or private baptism. He did not have a unique baptism, until it was completed, which too demonstrated the coming baptism of the Church Age believer that is without water. His baptism had many witnesses of the occasion. It was a public baptism to demonstrate His faith in God’s Plan and provision of salvation, even though He would be the provider of that salvation through His Cross. As noted above, Jesus explains to John the reason for His baptism, that He must be baptized because “this is the way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Mat 3:15. Therefore, His water baptism was a foreshadowing of His future Baptism of the Cross, His future suffering on the Cross, Luke 12:50.
As such, Jesus put Himself on the same level as the worst of sinners. He stood in place of the sinner when He allowed Himself to undergo baptism. He represented not only Israel, but all of mankind. He was the substitute for all their sins. The baptism in the Jordan anticipated His death and burial and foreshadowed the agony in the garden and the judgment He bore on the Cross. John apparently realized this as he later described Jesus as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,” John 1:29. Cf. Luke 22:37; Isa 53:12.
Luke 22:37, “For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.”
Isa 53:12, “Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.”
2. Heaven opening up and the descending of the dove, which was a visible manifestation of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to the humanity of Jesus Christ, occurred, “while He was praying.” The point here is the importance and power of prayer.
As you know, prayer represents our most intimate time of personal relationship with God. We are not told what Jesus was praying for or about, but we do see He was in a time of intimacy with God the Father. During this time of intimacy God the Father sent His Holy Spirit to indwell the humanity of Jesus Christ to empower and enable Him for His upcoming ministry. This being just prior to our Lord beginning His ministry, which began with His journey into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan for 40 days and 40 nights, indicates that intimacy with God in our prayers and petitions is vitally necessary. Likewise, when we do enter into intimate prayer, God will answer our prayers, giving us what we need to accomplish His plan for our lives.
Only Luke relates that Jesus was in prayer when the Holy Spirit came upon Him. Luke is showing us Jesus’ common practice before entering into the work and service of God, as this scenario was duplicated by our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to our Lord being entered into the temptations of His trials culminating in the Cross, when He took on the sins of the entire world. Elsewhere, only Luke notes Jesus at prayer before momentous events, e.g., Luke 6:12; 9:18, 29; 11:1. Luke also notes that Jesus prayed when His work upon the Cross was completed, Luke 23:46. Therefore, we see a faithful habit demonstrated by our Lord that we too should follow, especially before entering into a seemingly tasking or tempting situation. If the perfect Son of Man had to pray in order to serve the Father, how much more do we His people need to pray!
In vs. 22, Luke’s emphasis is clearly on the events which immediately followed Jesus’ baptism rather than on the baptism itself. This is seen in the way in which Luke records the fact that Jesus was baptized, using a simple participial clause. The three main clauses, and obviously Luke’s emphases, are:
- That heaven was opened.
- The Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove.
- The voice came from heaven identifying Jesus as God’s Son.
In that moment, we see the Trinity, three distinct persons, (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit), each eternally and fully God, interacting with one another. As the Son prayed, the Holy Spirit descended, and the Father affirmed the Christ.
1. “Heaven,” OURANOS, οὐρανός can represent any of the three heavens noted in the Bible: 1st, our atmosphere, 2nd, the stellar universe, 3rd, God’s Throne room. Here, it is God’s throne room piercing through the 2nd and 1st heavens to bring about and show the descent of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling ministry.
The opening of heaven indicated that Divine revelation was about to take place. Nevertheless, it was an answer to Isaiah’s ancient prayer, Isa 64:1, “Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down.” The phrase also commonly refers to an extraordinarily special moment in time when earth and heaven are not separated, Ezek 1:1; John 1:51; Acts 7:56; 10:11; Rev 19:11.
2. The “descent of the Dove,” was the manifestation of the empowerment of Jesus by the Holy Spirit, which enabled Him to launch His ministry, Luke 4:1, 14, 18, and sustain Him throughout His mission of suffering, as the Suffering Servant, to which He was destined, Isa 53.
