In those days John the Baptist began preaching in the Judean wilderness. His message was,
"Turn from your sins and turn to God, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near. a "
Isaiah had spoken of John when he said, "He is a voice shouting in the wilderness: 'Prepare a pathway for the Lord's coming! Make a straight road for him!'" b4
John's clothes were woven from camel hair, and he wore a leather belt; his food was locusts and wild honey.
People from Jerusalem and from every section of Judea and from all over the Jordan Valley went out to the wilderness to hear him preach.
And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized, he denounced them. "You brood of snakes!" he exclaimed. "Who warned you to flee God's coming judgment?
Prove by the way you live that you have really turned from your sins and turned to God.
Don't just say, 'We're safe -- we're the descendants of Abraham.' That proves nothing. God can change these stones here into children of Abraham.
Even now the ax of God's judgment is poised, ready to sever your roots. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.
"I baptize with c water those who turn from their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is far greater than I am -- so much greater that I am not even worthy to be his slave. d He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. e12
He is ready to separate the chaff from the grain with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, storing the grain in his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire."
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)