THE SIGNAL OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
ESCHATOLOGY.COM

PREPARE YE THE WAY OF THE LORD

The eschatological importance of John the Baptist is often overlooked among evangelicals concerning the Day of the Lord. There is a wealth of Scripture that gives great insight to the relationship between John and the manifestation of Jesus Christ. In studying the life of John, it becomes certain that he was, in fact, a forerunner preparing the way for the King of kings, Jesus Christ. Among Christians, there is virtually universal agreement that the O.T. passages of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 are referring to John the Baptist. Here are the passages outside of their context:

Isaiah 40:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Malachi 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.
As the Gospels unfold, it is explicit that these verses are at least referring to John the Baptist. Consider the confirmation of Matthew of the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3: Matthew 3:1-3 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. The use of the almost identical phrases assures us that John the Baptist is the one to whom Isaiah refers. The Lord Jesus is obviously the One whose "way" is being prepared by John. John was what the Bible would describe as a "forerunner." Hence, "He shall prepare the way before Me." The magnificent testimony of the Deity of Jesus Christ is seen as we compare the two verses. Isaiah 40:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Matthew 3:3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, (Jesus) make his paths straight.

Even the passage in Malachi makes clear that the LORD (YAWEH) is speaking: Malachi 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before ME: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. We should be mindful of these confirmations of the Deity of Christ. Those who are Christians undoubtedly affirm that when Jesus walked the earth, He was just as much the almighty God as He was before and is now. A question that needs to be seriously considered is, where in O.T. Scripture do any prophecies occur that proclaim that God would visit His people two times, the second being far removed from the first? The fact is that there are none. Moreover, a forerunner is historically known for preparing the way for a king. Was John the Baptist early in his forerunning? John was forerunning for the King of kings, which is exactly why he said of Jesus, "It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose" John 1:27. John understood that this Jesus was in fact the King who was scheduled to come. Jesus was the fulfillment of God who would set His tabernacle among men and whose kingdom would never end (Isaiah 9:6,7; Ezekiel 37:27; Zechariah 9:9).

Jesus in Matthew 11 gives His own testimony that John is indeed the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1:

Matthew 11:7-10 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The passage makes certain that what Jesus was going to declare was "concerning John." He exclaims with preciseness that John was the "messenger"of whom Malachi spoke: "This is he of whom it is written, ĎBehold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.í " When compared side by side, it is evident that Jesus is specifically referring to Malachi: Malachi 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me.

Matthew 11:10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

Without a doubt, the Deity of Christ, and the person of John the Baptist is confirmed in the two passages.

THE TESTIMONY OF JOHN

We have seen the passages outside of their context. When they are seen within their context, the nearness of the kingdom of God in relation to the appearance of John the Baptist becomes eminently manifest. Here is the Johannian context and commission in the prophecy of Isaiah:

Isaiah 40:1-8 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. 6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. First, we see a promise of the time of comfort for the people of God. "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins." In order to maintain contextual integrity the events prophesied must be associated with the appearance of John the Baptist. John did, indeed, speak comfortably to Jerusalem in crying that her warfare would be accomplished. This is seen in the Gospel of John: John 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. The immensity of this statement as it pertains to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, can only be seen when observing the O.T. passages that speak of a coming "cleansing" or a taking away of the sins of the people of God (Isaiah 1:25; 25:8; 27:9; Jeremiah 33:8; Ezekiel 36:25,26,33; 37:23; Joel 3:21). In Johnís declaration of the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world, the true Jews would certainly be comforted knowing that their warfare was enmity against God (Romans 8:7; Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:15,16). The Jews understood far better the implication of Johnís statement than those who would be completely unaware of the promises of a Messianic "cleansing." They knew and understood that their sins needed to be cleansed.

Also, part of the comforting message that John brought to the Jews was the knowledge that the kingdom of God was approaching, which is synonymous with the taking away of their sins.

