In my previous entry I discussed how we can find Jesus in our suffering and how He is with the sufferer. He is in the very midst of their pain and anguish. Isn’t that what a lover does? A lover wants to be with their beloved wherever they may be, even if it is in the mud or out in freezing cold fighting to live. A lover wants to be with their beloved even in the midst of their trials. That is what St. Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians when he wrote on love:
“Love suffers long and is kind; love…5does not behave rudely, does not seek its own…6does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
So if God is love then these things that Paul mentions about love are really definitions of who God is and consequently examples of His interactions with His beloved. But today’s blog is not about how God is with His beloved in the midst of suffering but about finding hope in suffering, so where to begin? Well let’s begin where we left off with our last blog, with C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain. “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It is in the place of pain that God is shouting to us that something is wrong. Something is incredibly wrong with the world and the way things are happening that needs a drastic change. For example you don’t have to tell the child with a stomach ache that something is wrong, they already know. They know that something is wrong and that their sickness is probably not going away until they run to mommy. Now can mommy make the sickness go away? No, but she can diagnose it and find out that the child stayed up each candy to all hours of the night and now they are sick.
Now just as the child knew that they are sick when we experience suffering the pain we are experiencing is telling us that something is wrong, and just like the child we can respond in one of two ways hide in our pain and try to numb it and ignore it or we can tell mommy, or in our case God. Our suffering is as Lewis put it God’s “megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It is God’s way to tell us that the pain the woman feels each night as her husband beats her is not right. The pain people experience in life is His indicator to us that something is wrong, thus meaning if God is God then that means He has a better plan. What is this better plan? Well in a single word it is resurrection.
Resurrection or rather rebirth is ultimately a new beginning. It is the end of the old and the beginning of the new. It is the beginning of a new chapter, a fresh start for humanity and yet still so much more. It is the end of suffering and triumph over all of humanity’s enemies. It is the end of sorrow and beginning of unending joy and peace, and it is this reality of the Christian Hope that is the conclusion of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, so let us dig deeper.
So where did this rebirth begin? Where will this end or rather when will it culminate? Well it began two thousand years ago when Christ conquered death and became the first fruits of new life. Christ the first fruits having thrown down the principality of death becoming the first born of the dead, the first to enter into the new birth has paved the way for humanity to follow; however, the story does not end there. But what does that entail? Is it merely a spiritual new life or is it physical as well? Is this “new life” better than the original? Well let’s begin with the spiritual side.
New Birth: Spirit
At the point of spiritual new birth, that which comes through salvation, the spirit begins the sanctification process that ultimately is the freeing from the internal bondage. What does that look like? At the point of salvation man’s spirit begins to change through the leadership of the indwelling Holy Spirit who now lives within to guide in the paths of righteousness. On top of this the Spirit begins to bring freedom to our spirits from the bondage and sufferings that have befallen us for so long because of sin. So what does this mean in less spiritual jargon? Well as the Holy Spirit begins to sanctify us in righteousness we begin to stop saying yes to sin; which in the Christian mindset is the root of suffering. At the point of salvation the sinner is now both freed from the bondage of sin and becoming free as well. As we sin less we are ultimately creating less suffering for us and for others, though this does not mean the Christian is now free from suffering, but quite the contrary as the Christian is ultimately now creating less suffering.
Along with the decreasing of desire for sin in the sinner’s new birth into Christianity, the new Christian begins to walk the path of freedom from those things that had so long entangled them during their estrangement from God. These things being and not limited to: addictions to drugs, smoking, alcohol, sexual immorality, freedom from self hatred, narcissism, ect. However contrary to the more Post-Modern American Evangelical mindset it is not some instantaneous change from a sinner to a great holy Christian, nor is it some state of immediate freedom from ones struggles. Though some may experience some supernatural freedom from past struggles or massive leap in the sanctification process it is still a process that will continue throughout the entirety of ones life.
Now the last aspect to the new birth of the spirit is the end of alienation. No longer does the sinner remain alienated from God, but through salvation and the new birth of the spirit the Christian can now enter into blessed fellowship with God through the indwelling Spirit.
Though there are more aspects to the spirit’s new birth these are three of the main ones, though one might argue for eternal life the Bible makes it clear that even the unrepentant will have eternal life but they will be living it out in the lake of fire. At the point of death of the body or of the resurrection of the dead then our spirits will be transformed into Christ’s likeness both in the body and in the spirit.
New Birth: Body
The new birth of the body is just as glorious as the spirits, though for many it is simply the end of death but it is so much more than that, so let’s delve deeper. Unlike the new birth of the spirit the body’s new birth does not begin at salvation but at the resurrection of the dead when Christ returns.
So let us begin with the obvious death is no more, no longer will man be able to die. No longer will man be able to suffer pain, sickness or any infirmity. This invulnerability to death and suffering is for those who are in Christ alone; as for those outside of Christ they will receive some form of an eternal body, but unlike those in Christ theirs can and will experience suffering.
There is much that shrouds the capabilities of the resurrected body but what we can safely assume is that whatever Jesus did with His and even what Adam and Even could do pre-fall we can do. That means when we work, yes we will still work, we won’t sweat. Work won’t be hard unlike it is now. Our minds quite possibly could be enhanced to where we are able to tap into 100% of our brains instead of only part. This idea can be seen in Adam’s ability to name every animal and manage the garden. We won’t experience shame or even self hatred concerning our bodies; this does tie in with the new birth of our spirits. Just as Jesus ate, we will eat. Unlike the Greek Gnostic mindset that says the body, work and all of physical reality is bad, the Biblical mindset says that the physical reality is Holy which is why we get a New Body.
For many they tend to liken the abilities of the resurrected body to that of modern day superheroes and though they may appear similar they are still completely different. Now concerning walking through walls, though it is possible scripture does not support this idea. Jesus never walked through walls, but rather it says “Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst.”John 20:26. So how did He get in there? Well it was most likely more like He was translated just like Philip in Acts 8:39. Jesus on another occasion is translated from one place to another on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:31. Lastly how else could He see 500 people in 40 days, unless He could translate? Finally can the resurrected body fly? Though Jesus does ascend to heaven and is supposed to come riding on the clouds, that does not completely constitute flight. It merely shows that God was and will be demonstrating is superiority over the world. Does that mean we won’t fly no? No, it simply means we cannot assume anything other than it will be both glorious and perfect.
So in summary, what will the new birth of the body look like? Perfect.
