Matthew 3:12. Whose fan is in his hand That is, the doctrine of the gospel, which is of such a nature as effectually discovers what is the real disposition of the hearts of men, and perfectly distinguishes between the hypocritical and the sincere. Perhaps, also, the Baptist might refer to the persecutions and tribulations which should attend the preaching of the gospel. Dr. Campbell renders the original expression, το πτυον , winnowing shovel, mentioned Isaiah 30:24, “an implement of husbandry, very ancient, simple, and properly manual: whereas the fan, (or van, as it is sometimes called,) is more complex, and, being contrived for raising an artificial wind, by the help of sails, can hardly be considered as proper for being carried about in the hand.” “In the eastern countries,” says Dr. Shaw, “after the grain is trodden out, they winnow it by throwing it up against the wind with a shovel. ” “To understand the Baptist’s meaning aright, we should observe, that in this verse he describes the authority of Christ’s ministry, as in Mat 3:16 he had described its efficacy. As if he had said, The Messiah is infinitely mightier than I, not only as he will bestow on you the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, but as he has power to reward those who obey him with eternal life, and to punish such with everlasting destruction, as reject him.” Macknight. He will thoroughly purge his floor His Church, at present covered with a mixture of wheat and chaff. As if he had said, Though, for the present, the good and bad, the fruitful and unfruitful, are joined together in the visible Church, yet in due time he will sever them, Malachi 3:2-3; and rid his Church of all hypocrites and ungodly persons. And gather his wheat The, truly pious, into his garner Will lay them up in heaven as his peculiar treasure. But the chaff Those who have only a show of religion, without the power, and produce not the fruits of righteousness, he will burn with unquenchable fire He will treat them as men do the refuse of the floor. He will destroy them as worthless and unprofitable trash. There is, in these words, an evident allusion to the custom of burning the chaff after winnowing, that it might not, by the wind’s changing, be blown back again, and so be mingled with the wheat. And though this may in part refer to the calamities to come upon the Jewish nation for rejecting Christ, yet, it seems chiefly to intend the final destruction of all sinners in hell, which alone is properly opposed to the gathering the wheat into the garner. See Matthew 13:40-42. And certainly this burning of the chaff with unquenchable fire, is absolutely inconsistent with all views of the restoration of the wicked, nor can it, by any easy or just interpretation, be reconciled with their annihilation, which, it is certain, no punishment of mind or body can, of itself, effect.
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