The law and the prophets were "until" John the Baptist (Luke 16:16). His prediction of Christ's baptizing in the Holy Spirit and fire, like the Old Testament prophecies, made no distinction between Christ's first and second advents. The Holy Spirit led him to speak of the partial near fulfillment at Pentecost and the complete remote fulfillment at Christ's second advent. John's question to Christ from prison by his disciples, "Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?" (Matt. 11:3), shows he did not understand the time lapse between Christ's two advents. Furthermore, the disciples having come together were questioning the Lord saying, "Are you at this time restoring the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6—translation). The Lord replied, "It is not yours to know times or seasons which the Father placed in His own authority" (Acts 1:7—translation). The Lord's reply does not contradict the future establishment of the kingdom.
John and the disciples understood the nature of the kingdom, but they were ignorant concerning the time of its establishment. The time of the kingdom's establishment remains a secret with the Father (Matt. 24:36). The Son Himself, because of His subordination to the Father, said He did not know the time (Mark 13:32). This does not indicate that He does not know all things. But He spoke in subordination to the Father. He was the perfect One and always did the will of His Father. Conclusively, the disciples knew nothing of a kingdom already set up. It was not set up at the first advent of Jesus Christ. Surely the apostles would have known if Christ had already established the kingdom. Subsequent to Pentecost, the apostles did not preach that the kingdom had been established. Jesus Christ did not correct the disciples pertaining to their view of the kingdom. Restoring the kingdom to Israel could mean nothing else than the kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament.
In Matthew 3:11, John the Baptist addressed the Pharisees and Sadducees when he said, "I am baptizing you in water because of your repentance: but the One coming after me is stronger than I, of whom I am not worthy to be carrying His sandals; He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire" (translation). They were the ones going out to be baptized by him (Matt. 3:7). In Luke 3:7, Luke stated, "Then he was saying to the crowds going out to be baptized by [hupo, ablative of agency] him, offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from [apo, ablative of separation] the coming wrath?" (translation). In both Matthew and Luke, the context of each passage proves John's prediction of Christ's baptizing in the Holy Spirit and fire was addressed primarily to the Israelites. He was warning them of coming judgment. The ax was already being laid at the root of the tree, and God was about to speak to them of judgment in his message (Matt. 3:10; Luke 3:9). God will manifest His wrath on all the unregenerate. John's prophecy of Christ's baptizing in the Spirit and fire was a blessing to the regenerate but a curse to the un-regenerate. In like manner, our proclamation of truth is a savor of life to those the Holy Spirit regenerates, but it is a savor of death to the unregenerate (II Cor. 2:14-16).
John's prediction of Christ's baptizing in the Holy Spirit and fire should be considered from each of the synoptic Gospels. Matthew included fire in his account: "I am baptizing you in water because of your repentance, but the One coming after me is stronger than I, of whom I am not worthy to be carrying His sandals: He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matt. 3:11—translation). Mark's short account of John's prophecy eliminated fire: "I baptized you in water: but He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit" (Mark 1:8—translation). Luke included fire in his Gospel: "John answered, saying to all, I indeed baptize you in water; but someone stronger than I is coming, of whom I am not worthy to untie His sandals: He shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire" (Luke 3:16—translation). John omitted fire: "And I had not known Him: but the One having sent me to baptize in water, that One said to me, on whomever you may see the Spirit coming down, and remaining on Him, this is the One baptizing in the Holy Spirit" (John 1:33—translation). Luke, who also wrote Acts, did not include the word fire in Acts 1:5—"John indeed baptized in water; but you shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days after these" (translation).
Luke's account of this subject is more detailed than Matthew's. It is recorded in Luke 3:7-18. Both Matthew and Luke make reference to the fan in Christ's hand (Matt. 3:12; Luke 3:17). Four references are made to judgment by both writers: (1) The ax, which destroys, is a means of judgment. (2) The shovel is an element of judgment because as the winnowing shovel does its work, the chaff is blown away by the wind. (3) Fire, which indicates destruction, is a means of judgment. Matthew calls it unquenchable fire in Matthew 3:12. (4) Wrath is also a means of judgment. Both Matthew and Luke use the word fire three times (Matt. 3:10,11,12; Luke 3:9,16,17). It is clear that fire has reference to judgment. The first reference to fire is connected with judging the unfruitful trees; the second, with the blessing of judging by believers in the future; and the third, with final judgment at the great white throne.
Baptism in the Spirit and fire cannot be regeneration—the new birth. Some believe that baptism in the Spirit is one thing and fire cleanses like the Holy Spirit. But that would be redundant. It would be equivalent to saying baptized in the Holy Spirit and baptized in the Holy Spirit. The baptism of those at Pentecost was an added blessing to already regenerated persons. The Lord Jesus had breathed on the apostles. He said to them, "Peace to you: as my Father has sent me, I also am sending you. And saying this, He breathed on them, saying, Receive at once the Holy Spirit" (John 20:21,22—translation). His breathing on them was a foretaste of Pentecost, which was a foretaste of the kingdom. Every child of God has the guarantee of what Christ promised to partially take place in the near future (Eph. 1:13) and completely take place in the remote future (Acts 2:17). Baptism in the Holy Spirit was designated for the uniting of Jews and non-Jews into the assembly that Jesus Christ has already established and of which the apostles were the foundation. Hence, the infant assembly was empowered at Pentecost for the proclamation of the gospel.
At the beginning of the history of the assembly, the early disciples had extraordinary as well as ordinary power. As a result, they had extraordinary and ordinary gifts. The extraordinary power and gifts continued until the completion of the word of God. Some argue that since Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, this extraordinary power and gifts continue. Jesus Christ is eternally the same because He is God, and God does not change. However, He does change
His methods. His present method is through ordinary officers with ordinary God-given gifts.
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