3. The Father’s proclamation, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased,” is identical in Mark’s account, but Matthew reads, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Matthew uses the close proximity 3rd Person while Luke and Mark the intimate 2nd person. Most scholars see a direct allusion to Psa 2:7; Isa 42:1. This is the first line in the first of the “Servant Songs” in the book of Isaiah 42.
Isa 42:1, “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.”
As in the birth narratives, there is at Jesus’ baptism a supernatural attestation. As such, the voice from heaven was once again the declaration of Jesus’ sonship and the Father’s propitiation, which was also affirmed by the bodily descent of the Dove, cf. Psa 2:7.
Psa 2:7, “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You’.”
“The voice from heaven clearly reveals a unique relationship between Jesus and God and refers to Jesus’ past as well as present status with God. The voice did not confer upon Jesus a new status, so we should not see here some kind of adoptionist Christology. Rather, the voice confirmed what the readers read already in Luke 1:32–35 and 2:49, i.e., that Jesus was the Son of God before his baptism.” (New American Commentary)
“”You are my Son, whom I love” designates Jesus as the unique Son of God. Present scholarly opinion holds that the concept of divine sonship in Jewish thought was not only applicable to angels (Job 1:6; 2:1) and to the nation of Israel and her kings (Exo 4:22; 2Sam 7:14; Hos 11:1) but was coming into use, at least at Qumran, as a designation for the Messiah (4QFlor 10-14). At the Annunciation Jesus was designated the “Son of the Most High” (1:32). On his sonship and OT passages, see the comments on the Transfiguration (9:35) for a full discussion of the wording common to both passages. Here we may simply observe that the words “love” and “well pleased” convey the idea of choice and special relationship.” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary)
In the thunderous proclamation of God the Father just after Jesus’ Baptism, Jesus’ Messianic mission was announced from heaven, as though it were already completed. The Father, by saying He was “well pleased,” notes the already completed mission of Jesus Christ in His eyes. This demonstrates the eternal nature of God, and His predesigned plan from eternity past.
“Well pleased,” is the Aorist, Active, Indicative of the Verb EUDOKEO, εὐδοκέω that means, “be well pleased, delight in, approve, or consent (from a legal standpoint).” All of these are in view regarding our Father’s attitude towards Jesus and His work. It means that God the Father was perfectly satisfied in the work His Son has performed and will perform, right through to His death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and session. It shows us the propitiation of God the Father regarding His plan of Salvation for mankind through His Son upon the Cross
God the Father also made this statement about His Son at the Transfiguration in Mat 17:5, which was a type and precursor of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Indecently, Luke 9:29, records Jesus praying to the Father just prior to the Transfiguration.
Mat 17:5, “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!’”
Peter wrote about this scene and the delight of the Father in His Son in 2 Peter 1:17, “For when He (Jesus Christ) received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’.”
Therefore, we see the Father being propitiated, “well pleased with His Son,” at the beginning of His ministry and at the Transfiguration that spoke to Jesus’ Messiahship in winning the strategic victory of the Angelic Conflict through His death, resurrection, and ascension. God the Father is well pleased with Jesus because He perfectly performed and completed God’s Plan of Salvation for the entire world. The Baptism announcement sent a thunderous and bone shaking acknowledgement and approval throughout the universe.
In vs. 21a, we see Jesus being numbered amongst the people, representing the taking on of the sins of the entire world through His death and burial. In vs. 21b-22a, we see God’s provision of the enabling power the Holy Spirit, so that Jesus could complete God’s plan for our salvation. In vs. 22b, we see the completed plan of God for our salvation demonstrated in the victory of resurrection, which pleased God the Father to no end.
1. When our Lord went down into the Jordan, we see His promise to go to the Cross and die for our sins.
2. When He comes forth from the waters, and the Spirit descended like a dove upon Him, we see our Lord’s victory demonstrated by His resurrection that is given to all who believe. It was through His death, burial, and resurrection that He “fulfilled all righteousness,” Mat 3:15.