Presently we live in a fallen world where chaos, anger, death and corruption run rampant, but the New Earth will be completely the opposite. Just like the resurrected body the New Earth will in many ways return to the way things once were. Well what does that look like? Well there is peace; humanity lived in perfect harmony with all of creation. The soil was soft and not hard, the animals were not trying to kill them and there were no destructive storms in the land. Yes even the weather itself was in perfect harmony with the rest of creation. So if that was what creation looked like on the earth pre-fall we can only assume it will be at the least be the same if not better, which it will be.
Since the fall creation has groaned; for ever since humanity was thrust into exile from paradise they have waited, longing for alienation to end. Ever since the resurrection humanity has been freed from their estrangement from God and a New Exodus has begun, one that will culminate with all of creation finally reunited with God. For when Christ returns He will put to right all the wrongs as humanity’s exile comes to an end and the Father walks among His creation once more.
So what does the Bible say about the earth or rather New Earth as it says in Isaiah 65 and Revelation 21? Well first there is a King named Jesus, but that goes without saying if you have ever read the scriptures, but for the sake of the one who has not read much I divulge more. In Psalm 89:3-4 David recalls the covenant that the Lord gave to him: “I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, 4I will establish your seed forever and build up your throne to all generations.” So from the covenant the Lord has established the throne of David forever, thus if Jesus is the promised seed then there must be a throne. This is not some celestial, ethereal throne floating off in the cosmos but one on the earth. It is tangible.
However more than a King, there is also a Kingdom for a king is not a king without a kingdom; it is as simple as that. So what is this Kingdom? In a word it is perfect. So what is a Perfect Kingdom? For starters there is only peace. No longer will fear, anxiety and depression fill the streets. No longer will violence rage from nation to nation, for peace will overflow from the throne to the ends of the earth. This is what it means for Isaiah when he said: 7There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:7 In short there will be peace all over the earth and it is will never end for there is not end to the expansion of Christ’s Kingdom. Now does that mean that because there is no end to the increase of His Kingdom that we will take over the stars, planets and galaxies? It is unlikely that we will expand the Kingdom to the galaxies as the language is focusing on the fact that no other government could stop Christ’s Kingdom. To add on to this thought on the Kingdom there will no longer be wickedness or injustice for the One who sits upon the throne will uphold the perpetual peace through righteousness and justice for it is these two realities that are to be found as the foundation of His throne. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You.” Psalm 89:14 No longer will there be an unjust or wicked king, no longer a flawed righteous king but a Perfect King who will always uphold righteousness and justice all throughout the Kingdom. Thus the poor will be fed, the homeless will be given a home, the orphan and widow a family, the leaders will no longer take bribes or be corrupt. Every sphere of society will be upheld by righteousness and justice. No longer will teachers pick their favorites and ignore the ones who are hard to educate. For when the Prince of Peace sits upon the throne the perfection of all things will go forth as justice and righteousness upholds all things.
Well if there is a Perfect King and Kingdom what about the rest of creation? Well for starters it is new or rather perfect. Contrary to popular belief in much of the church we will not be living in heaven on clouds as fat little cherub babies after this life, nor will we dwell before the Lord worshiping in heaven for all eternity. To go along with these false suggestions of the afterlife the current earth will not be completely destroyed, thrown away and thus replaced but it will be restored to perfection. Why? Well why not? Why would God who has done so much to save all of creation when it is all said and done just abandon His creation? What’s more what about the apocalyptic scriptures that don’t reference people but the land? So let’s look to see what Isaiah has to say concerning the earth: Isaiah 35:7 “The scorched land will become a pool and the thirsty ground springs of water.” Isaiah 44:3 “I will pour out water on the thirsty land…” Isaiah 62:4 “…your land, ‘Married’; for the Lord delights in you, and to Him your land will be married.” God clearly has a heart for the earth as it is His desire to not only to revive that which has become barren and dead but He also desires to marry the earth. Even if you want to spiritualize the reviving of the earth as a spiritual revival then why would God say He will marry or rather become one with the earth? Why would He give the Israelites in Deuteronomy laws concerning the treatment and mistreatment of the land if He did not have both a heart and destiny for the Earth itself? So what is the earth’s destiny? Perfection.
To even go one step deeper there will be peace on the earth even among nonhuman creation. Once again let us peer into the eyes of Isaiah: “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little boy will lead them.” Isaiah 11:6 Finally humanity will not live in fear of creation as there is peace among all creation. To quote Woody Allen “The lion may lie down with the lamb, but the lamb won’t get much sleep.”
How does the earth become perfect or new? Well it starts back with the King. When the King comes He will establish peace, righteousness and justice in the earth that will ultimately transform all creation. At the very end of His thousand year reign, He will have thrown down Death, Hades and the accuser of the brethren Lucifer. No longer will death take place in the earth, no longer will injustice continue and no longer will the oppression continue. In Zechariah chapter 14, Zechariah prophesies that the Lord will be king over all the earth and even goes on to talk about the rain and the cattle as if these two things are still needed, thus food and the harvest will continue. But if these things be true and if even the people of the earth are beating their swords into plowshares in order to farm then there must be a destiny for the earth. So what is the fire that will consume the earth? Well if you have ever read the Psalms or the Prophets then you will have noticed that on many different occasions the writers use the word fire as a means not for destruction but for purification. So if this be true then surely when the Bible says fire will consume the earth, then perhaps this is what it means. The fire of God will purify the earth unto perfection transforming it into a new look or rather a new earth. As N.T. Wright so eloquently once said “Heaven is important, but it is not the end of the world.”
God All in All
So with a view of our hope being found in New Spirit, New Body and New Earth there is one last wondrous reality to consider; God will finally be all in all. Paul in his typical emblematic fashion paints the picture of the culmination of all things into perfection with this one small phrase: God will be all in all. O’ the bliss God and humanity will finally be one; the creator and His creation finally dwelling together in perfect unison. No longer will heaven be God’s realm and earth creation’s, but God and creation both humanity and nature will all be one. God will be glorified in complete perfection through all created order, and it is this reality of the Christian Hope that is the conclusion of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
20But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 27For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, through the book of Revelation and the song “Thousands of Burning Ones” by N. Christopherson.
Having destroyed the antichrist’s army, leveled his kingdom and thrown both the antichrist and his false prophet into the lake of fire Jesus will institute his millennial reign. This is the story of a king from the east who stood against the antichrist in those last days and now watches Jesus rule from Zion (Daniel 11:44 & Revelation 16:12).
In those days I King Chan II of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea; having seen the atrocities performed by that wicked king, who ruled with unquenchable hatred slaying all who spoke out against him, have now also seen his wicked tyranny come to an abrupt end. It is here that I write, in the second month of the thirty-first year of my reign as sovereign lord and king over my kingdom, in the fiftieth year of my life. I King Chan II recall that horrific time when that wicked man slew so many. It was by the end of his wicked and short reign that over half the population of the earth had fallen to war, pestilence and famine. Where once the earth had known such beauty and prosperity now knew destruction and famine. Where people once covered the earth, now through his wickedness both destruction and death had come to the earth.
