Prepare for a New Life

KEY VERSE: “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 Spirit, and with fire.” —Matthew 3:11


JOHN THE BAPTIST, the last of the prophets, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, said, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 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.” (Matt. 3:2) Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott translates this verse, “Reform! because the Royal Majesty of the Heavens has approached. For this is he of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke.” This translation clearly shows that the King James Version, reading: “the kingdom of heaven,” refers to our Lord Jesus, and alludes to the sacrificial work he performed when laying down his perfect human life “a ransom for all” as the man Christ Jesus, to the ultimate benefit of all the world of fallen man.

John led a very simple, primitive lifestyle in the wilderness, attired merely with a camel’s hair girdle about his loins. Jesus’ cousin John was six months older than Jesus, and hence began his ministry that much sooner. The people were in expectation of the Messiah, and all “mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ or not.”—Luke 3:15

Israel had been waiting centuries for God to send their promised king with its accompanying exaltation of the nation to power—a blessing which would finally extend to all the families of the earth. The fulfillment of John’s mission was divinely directed, coming at exactly the right time to introduce Jesus to the Jewish nation. It is little wonder that so striking a figure as John the Baptist made such a penetrating impression when he announced that the Royal Majesty of heaven was present, and God’s kingdom was soon to be established, and that he [John] had been sent as an advance messenger to proclaim it and to prepare his people, the Israelites.

Those who accepted John’s teachings were required to manifest their sincerity of heart by immersion in water as a symbol of their turning away from sin and returning to full covenant relationship with God. As John expressed the idea, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.”—vs. 8

The movement grew in popularity, and the people came to him from “Jerusalem, all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” (vss. 5,6) Many Pharisees and Saducees, however, were among hypocrites responding to this message. These he warned to flee from God’s wrath, saying, “He that cometh after me, … whose fan is in his hand, … will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (vss. 7-12) John here intimated that a great day of wrath was soon to swallow up that nation and scatter the people among all the nations.

John realized that his baptism was a preparatory work for the Jews only—a mission of repentance to restore sinners to harmony with God’s arrangement with Israel under the Law. Since it is only the blood of Jesus that can take away sin, John’s baptism was for repentance unto remission of sins for those “Israelites indeed” (John 1:47) who received the Messiah at his First Advent. John knew that Jesus would have the power to immerse the faithful of Israel in the Holy Spirit, and the unfaithful with a baptism of fire of trouble. (vss. 11,12) John likened the ministry of Christ to the Jews as that of a reaper, who, with a winnowing fan, would separate the true wheat from the chaff, gathering the wheat to the garner of the Gospel Age at Pentecost. The Lord would not help them out of this trouble, which would utterly destroy their national polity.

Jesus said, “Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.” (Matt. 11:10,11) Jesus applied the words of Malachi 3:1 to John the Baptist and himself. Then he added, I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” Jesus expressed his high personal regard for John in recognition of the distinguished honor God bestowed upon him as his messenger to prepare the way of the Messiah.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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