3. When we hear God our Father say about Him, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased,” we see the propitiation of God the Father’s Plan of Salvation from eternity past being completed once and for all time in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Next, we will see the reasons and importance of the symbol of the “dove” representing God the Holy Spirit indwelling Jesus after His baptism, as it notes in vs. 22a, “And the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove.”
Luke alone added, “in bodily form,” which intensifies the reality of the Spirit’s coming upon Jesus. This tells us that the “dove like,” image was an actual appearance, visible to people who were there at the time of Jesus’ baptism, especially John the Baptist, as proof of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in Jesus. This image was an actual thing, which we call a manifestation; an appearance in visible form of the Holy Spirit.
“Like a dove,” is a simile and does not mean that the Spirit actually took the form of a dove to descend upon Jesus. All four Gospels are careful to inform us that it was not an actual dove, but some form that showed the visible manifestation of the indwelling ministry of God the Holy Spirt in the humanity of Jesus Christ.
This is important because some in the early church developed a false doctrine about this account, in that it was the being of the Incarnation of Christ, rather than at His birth, as the Cerinthian Gnostics held. Therefore, God was cautious with His word choice here, so that this would not represent the indwelling of the Deity of the Son of God, the 2nd person of the Trinity, into the humanity of Jesus Christ, but rather it was the manifestation of the empowering and enabling ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the 3rd Person of the Trinity, into the humanity of Jesus Christ.
Likewise, the Spirit’s descent upon Jesus should not be confused with the “Baptism with the Spirit” spoken of by John the Baptist, vs. 16, as we have noted above, for the “Baptism with the Spirit” is something Jesus Himself does for the believer, whereas the descent of the Spirit was something that happened to Jesus.
Like Matthew and John, Luke also had the Spirit coming “upon,” EPI, Jesus rather than “into,” EIS, Him, as in Mark 1:10. This is used to draw our attention back to the prophecy of the Spirit coming to Jesus in Isa 11:2; 42:1; 61:1; cf. Luke 4:18.
Isa 11:2, “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.”
Isa 42:1, “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.”
Isa 61:1, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; 2to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.”
This was the act of the Holy Spirit taking up His residence in the Messiah.
The descent of the Spirit “upon” Jesus is also reminiscent of Gen 1:2, when the Spirit hovered over the earth ready to bring forth new life. Jesus’ ministry was given to man through the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to bring new spiritual life to all.
2 Cor 3:6, “Who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Notice in Gen 1:3, the first thing created was light, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” Jesus Christ was the “light of the world,” John 8:12; 9:5.
The giving of the Holy Spirit to Jesus was a symbol of Jesus’ anointing with the Spirit for His three-fold ministry of Prophet, Priest, and King. It was the dynamic equipment which would enable the Messiah to discharge the duties connected with these offices, Luke 4:16-19.
Jesus was the Messiah, that means, “the anointed One,” and this demonstrated that to the people; He was the Anointed Messiah. This visible manifestation of anointing was given to show God’s appointing, acceptance, and approval of Jesus and His entrance into His ministry. As does the last phrase of vs. 22, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” The apostle John also indicated that the Spirit’s coming upon Jesus proved to John the Baptist that Jesus was the Messiah, John 1:33. So, this indicates that for Luke and the other gospel writers, Jesus’ sonship and anointing go hand in hand, cf. Luke 4:41; 22:67, 70; Acts 9:20, 22.
Now, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus also expresses the reality of the Spirit’s equipping, empowering, and enabling of Jesus for His ministry. Before Jesus began His ministry, He was anointed by the Spirit. The importance of this for Luke is evident from Luke 4:1, 14 and especially vv. 18–21; cf. also Acts 4:26–27; 10:37–38. Therefore, Jesus was “anointed” for His ministry as the “Anointed-Messiah-Christ.” There is a clear allusion here to Isa 61:1, as noted above, which Luke would develop in Luke 4:18–19, cf. Acts 10:38.