Matthew 3:1-2 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" The time of John the Baptist would be the time when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain." It would be destructive to the text of Isaiah 40 to interject a two thousand year gap between vv.3&4 and vv.5&6. Vs. 6 plainly continues the commission of John the Baptist. The "voice" or commission of God was for John to "cry." John responds, "What shall I cry?" In the following command of God we see the two-fold purpose of Johnís ministry. He was not only to comfort the true people of God, but he was also to warn those in rebellion against God. Thus the command, "Cry, ĎAll flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.í " The fulfillment of this aspect of Johnís ministry is clearly seen in his warning to the unrepentant Jews of his day: Matthew 3:7-12 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: 9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. John proclaimed that "all flesh is grass and the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field." John compelled the Jews to cease their vain thoughts that somehow being the descendants of Abraham granted them status as the children of God (vs.9). They obviously assumed that their association with Abraham by nationality would assure them of the everlasting kingdom, which is precisely what the phrase, "all flesh is grass" implies. Jesus continued this same theme as he made evident that nationality and works of the flesh had nothing to do with everlasting life: John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. Peter, the minister to the circumcision (Galatians 2:7,8), reiterated the same admonishment in his first epistle: 1 Peter 1:23-25 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. 24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. Peter also makes the contrast between the flesh and the spirit, i.e.; nothing physical or fleshly could ever be eternal. Paul made this aspect of New Covenant life apparent in his second epistle to the Corinthians and his epistle to the Romans: 2 Corinthians 4:18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal (the grass withers, the flower fades) but the things which are not seen are eternal (the word of God shall stand forever. Hence- "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life").

Romans 8:3-8 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

John the Baptist understood his significance as he fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah in crying "all flesh is grass", or, in his words, "And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees:... therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

Nationalist Jews were placing their trust in what God said would wither and fade away: i.e., the flesh and "ministration of death." The works of the flesh earn death, but the work of the Spirit earns life (John 6:63). This is what John the Baptist had in mind when he told the fleshly Jews. "God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." John was proclaiming that the power of God, alone, apart from the works of the flesh (Galatians 2:16), was able to raise to everlasting life (John 5:21). The beginning of the demise of the Jewish system is implied in Johnís words. "And *now* also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees." This merely symbolized the temporal nature of national Israel and those that attempted to be justified by the works of the law. Their religion and system of attempted righteousness by the flesh was on its way to being destroyed forever (2 Corinthians 3:11; Hebrews 8:13; 12:27,28).

In reconsidering the timing of the events in Isaiah 40:1-8, it should be evident that dividing the passage in the middle is a serious mistake. We must, therefore, understand vv.3,4 to be within the same time frame, i.e., Jesus Christís "day" (John 8:56):

Isaiah 40:3-5 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. The context supports the conclusion that the events of every valley being exalted, every mountain and hill being made low, the crooked made straight, the rough places plain, the revelation of the glory of the LORD, and that all flesh would see that glory, would take place during the epoch of John the Baptist. It is intriguing to note that John also associated with the appearance of Messiah, all flesh seeing the glory of the Lord. John, however, worded this a little differently than Isaiah: Luke 3:3-6 And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. John obviously understood the two terms, salvation and glory, as meaning the same. The quandary that the futurist has is identifying which part of Johnís proclamation was to take place following his ministry. Inevitably, the futurist would be forced to rupture the context and consequently apply a hermeneutic that disregards a manifest eschatological fulfillment.

John the Baptist is indisputably the "voice" of Isaiah 40:1-8. Here, we will not take the time to explore the rest of the prophetic context of Isaiah 40, which is undeniably in tandem with vv.1-8. However, the context will be examined in the chapters on Abrahamic Covenantal fulfillment.

