What is the “baptism of fire” that John the Baptist spoke about? Is this something believer’s must experience?
John the Baptist
John the Baptist’s ministry was to take place just before Jesus began His earthly ministry. John was the voice crying out in the wilderness to prepare the way for the Lord, Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Matthew records that “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said; The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight’” (Matt 3:1-3). This comes from Isaiah the Prophet’s prophecy that said, “A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets, and his ministry was a bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. John the Baptist’s coming was also prophesied by the Prophet Malachi who wrote, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes” (Mal 4:5), and of course, it was Jesus Who was the One John was preparing the way for. When asked if John was the Messiah, John was clear in saying, “I am not the Christ” (John 1:20). Rather, John the Baptist was sent to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. In speaking of Jesus, John knew that “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), and that’s just what happened. Many who followed John the Baptist began to follow Jesus, and the ending of John’s ministry marks the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. We know that because it says, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). That means Jesus did not begin His ministry until John had completed his, because it was only after his imprisonment when Jesus said “The time is fulfilled.”
John the Baptist told the crowds that they must repent of their sins and be baptized, and said, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11). We can understand what being baptized with water means, but baptized with fire? The baptism of fire John the Baptist spoke about, and many Christians may not understand is, it is an expression of God’s judgment. who ask, “Have you been baptized in the Spirit and in the fire,” so what do they mean by saying we need to have the baptism of fire? There are some that believe the baptism of fire speaks about the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit does work in us to convict us of sin, purify us, consecrate us, and strengthen us. We all had our individual “Day of Pentecost” where the Holy Spirit came upon us, but John’s speaking about a baptism of fire is really a serious warning to the religious leaders. He was using that term to refer to what will happen to those who refuse to repent and believe, and so by the use of symbolic language, John warns them that they’re considered “chaff” unless they repent, and they’ll receive a baptism, but not of water, but of fire! Finishing the thought from verse 11 of Matthew 3 he states, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 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” (Matt 3:11-12), so the baptism of fire is not about something a believer experiences. Rather, it is the judgment of God on all who disbelieve. This fire comes upon all who refuse to repent and believe, so it isn’t something anybody would want. John the Baptist and Jesus both spoke of the necessity of repentance. In fact, the very introduction of the gospel and the definition of the gospel is given by Jesus as He says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
What it’s Not
We have read what the baptism of fire is, and it’s not a good thing to be involved in. It refers to the coming judgment of fire and the chaff being burned up, so when someone asks me if I’ve been baptized by fire, I say, “I pray no one is and that they repent.” The person asking me that doesn’t realize that this is something we don’t want and wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy. Others claim the baptism of fire came on the Day of Pentecost, but this was not an actual fire and there was no need for a winnowing fork. The fire on the Day of Pentecost was that of cloven tongues of fire and not real fire. Luke writes in the Book of Acts that “there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each” (Acts 2:3). This miracle was a one-time event for that very special Day of Pentecost. It referred to the languages that they miraculously spoke. It has nothing to do with a baptism or a baptism of fire. If you read the context of the chapters where the baptism of fire is mentioned, John is always referring to the judgment of God and not the Holy Spirit. The baptism John spoke about is not of water because he was already baptizing in water, so John wasn’t speaking about water but about fire, and believe me, no one wants to be baptized with fire. That sounds very much like a reference to the fires of hell and not water baptism or the Holy Spirit.
Whether we have a perfect understand of this subject or not, we must realize that Jesus tells us we must repent and believe or face a real fire and it’s worse than we can even imagine. If you have trusted in Christ, you should be baptized in water. Not in order to be saved but because you are saved. There is no reason to seek the baptism of fire. I would say we should do all we can do avoid it and ask others to put their trust in Christ, or they will face a real baptism of fire…and there is not enough water in the universe to quench this fire…because it comes from the judgment of God and this is the fire that is never quenched (Mark 9:48)…by water or by anything.
Here is some related reading for you: What is the Baptism of the Holy Spirit? 
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.