As Jesus received this Divine enablement for His ministry, the disciples would also be equipped in the future, Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4–8, just as all Church Age believers are.
In the NT, “Dove,” is the Noun PERISTERA περιστερά, “dove or pigeon,” that is used for this narrative in all four gospels, Mat 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32, and for doves to be used as sacrifices in the Temple when our Lord over-turned the money changing tables, Mat 10:16; 21:12; Mark 11:15; John 2:14, 16, and for the sacrifice of Joseph and Mary’s purification and Jesus’ dedication at the Temple, Luke 2:24.
Because of the fact that outside of the Baptism of Jesus narrative, the “dove” is only used in the NT regarding the sacrificial animal, we see that symbolism in this narrative as well. In other words, the dove represents the preparation of the true sacrifice for our sins, our Lord Jesus Christ. We also see this usage in the OT as the “dove,” was a sacrificial animal, especially of the poor people, as we will note below.
Therefore, in the NT, “dove” is only used for sacrificial animals for the poor, and in the narrative of Jesus’ baptism that concludes with the descending of the Holy Spirit who appears like a dove.
In the OT, we have several additional symbols that are relevant to Jesus’ Baptism narrative. In the OT, “Dove” is the Hebrew Noun YONAH, יוֹנָה and is translated “dove, pigeon, or turtledove.”
Both “dove” and YONAH are first mentioned or used in the OT, in the Bible, in Gen 8, the flood narrative. Here we see Noah sending out a dove to see if the land had yet dried up. In this narrative, the Dove comes back with an olive leaf or branch. The emphasis here is on the “resting place,” of vs. 9, which the dove finally brought evidence to Noah in the form of the olive leaf. So, here the dove is an analogy of refuge and rest, which our Lord would provide through His sacrifice, while sustained by the Holy Spirit.
Peter, later linked the flood with baptism; therefore, we connect the use of the dove and the ark, and the Dove and Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 3:19-22. In that, we also see the branch the flood dove returned with, as Jesus Christ, the Branch, is also symbolized, Zech 3:8; 6:12.
Therefore, though some cultures view doves as a symbol of death and evil, the Bible uses the dove to symbolize sacrifice, rest, peace, gentleness, and virtue. L.S. Chafer noted C.H. Mackintosh’s note on this.
“As for the character of a dove, C. H. Mackintosh in his Notes on Genesis writes of the dove which Noah released from the ark: “And it came to pass, at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: and he sent forth a raven, which went forth, to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.” The unclean bird made its escape, and found, no doubt, a resting-place on some floating carcass. It sought not the ark again. Not so the dove,—”She found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark … and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark: and the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf, plucked off.” Sweet emblem of the renewed mind, which, amid the surrounding desolation, seeks and finds its rest and portion in Christ; and not only so, but also lays hold of the earnest of the inheritance, and furnishes the blessed proof that judgment has passed away, and that a renewed earth is coming fully into view. The carnal mind, on the contrary, can rest in anything and everything but Christ. It can feed upon all uncleanness. “The olive leaf” has no attraction for it. It can find all it needs in a scene of death, and hence is not occupied with the thought of a new world and its glories; but the heart that is taught and exercised by the Spirit of God, can only rest and rejoice in that in which He rests and rejoices. It rests in the Ark of His salvation “until the times of the restitution of all things.” May it be thus with you and me, beloved reader,—may Jesus be the abiding rest and portion of our hearts, that so we may not seek them in a world which is under the judgment of God. The dove went back to Noah, and waited for his time of rest: and we should ever find our place with Christ, until the time of His exaltation and glory in the ages to come. “He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” All we want, as to this, is a little patience. May God direct our hearts into His love, and into “the patience of Christ.”—4th ed., pp. 104-5.” (Chafer’s Systematic Theology – Systematic Theology – Volume 6)
We can compare this analogy with others OT passages that link the “dove” with “rest,” Psa 55:6; 68:13; Jer 48:28; Hosea 11:11.
