What does “the axe is already at the root of the tree” mean?

These words in Matt 3.10 were spoken by John the Baptist as he was preaching along the Jordan River preparing for the coming of the Messiah. They were to get ready spiritually and repent from all of the false teachings that they were hearing from the religious leaders. The prevailing thought was that God wasn’t going to judge them because they were his children and the Temple was there, so they were safe. “God would never destroy us or his Temple” they thought. Now, not everyone believed this but John was speaking to a mixed crowd but some thought that because they were Jewish and they God’s children (3.9). Many knew the prophecies of Daniel and knew that Rome was the fourth kingdom predicted. They knew about Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece had come and gone and now it was Rome. They also knew Messiah was coming and the people were in a state of expectation (Luke 3.15). As a result, he would do away with Rome and establish Israel as the head of the nations. This is true and the heart of what the Basar (Gospel) was, but they didn’t know that this was not why Yeshua came the first time and that it was going to be another 2000 years before that was going to be realized. Rome had already conquered Israel and was already in the land administering Roman rule. So, John was telling the people to get ready because judgment was coming and the “axe” (the Romans as the instrument God) was already at the root of the “trees” (people of Israel). In other words, the Lord has already moved in his tool of judgment if the people did not repent and they were going to be cut down. Matt 15.13 says that every plant that was not planted by the Lord was going to be cut down and that is exactly what happened in the Jewish revolt of 66-73 AD and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple.

Posted in Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, Questions, Understanding the New Testament

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