Chapter 2 ends with the family and the child, Jesus, moving back to Nazareth. Suddenly we are fast-forwarded to John the Baptist (He is only six months older that his cousin, Jesus,) baptizing in the Jordan River.
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.'” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (Matthew 3:1-7 ESV)
Quite the greeting; apparently John says what he thinks. I noticed something else about this passage, how about you?
Matthew tells us that he asked them, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” This prompts some comments and questions in me, such as:
He, like a skilled Rabbi, is quoting scripture. No, there were no chapters and verses, and yet anyone with knowledge of the law and the prophets would have understood what he meant. If Jesus were treated as an illegitimate child then he would have been excluded from the proper training that John would have obtained. This opens some odd doors about how and where Jesus got his skill sets. I know we like to think that God merely input it all into his brain, or he was just born with it, but that tends to circumvent the idea of God voluntarily becoming a man and being born. No child is born talking. In addition, none of them can play the piano by eighteen months. No, he had to be taught. What we do know is that Joseph was a good man. The King James version uses the word just. The Greek word is – dikaios and means righteous, observing divine laws. If he observed the law, then he knew and understood the law. Therefore, it is possible that Joseph home-schooled Jesus.
What wrath is John the Baptist talking about?
Still under a brutal Roman rule, this could mean something entirely different.
The Greek word that Matthew used was orge, and means – (by analogy) violent passion (ire, or [justifiable] abhorrence); by implication punishment: – anger, indignation, vengeance, and wrath. The word orge is used 36 times in the New Testament. Thirty-one of those times, it is translated wrath. Revelation 14:10 translated the word orge to his cup of indignation. However, the Pharisees and Sadducees did not have the advantage of a New Testament; neither would they have accepted it. Paul, before his conversion proved that.
What they did have was this:
But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. (Malachi 3:2-3 KJV)
“And what cause soever shall come to you of your brethren that dwell in their cities, between blood and blood, between law and commandment, statutes and judgments, ye shall even warn them that they trespass not against the LORD, and so wrath come upon you, and upon your brethren: this do, and ye shall not trespass.” 2 Chronicles 19:10 KJV
Did they understand what “the wrath” meant, absolutely.
The Jews that came to John had an understanding of Hebrew and Aramaic, and yet spoke Greek as well due to the Roman influence. Yes, they knew the law and the prophets, but consider that John would not have said something that had no meaning to them.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of the cup of his fury. (Isaiah 51:17)
A passage that easily answers the question is Isaiah 13:9 KJV – Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
The hearer immediately realized that this implied a punishment upon the world, and yet, quickly dismissed God pouring his wrath upon them for their rejection. They never seemed to get it.
What should this mean to us?
If you are a student of the Bible, and you should be, then you should also be a student of end times and have some familiarity with the terminology surrounding God’s wrath.
It seems best to bring you up to speed by starting in Revelation. The foremost thing that you need to understand about this book is that this is a Revelation of Jesus Christ. One of the questions I repeatedly hear is, where is the church during the horrors described here. Chapter 3 ends with, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Chapter 4 opens with, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” Thus ends the church age, and initiates the wrath of God being poured out upon the earth, the nations, and those that have rejected him by serving idols and other gods. Sadly, two-thirds of Israel will be killed during this time.
I could say the short answer to where the church is, can be found explained very simply in – For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Thessalonians 5:9 ESV). That is of course a somewhat open-ended statement, in that it gives no definition of how to obtain this salvation in Christ.
Since Christ died upon the cross, rose again, offered the same sacrifices as a high priest does upon the heavenly altar, then all debt for sins was paid. That means you have freedom from the payment of sins. Then why will you be judged since you are theoretically sin free, good question.
The Apostle Paul, a man who had a firm knowledge of the law, and knew both sin and acceptance, wrote to the church body in Rome:
That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:22-25 ESV)
In plain English – if I understand that Jesus paid the price for my life by: being beaten, hung on a cross to die, rose from the dead, and now sits enthroned in heaven with the Father so that I can now live. Accepting that, because I received him, he now lives in me. I have received his life and righteousness; the guarantee of a life with Him in heaven.
All of this anticipates a rescue at some point from tribulations and wrath down here on earth. I cannot guarantee that you can or will escape tribulation while you live. Many die daily. However, there is a time of wrath (God’s punishment) that is to be poured out upon the earth, some of which will be distributed at the hands of man.