Psa 55:6, “I said, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest’.”
Psa 68:13, “When you lie down among the sheepfolds, you are like the wings of a dove covered with silver, and its pinions with glistening gold.”
Jer 48:28, “Leave the cities and dwell among the crags, O inhabitants of Moab, and be like a dove that nests beyond the mouth of the chasm (Hell).”
Hosea 11:11, “They will come trembling like birds from Egypt and like doves from the land of Assyria; and I will settle them in their houses, declares the LORD.”
This rest comes from the sacrificial analogy of the Dove in the OT, Lev 1:14; 5:7, 11; 12:6, 8; 14:22, 30; 15:14, 29; Num 6:10. As we have noted in the NT application, the “dove” was used as the sacrifice for the poor for purification after giving birth, the dedication of the newborn, (which we noted above regarding Joseph, Mary, and Jesus), and for those under the Nazarite vow, if they touched a dead body.
Lev 5:7, “But if he cannot afford a lamb, then he shall bring to the LORD his guilt offering for that in which he has sinned, two turtledoves or two young pigeons, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering.”
Being the sacrifice of the poor, it was most likely abused by those who were trying to keep their finances for their own pleasures, rather than offerings for God. It speaks of the abuse of the cosmic Christian who is grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit. As noted in the temple cleansing incidents of Jesus, the dove was certainly being abused by the sellers, Mark 11:15; Mat 21:12; John 2:14, 16, which Jesus would bring about cleansing thereto.
Other OT allusions to the “Dove” include the beauty and wonder of the Holy Spirit’s words that strengthen and empower us, cf. Song of Solomon 2:12, 14; 5:2; 6:9.
And for those who reject God, be it Israel or Gentiles, the Dove is used to indicate the suffering or insufficiency man has without the true dove in their life, plus the exhortation to return to the true Dove or sacrifice, Isa 38:14; 59:11; 60:8; Jer 48:28; Ezek 7:16; Hosea 7:11; 11:11; Nahum 2:7, as the Dove is used in analogy because of its mournful and sorrowful cooing.
Therefore, when we understand “the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in bodily form like a dove,” we see the anointing of the Messiah by God the Father; the enabling and empowering ministry of the Holy Spirit to sustain Jesus throughout His ministry, including the Cross and Resurrection; and the rest and refuge we find in Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for the poor sinner who accepts Him as their Savior.
H. The Genealogy of the Son of Man, Luke 3:23-38.
1. Jesus’ genealogy through His mother Mary’s family tree.
We have heard the testimony of John and the testimony of God the Father. Now, in vs. 23-38, we come to the testimony of the genealogy. The genealogy is the evidence proving that only Jesus is the Christ.
What is the purpose of the genealogy in Israel? Scattered throughout the OT, e.g., Gen 4; 5; 10; 1 Chron 1-9, are various tracings of family trees and relationships. Genealogies have a three-fold purpose:
- They proved who was Jewish and who was not. Such proof of Jewish ancestry was important because God’s covenants were made with Israel. The promise of a Deliverer was a promise made to Israel, and He would come from Israel, Deut 18:15, 18.
2. The genealogies proved who could or could not serve as priests. Only Levites could serve before the Lord in the Tabernacle and the Temple. When Israel left captivity and exile during the days of Nehemiah, they turned almost immediately to the genealogies to register the people returning from exile. Neh 7:64, tells us there were some who sought to be registered but were not found in the genealogies, “so they were disqualified from the priesthood.” The entire priesthood prefigured the coming Savior who would be the Great High Priest in the order of Melchizedek, Heb 2:17; 3:1; 4:14-15; 5:1, 5, 10; 6:20; 7:1; 8:1, etc.