I still recall when that wicked king came and sought to destroy Zion, yet no matter how small she was, she fought much more valiant than ever an army I have seen. I remember when he sought to make war against us kings of the east, as well as the fear that had gripped many of our hearts. That we might fall like so many nations had done so far. If it wasn’t for his struggles to overtake Zion we might have been swept away in his wrath. It was just enough of a distraction for us kings of the east to seek one final valiant attempt to flank him from his side. If ever we were to have a chance it would have been then, but alas even then his might was enough to hold us back. Still as I was there in the battle against that king, it was miraculous how that one tiny nation of Zion could stand as long as she did against his wrath. When many other nations had fallen so quickly, she stood defiant to the end. I would say it was the most magnificent display of might since the legend of the Spartans in Thermopylae; if it was not for Him who came to her rescue.
I will never forget that day when He showed up. It was as if He came out of nowhere. Never has a King shown up in such splendor and majesty, nor has there ever been an army so vast and so strong. If it was not enough for Him to show off His might that He Himself rode off to war to defend Zion. With a military like His, He simply could sit in the back and not even worry about fighting yet it was Him I remember who fought in the front lines at the battle for Zion. The way He fought, it was as if He had been consumed with a fiery jealousy in His heart, much like a husband whose wife had just been assaulted before their gaze. The anger in His eyes from the destruction that had befallen Zion was as if someone had poked the apple of His eye. His gaze alone was enough to cause the strongest of warriors to quake, yet it was the way He fought that set Him apart. It was nearly as if He didn’t even need His army as He slew that wicked king’s military. This Man fought with such tenacity that His garments were dripping with the blood of His enemies; surely there was more to this Man than what meets the eye. It was not until after that great battle did I hear the cry of Hosanna to the Son of David. It was there long-awaited King, King Jesus.
The people of Zion as well as those who served Him that were not from Zion greatly rejoiced and celebrated the return of their great and mighty King. Over the years things began to change as soon as the King returned and set up His throne He surprisingly went straight to work in establishing His Kingdom. His Kingdom grew so fast and so beautiful as He began to restore all that had fallen to destruction during the wars against that wicked king. I have even heard the rumors that the poor are all being fed and clothed in His Kingdom.
I King Chan II in the eleventh month of the sixty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea have seen much over these last thirty years of this King of Zion. It is said that already that much of the deserts of that region have turned into oasis’s as if it were all just one big garden. Not one negative word have I heard about the King of Zion. It would seem that all of His people both love and adore Him. Word has reached my ears that His people volunteer freely to serve Him and His Kingdom. What is His secret? Surely He must be doing something to get them to serve Him in this manner. I must continue to observe this King of Zion.
I King Chan II in the fourth month of the eighty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea have lived these last one hundred years, yet it would seem as though my body is growing younger. Or rather I should say it is as if I were returning to the days of my strength. I find that I feel, look and even have the same strength and speed as though I were in my late twenties. What is this? I feel as though it all began when He established His throne in Zion. It is not just me but my family and subjects are all experiencing it as well.
I King Chan II in the fifth month of the one hundred and twenty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea have received word that the King of Zion has found the cure for every known disease. There is no sickness known to man that can stand in His Kingdom. I must discover what kind of medicine they are using; perhaps He would help me with bringing healing to my people. I shall go and seek Him out in person, for perhaps I will get some answers to the questions I have about Him in the process.
I King Chan II in the ninth month of the one hundred and twenty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea write what transpired of my visit to the King of Zion. Never have I seen such beauty, for the houses of His own subjects was enough to make the palaces of the kings of the east to be shamed. When I entered His throne room it was decked with the purest of gold and ivory. The music that was played in the throne room was as if it was filled with joy and peace, for never have I experienced such joy and peace. As I approached the King on His throne I saw Him high and lifted up and adorned in beauty. The splendor and majesty of His throne room was enough to cause my heart to tremble in His presence, yet at the same time I felt as though I was being strengthened.
As I approached the King I began to bow before Him with my gift of silver and gold in my hand, to pay homage to Him. I knew it would mean nothing to Him for it pales in comparison to His great halls. Nevertheless as I bowed and offered it before Him, to my surprise I glanced up to see Him arise and begin walking down from His great thrown to me. I was both shocked and afraid as this great King approached me. Out of fear I began to bow lower, when unexpectedly He stretched out His hand to me to stop me from bowing. He brought to me a chair made of the purest of gold, silver and ivory and bid me to sit in it. The chair alone was far greater than the thrones of the kings of the east. I began to ask myself “Is He trying to humiliate me with this great chair?” “Is He trying to show off His great wealth and power?” Nothing would have prepared for what was to happen next, for he pulled out a golden bowl and said to me “My first rule for all that enter into my throne room, is that I get to wash their feet.” With a smile He began to take my shoes off. I sought to resist Him at first because of how frustrated it made me, but something kept me from doing so, call it fear or curiosity whatever it was I let Him proceed in washing my feet. As He washed my feet His gaze met mine and it felt as though His eyes were reading my soul. As He continued He began to tell me how much He loves me and just how much He loves my people. I had no clue just how to respond. Afterwards He returned to His throne and asked if I was thirsty. One of His servants entered dressed in the finest of linens; they came in full of joy to serve us wine. I found it quite odd that He had no royal cupbearer to taste the wine to make sure it was not poisoned such confidence. I found the wine to be the best tasting wine I have ever had; it brought such joy and pleasure to my heart.
Soon after the King asked me what was on my heart, so I asked Him what His secrets were. How had He made the land become so prosperous and beautiful? How did all poverty in His land end? How has He cured all forms of disease? How did He amass such a military on the earth to defeat the wicked king? For it was as if there were more in His army then there were on the earth prior to their appearing at the battle for Zion. Finally I asked Him if He knew why it seemed as though people began to regain their youth shortly after His reign began, and since then it was if the aging process took much longer. As He answered each question it was as if I felt He was encouraging and strengthening me with His gracious words. After my meeting with Him I felt as if I were leaving with more questions in my heart than before. As I left to return back to my kingdom I found myself continually looking back at His Kingdom wondering. I feel that I will wonder about this great King of Zion for many years.
I King Chan II in the third month of the two hundred and fifteenth year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea; much of the world has changed over the last two hundred years. The Kingdom of Zion has vastly expanded; I have heard that there is peace among Assyria, Egypt and Zion. It has reached my ear that the Kingdoms that choose to make war against this great King of Zion quickly fall; however, I have also heard that those who have chosen to submit to this great King are shown mercy and even rewarded. It is not just the kings that are rewarded but their subjects who willfully choose to submit to this King of Zion. What is His secret?
