Jesus spoke of the need to be ready for the judgment when He comes (Lk. 12:43-48). In that context, Jesus said, “I came to send fire on the earth” (Lk. 12:49). In the Scriptures, fire often refers to the judgment of God. Early in the book of Luke, John the Baptist had introduced Jesus as the one who would come and baptize with fire (3:16). This baptism in fire is not a blessing, for Luke 3:17 explains, “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” John’s message was repentance based on impending judgment, as he said, “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Lk. 3:9).
Jesus is a very polarizing person. In Luke 12, He went on to say:
“Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (vv. 51-53.)
Just as the final judgment will separate the righteous from the wicked, division also occurs now in this life based on one’s response to Jesus. People in the same house often have very different responses to Jesus. Division occurs over whether to follow Him. My response to Jesus is critical to being in His kingdom now (the church) and in the future (heaven). Fire can also have a purifying influence, purging the precious metal from the dross (1 Cor. 3:13; 1 Pet. 1:7). Those who look for Jesus to come, purify themselves from the pollutions of the world; this drives a wedge between them and worldly people (1 Jn. 3:2-3; 1 Pet. 2:11; 4:1-5; 2 Pet. 2:20).
All the wickedness of the world cries out for judgment (Rev. 6:10). Without final, ultimate judgment, there is no hope for the world. However, with final judgment, is there hope for you and me? None of us can perfectly live up to the standard of God (Rom. 3:10-23); all of us deserve death (Rom. 6:23). How terrifying to stand before God in judgment with no means of pardon. “Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him” (Nah. 1:6). Yet, the statement Jesus makes in Luke 12:50—in the midst of the comments already considered in this article—gives the solution. Jesus was under great strain for He had a baptism to be baptized with; this baptism was not in water for that had already occurred (Lk. 3:21). This baptism was the suffering of the cross, drinking the cup of the wrath of God, and giving His life as a ransom (Mk. 10:38-45). Jesus delivers those who have obeyed the Gospel from the fiery wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:10; 2 Thess. 1:8-10).