THE MESSENGER

The context from which Matthew 11:10 is taken is equally revealing when considering the timeframe of John the Baptist and the "day of Christ." Once again, here is the passage in Matthew:

Matthew 11:10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The context is from Malachi 3: Malachi 3:1-5 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. 2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: 3 And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. 4 Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years. 5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false sweaters, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. The reference to John the Baptist is unmistakable. We have seen that John was the one who prepared the way of the LORD. In the present context, however, a fascinating clause is placed immediately after the preparation of the way for the LORD. "and" or "along with the appearance of John the Baptist, the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple." (As we will see later, the phrase, "in that day" is a distinct timeframe reference that is frequently used in O.T. prophecy to refer to the day of Godís kingdom and judgment.) The word suddenly or immediately is of great significance as is proved by our Lord Himself (Matthew 24:2). This visitation of the Lord to His Temple is not merely a reference to His incarnation but more specifically, His coming in judgment as is evident in the following verse, "But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when He appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap." If this visitation was only a reference to His incarnation why was such intense language used: i.e., "Who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appeareth?" There are several passages that will be studied later that, nevertheless, need to be displayed in comparison to this phrase "when He appeareth": Psalms 102:16 When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory.

Matthew 24:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Colossians 3:4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

Hebrews 9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

1 Peter 5:4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

1 John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.
1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

The significance of His appearing is crucial especially when contemplating the appearance of John the Baptist, the messenger who would prepare the way of the LORD.

The expressions of "a refinerís fire" and "fullersí soap" are to be inferred as distinctly judgmental in nature, likewise, the phrases, "And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver." John the Baptist alluded to this reference as the Pharisees approached his baptism of repentance:

Matthew 3:7-8 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: The Pharisees were approaching Johnís baptism with hypocrisy and guile, not with true repentance. John was, therefore, admonishing them to prove their repentant hearts by bringing forth fruit in their lives that demonstrated a true humility and sorrow before the living God who was going to bring judgment on their generation through the Roman armies. The Pharisees conducted themselves exactly as was prophesied in Malachi 3:5. This is evident by the frequent references by the Lord Jesus Himself and the N.T. writers: Notice the comparison between Malachi and the N.T. fulfillments and admonishments:

Malachi

Malachi 3:5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. N.T. Matthew 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Perhaps James is the most concise and clear in his warning against the evil deeds of Jewish apostates. James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

James 5:1-9 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. 3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. 4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. 5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. 6 Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. 7 Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. 9 Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.

James understood the significance of John the Baptist and the presence of such radical evil among the "religious." He also understood that Malachiís "messenger", John the Baptist, had come and prepared the way for the Lord; therefore, James, who understood Malachi probably better than most modern scholars, could say with unparalleled certainty that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh", and "the judge standeth at the door."

Notice again, in Malachi, the distinct promise of God to judge the apostate Jewish nation:

Malachi 3:5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness...etc. It is impossible to separate the messenger preparing the way of the Lord from the event of judgment that would "suddenly" or immediately transpire after Johnís appearance.

WILL THE REAL ELIJAH PLEASE STAND UP?!

The final O.T. passage that irrefutably supports the inseparable and imminent relation between John the Baptist and the Day of the Lord is also found in Malachi:

Malachi 4:1-6 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. 3 And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts. 4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. It should be observed that there are references in Scripture that clearly refer to different days of the Lord. For example, Isaiah predicts the impending judgment upon Babylon (Isaiah 13:1) with these words: Isaiah 13:6 Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. This day was at hand, and the Medes and the Persians (vs.17) took Babylon. However, in the N.T. writings, the apostles only speak of one day that was approaching (Hebrews 10:25), and that was the Day of the Lord in which He would destroy the Nation of Israel and deliver the kingdom to the Jerusalem from above (Galatians 4:25,26) which would render fruit in its season (Matthew 21:33-45).