I King Chan II in the seventh month of my three hundred and thirty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea write as follows: Famine has hit my realm, yet it would seem that the Kingdom of Zion and all who are in subjection to her are experiencing bounty. Having desired to know what His secret is I have sent word to Him to let Him know that I desire to visit with Him. However, on the day of my departure I heard a great uproar in my city. As the cries in the city grew louder and closer I heard some saying “It’s the King of Zion!” Quickly I arose to gaze out the window to see for myself. Expecting to see some great parade of soldiers with the King, I simply saw the King of Zion and handful of men on horseback. This was hardly what one would expect. The men with Him were not guards dressed for battle, rather they were in the finest of linens and not one carried a sword. As I ran to my throne to prepare myself, began to ask myself “Why is He here?”
As He entered my throne room He came in dressed so elegantly that His garments made mine look as mere rags. It would somehow seem as though He had grown more majestic since our previous meeting. He walked towards my throne with such strength and gentleness. As one of my servants introduced Him in my court I realized that His men were nowhere to be seen; however, what He did next was the biggest surprise. He bowed before me. Though His bow was not one of showing fear or timidity in my presence and it was not one of insecurity. In fact as He bowed it seemed as though it was done in confidence knowing He was more powerful, thus no need to show off out of insecurity. In truth it seemed as though He was attempting to honor me as one would a friend. His first words were words of apology for His sudden and uninvited arrival. He began to tell me that upon receiving my letter of the state of my kingdom that He and His companions set off immediately to come and offer aid. I felt so humbled and honored to see this great King come in all haste to personally meet with me. As He continued He said these words which I will never forget, “When I said I loved you and your people, I truly meant it.” His words were as though someone had taken a double-edged sword, and plunged it straight into my heart. As I was still reeling from His words He began to ask me if I was free to show Him around the city so He could get a better idea of what all I need help with.
As I took Him up on His request, I led Him down into the city to show Him the beautiful places. I began to wonder where His companions were but before I could ask He revealed to me, how they dispersed to go through out my city to help the people in whatever way they could. Shocked by these words, I was even more thrown back when said to me; how He did not desire to look upon the beautiful places. It was the broken down places that He desired to see, that He might rebuild the ashes into beauty. So of course I began to show Him where the places were that had been most impacted by the famine. I showed Him the districts where the poor lived, to my surprise He began to go to the people and give to them water from His own bottle. The most astonishing thing was is that it never seemed to run dry as people flocked to drink from His water bottle. He even seemed to have enough bread, fruit and nuts in His bag to feed all the people who came to Him.
When He finished with all who came to Him we continued going about the city until He saw the sector of the city that had been most destroyed by the riots. At this point He stopped me to tell me He had seen enough and was ready to start helping me rebuild and take care of my people. To my astonishment He rolled up His sleeves and walked straight over to where those doing construction were and began to help them. As I sought to stop Him to let Him know we had workers for this such job, He simply smiled and told me “I told you I came to help you and your people out because I love you all; besides I know My way around carpentry.” I had no clue how to respond. I simply watched Him for a bit in amazement. Who is this great King who is willing to feed the poor and get His hands dirty with manual labor? I even felt the fear and insecurity rise up in my heart that the people may turn on me and choose Him. However, something in me leads me to believe that He would not take my throne unless I gave it to Him freely.
I King Chan II in the eighth month of the three hundred and thirty-first year of my reign of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea write as follows: It has been nearly one month since He arrived in my city to offer assistance. If He was not helping to feed my people then He would be seen helping to rebuild the areas that had fallen to ruin. At first I was quite skeptical of His agenda; I was not sure if He was secretly trying to spy out my land or even try to turn my people against me with His great wealth by feeding them all. Alas I am beginning to feel as though He really is just here to help serve us, simply because He loves us. This is so new to me, however, I do fear as though that the people may begin to revolt or all leave when He eventually returns to His Kingdom. Nevertheless His help has been quite helpful as the famine has ended and the Kingdom is now starting to stabilize again. The repairs to the houses and business, as well as the new wells and farms have made the land more fertile and left the people in better condition.
On one particular day as I was sitting in the great halls having a meal of celebration with the King of Zion and His companions; when a great commotion was heard as the captain of my guards entered. As he entered into the great halls he began to rejoice aloud declaring that they had finally found the man who had murdered my father over three hundred years ago. The man had worked as an assassin for that wicked king and poisoned my father when I was eighteen years old. I had always hoped we would eventually find the man, though I had expected that he had since then died. As my guards brought the man in before us, I knew it was him as soon as I saw his face. How could one forget the face of the man who murdered their father? As I began to question where they had found him I kept one eye on the King of Zion to observe how He might react. My guards informed me that they had found him among the inner city districts feeding the poor and even served in their reconstruction. As I began to send him to the dungeons, the great King stopped me and asked me if He might hear this man’s story as to why a former assassin was now serving the poor.
This in short is what the man said: “After I assassinated my king’s father the previous king for that wicked king, I continued performing assassinations for him. Whoever would offer a high enough price would have my knife at their command. However, as time went on I was beginning to see the chaos I was helping bring to the world and thus withdrew from helping the wicked king. After the great war for Zion I found myself working as a thug for local gangs and spending most of my time and money in taverns and brothels. I honestly began to desire death, as I would spend hours trying to drink the faces of those whom I had killed away. However, I began to notice something strange and that was I was in a sense getting younger and now ageing much slower. I felt as though I had been cursed to live and unnaturally long life with the faces of my victims continually tormenting me.”
“One hundred years following the great war for Zion I found myself hitting rock bottom and lying in a ditch as a man named Stephen had found me and began to help me. The man was so noble looking in appearance as well as dress that I thought he was some great lord of a land. He had glow about his face that just left me stunned. He began to help me by feeding me, clothing me and even helping me to sober up. He had a companion with him, a man named Paul who looked just as majestic as he. They seemed to be the best of friends. Paul would ask me many questions about my life and my past; for some reason he never seemed offended or shocked when I told him of all the wickedness of my past. Even when I told him of people I had murdered in my past, he would just begin to tell me of how he can relate. Then he would just go on to tell me of how he used to do the same, but he found redemption and from then on his life began one of blessing and giving life rather than taking it. Stephen would just be smiling beside him, as though he was thinking of something or rather remembering something from long ago. I found it hard to believe that this man could ever have done the horrible things that I had once done, but for some reason even in my doubt something told me to listen to him and believe. These two were quite the pair of friends in how they interacted with each other and how they served me, each other and others. They seemed to have some history of brotherhood that was unlike anything I have ever seen. Words could not put to words how they interacted with each other.”
