Matthew 3:12 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 3:12, NIV: His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.'

Matthew 3:12, ESV: His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Matthew 3:12, KJV: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Matthew 3:12, NASB: His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.'

Matthew 3:12, NLT: He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.'

Matthew 3:12, CSB: His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn. But the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out."

What does Matthew 3:12 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

John the Baptist, like the prophets of Israel's history, called the people to repent of sin and live in faithfulness to God. Unlike those others, his message was that the Messiah, who would bring the kingdom of heaven to earth, was near. The Messiah would baptize those who followed Him with the Holy Spirit and fire, but He would also bring judgment on those who did not follow Him (Matthew 3:1–2, 11).

John here declares that the one to come after him, the Messiah, will come with His winnowing fork in His hand. A winnowing fork was used to toss freshly harvested wheat into the air, where the useless chaff could be blown clear by the wind. The heavier wheat would fall back to the ground and be gathered up. In John's metaphor, the wheat represents those who repent and follow the Christ, while the chaff symbolizes those who reject Him. John declares the unbelievers will burn with unquenchable fire, referring to the eternal judgment of God's wrath mentioned by the Old Testament prophets (Isaiah 34:10; Jeremiah 7:20), as well as by Jesus (Matthew 5:29).