“His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean 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)
Here John the Baptist proclaimed that an important part of the Messiah’s ministry when He came would be to “winnow” people, and “clean His threshing floor.” “Winnowing” is the process of sifting the wheat from the chaff with the “winnowing fork” John mentioned. One would toss the wheat into the air, allowing the heavier wheat to fall to the floor and be gathered up, but little pieces of unwanted chaff would be blown aside, gathered and burnt.
This is, of course, just a picture of what Jesus came to do with the souls of people. He came to “sift” us; to “sort” us — and some kind of sifting is necessary, for there are many who SAY that they love God, and who would indicate that they want to be with Him. But Jesus came to sift those whose hearts are really with Him, from those who merely claim allegiance to Him, but whose hearts are not really with Him.
He does this first of all by His exclusive claim to salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) Those who reject His claim have winnowed themselves. They do not belong to Him.
The Lord winnows in other ways as well. Even among those who claim to follow Him, there is a “winnowing” of sorts which takes place: who will really obey His word, vs. those who are only giving Him only lip service like He spoke of in Matthew 7:21. In a very real sense, OBEDIENCE “winnows” those who claim Him as Lord: will we really obey His word, or not? Many of us should see episodes of our lives as a test, and realize that we are being “winnowed” as to whether we will obey God’s word or not.
If Jesus is cleaning His threshing floor of those who will not really obey Him, then what will happen to YOU? Are you “wheat” that will be gathered into His barn, or are you “chaff”, that will be burned up with unquenchable fire? There is no more important question.