“After I parted way with these two I began to search out forgiveness for all my wickedness by helping others in hopes that I would eventually find redemption for my sins. For the last two hundred years I have traveled the world helping others in hopes that I would find redemption for my sins. My Lord Chan I beg thee that thou would please forgive me. It seems that my travels have brought me to your feet for forgiveness for the father I stole and the life I destroyed. I know I have wronged you, your family and your people and willingly receive whatever punishment you deem worthy, for I know I have sinned.”
As I rose up to sentence him to the gallows, the King of Zion rose up and began walking towards the man and stretched out His hand towards him and helped him up. “Today,” said the King “Today mercy has triumphed of judgment. If you will allow King Chan I would like to claim this man for myself, call it payment for everything I have done; for I can see in his heart that he has truly changed. My son today you shall know redemption. Today I have bought you for Myself that you may know freedom.” Before I could say anything the King looked at me and His gaze felt as though He was reading my soul. Suddenly out of nowhere I began to remember all of the wicked things I have once done in my life. I felt as though I was unable to pass judgment upon this man for I too have done so much wickedness and am deserving of judgment.
Later that night I met with the King alone in my study and began to talk with Him. I began to ask Him all the questions I have had building in my heart about Him and His ways. One after another He would answer them and in some way I felt as though new questions would arise in my heart. It was though each question was a head of a hydra and with each answer a head was cut off for two more to replace it. Eventually the King stopped me and asked me why I would not just go ahead and ask Him who He was. I realized that this was the chief question of my heart. “Well my Lord who are You?” Suddenly His eyes began to change and look as though they were far older than the world itself and far wiser than all the wisdom of the world. He told me “It begins with a God desiring a family and His Son’s pursuit of a bride.”
Then He began to tell me about the prophets of Israel from the days of old, about the creation of world, humanity’s plunge from grace and how redemption came into the world on a cross. It was as if He was telling me some kind of fairytale though in my heart I somehow knew this one was true. As He went on I found my heart beginning to experience a burning sensation. I did not know what this was but I knew it was connected to His words and thus I did not want Him to stop speaking. Suddenly He paused stared into my eyes and told me how much He loves me and how He has longed for this day since before the dawn of time. His words left my heart reeling. “My Lord,” I said “What does this mean for me? What do I have to do with Your story?”
“My child,” said the King “I am the One who stood in that garden with your ancestors. I am the One who wept as they turned their backs on Me, and had to leave because of their sin. I am the One who sent messengers to them time after time in hopes that they would turn back to Me. I am the One who wept while watching the people of the earth fall into greater depravity, which resulted in so much death. I am the One who formed a nation of people, endued with My promises, to be My representation to the people of the earth. I am the One who wept as they rejected Me. I am the One who sent more messengers calling the people of the earth to return to Me. I am the One who came and bore all of the sins of the world both past, present and future on a cross; so that they may receive redemption from their sins if they would just turn to Me. I am the One who rose from the grave having conquered death, hell and the grave. I am the One ascended into heaven and waited until three hundred years ago when it was time for My return. I am the One who came and fought to deliver my people and the people of the earth from that wicked king. I am the One who has loved you since before the dawn of time and I gladly stand before you.”
At once I began to fall to my knees in reverence to worship Him, but before I could even get to my knees He caught me and pulled me up and began to hug me and tell me how much He loves me. I felt as though my heart was about to burst with love and affection for this great King. After He let go of hugging me for what seemed like an eternity of ecstasy, I looked into His fiery eyes as I took a knee and swore my allegiance to Him. “What is mine is Yours, my kingdom is Your Kingdom, my throne is Your throne and my life is Yours my Lord, my King.” With a smile He raised me up and told me to govern New Korea on His behalf as His appointed governor over the realm. Afterwards He began to share with me some of the secrets of His heart towards me, as well as how to better improve the realm.
For the next week I would always be by His side asking Him questions and listening to Him. At times He would ask me questions or tell me stories and at other times He would share of His love for art, rock music, coffee, and turkey bacon. At times He would look at the clouds and ask what I see and after I responded He would simply say “That is awesome” and then go back to walking. He never seemed down, but always seemed filled with joy. It was always delight to be around Him. After that week He had to return back to his Kingdom but before He departed He bid that as His appointed governor that I govern justly, show mercy and walk humbly. “My Lord,” I said to Him “What is to come of my father’s murderer who You ransomed from me?” “Do not worry about Him My son,” He said “for I tell no one anyone’s story but their own.” With a smile He departed with his companions. The man who had murdered my father rode on the horse beside the King; I could only wonder what marvelous things He might have shared with him.
I Chan II in the twelfth month of the eight hundred and seventy-sixth year of my reign as governor of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea write as follows: It has been over five hundred years since that night with the King of Zion in my studies. Often I have found myself thinking about the things He shared with me during that time. Over these last five hundred years I have had multiple meetings with Him, though most would be about politics as He would ask for a report of the realm. Though every time He would start encouraging me by telling me just how proud of me He was and how I am doing a good job.
I am beginning to feel old, though each time I feel it I find myself laughing when I realize that I am eight hundred and ninety-five years old. Who would have thought that I would ever be this old? I can just picture the King of Zion just looking at me with a gentle and infectious smile of His and tell me that “I don’t look a day over four hundred.” Though I have aged, He still remains filled with youth, vigor and beauty. It would even seem with each encounter He looks more beautiful and more glorious.
I Chan II in the second month of the one thousand and thirty-first year of my reign as governor of the realm east of the Euphrates, the region known as New Korea write as follows: I am getting quite old though even in my old age I still feel like a child on the inside when I think upon my King. Over the centuries we have become close, I have found a true friend in the King of Zion. He has never done me wrong, and oh how pained I was when I heard that some of the kings of the earth had chosen to revolt against Him. It was so painful when these men asked me to join in their revolt. How could I have betrayed my King, whom I have faithfully served these many years and He has done me no wrong? How could I betray this one whom has won my heart? I watched them submit themselves to that demon and follow him to war against my Lord, my King. Oh the wickedness in their gaze as they sought to oppose my King. When the battle was over there was not one left standing in their military and not one dead in my King’s military. It was such a bloody battle. I remember seeing the King weep as he slew those wicked kings. I could see the pain in His heart as these whom He had loved so dearly betrayed Him.
I Chan II in my one thousand and fiftieth year write as follows: Shortly following battle there was a time of rejoicing as the age of my King transitioned to the age of His Father who was coming to the earth to rule and to reign. It was at this point that both the living and those who had died were to be summoned to stand before the King, that they might be judged according to their deeds.