3. The genealogies proved who was or was not a “son of David.” They are needed to fulfill the Davidic covenant of 2 Sam 7, when God promised to establish David’s throne forever. In other words, David’s son would be ruler over Israel and the Messiah. But not just any son or descendant of David could fill that role. The genealogy had to prove that anyone claiming to be Messiah was not descended from David through Jeconiah, Jer 22:24-30; 36:30-31. God declared that no one from Jeconiah’s house would sit on David’s throne. This is called the “Coniah curse.” So, the lineage of the Messiah could not come through Jeconiah.
Only two of the gospels, Matthew and Luke, record the genealogy of Jesus Christ.
Matthew began his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus. In vs. 1, Chapter 1, he states that Jesus was the son of David and Abraham to prove His royal lineage and Jewish heritage. Matthew associated Jesus with Abraham who was the father of the Jews and of their faith, and with David whose descendants had the right to the Jewish throne. Matthew’s original audience was Jewish; as such he wanted to show Jesus’ origins in the fulfillment of prophecy. In His Gospel, he frequently presents Jesus as the King of the Jews. Therefore, Matthew’s genealogy emphasizes this view.
Matthew also used the lineage of Jesus’ adoptive father Joseph and begins his lineage account with Abraham and ends with Joseph’s father Jacob. Matthew then names Joseph and Jesus, vs. 16, “Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.”
Luke, on the other hand, gives the lineage through the line of Jesus’ mother Mary. He begins with Joseph, and then gives Mary’s father next, Eli or Heli. In the Jewish Talmud, written just a few years after the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are told that Jesus was the illegitimate son of Mary of Bethlehem, the daughter of Heli. That clears the mystery for us here. Luke then runs the lineage up through Eli’s line all the way to Adam, “the son of God,” vs. 38. As we stated in our outline of the book, Luke is showing that Jesus is the Son of Man. As such, he runs the lineage all the way through to Adam, the first man.
As a son of Adam, Jesus was qualified to redeem the sons of Adam, which means the entire human race. This is necessary because according to the Law, a redeemer had to be related to the ones in need of redemption, Lev 25:25, 47-49; cf. Ruth 4:4-6; Jer 32:6-12, (i.e., the kinsman redeemer). Furthermore, a redeemer could not be in need of redemption himself. Jesus, our sinless Kinsman, paid the price of our redemption, 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Peter 1:18-19. Yet, He was more than a mere human. Jesus is wholly God and wholly man in hypostatic union. Therefore, Luke’s universalistic perspective is seen here. Jesus is the fulfillment not just of Jewish hopes but of the hopes of all people, both Jew and Gentile. For out of Adam the whole human family has come, cf. Acts 17:26, and Jesus is the son of Adam.
In addition, Adam was a type of Jesus in that he did not have a human father, for the one who gave him life was God himself. Similarly God through His Spirit was the creative power who gave life to His Son, Jesus.
Nevertheless, Luke also shows that Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham, and the son of God, showing His royal lineage, His Jewish heritage, and His Divine sonship, as His lineage ends with God the Father. As such, the occupant of the throne of David filled the office of son of God by serving as the king. In Psalm 2, especially vs. 7, 12, the king was considered begotten by God on his coronation day. This was a common concept among ancient Near Eastern civilizations, as the king filled the office of sonship which meant that the king acted with the full powers and blessing of the god, provided the king properly honored him.
Luke affirms this royal concept of Jesus’ sonship in Luke 3:22; 9:35; 19:38. However, the very beginning of his Gospel goes beyond this traditional meaning of “Son of God” and makes it clear that Jesus’ very nature is from God, cf. Luke 1:35. Keep in mind that John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus’ relationship with God the Father existed before His coming to earth at Bethlehem, John 1:1-3; 8:58; 17:5. As such, Jesus’ Sonship was and is eternal.
By ending with “son of God,” Luke may also be trying to dispose of the heathen myths about the origin of man and to show that God is the Creator of the whole human race, Father of all men in that sense. No mere animal origin of man is in harmony with this conception.
