Clearing the threshing floor

by Mike Ratliff

14 Καὶ καθὼς Μωϋσῆς ὕψωσεν τὸν ὄφιν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, οὕτως ὑψωθῆναι δεῖ τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, 15 ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων ἐν αὐτῷ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον. 16 οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλʼ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον. 17 οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν υἱὸν εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἵνα κρίνῃ τὸν κόσμον, ἀλλʼ ἵνα σωθῇ ὁ κόσμος διʼ αὐτοῦ. 18 ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν οὐ κρίνεται· ὁ δὲ μὴ πιστεύων ἤδη κέκριται, ὅτι μὴ πεπίστευκεν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ μονογενοῦς υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ. 19 αὕτη δέ ἐστιν ἡ κρίσις ὅτι τὸ φῶς ἐλήλυθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον καὶ ἠγάπησαν οἱ ἄνθρωποι μᾶλλον τὸ σκότος ἢ τὸ φῶς· ἦν γὰρ αὐτῶν πονηρὰ τὰ ἔργα. 20 πᾶς γὰρ ὁ φαῦλα πράσσων μισεῖ τὸ φῶς καὶ οὐκ ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸ φῶς, ἵνα μὴ ἐλεγχθῇ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ· 21 ὁ δὲ ποιῶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸ φῶς, ἵνα φανερωθῇ αὐτοῦ τὰ ἔργα ὅτι ἐν θεῷ ἐστιν εἰργασμένα. (John 3:14-21 NA28)

14 And as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up 15 that everyone believing in Him may have eternal life.”  16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that everyone believing in him should not perish but have life eternal. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him. 18 The one believing in him is not judged, but the one not believing has been judged already because he has not believed in the only name of the Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, light has come into the world and men love the darkness rather than the light for their works were evil. 20 Everyone practicing evil things hates the light and does not come into the light lest his works be exposed,  21 but the one doing the truth comes to the light that it may be manifested that his works have been wrought in God.  (John 3:14-21 translated from the NA28 Greek text) 

 

10 ἤδη δὲ ἡ ἀξίνη πρὸς τὴν ῥίζαν τῶν δένδρων κεῖται· πᾶν οὖν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται.
11 Ἐγὼ μὲν ὑμᾶς βαπτίζω ἐν ὕδατι εἰς μετάνοιαν, ὁ δὲ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἰσχυρότερός μού ἐστιν, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς τὰ ὑποδήματα βαστάσαι· αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί· 12 οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ διακαθαριεῖ τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ συνάξει τὸν σῖτον αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην, τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ. (Matthew 3:10-12 NA28)

10 And already the axe is laid at the root of the trees, therefore, every tree not producing good fruit is cut down and is thrown into the fire. 
11 I baptize you with water leading to repentance, but the one coming after me is mightier than I of whom I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and Fire.  12 His winnowing fork is in his hand and he will clean out his threshing and will gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will consume with an inextinguishable fire.” (Matthew 3:10-12 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

This statement by John the Baptist combined our Lord’s first coming as the suffering servant dying for the sins of His people and His second coming when He returns in judgment. If we compare this statement with John 3:14-21 (above) we see that those who are baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire are divided into two groups. Those who believe the Gospel are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9) and the fire cleanses and renews them. On the other hand, those who do not believe the Gospel are condemned already. The baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire in their case will simply be that they will be thrown into the fire in righteous judgment.

The Gospel is the winnowing fork in the hand of our Lord. The winnowing fork was a tool used by farmers to thresh their grain. They would scoop up the grain with the fork then throw it up into the air. The good grain would fall to the ground in a heap, but the chaff would blow away. This separated the good from the worthless. The Gospel does this with people. The Gospel is offensive. It divides people. Those who believe and are saved are the good grain. These are the same as the good soil from the parable of the Sower and the Soils. Their hearts have been prepared by God to receive the Gospel and via the gift of faith they believe, repent, and are justified by God. This heart preparation is the result of the washing of regeneration via the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire.

On the other hand, the chaff that is separated from the good grain is gathered and burned for it is worthless. The Gospel separates these from the good grain. Our Lord said that these who do not believe are condemned already. This separation by the Gospel is spiritual, not physical. However, when our Lord returns soon his winnowing shovel or fork will be in His hand. The good grain will be separated from the chaff. These will be gathered together into our Lord’s barns, but the chaff will be excluded, judged, then cast into the fire.

13 Εἰσέλθατε διὰ τῆς στενῆς πύλης· ὅτι πλατεῖα ἡ πύλη καὶ εὐρύχωρος ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ἀπώλειαν καὶ πολλοί εἰσιν οἱ εἰσερχόμενοι διʼ αὐτῆς· 14 τί στενὴ ἡ πύλη καὶ τεθλιμμένη ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ζωὴν καὶ ὀλίγοι εἰσὶν οἱ εὑρίσκοντες αὐτήν. (Matthew 7:13-14 NA28)

13 “Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way leading to destruction and many are the ones entering through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and constricted the road leading to life and few are the ones finding it.” (Matthew 7:13-14 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Those who believe and are saved enter by the narrow gate, while those who do not believe follow the wide and easy way. The narrow way is hard, but it is the exclusive way to life. Few find it.

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me. ’ 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? ’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me. ’
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; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me. ’ 44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You? ’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me. ’ 46 These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:31-46 NASB)

All throughout the history of the Church who have denied the doctrine of Hell or teach some form of universalism are attempting to open wide the narrow gate our Lord says is narrow, hard, and the only way to life. They are including people into the sheepfold who will be separated from it and placed with the goats when our Lord returns with His winnowing fork. I find it interesting that the criteria used to include them is always works of some kind. Universalists go even further saying that no one will be cast into Hell. Instead, each will be changed at the judgment and made acceptable by God so that all people will enter into heaven to be with our Lord forever. Sounds nice, but that is not what the Bible teaches at all. In fact, the one who taught on Hell the most was the Lord Jesus Himself. Some Universalists still preach the gospel while holding to their false view of the doctrine of Hell. However, over time, they will eventually move more into pure universalism making the gospel irrelevant. Why? They are actually in unbelief.

In the last of the last days of this age the visible Church will have become the Harlot riding on the Beast (Revelation 17). It will be spiritually dead and the reason why is that its leadership have forsaken the Gospel, the real Gospel, not the watered-down, seeker-sensitive, non-gospel that only presents the benefits of salvation, but excludes the reason why it is called the Good News. They abhor the real Gospel because it is part of our Lord’s winnowing fork that separates the grain from the chaff. They want to include the chaff so they remove the indictment of God against all whose sins have not been covered by the blood of Christ.

God has a remnant my brethren. These hold to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and refuse to compromise His Truth for any reason. They joyfully anticipate His return. Those who have compromised the truth in order to please men may believe right now that they are sheep in the sheepfold, but they are only goat herders preparing their flocks for the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

I find it interesting that those who fall for all of the compromising going on in the visible Church right now insist that their faith and their walk be on their own terms. Those who remain faithful to the end are the ones who are saved. They are saved and walk as Christ’s δοῦλοι. This is the Greek plural noun for slaves and is often translated as servants or bondservants in the Bible. They are His according to the Will of God, by His Grace, through the gift of faith. They are not Christians on their own terms, but on His terms. These have been separated by Christ’s winnowing fork from those bound for the fires of Hell and it was not because they were seekers who found God, but because God elected them, called them, regenerated them, justified them as they believed and repented, adopted them, sanctified them, and glorified them.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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