When it was my time to stand before the King He sat on His heavenly throne looking even more glorious than ever before. He had beside Him a book in which He began to open it and read from it, each line in the book was concerning a point in my life. There were many things that He told me that brought pain to my heart concerning my own failings. There were also many other times that He told me of things that I did that brought joy to His heart, such joy that I felt it in my heart as well. I remember as He went through my life and then stopped at one point and began to speak about the man who had murdered my father. He said “You chose to show mercy and forgive the man just as I had chosen to show you mercy and forgive you. Now hear of part of what happened after you forgave him.” I began to think about how I thought I was not allowed to know anyone’s story but my own. As I thought this the King said to me, “My child this part of his story is yours as well, for all the good things He did from that point on you were to share in them as if you did them as well; for it was your forgiveness and mercy that allowed him to do so.” All of a sudden I began to see the man and all the people he touched behind him each one with tears in their eyes saying to me “Thank you!” Many times the Lord would do this with other people who I had touched or forgiven in some manner and the reward that I shared in their lives. He kept telling me that it was an investment made in wisdom. With each time I found myself falling to my knees weeping tears of joy for the good points and tears of sorrow for the times I had failed; each time He would stop, walk down towards me and knell down to wipe away my tears, all the while telling me “I love you!” When it was all said and over I must say it was the hardest, most sober, most healing and most joyful experience I have had so far. This great King of Zion, has won my allegiance. This God-man Jesus Christ has won my heart, and I will forever love Him and serve Him; for never has one been so gentle and so merciful to me a sinner.
1“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.” Luke 3:1-2
Once again Luke has come through for us to help set the backdrop for our story. In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar the word of the Lord comes to the son of Zacharias. Tiberius Julius Caesar Augustus became the sole emperor of Rome in the year 14 AD, however, two years prior in 12 AD he became the co-regent with his adopted father Caesar Augustus who was the adopted son of Julius Caesar. If Luke is counting the two years of Tiberius’ co-regency then that would place us at 26 AD. Luke states that Tiberius is “in his fifteenth year” thus he has not finished fifteen years but on the way. Now if we take the date of 26 AD then that would place both John and Jesus at age 30 if the birth dates that have been previously been established are accurate.
Pontius Pilate ruled as the governor of Judea from 26 AD to 36/37 AD. Herod reigned as the tetrarch of Galilee from 4 BC to 39AD while his brother Philip the reigned as the tetrarch of Ituraea and Trachonitis from 4 BC to 34 AD. Concerning Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene there is much speculation as to his true identity. History tells of a man named Lysanias who ruled the region was put to death by Mark Antony 36 BC. If this is the case then it is quite possible the one Luke is mentioning was one of his descendant.
Annas was the acting high priest from 6 AD to 15 AD and Caiaphas who was the son-in-law of Annas acted as the high priest from 18 AD to 36 AD. Though Annas was no longer the acting high priest during the time of the ministries of John and Jesus, he had however once held the office. Therefore, Annas would have still carried the rank of high priest much like Bill Clinton still has the rank of “president” though he is not in office. This being said that is why in various times in the Gospels we see both Annas and Caiaphas mentioned as high priests, one is acting the other has already served. Also since Annas was Caiaphas’ father-in-law and former high priest he would have sought him for advice on difficult matters.
2“…the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. 3And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins;” Luke 3:2-3
1“Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 3:1-2
After about thirty years of silence, following the birth of the son of Zacharias and Elisabeth there appeared a man out of nowhere. This man came preaching a baptism of repentance and declaring that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. This message came out of nowhere. This message was calling the children of Israel to repentance from her sins. The act of full body immersion was required for those seeking to convert to Judaism, thus this message was ultimately calling Jewish men and women to repent and become true Jews (i.e. followers of YHWH as their forefathers). This message would have been incredibly offensive as it was calling people as fake and the same as the pagan gentiles.
4“John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.” Mark 1:4-5
This man’s name was John and he came wearing a garment made of camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist. His diet was that of locusts and wild honey. This man for a period of time dwelled in the wilderness, though we are unsure of how long one thing we do know that it was there that the Word of the Lord came to him.
4“Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.” Matthew 3:4-6
Why is John so important?
Though the primary focus in the Gospels is the life of Jesus the second most mentioned is clearly that of John. The four writers of the Gospels each focus briefly on different aspects of his life; from Luke’s account of John’s birth to Matthew’s account of his beheading each paint a picture of John’s life. If that is not enough Jesus testifies of only one man, that being his beloved cousin John. Surely this must be enough for us to consider and examine this man’s life. Why did the God-man call this one the greatest man born of a woman? What was it about him, his life and his ministry that distinguished with such a title? John the Baptist, the greatest man to ever walk under the Old Covenant. This should cause us to scrutinize John’s life and ask the question “Lord what must I do to be as great, and even greater in Your sight?”
“Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Matthew 11:11
What happened for those thirty years of John’s life?
Following the events of John’s birth and his father’s prophetic utterance the scriptures only give us one verse on John’s life, until the time of his revealing thirty years later in the wilderness. However, we do know from Zacharias’ angelic encounter that John was called to live out the Nazarite vow.
“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.” Luke 1:15
“And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.” Luke 1:80
For John his life would be one of separation from the things of the world and from the noise of city. It would be one of loneliness forcing him to lean into God for fellowship. For many years John’s life would be thrust into barrenness and silence as he would be left to seek the Lord.
It is widely considered that the reason why John grew up in the deserts or wilderness is that with his parents being advanced in age would most likely have passed away earlier on in his life. This would result with someone else raising John, some would even go on to speculate that he was raised within an Essene community, specifically that of Qumran. However, the Essene’s are not mentioned in the scripture, but the historian Josephus wrote of them as one of the primary Jewish sects along with the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The assumption of John being associated with the Essene’s is merely superficial at best. With no evidence to prove this it is merely based on shallow similarities and only endures because of a lack of understanding on the Essene lifestyle and observance. Below is quote from Alfred Edersheim, who being a trustworthy guide on the subject due to his extensive knowledge on the topic.
“But of one thing we may feel certain: neither John the Baptist, and his Baptism, nor the teaching of Christianity, had any connection with Essenism. It were utterly unhistorical to infer such from a few points of contact – and these only of similarity, not identity – when the differences between them are so fundamental. That an Essene would have preached repentance and the Kingdom of God to multitudes, baptized the uninitiated, and given supreme testimony to One like Jesus, are assertions only less extravagant than this, that One Who mingled with society as Jesus did, and Whose teaching, alike in that respect, and in all its tendencies, was so utterly Non-, and even Anti-Essenic, had derived any part of His doctrine from Essenism. Besides, when we remember the views of the Essenes on purification, and on Sabbath observance, and their denial of the Resurrection, we feel that, whatever points of resemblance critical ingenuity may emphasize, the teaching of Christianity was in a direction opposite from that of Essenism.”