Malachi gives a key to the signal that would warn the people of God that judgment would soon come:

Malachi 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: There are actually some that have conjured the imagination that "Elijah the prophet" has yet to come. This, however, is not compatible with the context. Nothing could be more plain than the intention of Malachi. The forcefulness of the language is unequivocally designed to promote awareness to those who would be present at the appearance of "Elijah the prophet." The identity of Elijah must therefore be established. Any reader, plainly interpreting the verse, would conclude that once "Elijah the prophet" came, they could be sure that "the great and dreadful day of the Lord" would be imminent. Jesus made it very clear that John the Baptist was "Elijah the prophet." Matthew 11:14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. There is a definite relationship between the appearance of John the Baptist and the Day of the Lord. It is to be assumed that Malachiís audience would be very inquisitive as to the time and thought during Johnís day, especially knowing that it was prophesied that the Day of the Lord would happen after Johnís appearance. The objector would raise the argument, "Malachi said John the Baptist would come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord, but he did not say how long before that day." Simply considering the clarity of language used and the amount of time that has transpired since John the Baptist, it would be absurd to say that Jesus either had to resort to plan B, or that He wanted to intentionally mislead not only the readers of Malachi, but also His people that were alive at the time of John the Baptist. We must be concerned with the thinking and understanding of Malachiís audience and what the Almighty God wanted them and John the Baptistís contemporaries to understand. The disciples of Jesus inquired of Him regarding John. His answer was so convincing that even the disciples understood to whom the scribes and O.T. Scriptures were referring when they spoke of Elijah: Matthew 17:10-13 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? 11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. 12 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. 13 Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist. The restoration mentioned here refers to John restoring the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers

Another argument against John the Baptist being Elijah (or "Elias which was for to come") is the claim that Johnís generation did not "receive it", consequently, Elijah did not come. This argument destroys the intention of Jesus to convey that just as He came to save only His people or His elect from their sins (Matthew 1:21), likewise, John the Baptist was Elijah only for those people he was making ready for the Lord. There may seem to be a contradiction between the testimony of Jesus and John the Baptist concerning Johnís identity as Elijah when examining Johnís testimony beside the testimony of Jesus:

Matthew 11:14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.

John 1:19-21 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. 21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

It is foolish to assume that either Jesus or John was mistaken or lying. The explanation lies in the analysis of the audience to whom John was addressing. John was not Elijah for the unrepentant Jews who would not believe. In other words, what John was saying to the apostate Jews in response to their question of whether he was Elijah was, "No, as far as you are concerned I am not Elijah, because you will not believe." Consequently, the hearts of their fathers and their children would not be turned to one another. Only the elect of God would be the recipients and fulfillment of this element of prophecy concerning John. This is confirmed in the Gospel of Luke: Luke 1:17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. The word prepared is the Greek word kataskeuasmenon, defined by Strong as "construct, create:--build, make, ordain." That is, this people that John the Baptist would make ready were already ordained and created for the Lord. This was confirmed and prophesied by the prophet in the Psalms: Psalms 102:16-18 When the LORD shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory. 17 He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer. 18 This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the LORD. The prophet Isaiah also emphasizes this: Isaiah 43:5-7 Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; 6 I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; 7 Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. Even Luke, in the book of Acts, makes certain that only a prepared or ordained elect people will turn and trust in the Lord: Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. In the first epistle of Peter, this glorious truth is maintained: 1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: The concept is clear: those to whom John would be considered Elijah were already prepared, created, and ordained to be a people for the Lord. Johnís mission was not to prepare or ordain them for the Lord; his mission was to make an already ordained people ready for the Lord, lest He should smite the earth with a curse (Malachi 4:6).

It has already been shown why John the Baptist answered negatively when inquired by the priests whether he was Elijah. The Pharisees were in unbelief and therefore, to them, John was not Elijah, but to those who believed, he was. Nevertheless, the Pharisees continued to inquire whether he was Elijah: The second time they inquired they asked a question that should cause our minds to be stirred:

