My pastor preached a sermon on John the Baptist this past Sunday. It got me to thinking about John and his mission in life, given to him before he was even born. John was a forerunner.
No, silly, not one of “those” forerunners…
The angel of the Lord foretold to John’s parents, Zacharias and Elizabeth, that their son would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:17). If you like, you can read about John and his parents and his birth in Luke 1, along with the story of Joseph, Mary and Jesus.
John the Baptist was also proclaimed as the forerunner of Jesus Christ, as told in 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. (Malachi 3:1, King James Version, abbreviated as KJV going forward)
Also, see 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. (Isaiah 40:3, KJV)
We read in Matthew 3 that John the Baptist started his ministry, preaching in Judea, saying, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (v 2).”
Multitudes from Judea and Jerusalem came to John to be baptized and confess their sins. When John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptisms, he said:
“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: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire (vs 11-12).“
To summarize, John’s calling was to “prepare the way” for Jesus Christ’s first coming to this earth. He tried to warn the Jews that their Messiah was coming soon, and that they needed to cleanse their hearts and ways in order to be ready for His appearing.
John preached very boldly against sin, and this eventually cost him his head.
In Mark 6:17:30 we read that John had told Herod that it was not lawful for him to be married to Herodias, who was formerly his brother Philip’s wife. Herodias held a grudge against John because of this, and arranged for her daughter to dance before Herod and the lords, high captains, and chief of the estates of Galilee. King Herod granted to the daughter whatever she wished as a result of this dance. It must have been some dance. Having been prompted by her mother, Herodius, she asked for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Scripture says that the king was sorry, but he had John’s head removed and gave it to the damsel. Apparently Herod wasn’t quite sorry enough to spare John.
But John had completed his mission… to prepare the way for Jesus to come.
From the gospels, we know that Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. The Jews rejected Him as their Messiah nonetheless.
The priests and Pharisees were so scared of losing their way of life (and income, and power) that they incited the crowds to yell, “Crucify (Jesus)!” when Herod asked who should be released from prison at the time of the feast.
So Herod washed his hands of Jesus (not that it did him any good), and sent Jesus to be crucified. He set Barabbas free, a murderer and criminal (Mark 15:15).
Jesus gave up His life on the cross, after taking upon Himself the sins of the whole world, from the beginning of time (Genesis) to the end of time (Revelation). He suffered on the cross, shedding His blood, and paying the price for the sins of all mankind. He died on the cross, but the Roman nails and torture didn’t take His life. He gave up his life freely, because of His love for you, and me. See John 3:16.
Mark 16 tells of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, after His body had lain in a borrowed tomb for 3 days and nights. In rising from the dead, Jesus showed fully that He had victory over death, hell, and the grave.
On God’s timetable, the next event to occur in Christendom is the calling-up to Heaven of the saved from the earth.
So what does “saved” mean? I’m glad you asked. Being “saved” means that:
- You realize that you are a sinner, by disobeying God’s Word in the Bible. See Romans 3:23.
- You know that there is a penalty for your sins. See Romans 6:23.
- You realize that the penalty for your sins has already been paid for on the cross by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. See Romans 5:8 and 1 Peter 3:18.
- You know that you are sorry to God for the sins you have committed in your life. This is called repentance. See 2 Corinthians 7:10, Isaiah 55:7, and also Acts 2:38 and Acts 3:19.
- You have received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Salvation is a gift, but a gift must be received to be effective. If I give you a gift card for a restaurant, and you never use it, you haven’t truly received the gift given to you. See John 1:12, and especially Romans 10:9 and Romans 10:13. I’ll give you those two below:
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved (Romans 10:9, KJV).
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13, KJV).
The “whosoever” in verse 13 includes you, and you, and me. And the “shall be saved” in the same verse is a promise from God to you. God can’t lie, and so His promises are true. There has never been a promise from God from the beginning until now that has not come true. That tells us that His promises for the future will come true, also.
So by following these simple steps, you can know for sure that you’re saved, and on your way to heaven. There’s even a verse to help you know. It’s 1 John 5:13, which says:
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13, KJV).
OK, hopefully everything is settled at this point and you know for sure that you will go to Heaven when you die.
After Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, He spent 40 days with the disciples (except for Judas Iscariot, who had hung himself after betraying Jesus to the Pharisees), teaching them, and preparing them for the great task ahead. What was that task? It was to begin and expand the church. Acts 1:8 says:
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8, KJV).”
Note that one phrase: “…ye shall be witnesses unto me …”.
In John 14:1-3, Jesus also says:
“(1) Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. (2) In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:1-3, KJV).”
So Jesus has promised to come a second time to the earth to take His saved back to Heaven with Him. This is known as “the rapture of the church”.
Witnesses tell what they have seen or experienced. And a forerunner is defined as “one that precedes and indicates the approach of another”, according to Merriam-Webster.
If you are saved, then the Lord commands you to be a witness (or forerunner) for Jesus Christ, Who is coming again soon to take His saved ones to Heaven.
John the Baptist warned the people to repent and prepare for the Savior before He came the first time.
We, the saved here on earth, are supposed to warn the people to repent and prepare for the Savior when He comes the second time.
Read 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:
(16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:16-17, KJV)
From these verses, we see that Jesus is not coming back on the earth for His second coming, but will be in the air. Those saved who have died up to this point will be resurrected first, then the saved who are alive on the earth will rise to meet them and Jesus in the air, and go to Heaven.
After this resurrection, those left alive on the earth will have no more opportunities to trust Jesus Christ as Savior, if they have already heard the Gospel. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 says:
(11) And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: (12) That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (1 Thess. 2:11-12, KJV)
So, friends and readers, it’s our urgent mission as witness and forerunners to tell everyone about Jesus Christ and His gift of salvation.
We can only do that as saved Christians ourselves, so if you have any doubts about your spiritual condition, go back and read above about what it means to be “saved”. The scriptures listed there will guide you to the saving knowledge of Jesus.
Then, go tell someone else about Him and what He’s done for you.