As John is baptizing, we get this little bit:
7 ¶But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: (Matthew 3:7-8)
The question John puts to the Pharisees and Sadducees—“who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”-- has always puzzled me. It seemed so odd. I couldn’t get a grasp on what he was trying to say. It is obvious he is trying to persuade them to repent, but what exact argument he was making seemed garbled.
Eventually I realized John was demonstrating great discernment about their spiritual state. John knew they knew they had been called to repentance. He also knew they knew they would suffer the wrath of God if they didn’t repent. He also knew they were uncertain about whether their sins were that serious and whether they really needed to be concerned about them. (Of course we know the answer to that—all sins require repentance.) He also knew they were uncertain about the source of this message.
The warning to repent was an opportunity to flee from the wrath (of God) to come (at judgment day), and John asked them to consider what source would want them to repent and escape God’s wrath. It’s an easy answer—it’s God. Satan doesn’t encourage repentance; only God does. So they needn’t hesitate to repent and worry about the source of the message.
It’s a good message today. Who tells us we’re fine how we are and we don’t need to change? That’s a message Satan would like us to swallow. Who instead warns us to repent? God.