John 1:24-25 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? Even the Pharisees associated the appearance of "Elijah" with the appearance of Christ. This is evident by their questioning Johnís baptism. It is very likely that the Pharisees associated a baptism with the appearance of Messiah (Isaiah 52:15). The O.T. Scriptures we have already studied have proven beyond any doubt that, for "Elijah" to appear, Christ must also appear. The Pharisees, on this point, were not mistaken. It is amazing how every believing Jew interpreted the appearing of John the Baptist and Christ as the time of fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, yet many refuse to correlate John and Jesus. They maintain a "telescopic" interpretation of O.T. prophecy. That is, they argue that the O.T. prophets saw two large mountains that appeared close together from a distance. However, as the time drew closer they (the scholars) say it becomes apparent that the mountains were actually farther apart than the prophets thought. However, where in O.T. Scripture is there even a hint that the first coming of Christ, i.e. His incarnation, ever separated from His establishment as King? For that matter, where is the separation between the appearance of John the Baptist and the Messiah? The only Scriptures that speak of John the Baptist are the ones we have already studied. They speak of the two appearances as taking place within the same timeframe. With this in mind it becomes very apparent that the Phariseesí assessment and inquiry of John the Baptist were based upon scriptural support, and, likewise, any who were present would infer the same.

One of the characteristics that would be evident in this people prepared for the Lord would be the turning of the fathers to their children and the children to their fathers. This is shown in the last verse of the prophecy of Malachi:

Malachi 4:5-6 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. John the Baptist would incontestably fulfill this, as was prophesied by the angel to Zacharias, in the Gospel of Luke: Luke 1:13-17 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Thus, we see the restoration spoken in Matthew 17:11.

NO MORE ROOTS

Malachi commences Chapter 4 with these words:

Malachi 4:1 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. We must remember that John was to appear "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD." The "day" of which Malachi prophesied in vs.5 is obviously the same "day" in vs.1. As the passage is carefully observed, it would seem that if, as has been plentifully shown, John the Baptist was Elijah the prophet, then it would follow that as he considered his own ministry and understood the judgment to be approaching, he would have made this clear to his hearers. The truth is that John did understand his ministry and significance pertaining to the coming of the Lord, and he did, in fact, preach the approaching doom of the nation of Israel. Our attention should be drawn to the specific language of Malachi regarding the uprooting of the nation and the comparison with the prophetic announcement of John. The previously cited context in Matthew comes to life as the similarities to Malachi are equated. Matthew 3:7-12 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: 9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: 12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Malachi prophesied that the judgment would leave the nation of Israel "neither root nor branch." John proclaimed that the ax was being "laid unto the root of the trees." John saw the signs and understood that he was to be the greatest of the prophets who would prepare the way of the Lord to not only bring in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 3:2), but that Godís judgment, or baptism with fire, would certainly come upon the generation of those who crucified the Lord of glory (Matthew 21:45; 23:35-38; 24:34; 26:64).

In the testimony of Jesus regarding John the Baptist, He associated judgment with the context of John also. This testimony came after John was cast into prison and inquired of Jesus whether was the Christ. Notice Jesusí response to the inquiry:

Matthew 11:2-5 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. Christ utilized prophetic fulfillment to confirm Himself to John (Isaiah 25:4,8; 26:18,19; 29:19; 35:5,6; 40:19; 41:27; 42:7,16; 52:7; 61:1-3; Jeremiah 31:8; Hosea 13:14). It is when Christ begins narrating the ministry and character of John that he conjoins the judgment of God: Matthew 11:7-27 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. 15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. 16 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, 17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. 19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children. 20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. Christ, pointedly angered at the fraud and hypocrisy of the Jewish nation (both for their rejection of Him and John the Baptist), began to condemn the sinfulness of Israel and then spoke of the judgment that would come upon that generation.

Jesus concluded the upbraiding with comforting words in a prayer pertaining to those who received "Elijah" and Himself:

Matthew 11:25-27 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. 27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. BEARING WITNESS OF THE LIGHT

Another important aspect of Johnís ministry was that of bearing witness of the Light. The preamble to the Gospel of the apostle John states in succinct manner this component of John the Baptistís ministry:

John 1:6-8 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. Often, we esteem much too carelessly the significance of Jesus as the Light of the world. Our understanding of Jesus as the Light is greatly impaired without a working knowledge of the light motif in the O.T.: Psalms 36:9 For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.

Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
Isaiah 10:17 And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day;
Isaiah 42:6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
Isaiah 49:6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
Isaiah 60:1 Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.
Isaiah 60:19-20 The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. 20 Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.

These passages are especially revealing as we understand New Covenantal development, which consummates with the full establishment of the kingdom of God: Revelation 21:22-25 And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. 23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. 24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. 25 And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. Clearly, the ministry of John the Baptist was to prepare the way for the Light of the world (by the way, there is only one Light of the world). John the Baptist was the prophet to testify that Jesus was the Light of which the Scriptures prophesied. The Scriptures and John, himself, testified to the fact that he was not that Light: John 1:8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. It was mentioned earlier that the simple title "Christ" or "Messiah" has very serious implications. These implications can be seen clearer when one investigates any O.T. passages that speak of the coming Messiah. Not once in Scripture is there ever a far-removed phase between the "comings" of Messiah. John the Baptist understood this just by simply identifying Jesus as Messiah and the Lamb of God.

THE FRIEND OF THE BRIDEGROOM

John also referred to Jesus with another very significant title. This particular title is very weighty as we observe the Messiah and His "relationship" with His people. The particular title with which John addresses Jesus is "the Bridegroom."

John 3:28-29 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. The fact that John the Baptist would mention his relationship to the Bridegroom is very significant concerning the marriage of the church to the Bride. It is a severely untenable position to assume that the "friend" of the Bridegroom, or, as we might say, the "best man," would be so early for the wedding-two thousand years early.  Rather, we can affirm that once again, Johnís role as a "forerunner" was exercised as he prepared the way for the Bridegroom. John took great joy in hearing the voice of the Bridegroom insofar as to say that his joy was fulfilled. Why was his joy fulfilled? The answer to this question remains inexorably fixed in the evangelical ministry of John. His significant secondary role next to preparing the way of the Lord was, as mentioned earlier, to make ready a people prepared or created for the Lord. John was getting the Bride ready to meet her future Husband. Johnís joy was fulfilled in knowing that she was now safe with her Husband-to-be. Why would there be any reason for John to joy in a betrothal that would not be consummated for thousands of years to come? Implicit in Johnís announcement that his joy was fulfilled in hearing the voice of the Bridegroom is the manifest indication that the Husband was near.

MINISTRY FULFILLED

The signal of John the Baptist is an important element of eschatology that cannot be regarded as irrelevant. The prophets spoke of the "voice crying in the wilderness" as the one who would prepare the way for the King of kings. Isaiah and Malachi identified John as the messenger who would not only make ready a people created for the Lord, but that he would be the forerunner preparing a highway for God in the desert of the apostate nation of Israel. The personality of John the Baptist existed in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers and children toward each other. John was the voice of woe to a nation whose law had become their god. He was the signal of the judgment that would finally destroy the nation which had rebelled against their Creator and Lawgiver. In Johnís message, the theme of the approaching kingdom of heaven was prominent. He was on the greatest mission of any of the prophets. John was to prepare the way for Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God that would take away the sin of the world. John the Baptist understood the significance of the Lamb who was the King and God of heaven who would "set up a kingdom, which would never be destroyed." John made ready a people who would reign with this King to whom would be "given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." In his making ready a people for the Lord, John bore witness to the Light, for which every Jew longed. He bore witness to the Light of the world who would be that Light that would rise upon the Jews and the world: the LORD, their everlasting Light, their glory (Isaiah 60:19). John the Baptist knew his ministry was fulfilled once he heard the voice of the Bridegroom. The objective of his preaching finally arrived. His joy was fulfilled as he heard the voice of the One who would save His bride from the condemnation of death and eternal torment. John had prepared the way for Him who was about swallow up death in victory and bring in the New and Everlasting Covenant.


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