My dear friends,
Great expectations have always been a part of human history (Charles Dickens). Each of us can relate to looking forward to or anticipating something. In Luke’s Gospel the people were expecting a messiah and wondering if John the Baptist was he. He dampens their anticipations when he points out that he is not the Messiah. I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Here John points away from himself and points to Jesus whose ministry will become the ministry that leads to salvation.
He speaks of not only reconciliation with God but also of judgment. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat in his granary but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. We must understand that the wheat which will be gathered into the granary are those who have fled from the wrath to come and are bearing fruit of repentance. They will be those who have been baptized and are now living self-controlled, upright and Godly lives. Those who continue in the lifestyles of impiety and worldly passions will be burned up with the unquenchable fire if they do not turn from their sinful ways.
The good news of salvation is that if we live for the Lord, if we are righteous in our dealings, if our lives have been amended and reconciled to Christ then we need not fear the judgment of the unquenchable fire.
Fr. Christopher Roberts