John the Baptist is at the Jordan river preaching repentance and offering baptism to those in Jerusalem, Judea and the surrounding area who came to hear him (Matthew 3:5). Although some came out of a sincere desire to hear the truth, others came for selfish reasons (verse 7 - 8). His response to the self-righteous religious leaders who came to hear him was to mention a baptism of fire that will be carried out by Jesus Christ.
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but the One Who is coming after me is mightier than I, of Whom I am not fit to carry His sandals; He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire (Matthew 3:11, HBFV).
John's continues his discussion with the religious leaders by scolding and warning them of what will happen to those who refuse to repent. Using symbolic language, he warns that those who are considered "chaff" will receive a unique baptism not of water but of fire! Finishing the thought from verse 11 of Matthew 3 he states, "Whose winnowing shovel is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and will gather His wheat into the granary; but the chaff He will burn up with unquenchable fire."
Jesus will collect HIS wheat and put it into his granary, whereas the chaff will receive a baptism of fire. This begs the question of exactly who or what does the wheat and the chaff represent? We begin to find our answer in Matthew 13, where Jesus is giving a parable about a man who discovered his enemy had secretly planted weeds among his good wheat seeds. When the man's servants asked him what should be done he responded with ''Let the wheat and the weeds both grow together until harvest' (verse 30).
We do not have to guess at what all this symbolizes as Jesus himself explained it to his disciples.
38 the field is the world; the good seed is the people who belong to the Kingdom; the weeds are the people who belong to the Evil One; 39 and the enemy who sowed the weeds is the Devil . . . 40 Just as the weeds are gathered up and burned in the fire, so the same thing will happen at the end of the age: (verses 38 - 40)
We now know that the "wheat" or "good seed" are true converted Christians who will inherit God's Kingdom. The "weeds" are unrepentant sinners.
Some professing believers who want a baptism of or by fire believe 'the floor' of John's statement "Whose winnowing shovel is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor . . . " are individual Christians who have their sins burned away or purged. According to this belief Jesus, uses his 'fan' or 'winnowing shovel' to stoke up flames meant to purge a believer's "chaff" or "dross," their sins, out of their lives and leaving only "the wheat" or good part. This interpretation, however, is simply not correct.
Notice that the "fan" in the hand of Jesus is used to remove CHAFF from his floor. The wheat that remains he gathers up for his granary. What John preached in Matthew 3 and the parable Jesus gave in Matthew 13 OVERLAP regarding how God will ultimately judge humans.
The "wheat" of both Matthew 3:12 and Jesus' parable in Matthew 13 represent true Christians. The "chaff" or "weeds" are the wicked who, for a time, are allowed to exist alongside the righteous. When the moment of God's judgment comes, he will separate the "wheat" from the "chaff" or "weeds." The "wheat' or righteous will be allowed entrance into the Kingdom. What will happen to the "chaff?" They do receive a baptism of fire, but it is one that will BURN THEM UP or destroy them forever, the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14, Malachi 4:1)! It is a baptism you do not wish to receive!