the Baptist made a most interesting statement characterizing the
Jewish Messiah Whom he announced. He said, “… I indeed baptize
you with water; but one mightier than I cometh,the latchet of whose
shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy
Ghost and with fire:” Luke 3:16, Matt. 3:11.
Most all agree that the baptism of the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit, occurred on the day called Pentecost as recorded in Acts Chapter Two. But what about the baptism of fire that John prophesied Jesus would administer? There are two common misunderstandings of this prophecy and its fulfillment. One is that the conjunction “Kai” in the Koine Greek text should be translated “Even.” The other is that this was accomplished by the cloven tongues of fire that sat upon the disciples on that historic and monumental occasion. Let it be said that if the conjunction should have been translated “even” instead of “and” surely one of the many translations of the Bible would employ it that way. None do! Additionally, the cloven tongues that sat upon the disciples on Pentecost do not represent a baptism which is in Greek “baptizo” to plunge or immerse. So both the ideas are rejected as simple misunderstandings of what John the Baptist was actually saying.
Closer examination of what John said, and in correlation with other scriptures indicate a baptism of judgment. Dr. A. T. Robertson in his work WORD PICTURES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT sees and expresses this view as well. The completed work of Christ Jesus, including both His cross work and His Holy Word establishes the criteria by which men shall meet Him in judgment. For this reason the church of His establishment is empowered with both knowledge and dynamic ability to grow up in Him, and to exercise His holy will in each generation. Such as are submissive to Him are undergoing, here and now, that baptism spoken of as fire, a consistent type of judgment. Consequently, the apostle Peter plainly expresses this truth in I Peter 4:17, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”
The judgment through which modern day, submissive disciples pass is that of being shaped by His Word (transformed rather than conformed to the world). Sometimes this is indeed quite fiery, but it allows the person so exercised to correct views, lifestyle, and beliefs to be in accord with God’s Word. His judgment then producing in that person highly rewardable works at His coming. Thus does the extended water baptism of John through a New Testament Church afford one the extended baptism of fire that refines him for God’s service both now, and in the millennial reign to come.