Further, by presenting the genealogy between the baptism of Jesus and the temptation of Jesus, rather than at the beginning of the Gospel as Matthew does, Luke’s Gospel affirms that Jesus is the Son of God several times in succession, Luke 3:22, 38; 4:3ff., 9ff. There is OT precedent for this positioning in Moses’ genealogy, Ex 6:14-25, which is not recorded at the beginning of his life, but just before he started his ministry. Therefore, Luke looks at the human and Divine nature of Jesus.
“It was natural for Matthew, writing for Jews, to give the legal genealogy through Joseph, though he took pains to show in Matthew 1:16, 18-25 that Joseph was not the actual father of Jesus. It was equally natural for Luke, a Greek himself and writing for the whole world, to give the actual genealogy of Jesus through Mary.” (A.T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament.)
Also of interest is that Matthew employs the word “begat” or “was born,” GENNAO, cf. Luke 1:13; 57, each time when referring to fathers bearing sons, while Luke only uses the article TOU, (HO) and does not repeat HUIOS, “son,” except before Joseph. Yet, for understanding purposes, the translators added “son” to Luke’s lineage. In addition, neither Matthew nor Luke give us a complete genealogy. Sometimes they would skip generations.
Other major differences are:
- Matthew works forward in time while Luke works backward.
- The number of names differs, Luke’s list being longer, e.g., Matthew has 41 names from Jesus to Abraham while Luke has 57. Also 38 names are different from David to Jesus, and Luke lists 60 names not found in Matthew.
- As notes above, Matthew follows the dynastic descent, while Luke traces a more genetic descent. Either concept of “sonship” is acceptable to the ancient Near Eastern mind.
- Many of the names in the lists are not identical. For example, in Matthew, the Davidic lineage emerges from Solomon and Rehoboam, while in Luke, the line goes through David’s other son Nathan and his son Mattatha.
- Matthew includes Jeconiah, while Luke does not. Also noted above, this is because of the “Coniah curse,” in Jer 22:24-30; 36:30-31, where God states Jehoiakim would not have a son to sit on the throne. Luke’s lineage rightly places Jesus on the throne of David excluding the line of Jeconiah.
- Jewish genealogies were constructed primarily to demonstrate the family’s Jewish origins and not necessarily to give an exhaustive accounting of every ancient relative. Yet, it is interesting that Matthew’s genealogy is arithmetically symmetrical between the three major divisions of fourteen in his list, Mat 1:17. Luke has no particular rhythm other than that noted below.
- Matthew mentions four women in his genealogy, Luke does not mention any women, but the entire line is through Mary.
Now, before Luke gives us the lineage, he makes two statements about our Lord.
Luke 3:23, “When He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, the son of Eli.”
1. The first statement is that Jesus begins His ministry. Luke makes this statement post Jesus’ baptism and receiving the descending of the Holy Spirit. Matthew states Jesus “began,” ARCHO, ἄρχω, “rule, begin, or reign,” post the wilderness and three temptations by Satan, Mat 4:17. Luke says Jesus “began” His ministry before the wilderness encounter. Notice the potential play on the word ARCHO that also means rule or reign. This begins His rulership as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
2. The second statement is an approximation of Jesus’ age, “about thirty years of age,” HOSEI TRIAKONTA ETOS. Interestingly, the word “ministry” is not in the Greek, therefore, some translate this passage, “And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age.” This speaks to the entrance into His age, and then the narrative goes on to speak of His ministry. But this is an improbable translation given the word use and context. It better refers to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
The age of Jesus is important because the Lord had reached the traditional age of maturity; cf. Num 4, when a man attained, “fullness of strength.” In addition, we see the Levite priests entered upon full service at that age, Num 4:3, 23, 30, and in order for Jesus to be our High Priest, He needed to wait until that age to fulfill the Law. Also, we see some allusions to kingship in comparison to David and Joseph, 2 Sam 5:4; Gen 41:46, starting their rulership at the age of 30.
