In John 15:1-8, Jesus told the eleven that his followers are like branches on a vine. He is the authentic vine and his followers are the branches. But as you read through that section of Scripture, you begin to wonder who the fruitless branches are. Who are they and what exactly happens to them?
The greatest problem of interpretation has to do with the fruitless branches. Three views are worthy of mention. (1) These branches represent true Christians who finally perish. This Arminian explanation runs counter to the consistent Biblical teaching that "eternal" life is unending, and that Christ and the Father keep believers secure (10:28-29). (2) The fruitless branches are true Christians who are "taken up" to heaven by physical death as a discipline. The burning represents the burning of their unfruitful works at the judgment seat of Christ (1 Cor. 3:12-15). However, the figure clearly depicts a removal from the vine, whereas physical death does not sever a true believer's connection with Christ. ... (3) The fruitless branches represent the mere professed believer who is finally severed from his superficial connection with Christ. This had actually happened earlier in the evening with the removal of Judas from the group. The difficulty posed by the phrase "in me" (15:2) is caused by interpreting it in the same sense as the phrase "in Christ" used by Paul especially in the Prison Epistles. However, when Jesus spoke these words, the phrase would probably have been understood in a sense similar to the expression "in the kingdom," and that concept included both false and true believers (Matt. 13:41, 47-50). The phrase should be understood here as meaning "united to me by profession only." The last view has been adopted in this study.
Homer A. Kent, Light in the Darkness, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986), 181-82.