He said, "even now." Do we hear the "even now" to extend to our time? Is it still now?
During the season of Advent, we are contemplating the second coming; yet, the first coming gets most of the attention. What do we do with this ax and winnowing fork talk? What kind of trees are we? What is our fruit? Are we more wheat or chaff? Should we just hope that John is talking about pruning a few limbs but leaving the main tree standing, separating our bad parts from our good and tossing out the bad?
Here's what Fred Craddock has to say in Preaching through the Christian Year A:
Whereas Mark speaks only of a promised baptism with the Holy Spirit (1:8), Matthew has the stronger image of judgment in the phrase "with the Holy Spirit and fire" .... John's preaching makes it abundantly clear that one aspect of the Lord's Advent is the full revelation of the kind of persons we are and of the consequences of character and conduct that await us.