While I suppose it is ultimately, what God thinks about us that matters, it is clear to me that we are to be living testimonies of his life in us.
I have to do jury duty soon. Having had that experience, I understand the process. The only thing that we, as jurors, are supposed to consider is the testimony and evidence that comes from the witness stand. There are exceptions of course. In a sense, we are on the witness stand all throughout life. No one seems to care or notice as long as you are not making waves and moving with the flow. Suddenly, you changed course, repented of your sins, and really turned your back to them. This is as if some massive sea cliff breaks off into the ocean causing an immense tidal wave; now you are noticed, generally based upon irritation alone. The only thing we truly have going for us, is what we show to people. That tends to boil down to your actions and words.
After accosting the Pharisees and Sadducees (He called them snakes and vipers) that came to him to be baptized, John told them to go and:
Matthew 3:8 ESV Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
Let your life prove what you claim you now believe – easier said than done. This next verse reeks of self-righteous arrogance and assumed privilege. John knew them better than they thought.
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. (Matthew 3:9 KJV)
This verse causes me angst, not just because I am not clear on it’s meaning, but because it tells me two more things, and one of them speaks directly to me. You do not gain advantage because your mommy was a praying woman. This is a personal relationship. If God is able to raise up stones for children, what does that say about us?
Matthew 3:10 KJV And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
This is a good time for a commentary. John MacArthur declares: “Irreversible judgment is imminent.” This can mean so many things in my thinking, but if this speaks to us as well, then it is not right.
Just the fact that Jesus was here on earth, active in the role he was made for, might be implied, but we cannot decisively say that John knew that. Another possible implication could be that John, speaking prophetically (This is highly possible as Jesus implied that John came in the spirit of Elijah) knew that God’s end times countdown clock was now running. Was this intended to convey that God was cutting off Israel from the inheritance; not a chance, but with a consistent record of idolatry, judgment was coming. (An aspect of that judgment came in 70 AD with the destruction of the temple.
Ezek 15:1-8, (ESV) And the word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, how does the wood of the vine surpass any wood, the vine branch that is among the trees of the forest? Is wood taken from it to make anything? Do people take a peg from it to hang any vessel on it? Behold, it is given to the fire for fuel. When the fire has consumed both ends of it, and the middle of it is charred, is it useful for anything? Behold, when it was whole, it was used for nothing. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it ever be used for anything! Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so have I given up the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will set my face against them. Though they escape from the fire, the fire shall yet consume them, and you will know that I am the LORD, when I set my face against them. And I will make the land desolate, because they have acted faithlessly, declares the Lord GOD.”
This merely adds to my confusion about axing the roots. Having a background in Horticultural science, I can tell you that most anyone, cutting a tree down to its roots kills it. In so doing you have cut off all hope of a life source feeding its limbs and fruit.
I do not care what Hendrik “Hank” Hanegraaff has to say, he lost my respect years ago, but having listened to him and his followers, I know what they will say about this, because I have already heard it. I admire Beth Moore. I love her style of teaching. Truthfully, I have only had the influence of her study on Daniel. It was in this study that Beth emphasized that God has not replaced Israel (any student of the bible is aware of that fact), but he did put them on hold.
I have the Holy Ghost, so where is the fire? This is what I long for, and I do not even care if it has a negative potential.
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (Matthew 3:11 KJV)
There seems to be two distinct baptisms spoken of here. Jesus accepted John’s baptism as fulfilling the Law. That might be a stretch to find the reference for it. Hang on for here comes the exciting part. “he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:”
The leader of a bible study I attend did it again. He said, we do not need to wallow in teachings about the end times they just confuse everyone. We need to teach doctrine! How funny that is because even John the Baptist spoke about the end times.
Matthew 3:12 NET. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clean out his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the storehouse, but the chaff he will burn up with inextinguishable fire.”
This should strike a familiar chord because Jesus, in a parable, talked about a gathering of the wheat, and at that time, the tares would be separated out. We find this in Matthew 13.
Matthew 13:30 KJV Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
Now Jesus comes to the Jordan to be baptized
(Matthew 3:13 AMP) Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John to be baptized by him.
John – What kind of man was he? Referring to Elijah, Jesus asked, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?”
(2 Kings 1:7,8 AMP) The king asked, What was the man like who came to meet you saying these things? They answered; He was a hairy man with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.
