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What the Bible says about John the Baptist as Messenger
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Malachi 3:1

Jesus came to this earth as a Messenger from God the Father: "'Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,' says the LORD of hosts" (Malachi 3:1). Two messengers are mentioned in this verse. The first is John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the second Messenger, "the Messenger of the covenant," Jesus Christ.

It is helpful to understand that, as Messenger, He did not speak His own words. John 8:38-42 combined with John 12:49-50 confirms this. Thus, the message He brought is notprimarily about Himself but about the good news of the Kingdom of God that the Father ordained to be announced on earth. This does not discount Jesus in any way because He is clearly the most important person ever to inhabit this earth. Rather, it emphasizes the fact that the gospel Jesus preached is not just about Himself.

The inspired Word of God makes it quite clear that the good news Jesus brought is about the Kingdom of God. Mark 1:14-15 is typical: "Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. repent, and believe in the gospel.'" Luke 8:1 shows that proclaiming this good news was His customary activity, "Now it came to pass, afterward, that Jesus went through every city and village, preaching and bringing glad tidings of the kingdom of God." He says plainly in Luke 4:43 that this was His appointed task: "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also: because for this purpose I have been sent."

Even in those last days before He ascended to heaven and the church was born, He used His time with the disciples to teach the same message. ". . . to [the apostles] He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3).

Jesus was not alone in preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God. He charged His disciples with this responsibility, and they followed through as commanded. "Then He called His twelve disciples together and . . . He sent them to preach the kingdom of God . . ." (Luke 9:1-2). Later, others like the evangelist Philip joined in this effort: "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized" (Acts 8:12).

Just in case one might think the apostle Paul preached a different gospel, he himself states in his farewell to the Ephesian elders, "And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more" (Acts 20:25). As Paul reached the end of his life, Acts 28:30-31 states of him, "Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him."

One final reference, Galatians 1:8-9, is pertinent to this important issue:

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

The Father's message, purposely given to Jesus to deliver to mankind, had already been corrupted just a few decades after Christ's death, and the Galatians had been deceived into believing the corrupted one! Similarly, the gospel Jesus Christ brought has been corrupted in modern times. Rather than focusing on the coming Kingdom of God, the message being palmed off in our day primarily focuses on the Messenger.

Without a doubt, within the context of the message, Jesus is important as God in the flesh, our sinless Savior, and our resurrected High Priest. However, the message He preached focuses on other important issues besides Himself. If this were not so, why did God not title the message with something focusing directly on Jesus? God intends the title "gospel of the Kingdom of God" to fix our attention on the issue He wants to be the focus of our lives after we are called and converted, since it is the only hope for the resolution of mankind's numerous and presently unsolvable problems. The Kingdom of God is of such importance that, once we grasp the essence of its instruction, we can honestly say, without exaggeration, that it is the theme of the entire Bible.

Spiritual resurrection into the Kingdom of God is held out as the goal of those making the New Covenant with God. A covenant contains requirements that are to be met by both parties entering into it. Will those of us who have done so escape the responsibility to make efforts to live up to the New Covenant's terms comparable to those required of Israelites under the Old Covenant? Many - those who say that no works are required of Christians - believe so.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Five)

Malachi 4:5

Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: This phrase lures people into interpreting this as occurring just before Christ's second coming. However, the verse does not say "immediately before"—that is an assumption—it only says "before." The apostle John writes that the world was passing away in his day 2,000 years ago (I John 2:17)! In terms of time, verse 18 is even more incredible because John says that by biblical reckoning it was already the last hour (Romans 13:11-12; I Peter 4:7)! It is imperative we learn to consider time as God does rather than men.

The last days began with the arrival of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist, the prophesied Elijah, appeared as one epoch ended and the next began. He was the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets, his preaching turned the hearts of the fathers to the children, and he prepared the way for the Messiah. He most certainly came before the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist

Matthew 17:11

Jesus responds to the disciples' question essentially by saying He agrees that the scribes are correct in saying, "Elijah must come before the Messiah appears and before that great and dreadful day."

The word "truly" is important to understanding His agreement with the scribes. He is saying they have correctly understood Malachi 4:5-6 to this pointthat "Elijah must come first." He does not say He agrees with them totally, nor is He indicating that another Elijah will come in the future. Jesus says verse 13 in the future tense, because it is the tense in which Malachi 4:5-6 is written, which is a promise to be fulfilled at some later point in time.

He adds a quotation from the prophecy given about John in Luke 1:17. He wants to turn our attention away from Elijah to John.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 3)

Luke 1:76-79

Verses 76-79 comprise a prophecy devoted without qualification to John and his work.

From the very beginning, John and Jesus are allied in the salvation scheme. However, the Bible shows in interesting ways how John is subordinate to Jesus. For instance, in Luke 1:36, Mary and Elizabeth are shown to be related, probably cousins. Both women conceive in a miraculous way, but Mary's conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit is far more miraculous. Then, when Elizabeth greets Mary (Luke 1:39-41), John, while still in her womb, leaps for joy in the presence of our Lord in His mother's womb. Finally, Luke 1:76 shows John to be only a prophet, but verses 32-35 show Jesus to be the Son of God and Heir to the throne of David.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist

John 1:6-9

To appreciate this self-subordination of John, we must relate what is said here to the cultural environment in which these books were written. We must consider what the apostles wrote from the perspective of first-century Jews who witnessed John the Baptist's ministry.

In the twentieth century, we tend to think that John's ministry was little more than a blip on a radar screen. However, in terms of impact and importance, there was no true ministry greater than his except Jesus'. Thinking that John's ministry was insignificant flirts with diminishing what Jesus says about none born of a woman being greater than John.

In God's own estimation, recorded in Luke 1:15—the very first thing said about him by the angel speaking for God—John would be great! He was the prophesied messenger who fulfilled Isaiah 40:3, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God'" (see Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 1:76; 3:4; John 1:23). He also fulfilled Malachi 3:1, "Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me" (see Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 1:76; 7:27).

His greatness lay:

1. in the office he filled;

2. in the subject he dealt with (repentance and true knowledge of the Messiah);

3. in his humility in calling no attention to himself and voluntarily receding into the background when the Messiah appeared (John 3:30), as well as his great zeal in performing his function;

4. in his personal attributes of character, above reproach in terms of sin;

5. in his self-denial in terms of his manner of life;

6. in his courage in the face of opposition;

7. in his lifelong service to God.

John was the crown of a long line of Old Testament prophets.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist

John 1:26-30

John the Baptist makes it clear that, though he was a prophet, he was not the Prophet, but rather was sent as a preparer of the way for the One who was the Prophet. John the Baptist's ministry was "unto repentance." He came revealing to people their sins, something the prophets always did. What we have here is not so much his ministry as the unique position he was in, chosen by God to be the one who would introduce the Messiah to the Hebrew world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 1)


 




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