Not surprising, I had to go look up what a winnowing fork was. I came across this website that was very helpful: http://www.bible-history.com/links.php?cat=39&sub=777
The way it is explained is that the winnowing fork (or fan) was used to throw up the straw into the evening breeze. The grain would fall first and the wind would blow the straw off to the side and the chaff would be blown farther still.
This was done traditionally in the evening when there was a breeze.
So with this new background info I can really put this verse into perspective.
“He” is referring to our Savior and Judge, Jesus Christ. This verse says that the winnowing fork is “in His hand”. So Jesus Christ is wielding the power here to separate the people.
When He begins the “winnowing process”, the “threshing floor” would have been covered with opened sheaves (or bundles) of wheat stalks. Then, the winnowing would begin, which consisted of throwing up the broken up stalks into the breeze to separate the grain from the stalks and chaff. This would be done traditionally in the evening.
So when Jesus starts the winnowing process, the people of the earth are all mixed together, those who believe and are saved and those who do not.
So, when it says that “He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor”, it means that Jesus has a lot of work ahead of Him. Totally labor intensive in order to gain every last bit of grain and separate out every last bit of stalk and chaff. Totally impossible to do by human standards! These threshing floors were made of either packed, smooth dirt, cobble stones, or tightly fitted wood, any of which would be prone to hide tiny kernels of grain or bits of chaff and straw. To “thoroughly clear His threshing floor” is to sweep it completely clean.
There are billions of people on earth today and that number is just growing. For Jesus to sort through everyone, well that is a huge job.
“And He will gather His wheat into the barn”. Once the grain (the edible stuff) is separated from the chaff (non-edible stuff), the wheat is stored safely in a barn so it won’t be harmed by the elements. It is protected and safe.
For believers to be gathered in a place together. Non-believers will not be included in the barn. Depending on your own beliefs this could be referencing what some call the Rapture. Or, it could be referencing Judgment Day, the separating of the sheep from the goats.
“But He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire”.
The chaff is non-believers, those who have had their entire lives to choose Him and have not.
Jesus doesn’t “send” anyone to Hell. People wind up in Hell as a result of their own choices or as a result of refusing to make a choice, which is a choice as well.
Many unbelievers like to think of believers as judgmental or people with a superiority complex or what not. And maybe some believers are flawed in that way. But MOST believers have loved ones who are also “not saved” and let me tell all unbelievers out there who may read this post…
We don’t think we’re better than you.
We don’t judge you because we were all unbelievers at one time.
We are not perfect just because we are saved now, we still struggle with sin, the same as you do.
When we talk about Hell, it breaks our own hearts because we ALL know people who are not saved, many of whom may be our own flesh and blood, our own children, or those who have already died.
I do not judge you. It took me 40 years to come to Christ. You have until your last breath on earth to choose Him.
And I pray you do.
As I pray for my own children.
God Loves You.