John is said to have come in the spirit of Elijah. Elijah was honored and respected. Perhaps another way to say that is – he was feared. John the disciple may have patterned his life after John the Baptist. It is possible that many followed Elijah’s example.
Zechariah 13:4 … in that day every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophecies; they will not wear a robe of coarse hair to deceive.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV)
What is it about wearing a robe of course hair that would cause deception? Perhaps people would perceive the hairy garments in the same light that they saw Elijah, evoking a false following. The Apostle Peter pointed out the greed of the false teacher, this is not the image we get when we think of John.
(Matthew 3:14 ESV) John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Based upon this statement we learn that John knew him. That would make all the sense in the world, as they were cousins. Keep in mind that John’s family did not have to flee to Egypt and Jesus’ family were the outcasts. Jesus would have been considered an illegitimate child in Nazareth, and the ostracism would have been against the entire family. Jewish law alone would have prevented him from been allowed in the temple, let alone be taught by anyone other than his immediate family. No, just being a cousin did not mean that they grew up close, or in close proximity. I believe that John knew him as a man and carpenter, but John had been filled with the Holy Spirit of God from his mother’s womb, and surely heard God’s voice.
John seemed to know that Jesus carried God’s authority. If that is the case, how do we explain John’s question from prison, for we see John, while in prison, sending messengers asking Jesus if he is the one that they have looked for. Jesus response is interesting. Tell him what you see and hear. Fruit is a good example of what kind of tree you have.
The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:18-19 ESV)
Notice how Jesus responded. At first he says nothing; he goes into action.
Luke 7:21-23 ESV In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. (22) And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. (23) And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
and behold, the heavens were opened to him
(Matthew 3:16 ESV) And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;
The Spirit of God – See Matthew 3:11. This was the third person of the Trinity, descending upon him in the form of a dove, Luke 3:22. The dove, among the Jews, was the symbol of purity of heart, harmlessness, and gentleness,
heavens – the Greek word ouranos, meaning
1) the vaulted expanse of the sky with all things visible in it
1a) the universe, the world
1b) the aerial heavens or sky, the region where the clouds and the tempests gather, and where thunder and lightning are produced
I cannot imagine what this must have looked like. I know I have watched too much television and they have created images in my head, and I sometimes think it was like that. It may have been as simple as the clouds parting and something that looked like a dove came down through the opening. I imagine everyone has had one of those moments where the clouds parted on a dark, rainy day, and the sun shone like a beam through that hole in the clouds.
were opened unto him, – anoigo – to open up (literally or figuratively)
The KJV version says the heavens were opened unto Him. That conveys some exclusivity. Did others see it? That is not clear, but if God wanted to make a point, and bring His Son Jesus into the limelight, a dramatic act would be the way to go.
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;
The sky opens and He sees this happening. What if no one else saw it? Then we would be entirely reliant on Jesus telling us the story. That becomes very farcical at that point. It only seems logical that everybody there knew that something unusual was happening. They may not have seen it as clearly as Jesus did, but they saw something. None of this seemed to give Jesus any more credence than if he had just stepped off the bus. His word and His actions had to speak for Him. Once again, the tree’s fruit seemed to define where the tree came from. The Pharisee Nicodemus came to Jesus and said, we know that you are come from God, because no one can do the things you do without Him or his approval.
(Matthew 3:17 AMP) And behold, a voice from heaven said, This is My Son, My Beloved, in Whom I delight
And behold, a voice
1) a sound, a tone
1a) of inanimate things, as musical instruments
Here is a little food for thought. In Revelation 1:10 John the beloved, saw into heaven, and had this to say about it. “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,” The people standing around, watching Jesus get baptized, heard a sound. Jesus heard a voice, but not them. This is probably the same thing that John the beloved heard, a voice as of a trumpet. We are waiting for a sound to herald the return of our King. Perhaps we have been waiting for the wrong sound and yet not; for his voice is like that of a trumpet.
Students of the bible know that there is a day in which Jesus will return for his church, and it will be preceded by what Israel called a trumpet blast. It is actually a Shofar and has a very distinct sound, probably comparable to a bull moose in pursuit of a female. On that day, our hope will be fulfilled and we will get to spend eternity with the one that loved us first. If this speaks to you and you do not have this hope, you can. Just ask Jesus into your life, turn from your destructive ways (that is what it means to repent). Know that in so doing he comes in and gives you his righteousness. Your life becomes his and he will receive you into his waiting arms on that day.