Luke then begins the lineage by stating in essence that people thought, believed, or “supposed,” NOMIZO, νομίζω, cf. Luke 2:44, Jesus was Joseph’s son. We know that Jesus was not his blood related son, but was his adoptive son.
Next, Luke states the father of Joseph as ELI, who is actually Mary’s father and Joseph’s father-in-law. Luke does not use HUIOS or “son” here, but only the article TOU that Luke uses going forward to represent sonship in the generations.
Eli in the Greek is HELI, ῾Ηλί, that means, “ascending or climbing.” An interesting play on words, as the lineage of Jesus goes up from here. Heli is only used here in the NT.
Here, we have Luke’s genealogy. The genealogy contains 77 ancestors. Of those, 36 are unknown in the OT. Many of the others are noted in Gen 5:1-32; 11:10-26; 1 Chron 1-3. The exact arrangement of generations, in contrast to Matthew, is uncertain. The intended pattern may be:
- Jesus to exile, (3 x 7 generations).
- Exile to David, (3 x 7 generations).
- David to Abraham, (2 x 7 generations).
- Abraham to Adam, son of God, (3 x 7 generations).
Like Matthew’s, we see multiples of 7, i.e., Spiritual perfection.
Luke writes to show that Jesus is the Messiah promised by God and that His claim is fulfilled through His mother, Mary. This helps make sense of Gen 3:15 and Isa 7:14, where we read that the offspring of the woman will “strike the serpent’s head,” and “the virgin will conceive and have a son.” Luke’s genealogy shows that Jesus fulfills all the criteria necessary for being Messiah. His claim is legitimate. The genealogy makes His claim a matter of public record.
Since 70 A.D., no one else can establish their descent from David. That is because in 70 A.D., the Roman army destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. They conquered and scattered Israel into captivity. The records of the genealogies and lines of descent were destroyed. Only here in the Gospel of Luke, in the genealogy of Chapter 3, do we receive the definitive evidence that the Messiah, the anointed one of God, is none other than Jesus Christ.
So, we see that the overall intention of Luke’s list is clear. He wants to show Jesus’ connection to David, to Abraham, to Adam, and to God. Each connection allows a point to be made about who Jesus is and whom He is qualified to serve.
- The connection to David establishes His rights as regal heir; Jesus can be King of Israel. “Son of God,” in this sense involves the right to rule as the Promised One, the Son of David, Luke 1:31-35; cf. 2 Sam 7:6-16. And remember, the promised King of Israel is also the head of the human race. God’s promise to Israel becomes the Church Age believers’ promise in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile.
- The connection to Abraham links Jesus to the national promise and hope.
- The connection to Adam allows Luke to argue that Jesus represents all humanity.
- The connection to God the Father shows that Jesus is the Son of God while also being the Son of Man.
So in Jesus, God has carefully designed affairs so that as Son He can realize both the hope of the OT and the hope of creation.
We also see in this list, that there are some who walked closely with God and some whose walk was uneven. In a sense, Jesus represents them all, much as He does us. In other words, Jesus represents both the sinners and the saints. In the list, is also a variety of humanity. Some of the people are well-known OT people who made a great mark; others are known to us only in this listing. Jesus represents both the well-known and the unknown of the world; i.e., the small and the great.
It is important to appreciate the uniqueness of this list. We all have genealogies, but none of them qualifies us to be God’s chosen Son. We receive our role in God’s family through Him. In a sense, the only genealogy that counts for us is the one that connects us to Jesus, for His work makes our biological roots less relevant. He makes His children out of Jews and Gentiles, males and females, Gal 3:29.
Finally, “Luke reveals Jesus Christ as the Son of Man and the Savior of the world. His line does not stop with Abraham, but goes all the way back to Adam who was the first “son” of God — the created son of God. But he fell from that lofty position when he sinned. Jesus Christ, the last Adam and the Son of God, is come to bring mankind back into that relationship with God which Adam formerly had and lost. This relationship is accomplished through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee).
Therefore, in proof of Jesus as our Savior, Luke / God provides us with this lineage.