Another thought concerning his upbringing would depend on his age when his parents would have passed away, for if he were still young he would have needed for someone to watch over him meaning they might have taken him to the desert. Though the other side of the coin being if they died when he was of age to live on his own it would be much harder on him to then leave his parents to go to the desert having lived a life with some measure of money given his levitical birthright. With both of John’s parents being levites descended from Aaron it would be clear to others that this one was called to the priesthood. Thus his desire to up and move to the wilderness would be shocking to say the least to those around him.
No matter the case it is clear that from the joyful annunciation of his birth to his barren and age parents; John’s life would be plunged into many years of seeking the Lord in the wilderness until the time of his revealing.
John the Prophet
The Resurgence of Prophetic Language
Many consider John to be the last of the line of O.T. prophets and that which escorts us from the O.T. to the N.T. From Luke’s introduction of how John received the word of the Lord it is much a kin to that of both the O.T. major prophets and minor prophets
1“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.” Luke 3:1-2
“In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” Isaiah 6:1
“In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zachariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo saying,” Zechariah 1:1
In each of these we see that the prophet who is receiving the word of the Lord or vision is described in similar fashion. Luke being a learned historian most likely seems to trying to make a point using the same language as seen in the O.T. prophets when describing when and how John received the word of the Lord. No other time in the book of Luke or Acts does Luke use this kind of language which then backs up the idea of him likening John to the O.T. prophets.
The Appearance of a Prophet
As stated briefly earlier John came dressed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt and ate locusts and honey. Though this may seem to be quite odd for a prophet it was not the first time.
“John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey.” Mark 1:6
“They answered him, ‘He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.’ And he said, ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite.’” II Kings 1:8
“Also it will come about in that day that the prophets will each be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies, and they will not put on a hairy robe in order to deceive;” Zechariah 13:4
Not only did john dress in this manner but it seems that Elijah did as well as Zechariah points out that it was custom for prophets to dress in such a manner.
Those that testified of the prophet of the Most High
Zacharias at the birth of his son prophesies of his son’s destiny as a prophet of the Most High.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways;” Luke 1:76
When John was still imprisoned he sent some of his disciples to question Jesus if He was the One. As Jesus responds He makes the point of testifying of John as a prophet, and even more.
“But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet.” Matthew 11:9
Finally just two days following Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem in Christ’ final week leading up to the cross, some of the priests and religious leaders came up to Jesus seeking to trap Him. The day prior He had just cleared out the temple for the second time of His ministry, the day before that was His triumphal entry and now they are seeking to trap this One who is causing an uproar. However, Jesus in all wisdom turns the tables on them with the question about John the Baptist and his message.
“But shall we say, ‘From men’?’—they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet.” Mark 11:32
John’s Prophetic Calling
“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:1
Through the mouth of His servant Malachi the Lord reveals to us that He would send a messenger before He came. This messenger would prepare the way for the Lord. This promise is much a kin to the one Isaiah had prophesied concerning “A voice is calling.”
“A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.’” Isaiah 40:3
Right before the four hundred years of silence the prophet Malachi declares not only of the coming of the King but also of his herald, the one who would go before Him. Jesus in Matthew 11 ascribes these prophetic words to John as the one who was to come before Him.
“As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about john, ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in king’s palaces! But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You.’’” Matthew 11:7-10
The Priest before the Prophet
Before John became the prophet filled with the word of the Lord, he was called as a priest. John was the progeny of two Levite parents who both were descended from Aaron, thus making John born into the priesthood. From the point of his miraculous birth John was destined for that of the priesthood. By birthright John was destined to be one who would stand, serve, minister and burn before the Lord.
“My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before Him, to minister to Him, and to be His ministers and burn incense.” II Chronicles 29:11
For John the context of his ministering to the heart of the Lord would look far more different from what was common for priests of his day. Instead of ministering to the heart of the Lord in the temple among men; John would choose the place of hiddenness in the wilderness. It is in this place that the priest would become more than a priest but a prophet as well, much like Moses (a Levite who became a prophet) and Samuel, Jeremiah and Ezekiel (who each served as a priests but became prophets).
“Now Samuel was ministering before the Lord, as a boy wearing a linen ephod.” I Samuel 2:18
“The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin,” Jeremiah 1:1
“the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar…” Ezekiel 1:3
At the end of John’s life in one of his last recorded words by the Gospel writers, John reveals that it is His joy to stand and hear the voice of God. It would seem that he is not limiting it to just the few times his paths crossed with Jesus, but also all those times in the wilderness as he sought the voice of God and the joy he experienced.
“He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full.” John 3:29
In the secret place of the wilderness a priest was found ministering to the heart of the Lord and would eventually emerge a prophet filled with the Word of the Lord.
“But who has stood in the council of the Lord, that he should see and hear His word? Who has given heed to His word and listened? Jeremiah 23:18
“The one who is a voice is first one who hears.”
The End of Silence and the Dawn of the Word of the Lord
“‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but ratherfor hearing the words of the Lord.’” Amos 8:11
Following the prophet Malachi, the last of the prophets, the land of Israel went into a season barrenness. The words of Amos had born their fruit as Israel entered into four hundred years of silence; a time of famine for the word of the Lord was nowhere to be heard. This land that had grown accustomed to being saturated with the words of God had become starved. For hundreds of years the nation of Israel would see empires rise and fall all around her. They would fall under subjection from one empire to another all the while longing for God to speak to her with words of comfort. The religious leaders would fall into further corruption and puppet kings would be put over her. Somewhere deep down inside the people knew that there was something missing, the word of the Lord. That word that was like bread from heaven.
Suddenly after the four hundred years of famine, a man came preaching in the wilderness. His words were laced with authority unlike anything they have ever experienced. These words cut them straight to the heart, bringing conviction and a renewed hope. The hearts of the people like a dry mouth longed to drink from this well in the wilderness that overflowed with words of hope. No wonder why people left their homes and traveled from all over Judea to hear this man in wilderness. Just as a man starved near to death would travel and do anything for some sort of nourishment, so the people traveled to hear the words of John. These words that gave them hope that a King was coming. If the thirst and hunger were not enough to compel the masses to come to John, the sheer astonishment of the reality that a man has been found that has an anointing on his words. The curiosity of the people to hear that a man in the wilderness seems to resemble those they grew up hearing about like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Malachi.
