The ax ·is now ready to cut down [L already lies at the root of] the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire [C a metaphor for judgment against those who disobey God].”
So John used to say to the crowds who came out to be baptised by him, “Who warned you, you serpent’s brood, to escape from the wrath to come? See that you do something to show that your hearts are really changed! Don’t start thinking that you can say to yourselves, ‘We are Abraham’s children’, for I tell you that God could produce children of Abraham out of these stones! The axe already lies at the root of the tree, and the tree that fails to produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
When crowds of people came out for baptism because it was the popular thing to do, John exploded: “Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to deflect God’s judgment? It’s your life that must change, not your skin. And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as ‘father.’ Being a child of Abraham is neither here nor there—children of Abraham are a dime a dozen. God can make children from stones if he wants. What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.”
And now an ax is set [is put] to the root of the tree; and therefore every tree that maketh not good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire [shall be cut down, and sent into the fire].
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