|my watercolor of a Torah scroll|
John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, His purpose was to tell the people, "Repent; the kingdom of God is at hand." The word, "repent", means turn back to Torah; turn back to God. John was preaching the need to turn back to God's mandates on how we should live. People who don't know Christ need to be prepared to meet Him just as John prepared the people in his days. We can prepare people's hearts by explaining the need for forgiveness of sins. This is exactly what the Torah does... It tells us what is and is not acceptable behavior in God's eyes.
John the Baptist told the people that the Messiah would soon appear and that He would baptize not with water, but with the Holy Spirit and fire. Baptism with the Holy Spirit (fire) would be fulfilled at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit would come upon believers, empowering them to proclaim Jesus' life and resurrection in many languages
Baptism by fire also symbolizes the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing God's judgement upon those who refuse to repent. In the following verse (John 3:17), John warned of the coming judgement, by speaking of the difference between the wheat and the chaff: "... but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire". I remember hearing a man speak once about exactly what chaff is. Chaff is the outer husk which comes off the grain when it's harvested.Chaff is useless; in fact, once it has been separated from the grain, it's worse than useless - it's a nuisance. It is sticky and irritating and very difficult to get rid of. This reminds me of those little styrofoam "peanuts" sometimes used in packaging. One time a bunch of them got spilled in my yard. Ugh. They once served a good purpose, but then they were useless and annoying. I do not want to be like the chaff.
Baptism by the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) occurred fifty days after the death of Jesus. The Apostles were together in Jerusalem, as were large crowds of people, as it was the time of an annual feast and celebration of harvest. "... a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filed all the house where they were sitting... And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues." (Acts 2:2 NIV)
Pentecost had been prophesied by the prophet Joel: "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions." (Joel 2:28 KJV) When this occurred there in Jerusalem, the Apostles found that they could be understood by all the foreigners in their midst, "each of them hearing them speak in his own language." (Acts 2:6 NIV) Peter explained this occurrence to the crowd by referring to Joels' prophesy, which they would have all been familiar with.
Imagine how amazing that experience must have been! Pentecost - the pouring out of the Holy Spirit.
Are you open to the Holy Spirit? He speaks YOUR language.