After many years in the wilderness we know that Word of the Lord came to him. From that point on he began to preach the message of repentance. This message was so impactful to the people who the Jews were “converting to Judaism” through the baptism of repentance. Though another sign of just how impactful this message was is the fact that he did not go to the people but rather the people came out to him. Though John remained in the wilderness by the Jordan River, people from Jerusalem, people from all over Judea and those living near the district of the Jordan River were coming out to be baptized. The Jordan River lies approximately 20 miles to the east of Jerusalem; though this seems like a short distance it is quite the opposite if you are on foot. Multitudes of people were making this trip to go hear a man tell them of coming of the Kingdom of Heaven and how they needed to repent, be baptized and ultimately become true Jews.
The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness
2“As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY; THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.’” Mark 1:2-3
4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT. 5‘EVERY RAVINE WILL BE FILLED, AND EVERY MOUNTAIN AND HILL WILL BE BROUGHT LOW; THE CROOKED WILL BECOME STRAIGHT, AND THE ROUGH ROADS SMOOTH; 6AND ALL FLESH WILL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD.’” Luke 3:4-6
Concerning John the three synoptic Gospels, they each use the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3 to describe John. The minor difference is that Mark adds an introductory phrase which is not actually apart of Isaiah 40 and Luke adds Isaiah 40:4-5 (though the language is a little different). However in the Gospel of John, John the Baptist actually quotes Isaiah 40:3 when asked who he was. John identifies himself as “the voice crying out” that Isaiah had prophesied about.
This title as “the voice crying out” really sets the stage for what his ministry was to look like, one of making way for the coming of the Lord. John, the voice of one crying out stands in the wilderness declaring to the people who there is one coming who is name is the Lord. Even the Hebrew word for Lord being used here is YHWH. John was declaring to the people who God was coming and that they should get ready. Though this message would seem to be treated as merely messianic, but in reality it is so much more. John was not saying that he was just preparing the way for the messiah but for God. He was stating that YHWH was coming. The one who dwelt in the burning bush was on His way. This is why they would be called to repent.
The Message of the Voice Crying Out
3And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins;” Luke 3:3
1“Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 3:1-2
The message of John was a call to repentance as he declared the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, which was unto preparing the way of the One who was to come. The language of the “Kingdom of Heaven” would only appear to be referenced in the book of Daniel, specifically in chapter two. It is in Daniel chapter two that Nebuchadnezzar has his dream of the statue and the rock that destroys it. Daniel prophecies of a kingdom established by the God of heaven and this kingdom will destroy all of the other kingdoms and it will never be destroyed. This prophecy is connected to the Messianic prophecies for it is the Messiah who was to bring forth this Kingdom made by the God of Heaven.
44“In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.” Daniel 2:44
Though John is not recorded of quoting from the book of Daniel, it would be safe to say that he is probably preaching with the prophecy of Daniel chapter two in mind. Thus, when John preached that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand he was declaring that the Messiah was on the way. This message would have brought courage and hope to those hearing as they longed to be free from the Romans. This message would have brought conviction to their hearts as no one would want to miss out on the coming Messiah. Their mindset of the Messiah was one who would be like a second David, which would make him a warrior king who would usher the people into a golden age, and no one would want to be found sinful or even miss this. The people were looking for the lion but John came to proclaim of the lamb (John 1:29).
“…Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” John 1:29
As stated earlier the message of repentance through baptism called the people to be converted into true Judaism. Thus once more become converted into Judaism before the Messiah comes, sets up the Kingdom of Heaven and you get swept away.
In summary John came to prepare the people for YHWH’s coming by calling them to a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John was warning the people, that the ‘Stone’ that Daniel had prophesied was coming to destroy the nations. This why he declared to them “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The people knew that the “Stone’ or Kingdom of Heaven would be ruled by the Messiah. However, what they seemed to not get was that the Messiah and YHWH would be united in one man, the one who was to come after him, Jesus.
7“And he was preaching, and saying, ‘After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. 8I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’” Mark 1:7-8
A Day in the Life of John
John begins to address the people
7So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 9Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
As John preached in the wilderness many were coming out to him to receive the baptism of repentance, even the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance.” Matthew 3:11
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’” Matthew 3:7
As John saw the masses coming out to him to be baptized he began to call the people and the religious leaders a brood of vipers, those bound in sin. He continues to ask them who even warned them to flee from the destruction that was coming their way? No matter the case he calls them all to walk out their repentance by bearing the fruit of repentance; for their ethnicity will not spare them from the path of hell. Even if all the children of Abraham on the earth were to fall down the path of destruction and there were none left on the earth, then the Lord would raise up children of Abraham to replace them from the stones. Destruction was at the door step of all the children of Israel if they do not begin to bear the fruit of repentance. The axe was now at the root ready to chop down every tree that does not turn into the merciful heart of God lest they become fuel for the fire of His justice.
The People Ask How to Bear the Fruit of their Repentance
“And the crowds were questioning him, saying, ‘Then what shall we do?’ 11And he would answer and say to them, ‘The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.’ 12And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ 13And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.’ 14Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, ‘And what about us, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.’” Luke 3:10-14
The people begin to question John how to walk their repentance out. John’s response in short is preview of a message that would be preached by the One to come after him, the Sermon on the Mount. In summary he tells them to love others by sharing with them, by not stealing from them, nor lying about them.
John’s personal compare and contrast with the One to come after him
“Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ, 16John answered and said to them all, ‘As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’” Luke 3:15-17
The people begin to question whether if John was the Messiah and most likely through the spirit of prophecy knew this, and told them that he was not but the One who comes after him is of a higher rank than him, or rather the One who comes after him is the Messiah. The One to arise after John was so much greater than him that he was not worthy to untie his sandals. This says much as kings and emperors will even have the lowest of slaves washing their feet. The One who was come not only was greater than John but also has existed before him.
“John *testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” John 1:15
John he came to call the people to repentance so to be ready for the One who came after him, this was the point of his baptism. The One who was to come after would baptize with more than just mere water but with the power of the Holy Spirit (and all that comes with this salvation, fellowship with God and power). The One was to come next was coming to separate the righteous from the wicked. He will gather the righteous wheat into His house and reward them. However, the wicked chaff will be thrown into the fire of His justice. The Gospel of Matthew calls the wheat as ‘His’ thus belonging to Him.
“…He will gather His wheat into the barn…” Matthew 7:12
John would continue to preach the Gospel many other times to the people until John rebuked Herod the tetrarch of his sins, which led to John’s beheading.
18So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people. 19But when Herod the tetrarch was reprimanded by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the wicked things which Herod had done, 20Herod also added this to them all: he locked John up in prison. Luke 3:7-20